Starr Forum: 70 Years: Israel-Palestine – Reflections & Forecasts "Looking Back"
JOHN TIRMAN: Thank you for coming today for this commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Israel's founding and the issues that have occurred and risen there over these seven decades.
The events of 1948 are celebrated as Israeli independence and lamented as the Palestinian Nakba. The day is a reminder of the array of narratives on this history and the untold interpretations of the social and political convolutions. Just as substantial are the constant waiting questions regarding the future directions that can be taken by these two peoples.
These two panels today will bring together Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans to discuss and debate the history, the politics, and the current critical moment which holds equal portions of hope and despair.
So we will have two panels today. There will be a 10 to 15 minute break depending on how long the Q&A goes on the first panel between the two. And I'm pleased to introduce the moderator for the first panel at this point.
Before I do that though, I do want to remind you that we have one more scheduled Starr Forum for this semester. And that is a week from Thursday, May 3rd, at 5:30 PM in this same theater when we'll welcome Luis Videgaray Caso, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico. Should be quite interesting. He's a economics PhD from MIT. So that's May 3rd.
But today the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum. Eve Spangler will moderate this session. She is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Boston College. She works within public sociology using scholarly methods to contribute to the struggle for social justice. She has a long list here of accomplishments and involvements, which I won't go into right now, but I do wish to mention her book Understanding Israel/Palestine, which is published by Brill. So without further ado, Eve Spangler.
EVE SPANGLER: The mic is working. Everybody can hear? OK. Well, thank you all for coming. My thanks to Anat Biletzki for the inspiration for this conference. And to John for hosting it at MIT. We have a wonderful panel. They're going to go in the order that they were in the poster. So let me, just very briefly, introduce them because you want to hear from them and not from me. They represent a number of points of view.
We're opening with, arguably, the most distinguished Palestinian historian. We're going to be looking to an American historian to fill in the background of negotiations around the formation of Israel and America's relationship to it. And we're closing with an expert on security studies, presumably from a global point of view.
Let me start with Salim Tamari who is truly a global professor of Sociology, emeritus at Birzeit University, a research associate at the Institute for Palestine Studies, the editor of the Jerusalem Quarterly. His PhD is from Manchester University, and he's visited at Ca' Foscari University in Venice, at Georgetown, at NYU, at Cornell, at Chicago, Harvard, and Columbia. So, MIT next, Salim?
His recent publications include Mountain Against the Sea, A Conflicted Modernity, The Storyteller of Jerusalem, Year of the Locust, The Great War and The Remaking of Palestine, and forthcoming, Landed Property and Public Endowments in Jerusalem. He is certainly the definitive voice in Jerusalem scholarship.
Next we'll have Irene Gendzier, who is an emeritus professor in Political Science at BU, research affiliate here at MIT'S Center for International Studies, and an affiliate at the Center for Middle East Studies at Harvard. So she's done the impossible of reconciling MIT and Harvard. So great things coming from her.
She has written on problems in the development of US foreign policy in the Middle East, primarily Dying to Forget, her story of the earliest relationships between the United States and Israel at Israel's Foundation, in Columbia University Press and just out in paperback. And also, she's the author of Development Against Democracy and Notes from the Minefield: United States Intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East. She is a lady for our times.
And finally, we have Stephen Van Evera, the Ford international professor in the MIT Political Science department. And he works in many areas of international relations, causes and prevention of war, US foreign policy, US security policy, and US intervention in third world situations, with particular focus on the Middle East. And he is currently the chair of the Tobin project on National Security, the author of Causes of War, and Cornell Press How to Make America Safe, and many articles in Middle East policy.
So we have a really distinguished panel. We're going to hold up on questions until all three have spoken. And then in acknowledging questions from the audience, I'm going to try to be a little bit ageist and take students first. Although I can't see all the way to the back of the room. And then guests of MIT.
So let me, having said all of that too much, turn it over to Salim Tamari.
SALIM TAMARI: Thank you, Eva. Thank you for, Anat Biletzki, for organizing this conference and to John Tirman for co-organizing it on behalf of the Center for International Affairs. And thanks, Eva, for your very generous introduction.
Luckily, the first panel deals with the past history and the afternoon panel would lead with the future. So we have the easier task. Because we can't be all wrong in interpreting what happened. Although, we could be.
This year, 2018, is the year of commemorations and anniversaries. Commemoration and anniversary depending which side of the barricades you are standing. It's the 100th year anniversary of the end of the Great War and the partition of the whole Middle East into colonial states after the Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which the French and the British began to dismember Greater Syria and Iraq into client states. And also the year for the issuing of the Balfour Declaration which promised the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine for the Zionist movement.
