Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Abreast of Fast-Moving Developments!

I'm sending two important messages. One from Jimmy Carter (I think he's right on).
The other is from Haaretz. Bibi (the Israeli PM) claims Palestinians have to choose either "peace" or "Hamas" (can't have both). But the real choice is this: Israel must choose between "peace" and a "racist state" (according to Sefi Rachlevsky). JRK (with thanks to our man on the ground, Doug Dicks).

Support the Palestinian unity government
By Jimmy Carter
Wednesday - May 4, 2011
The Washington Post

This is a decisive moment. Under the auspices of the Egyptian government, Palestine’s two major political movements — Fatah and Hamas — are signing a reconciliation agreement on Wednesday that will permit both to contest elections for the presidency and legislature within a year. If the United States and the international community support this effort, they can help Palestinian democracy and establish the basis for a unified Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza that can make a secure peace with Israel. If they remain aloof or undermine the agreement, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory may deteriorate with a new round of violence against Israel. Support for the interim government is critical, and the United States needs to take the lead.

This accord should be viewed as a Palestinian contribution to the “Arab awakening,” as well as a deep wish to heal internal divisions. Both sides understand that their goal of an independent Palestinian state cannot be achieved if they remain divided. The agreement also signals the growing importance of an emerging Egyptian democracy. Acting as an honest broker, the interim Egyptian government coaxed both sides to agreement by merging the October 2009 Cairo Accord that Fatah signed with additions that respond to Hamas’s reservations.

The accord commits both sides to consensus appointments of an election commission and electoral court. I have observed three elections in the Palestinian territory, and these institutions have already administered elections that all international observers found to be free, fair, honest and free of violence.

The two parties also pledge to appoint a unity government of technocrats — i.e., neither Fatah nor Hamas. Security will be overseen by a committee set up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and Egypt will assist.

Why should the United States and the international community support the agreement? First, it respects Palestinian rights and democracy. In 2006, Hamas won the legislative election, but the “Quartet” — the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — rejected it and withheld aid, and the unity government collapsed. Competition between the two factions turned vicious, and each side has arrested the other’s activists. Instead of exacerbating differences between the two parties, the international community should help them resolve disagreements through electoral and legislative processes.

Second, with international support, the accord could lead to a durable cease-fire. Israel and the United States are concerned that Hamas could use a unity government to launch attacks against Israel. I have visited the Israeli border town of Sderot and share their concern. I urged Hamas’s leaders to stop launching rockets, and they attempted to negotiate a lasting mutual cease-fire. The United States and other Quartet members should assist Hamas and Israel’s search for a cease-fire.

Third, the accord could be a vehicle to press for a final peace agreement for two states. Abu Mazen will be able to negotiate on behalf of all Palestinians. And with Quartet support, a unity government can negotiate with Israel an exchange of prisoners for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and a settlement freeze. In my talks with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, he said Hamas would accept a two-state agreement that is approved in a Palestinian referendum. Such an agreement could provide mutual recognition — Israel would recognize an independent Palestinian state and Palestine would recognize Israel. In other words, an agreement will include Hamas’s recognition of Israel.

Suspicions of Hamas stem from its charter, which calls for Israel’s destruction. I find the charter repugnant. Yet it is worth remembering that Israel negotiated the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization while its charter had similar provisions. It took five more years before the PLO Charter was altered.

Many Israelis say that as long as the Palestinians are divided, there is no partner for peace. But at the same time, they refuse to accept a unity government. In Cairo this week, the Palestinians are choosing unity. It is a fragile unity, but the Quartet should work with them to make it secure and peaceful enough to jump-start final-status negotiations with Israel.

The writer was the 39th president of the United States. He founded the not-for-profit Carter Center, which seeks to advance peace and health worldwide.

Israel must choose between peace and a racist state
Netanyahu needs to face a simple, clear-cut question: Do you want a democratic state based on the 1967 borders, or not?
By Sefi Rachlevsky
Ha'aretz -- Wednesday - May 4, 2011

The slogan that brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power was "making a secure peace." That is no accident. "Peace" has maintained the right-wing government to a much greater extent than the right-wing government has maintained peace.
The reason for this is simple. When "peace" is at issue, the domestic debate is diverted to the image of the "other," the one with whom peace should or should not be made. From there, the road is short in Israel to governmental scorn for the weakness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and for assertions, like those of Netanyahu, that Hamas is a continuation of the Nazis.

But the cyclical Israeli calendar, which moves from "Holocaust" to "Independence," reminds us of what ought to have been self-evident. There is one question that must precede the question of "peace" - a question that constitutes the essence of independence and formed the basis of the Zionist revolution: What does Israel want?

Not for nothing is that question ignored by the government. For when you ask what Israel wants, the requisite answer is clear: a state based on the borders in which it achieved independence, known today as the 1967 borders; a democratic state in which all are equal, as described in the Declaration of Independence.

This answer is dangerous to the right, because most Israelis still support it and it is also accepted internationally. Moreover, it has potency in any situation, even when all eyes are made to look outward, on relations between Fatah and Hamas. If Defense Minister Ehud Barak is right that Hamas capitulated to Fatah, the way is open for a successful implementation of a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines. And if the opposite is true, an Israel that has chosen a democratic state in the 1967 borders has a wealth of available options that would enable it to look out for itself with widespread international support.

But the question of what Israel wants has a second possible answer: Israel wants a racist messianic state, one in which Jews are citizens and non-Jews are subjects. This second answer is not fantastic. In essence, this has been the Israeli reality for 44 years already. In the territories, and also in Jerusalem, Jews are citizens and non-Jews aren't. Just this week, the science minister (! ) presented an award to Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu at a ceremony in which the latter advocated cleansing Safed of Arabs.

Barak, an adherent of the method of verbal misdirection used to enable special-forces operations, dragged "the Third Way" out of storage to be the platform of his Atzmaut party. But Barak knows better than anyone that there is no third way. In special operations, in business and in policy alike, the decision is simple and clear: yes or no. Either Israel wants a state based on the promises of its Declaration of Independence, or it doesn't.

To flee this simple truth, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (Likud ) invented what his staffers termed the "teaspoon" policy at the 1991 Madrid Conference: endless negotiating sessions at which mountains of sugar would be stirred into oceans of tea and coffee, but no agreement would ever be reached. Netanyahu has perfected this method, which enables him to keep stirring sugar into the negotiators' cups forever instead of answering the question of what Israel wants.

But the time for teaspoons has ended. September 2011 is imminent. U.S. President Barack Obama, who came to power on the wings of domestic opposition to racism, has now just scored a victory over racism and messianism abroad. Regardless of whether or not he is personally a fan of Zionism, America's interests and international developments have granted him the ability to help distance Israel from racism and restore its independence.

To do this, it is necessary to end the witch's brew of peace, teaspoons and ambiguity, and bring Netanyahu face to face, both at home and abroad, with this simple, clear-cut question: Do you want a democratic state based on the 1967 borders, or not? There is no other question. But the requisite answer is not a facile breath of air. It requires dismantling the settlements outside Israel's borders, bursting the racist-messianic bubble that is taking over Israel's educational and legal systems, and putting rabbis like Eliyahu on trial instead of granting them awards.

Now is the time to answer that one question, the one that founded Israel 63 years ago: What does Israel want?

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