Last night I heard Professor Gershon Gorenberg speak about the history of Israel, which he divides into three periods. He labels 1948-1967 the “First Republic,” and he argues that while it was an ethnocracy, it was within those bounds democratic, and most importantly as a distinction from the next period, held a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.
The second period he called the “accidental empire,” in which he argues that people both within and outside of the government used extra-legal, non-governmental means to advance the settlements, while increasing the ethnocratic nature of the country. He argued that much of the impetus for holding onto the Occupied Territories and placing the settlements came from the new national religious interpretation of the scriptures, seeing it as a religious imperative to control the entire land from the Jordan River to the sea, though it was initially led, he claimed, by the secular right wing. He sees us as still living in this second period.
He hopes for a “Third Republic,” in which Israel will withdraw from the territories, thus putting behind it the tangle of non-state and quasi-state uses of force, and will continue to struggle with its ethnocratic/democratic identity in a still messy but more coherent state. He argued that a true settlement was required, not a unilateral withdrawal, which he blamed for the post-withdrawal violence. He theorized that an internationalization of the holy places is the best solution for those disputes, and perhaps the presence of international peacekeepers in parts of the formerly occupied territories.
I found his talk fascinating and persuading, but I was sitting with an Israeli friend who had at several times in the talk clearly disagreed with Professor Gorenberg. I asked my friend what he had found concerning. The following is a paraphrase, though I believe an accurate one:
“From my apartment in Ra’anana I can see over Kfar Saba to Qalqilya. I do not want a rocket coming in my living room window. That’s not a religious issue, that’s not a nationalist issue. That’s a basic concern of a citizen. Professor Gorenberg did not address security once in his talk.
What should be done? I don’t know. Professor Gorenberg talks about a truly negotiated settlement, as opposed to the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza. He believes that this kind of settlement will leave us in peace. But we have decades of experience with Palestinian plausible deniability. There will always be issues that have not been settled – for example, the Palestinian right of return. So we would withdraw, there would be a period of peace, and attacks would begin again. The Palestinian government will say ‘well, the agreement on right of return (or something else) was insufficient, so we can’t control the peoples’ feelings. We are trying, but we can’t.’
Professor Gorenberg referred to the use of peacekeepers. We’ve had experience with peacekeepers. In 1967 there were UN troops in the Sinai. Nassar told them to pull out, and they pulled out. No international troops are going to do effective counterterrorism. Italian troops aren’t going to gather effective intelligence and then go into somebody’s basement in Qalqilya to find rocket-making equipment.”
Is my friend correct? Are rocket attacks on the center of Israel likely if Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories as part of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians? If not, why not? If so, what steps can the international community and the Palestinians take to change that likelihood?
Hmmm I’d say your friend and his friends might have to risk something if anything is to move forward.
Its easy to say,” take a risk” when its not your family living in a free fire zone. Let me ask a series questions.
When living in Isreal:
1. How many bomb shelters do you know of, and where is the closest one to where you live?
2. Do you have a bug out bag, packed an ready to go “in case” something happens? How accessible is it?
Given that the stated purpose of many of the groups / nations that surround Isreal, is “to wipe it from the face of the Earth” and that these groups have been firing rockets into civilian neighborhoods for years not caring who they kill.
Do you really believe that all of the hatred of Isreal and its people will dissappear with a change of a border? I think of the Fogal murdered in their beds, can one truely negotiate in good faith with any of these groups.
I am rather cynical about the whole region these days. I believe that Isreal has the right to exist, and defend itself. There are Isreali-Arabs that live in peaceful co-existance, have the right to vote, and lead prosperous lives. Who is really to blame for the misery of the Palestinians? Isreal or the their own corrupt political organisations. Who is more profits from or is threatened by peace and who profits from continued voilence?
Keith, thanks for this. I hear you both on the Israeli right of self-defense and they many mistakes of Palestinian leadership. Thus, I wonder what the international community and the Palestinians can do to increase the feeling of Israeli security.
I do think, as far as I can tell, that successive Israeli administrations since ‘67 have taken some actions that have either increased Palestinian suffering with no gain in Israeli security, or have actually undermined long-term Israeli security. The settlements seem to me to be the biggest error, making any potential agreement messier and putting many Israelis at greater risk. Where the security barrier goes is another – it should follow roughly the green line (especially where there are not already huge settlement neighborhoods), with small changes for big security gains, but instead it chops deep into the West Bank. A third is the programmatic Judaization of East Jerusalem. In each case I can see a religious or nationalist defense for these actions, but not a pragmatic, “just leave us in peace” defense. Thus I end up at the international consensus re: Israel: freeze settlement building (even within the bounds of already established settlements), quit destroying peoples’ houses in East Jerusalem, and move the wall to near the green line. So that’s the pressure the Israeli voters, the US, and US supporters of Israel who want a lasting peace, should put on the current Israeli administration. These would not solve the difficult negotiating points of the peace talks, but they would reduce Palestinian suffering significantly and give the Israeli government a much more ethically justifiable position from which to bargain.