It's also the 70th year of the Partition Plan of 1947, the Civil War in Palestine, the creation of the Jewish state, and, significantly, which is something I would like to talk about briefly, the proposal for the creation of a corpus separatum in the city of Jerusalem, in which, by a national arrangement, would have been conceived, at the time, as creating a middle ground between the proposed Jewish state and Arab state. Of course, that never happened. But it was very much in the shadows of the successive negotiations following the Madrid Peace Conference in '91-'92, and the whole debate about the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
It's also the 7th anniversary of the Nakba and what the Israelis call the Israeli War of Independence, which is the other side of the same coin. And in June, which is coming very close, it will be the 50th year of the June War, which the Israelis call the Six Day War, and the coming of the controversial Security Council Resolution 242, which called for withdrawal in return for peace from all occupied territories.
Now with all these commemorations we have to remember that the context of this year's commemoration or celebration, in the case of Israel, is very different. Because, in many ways, it brings us back to the dark days of the Great War, of the 1914-1918 Great War when huge devastation happened to the Middle East. And echoing the current devastation that has invaded the whole area, beginning with the Iraqi war, the Syrian predicament, and the Yemini War which is still going on.
And it's not by accident that two years ago, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, stood up in the ruins of Raqqa and said, "This is the end of the Sykes-Picot Agreement." He was recalling the fateful days when the British and the French conspired to create zones of influence on the debris or on the corpse of the defeated Ottoman Empire.
And today we see both the defeat, not only of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, but of ISIS and the creation of new enclaves within Syria which dismembered Greater Syria even further into the current contestations, which is being fought by proxies of Russia, US, Turkey, Iran, and so on.
So where does that leave the Arab-Israeli conflict? There's no question that Israel is dwelling in a relaxed situation. Not only because of the declaration by President Trump about the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem, but also because of the great devastation that's taking place in the Middle East and overshadowing the consequences of the so-called peace process.
The fact that the decline of the fate in the Palestinians, following the collapse of the Oslo Agreement, was again overshadowed by what's happening in Syria. And what's happening in Syria has greatly lifted a great deal of pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. To intensify the settlements that it had begun in 1968 after occupation, and created conditions of refugeehood which made the Palestinian condition part of the background happening 70 years ago. And no longer a pressing issue in the context of the much larger population devastation, urban devastation, and segmentation of the territories.
So I will return to this idea in a moment. But before that, I want to share with you-- I wrote a friend of mine in Jerusalem that MIT was having a event commemorating 70 years of Nakba and 70 years of the Declaration of Israel. And she wrote to me back. She said, "I want to share my thoughts with you on this occasion."
And this is the thoughts of my friend, [? Samea ?] [? Hauri, ?] on this event. She says-- I hope you don't mind, this is just one page-- "Congratulating Israel on its 70th Independence Day. Surely you should be proud of your achievement. You established your state on land that belongs to the Palestinians. You are not satisfied to share with them their land. So you had to evict them to have your own Jewish state. You did that by reporting to brutal force and, in some cases, massacres that remain a black spot on your history.
For the first 18 years, you impose strict military rule in the country which controlled every aspect of the lives of the original owners of the land who managed to stay in the newly established state. You gave the indigenous Palestinian population citizenship, but they did not have the same rights to the Jewish community had. Neither did their towns or schools have the same privileges and budgets.
Moreover, by some absurd law, this Palestinian population ended up being present absent, meaning that they were absent as far as their right to claim their homes and property, but were present for paying taxes to the newly established state.
For the last 50 years, you have been occupying the rest of the Palestinian land which you did not succeed in conquering in 1948. You claim you are not occupying the land, but that you have liberated it. And you claim that Jerusalem is the United eternal capital of Israel, yet the residents of the West Bank and Gaza have no access to Jerusalem, except for certain purposes and on certain occasions. We have to be reminded of these things.
The residents of Jerusalem are not citizens and their residency can be revoked any time under a variety of absurd regulations. The residents of Jerusalem are deprived of having their spouses join them should they be from the West Bank, without going through the endless procedure of family reunification, which is mostly denied, even after many years of marriage.
It takes forever, and sometimes never, for Jerusalem residents to get a building permit. Whereas the Jewish settlements have encroached on most of the Jerusalem and West Bank land. So demolishing homes and confiscating land in the Palestinian areas is very common.
Over and above all, you already have a population of around two million living under siege in Gaza. Although you claim to have withdrawn from Gaza, you continue to control its borders, land, sea, and sky. You claim to have the most modern army in the world, yet your soldiers raid homes at night and get children out of their beds. You already have 350 children in your jails and 6,500 men and women, many of whom are under administrative detention without charges or trial, and there are 1,000 of them sick.
You claim to be the only democracy in the region, yet you have two sets of laws for your own citizens and you deny entry to anybody, including Jews and even rabbis, who do not agree with your policies. This is certainly not a democracy.
Over and above all, your silence voices of dissent in your own country and you imprison young people who do not wish to serve in the army. You claim your hand is stretched out for peace, yet every day your armed settlers are grabbing new areas with the protection of your army.
Barak's general offer with which you brainwash the world. And your citizens amount only to a little over 50% of historic Palestine, instead of the 22% on which the Palestinians were willing"-- she's talking about the offer after the Oslo Agreement-- "were willing to establish their own state after the Oslo Agreement.
You certainly do not want peace and you want to be left in peace without being held accountable to any of the violations of human rights or international law. Of course, you can count on President Trump and his representative in the UN, Nikki Haley"-- I don't know why she mentioned it to you, but I can see-- "to cover your backs so as to get away with these violations. No wonder you are feeling on top of the world as you are celebrating 70 years of independence, while we celebrate 70 years of our enactment."
So this is the end of her note. I thought was very appropriate to read it. [? Samea ?] [? Hauri ?] is an activist from Jerusalem. She is 85 years old and still going strong.
And I want to end my presentation by referring to the manner in which this whole debate about commemoration engulfs and overshadows the whole debate about what's left of the Palestinian issue. Because, as I hear it, the remaining debate is way out of context. And it addresses the whole question of one state, two states, framing, and where do we go from here.
It's an issue of form. And that issue of form is undermined by the country as it which has sidelined, marginalized the question of Palestine. And, thanks to President Trump, has been revived again recently through the issue of the embassy.
But what I find bewildering is that this question of one state, two state debate totally ignores the current situation where the actual condition on the ground is the existence of one state, one state only. There is already. We have arrived there. We are already living in the condition of one hegemonic state, which is the state of Israel, framing a rump statelet that was created by the Oslo Agreement, the Palestinian Authority. Just totally helpless to do anything. And fragmented between the enclave in Gaza, which is totally surrounded by Israel, and the West Bank, which is segmented by Israel again and being invaded daily by land settlement and settlers.
So what we should do, and I hope the panel will do today and later on-- I will be finished-- is address this condition of a hegemony of the state of Israel. And how the dynamics of the political situation in the current Middle East can confront this exclusive domain for one state sovereignty. Thank you.
IRENE GENDZIER: So I want to begin also by thanking John Tirman and Anat Biletzki for putting this together. It is certainly a sign of optimism, that I hope none of us succeed in undermining totally.
Let me continue with some of the thoughts that Salim has presented. But let me continue in a slightly different way. In 2011, Fawwaz Traboulsi, who is a Lebanese historian, a political analyst prof at LAU and AUB, and a frequent spokesman on all of these issues, wrote an article called Does Guilt Matter. It was presented at a conference in Bonn, having to do with the Lebanese Civil War.
And in the course of that very, very interesting essay, he spoke about, he wrote about a number of things, but one of them was the question of memory, and the role of memory and reconciliation. And he asked the question, what's the purpose of remembering. And his answer was, briefly, to avoid what just happened. In other words, you want to remember the Civil War. You want to hear all the memories of the Civil War to assure that it doesn't happen again in the same way. In the process of remembering, you not only listen to each other but you do away with certain myths that are perpetuated about the event. But that it doesn't end there.
So as far as he's concerned, the purpose of memory is also to pave the way for acknowledging the past. And acknowledging the past suggests, not necessarily approving it, but recognizing the nature of the past and how it's perceived by participants with the hope that this, in turn, allows for reconciliation. Which is the end goal that he speaks about.
Well, when I read that, it seemed to me that it was very apropos, the position of the US and the history that I have been looking at. Because I often ask myself, and I did so in preparing for today's remarks, does history really matter? Does it matter to present all of this material to you or an abridged version of it. And the answer is that it matters if you think that in some way it paves the way for changing, not only the perception of the present, but the future.
Although we are consigned to talking about the past, it seems to me that we here are really talking in disguise about what we would like to see for a different future.
This is related to the origins of US policy in Palestine and Israel in a very special way. The remarks I'm going to make in the work that I've done is based on US sources, available US sources, declassified US sources, US sources that are available in large part online. They are so available that you wonder at the effort it takes not to see them.
And that is one of the things I've been curious about. I didn't do any remote sensing. I got no special permissions for declassified material. I looked at everything that was already classified and was surprised that there was nobody around me looking at the same material.
What did I find? Well, what I found was that the US, going back to '48, you should begin earlier. I began a recent study in the period '45 to '49. But in certainly the period between partition and the armistice talks of 1949 the US kept focusing-- by the US, I mean the Truman administration and its various officials who differed among themselves-- kept focusing on three issues that they saw as absolutely essential to any resolution of the conflict. This was expressed before May '48 and certainly after.
The three issues were the definition of boundaries, the situation of the Palestinian refugees, and the internationalization of Jerusalem. Those three issues, of course, were repeated in the December 11th, 1948 U.N. Resolution 194, which assumed great importance.
What's very, it seems to me, under-examined, little recognized or appreciated, was the extent to which US officials, those on the ground, consoles who were in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine and later Israel, as well as an assortment of US officials, including those at the U.N. and those immediately in Truman's circle. Who were, by no means, all in accord. Nonetheless, they were in agreement that these three issues were key.