However, as my post above indicates, I think the Palestinian Authority has a “to do” list as well. Unlike some of the people to whom I’ve spoken on the Palestinian side, at this point I don’t think that “peace now” is completely within Israel’s control. Since they are so much weaker, the list is shorter, but the first bullet point (so to speak) is a big one: to gain and exercise a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within their borders.
If I’m correct, then, how does the US, the international community and Israel get the PA to gain such a monopoly? Unlike the Israeli government’s to-do list, which it could implement tomorrow if it decided to, I think the PA cannot currently project this level of policing. I need to learn more about what it is lacking. Corruption is a big barrier. Tolerance of violent acts within some parts of Palestinian society seems to be another. I’ve met many people this year who are working to reduce both these problems, but clearly more needs to be done.
Thanks for helping me think through all this!
Israeli reader said:
I think one can objectively say that your friend indeed reflects the mindset of many Israelis. It’s funny how the polls that show the Likud getting ~38/120 seats in the next elections are reported abroad as showing lack of confidence in Bibi’s leadership when in reality such results would make him the most powerful prime minister in decades.
Gorenberg is simply wrong on his history. The nationalism which typifies the Religious Zionist sector was once a consensus among Left and Right (minus the religious component – just the belief that holding onto the land and settling it was a Zionist imperative and an end in itself, not needing justification by security concerns). For the first ten years after the Six-Day War the government was in the hands ardently secular socialists – Eshkol, Golda, Rabin, Peres – who created the settlement movement and encouraged it at every turn. The largest settlements today are secular – Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel (with a combined population of almost 60,000).
Tzomet and Hatchiya were two secular nationalist parties that were powerful in the ’80s. The former existed until 1999.
Indeed, today it’s hard to imagine a secular Israeli relating to the deeply religious settlements around Hebron and Nablus as part of our homeland that as such should be defended at all costs; the secular Right-voting Israeli has a different thought process. But that Gorenberg can’t remember a time in which this wasn’t the case doesn’t reflect well on his capacity as a historian.
Israeli reader said:
Speak of the devil. Prominent secular settler leader passed away today.
Claudio Avi Chami said:
It is not easy to take the risk, but, Why keep building more and more settlements? Is that the path for solution? Is the path of solution to let some uncontrolled children to build a new settlement on private palestinian land and do nothing about that?
I don’t know if we can relinquish control to the palestinians, but we could start dismantling the settlements and leaving only troops to control.
We could at least completely freeze building
We could do a lot of things, but we have the wrong government
Donald Rallis said:
On a completely different topic: you mention in passing that the Separation Barrier isn’t shown on Google Maps. I checked, and you are quite correct. As a geographer, I am astounded. How on earth can people use a map to navigate a part of the world where the barrier (whatever its ostensible purpose) blocks roads, paths, and access generally?
More baffling still is why this is the case. Google doesn’t omit critical information like this for no reason.
(Incidentally, if you look at Google Earth, you will discover that it is the only country in the world for which US law prohibits the publication of high-resolution satellite imagary; you can find hi-res images of Cairo – Egypt or Illinois – but not Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. I have written about this at http://regionalgeography.org/101blog/?p=2818)
Ah! I’d never heard of the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment. That’s one more piece of information to help me figure out the Google maps puzzle vis-a-vis Israel-Palestine. Now I wonder how Ramallah can get its thoroughly signed streets onto Google maps…
Donald Rallis (@donaldrallis) said:
Another map-related issue I have found very interesting during my visits to Israel is the fact that so many maps – from those on souvenirs to road maps – show “Greater Israel” and don’t reflect the distinct status of Gaza or the West Bank (see http://regionalgeography.org/101blog/?p=432 ). A recently published book examining Israeli school textbooks found the same phenomenon in many of them.
What this means, of course, is that Israelis who have grown up since 1967 presumably have a mental map of Israel that it at odds with current reality.
(If you want a map that shows that complexity of political and logistical complexities of the West Bank, take a look at these: http://www.btselem.org/maps
(BTW, your blog posts are responsible for providing me for a far-too-lengthy distraction from what I really should be doing; they are fascinating!)
I love your blog post on the Israeli maps! I saw those “greater Israel” maps in every Jewish Israeli school I visited. There is even a huge three-dimensional topographic map in a hallway at Hebrew University – not exactly a hotbed of hardcore right-wingers – in the shape of “greater Israel” and not 1948 Israel. That said, all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including in every school, there are maps of “Palestine” that don’t recognize Israel’s presence at all. Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Jericho, Ramallah, Akko, Nablus, etc. are on the maps (often with illustrations of historic sites), but no Tel Aviv, Netanya, or any other Israeli city or town. So both sides, as you probably already know, use maps as propaganda. Of course, the difference is that you can live for quite a while as an Israeli, buzzing past or even through the West Bank (on routes 1, 5, and 90, for example) without focusing on exactly where it is (or where the Green Line was). No Palestinian can avoid knowing just where the separation barrier is, and where the only-Israeli roads are. So while both the Israelis and the Palestinians misrepresent the reality and show it instead how they wish it were, the Palestinian maps are more an act of nostalgia, the Israeli maps more an act of future intent.