And of the three issues, the situation of the Palestinian refugees absolutely took first place. There is no subject that was more excavated, examined, considered, discussed, then the question of the origin of the Palestinian refugee question, its nature, its possible future.
Of the people who were very adamant on this subject, was George Marshall, Secretary of State and, I would say, his successors. By talking about the origin of it, it's also important to know that these same US officials-- and I would be happy to add others, Mark Etheredge is an important figure at the Palestine Conciliation Commission-- were also insistent in recognizing Israeli responsibility. That was an issue that was repeatedly hammered at.
So, my sense is if this was so important, if these pages of these subjects who were so clearly unambiguous, why have they been ignored and would it matter to remember them. So, as I said earlier, it would be important to remember them, first of all, to set the present record straight.
So if you remember Roger Cohen's article on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times two days ago, which is a very interesting article, but he has a reference to 1948 and the refugee situation which is simply the Israeli position on this subject. It doesn't fit what, neither what the US or what Israel knew, as well, was ongoing. Why are we so tolerant with this inaccuracy in others?
In part, I assume that, not just to remember, but to know with some degree of confidence what policies were, allows those who are so informed to demand a change. Or at least demand an explanation. Or at least be able to respond policies and their consequences as they confront them. So from that point of view, remembering and knowing is not equivalent to power but it is a knowledge that certainly allows the empowering of individuals.
Now I have to say, also, that the sources I'm using, that I have used, foreign relations of the US. Those are ones that are so easily accessible. You can find them on your computer right now. Just go FRUS 1948 slash part two, part two is important, that's all 1948. You'll have it all there. And I won't see you ever again because--
You'll be drowning in it. But you'll be surprised at how much there is.
The question remains why has this been so consistently ignored, not only by ordinary people who are interested in history, but also by academics. And, not to say, people who are in politics. I don't assume that everybody has a spare 24 hours to leave their job and simply immerse themselves in this kind of issue. But for those who claim interest or for those who claim to speak with some authority, it is bizarre, not to say shameful, that they don't know this history. Especially if they came to speak on behalf of Washington.
The question is, why this happens? It's really not a mystery because it forces us to really confront another issue: in whose interest is it to forget? When you talk about forgetting, forgetting is a mysterious thing, you only forget what it is you know, or you knew.
So I'm not talking about amnesia, I'm talking about a deliberate forgetting. If you choose to forget it means that you have found some comfort or some dimension of satisfaction in deciding to put aside an issue of a certain importance. But it is a deliberate act. I'm not suggesting intentionality is equivalent to evil here. I'm simply saying it's not meaningless.
So let me just continue with one more item here. So the initial point I want to bring to your attention is that US policy in 1948 really is absolutely essential, I think, to understand the current root of the problem. The similarities are very, very striking. But they're striking in more ways than one.
On the subject of internationalization of Jerusalem there was absolutely no difference with the position that Salim described or the letter spoke to. And there was a strong feeling that there was no question that the internationalization of Jerusalem was not only part of U.N. resolutions but was essentially desirable for political reasons for those involved.
Having said all this, May 1948, Israel declares its independence. Within a matter of moments, as it were, symbolically, the US recognizes the new state of Israel. By July '48, and within a year, between May '48 and May '49, the position of the US changes. It changes in the following way: The record is there. The record on refugees is unchanged.
However, key people, Philip Jessup for one, Marshal himself, conclude that-- Atchinson, who succeeded-- conclude that this is a very impressive country. It has an amazing military. Its militia got away with expanding beyond the borders of 181, resolution 181. How did they do that? Hmm, quite impressive. What's our situation?
So here comes something important that I didn't mention. To understand the perception by the US of the Palestinian situation, you have to view the whole context of US policy. And as Jessup said in one of his remarks, if it wasn't for US economic interests in the region, our policy would probably have differed. US policy in the region meant what, after World War II? Protecting access to oil.
The whole Middle East is perceived as, yes, under British mandate, under French mandate, which ended earlier than the British mandate in Palestine, and protectorate in Egypt. But, for the US, the question is how to guarantee access to oil in Saudi Arabia.
Many people claim that the whole US position on Palestine was really of, the US was hostile to partition. Hostile, initially, to statehood because they're worried about the effect of Saudi Arabia. The effect of such decisions on oil-holding countries, and on the oil producers. But the truth was that they didn't suffer at all. I'll be happy to pursue that if somebody would like to.
In any case, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military, the Air Force, the Navy in 1949 in succeeding assessments more accurately, concluded that it was very desirable to appreciate more fully and more accurately the potential utility of this new state. It had an impressive military. Above all, its location was exemplary from the point of view of US interests. And it was very desirable to make sure that its orientation was in the direction of the US rather than the Soviet Union.
Having said all of that, it followed that to assure Israeli compliance with this new outlook it was preferable to diminish the pressure on the question of refugees. To diminish all the pressure that the US was applying, for example, especially at Luzon.
The result was, of course, that the US Representative Mark Etheridge decided he wanted to have none of it and he left, he resigned. But that was one individual protest, there were others. But the fundamental shift was to remain. This was not accompanied by sale of arms or immediately by provision of financing of any kind, but it was a very decisive move. It is expressed with utter clarity in the US documents.
So I want to end with that because-- I suppose my point then is that it's not only essential to remember the nature and the origin of US policy in its position with respect to these three issues: refugees, boundaries, and Jerusalem. But also to appreciate how that position shifted and why. In other words, it shifted as a result of the calculation of interests and potential profit. And I believe those calculations remain many years later in a different form and in a different world. Thank you.
STEPHEN VAN EVERA: I also want to thank Anat Biletzki and John Tirman for organizing this meeting. This is a terrific meeting. And I'm honored to be here. I got it in my head, I think from Anat, that the topic of this panel was "how we got here." I noticed when I look at the program its, we're more broadly invited to look back. But my remarks are directed specifically at the question of how we got here. Here being, a bitter unresolved conflict that doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.
How did that happen? Were there forks in the road, or alternative policies, or accidents even, that could have brought this conflict to some kind of better place or a resolution earlier. What were those forks in the road? What were the choices? And what different choices might have made that would have lead to something better? And I'm going to make three propositions about that.
Before I do, I'll just say, also, sometimes it helps understand someone's analysis of the past if you know what policies or approaches will work today and what the analyst thinks is possible today.
I'm basically a two-state guy. In two senses, I think that a two-state solution remains feasible if the preconditions for it are created. It remains feasible economically, and demographically, and politically. And I also think it is the only feasible solution. I do not think the alternatives to a two-state solution are workable.
A single secular democratic state, I think it has greater problems than a two-state solution. And I think Israeli empire, in the short run is feasible, but in the long run it will be very costly and end badly. And I also think only one two-state solution is feasible. It's a very narrow set of parameters. If you get very far off those parameters you can't get an agreement. So we're talking about a very specific two-state solution. Essentially something that can be understood by the participants to be full withdrawal for full peace.
But that said, one of my three propositions about how we got here, let me just sum up and then go through them in detail. Proposition one is that extremists on both sides got us here. That the two societies have been, for some time, ready for peace. And this is not, in other words, a "two society's in collision" problem. It's a "two extremist movements that have too much power" problem.
Second proposition is that false conflict narratives got here. Irene was talking earlier about narratives and their importance. And my view of conflict in general is that narratives matter a lot. And bad narratives can cause a lot of harm. And narratives are fungible and taffy-like and can be changed. And when you're stuck with bad narratives that are, shall we say, conflict feeding, you're going have a tough time resolving conflict.
But on the optimistic side much can be done to deal with bad narratives if there is the will and the thought to do it. My sort of archetypal case I would recommend people look at is Western Europe since-- Both Western Europe since 1870 to '45, which is a story of disastrous narratives causing all kinds of horrible things.
Europe wallowed in hyper-nationalist narratives, nationalist narratives that over-gloried their own civilizations and blamed others for all troubles. Each nation possessing its own self-exculpating and other blackening narrative.
And then since '45, some kind of miracle has occurred in Europe. We now have a communization of narratives. It's quite an astonishing event. It's not much commented on, but Europe has transformed its historical narratives to the point where all of Western Europe pretty much agrees in the same past. And agrees, therefore, on who were the main perps in the past, who caused the wars, who did the trouble.
And for my money, this is a key reason why war is now unthinkable in Western Europe. People point to the EU and economics and the American military presence and so on. I think they also should consider the role of the communization of narratives in Western Europe, which I think has played a key role there. And applying that sort of analysis to the Middle East, the Middle East has not undergone that, but it could.
And so I'll say some things about how the combat narratives-- what I'm calling on both sides-- have caused trouble and how they could be changed. And specifically my argument is you have basically victim narratives on both sides that both don't blame the real perp. And that's a real recipe for trouble. When something terrible's happened, people get hurt, you need to have a narrative that accurately defines who the perp is and puts the blame on that perp. And in both cases, Helsinian and Israeli narratives of the perp isn't blamed. And who is the perp? The perp is the Christian West.
The third point I want to make is that suboptimal political strategies by both sides have led to bad results. And had strategy been better chosen, we might have gotten much better results on the Palestinian side and I'm mainly focusing here on American, shall we say, friends of Israel but friends of peace.
I'm not going to comment too much about the mistakes by the Israeli two-state people. But I want to talk a little bit about Palestinian national strategy and two mistakes I think that have been made. Or shall we say, two alternative policies that would've worked better. And then talk about the American discourse about peace.
So about the extremists versus the societies, I'll just be quick about it. I think that when you look at the broad public views among both Israelis and Palestinians, the two societies are, essentially, over the past 30 years have converged on willingness to make peace on essentially the same terms.
The polling done by Khalil Shikaki's Institute, since 2004, he's done a series of polls in which he interrogates the respondents in some depth about how they would feel about specific settlement terms on the five big issues. On borders, on security, on Jerusalem, on refugees, on Palestinian state sovereignty. And then adds it all up and says, "Would you vote thumbs up or thumbs down on a settlement that fit the requirements we just laid out?"
And basically, the agreement that they're being asked to judge is essentially a full withdrawal for full peace settlement formula. Slightly more pro-Palestinian I would say, than the Clinton plan or the other major plans, the [INAUDIBLE] plan and other plans. But it's basically the plan you're all familiar with.
And consistently, since 2004, we've seen the Palestinian community thumbs-upping it by 45% or 50%. And the Israeli community thumbs-upping it by 60% to 65%. And, to me, the big news here is that these communities are agreeing on the same peace formula, without being led there by their leaders. Their leaders are not telling them, "hey you know, let's do this. Let's sell it. This is good. Let's go here." The communities are already there. And I think with leadership they would be pulled further in that direction.
Now of course, if there was a settlement on these terms, of course, where spoilers will play a huge role. And there are going to be people who want to use violence to break things up, and so on and so forth. But, to me, the basic disposition-- one way to put this is if the two secular movements, who were fighting each other in '48, were still driving the bus, I believe that peace would be at hand. They could make peace with each other.
The real problem is the rise of religious extremism on both sides. The conflict has become religified and that's the big news. And the extremists of both sides who reject two-states are driving the bus, even though they are not socially dominant.
And the big puzzle is how to undo that. Or how to, shall we say, sideline those who want a hegemony of their own side as a solution. And we're not good at that, by the way. We're talking about how do you moderate extreme movements. I keep telling my students that we need a dissertation on "moderationology."
How does a movement that has large aims or extreme tactics, whatever, how does it come to adopt something more moderate? Social science hasn't got a good answer to that.
The second point is about narratives. And how narratives got us here also. And my, sort of, summary of it all is that how did this conflict arise? Who is the perp? I said it was the Christian West.
Essentially, to me, the taproot of the conflict is the oppression of the Jewish minority in Europe for the last 1,000 years. During which the Jewish minority was subjected to massacres and ghettoization, and ultimately the Holocaust. And this led to a movement of separation in the 19th century. Which was essentially a movement of refuge, to escape from what was an intolerable political social situation in Europe. And who was behind all of this? My view is it was essentially a project of organized Christianity.
I'm very fond of this book by Daniel Kurtzer on the Popes against the Jews. And I'm very fond, also, of Jim Carroll's book, which is a magnificent history of the wrongs of the Christian church against the Jewish people down through the ages. If you're familiar with this book, it's called Constantine's Sword. It's terrific history.
This is not the narrative of either party in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Neither the Arabs nor the Israelis like this narrative. They don't like the idea of assigning prime blame to the Christian West.
The best framing of it I can think of is Isaac Deutscher, who years ago said, what's going on between Arabs and Israelis. It's like a man in a house on fire who saves himself by jumping out the window and landing on the pedestrian outside and killing him. And I would put an extra twist on it, which is that somebody lit that fire. That wasn't an accident. The Christian West lit the fire. And so this guy isn't responding to some misfortune, he's responding to a crime committed by the Christian Western society.
But this is not a popular narrative. The Israelis have, I think-- I'm interpreting here-- been uncomfortable with it because it involves kicking their patrons in the shins. Their chief patrons have been, since the beginning, Western Powers: the British back in the day, and then the French in the '50s, the United States today. It's uncomfortable to say, "Hey, be our ally. Stand by us always. And, by the way, you guys are criminals." It's an awkward narrative. I think many Israelis find it an undignified narrative.
There was a lot of pushback in Israel when Obama gave his Cairo speech and he didn't talk much at length about where the conflict came from, but he was basically interpreting the past the way I'm doing it here. And it was not welcomed by the Israelis.
And the Palestinian narrative, also, they are uncomfortable-- they have been, shall we say-- uncomfortable with a narrative that focuses on the wrongs of the Christian West against the Jewish people because it seems to justify Zionism. It paints Zionism, instead of being a predatory movement that it has no excuse and was adopted for reasons that are illegitimate, it grants some legitimacy designism because we all understand that anyone whose life is threatened and whose community faces destruction has to do desperate things to save your family, your kids, and your friends. And that a movement of refuge has more legitimacy than a simple predatory imperial movement.
Now my view is that both of these communities, the Israelis and Palestinians, I understand their resistance to the true narrative is understandable. But both of them are basically combat narratives. In other words, when you're prime focus is beating the other guys, OK, you should adopt narratives like this. 'Cause that'll mobilize your people and mobilize the rest of the world to support you.
But both these narratives, in my opinion, are obsolete in the sense that the prime problem now for both sides is making peace. And both sides should realize that they-- telling what truly happened here and blaming the true perp, the Christian West has two advantages. One, it's true. And number two, both parties now need to reconcile, not to fight each other. And I'm not saying that adopting new narratives that are more, shall we say, a third party blaming, not blaming the other side would be a silver bullet but it would be a big improvement over what we now have.
And the ultimate objective should be to achieve what's been done in Western Europe, where you have basically both sides agreeing on the same paths, taking responsibility for their own actions, and, as I said, there's this third twist which is if the prime blame were put where it belongs it could be lifted from the main opponent. Each side could put less blame on their opponent and put more blame where it belongs on the Christian West.
And I think this is-- Why talk about this? It's because narratives can be changed. As I said, we saw the West European narratives really remade after World War II. There was a twin political movement that remade Europe's narratives. The Eckert Institute in Braunschweig had a project of commonizing the history texts that were used throughout the European schools and UNESCO also did. This didn't happen by accident and to me, fine, learn lessons from that.
Third, proposition about strategies and how political strategies, different ones might have worked better, might have brought better results. When we talk about the Palestinians, I'll just say very quickly, I've long held the view that if the Palestinian nation had managed somehow to pursue a strategy of nonviolence, along the lines of what the Dr. King movement did in the United States, Gandhi did in India, you name other movements that were quasi nonviolent, this would have been effective. And so there's a sort of big fork in the road.
What was the right instrument to use to coerce or persuade others to grant Palestinian wishes. I think a nonviolent strategy would have worked better. Mainly because, to me, the outside world plays a huge role in this conflict. The rest of the world, especially the United States, is a long pole in the tent. It could be appealed to by a strategy, essentially aimed at street theater of the kind that-- I'm a big fan of Dr. King and of his movement. I think he was a genius.
And lessons could have been learned from how he dealt with an equally tough question: white racism. How did he ever manage to engineer street theater that really did bring some change in American white thinking? What could be learned? And I'm sure many people-- I know most people don't agree with me on this. But I'll put that forward as a proposition.
And the second is to have a quote, I'm using a phrase here, go to the Knesset. If the Palestinian movement-- We'll just say I think that Sadat's stroke in 1977 of announcing he wanted to go to Jerusalem and speak to the Knesset and then doing it. It changed Israeli images of Egyptian intentions a lot. It shook loose the way Israelis thought about the feasibility of peace with Egypt. And the question of whether Egypt was a partner for peace or not.
But the Palestinian movement has not made a project of, shall we say, going to the Knesset. Or using its interactions with-- certainly not with Americans. I mean there's two sides to this. One is what about actually approaching the Israelis differently. OK, fine. I'm really talking about approaching the American friends of Israel differently.
The Palestinians have not used negotiation. They've treated negotiations as transactional. We won't make offers until you make offers. We will only make offers conditional on your willingness to reciprocate. There's a whole second way of thinking of negotiations, which is to think of them as a framing exercise in which you reveal your intentions toward the other side in the course of negotiations. And the Palestinian movement has not taken that option.
I also think that, in terms of American friends of peace, there should have been a wider challenge to Israeli imperial and hawkish ideas by the entire, shall we say, peace movement in the US. One is there's been a missing challenge to American Christian Zionists.
Christian Zionism in the United States is a significant part of the problem. They have a lot of influence in Congress. You don't run into it much here, but you know what's ticking down in Texas, you know this is a big deal. And they've really gotten a free ride, the Christian Zionists have, I think, a malicious interpretation of scripture. They ought to be called out on it and argued with and they're not.
And the second is that there ought to be a stronger assessment of Netanyahu's grand strategy. Everyone sort of waves their hands at Netanyahu's approach to Israeli futures. The man has no strategy. How can we even debate it with him? But, in the end again, he's not called out on it.
I think that Netanyahu does not have any remotely happy looking future strategy for Israel. And there's been, again, a real gap in the debate because there's been no, shall we say, response to his policy of essentially status quo forever. Which means empire forever. So I'll stop with that.
EVE SPANGLER: Thank you.
So before we go to questions, I'd like to remind everyone in the audience that a question is brief. It is, as we're on the subject of narration, it is interrogative. And that means more than just lexically ending with an inflection upward. It means actually being motivated by curiosity. It doesn't require speeches. It should be succinct and to the point.
We have people to assist at the mic. I would ask, if there are students, either MIT or other students in the audience that we give them priority, since this is a university funded event. And while all that is cooking, I guess I'd like to take the advantage of being the moderator to just start with one question, which I think Irene spoke to very directly and both Salim and Steve have touched on, which is why is it that we don't hear or see what's out in plain sight?
You know, there was some inquiry on the ground before Resolution 181 that indicated neither side wanted to see partition. Today, you know, we have Israeli politicians openly proclaiming annexation. And yet this seems not to enter into the conversation very much. People tend, I think, to repeat established positions as though none of this was on the record.
So I'm sort of curious about what we choose not to hear and not to see. And I know that Irene spoke to it most directly, but I'd like to start with that question and people can address it, all three of you, in whatever way you want. And then we'll go to the audience questions. So if we could start there.
IRENE GENDZIER: Well, I would say that it's not an accident that certain issues are ignored. One of my points was that it's essential to ask. And I think I would put this to Steve Van Evera, as well. In whose interests are policies pursued?
We haven't talked about the role of the media. But there is a question of dissemination, of policy dissemination of narratives, although I have developed an allergy to the word, I confess, but so be it.
Policies are not invented out of the blue. You have to look into-- my field is not policy, but the policy making, it's not a science, it's not an art. It's certainly a corrupt form of behavior, of maneuvering power. But it's essential to ask in whose interests certain views are ignored and others are disseminated.
So I think that one of the issues that I've not discussed is what are the risks of opening this door? Well the risks are that you go on you. I mean we would have to say, look, American policy is responsible for deliberately lowering the importance of the refugee problem in a fashion that they understood would ultimately destroy the issue. There was a deliberate attempt to de-politicize it. What does that mean? Render it a refugee question.
EVE SPANGLER: Wait a minute, I have a question.
IRENE GENDZIER: So these are some of the things that one has to look at. So what are the risks? As I say the risk, the same way that the US has demonstrated great aversion to Palestinians bringing the Palestinian question to the U.N. at different points. Yes, they're right to be afraid of it and to oppose it, because it means reopening this Pandora's box and looking at how things began and how things became what they are today.
And to do that, means that you assign responsibility. You assign blame. You assign a different order of questions. Are people prepared to do that? Not if they feel that they have a stake in the way things are. It may be an emotional stake, but I'm suggesting it's something more than that.
EVE SPANGLER: Salim, if you want to comment.
SALIM TAMARI: Yes I fully agree. I think part of the blame, however, for the non-implementation of 181 after the Madrid peace conference should lie also with the Arabs and with the Palestinians themselves. Who agreed to frame the whole issue in terms of not applying 181 but 242. Which, at that time, seemed the more reasonable thing to do.
And because they began at such a lower ceiling, they had to-- eventually given the balance of powers at the time and the collapse of the Soviet Union-- to go lower and lower until they got to Oslo. So Oslo became the fading expression of what remained of 181.
EVE SPANGLER: You want to [INAUDIBLE]. OK. All right I think we're now ready for our first question. We are wanting people to go because this is being recorded and filmed to the microphones, please, if you have a question.
CREW: We actually have the microphones moving around Oprah-style. At this point. So we have a questioner here. Your name, please.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I'm Abraham Shalom. I'm a student here at MIT. I wanted to know, like if tomorrow a deal were reached between Israel and the Palestinians, do you feel that the PLO will be able to enforce such a deal? And, taking this into account, if you were Netanyahu or Israel, what would be your next steps?
EVE SPANGLER: Are you directing this at the whole panel?
AUDIENCE: Sure. I mean that whoever would want to answer it would be--
EVE SPANGLER: Thank you.
IRENE GENDZIER: Can you clarify the question?
SALIM TAMARI: Can you clarify what the question is?
EVE SPANGLER: If there were peace tomorrow or there were a deal on the table, could the PLO--
AUDIENCE: Does the PLO have control and authority over the population? Like if there were a deal, would they be able to enforce it?
SALIM TAMARI: Who's going to answer that?
EVE SPANGLER: I'm only the moderator. We're going to let the experts answer this or not answer it.
STEVEN VAN EVERA: My answer is yes. I mean, I think a key problem, the key problem in implementing a peace deal would be spoilers, as I was saying. Meaning folks who want to break the deal up and who would use force to do it.
But, to me, in the end, if you're serious about police presence and serious about intelligence gathering, this is a problem that has a solution. And furthermore, if both parties agreed, shall we say, not insist on 100% perfection in the policing of the spoilers. And not sort of play their game by taking the first incident on spoiling as a reason to break the agreement. I think this could be done.
If you look at successful peace agreements in the past, how often has it happened that spoilers have managed to wreck peace agreements? It's happened, but not often. And not against a, sort of, concerted effort by elites on both sides, who are determined to make sure that peace sticks once it's made. It's a great question. It is the thing I worry about the most, though, in terms of aftermath to a peace settlement.
SALIM TAMARI: No, but the issue is what is the package being offered? If the proposal is to have a peace agreement based on Naftali Bennett's vision of reducing the West Bank to area A and B, then no powers, PLO or other, can mobilize or allow the population to accept it. The state of Israel cannot impose a deal at the moment, which I think is a just deal, which is a return to the '47 Partition Plan.
So the question is what is the package that's being proposed?
STEVEN VAN EVERA: My view on that is the only package that will work is something that can be sold as full withdrawal for full peace. I think on the Palestinian side, the narrative is basically a leader has to be able to look the people in the eye and say, we got what Sadat got, and we got what Hussein got. Meaning something that can be described as full withdrawal for full peace.
It won't really be that, because there will be land swaps and the land swaps can be unfair. And the land that the Palestinians wound up with would be inferior to the land that the Israelis have taken near Jerusalem, and so on and so forth. But it could be presented that way. A proposal that could pass the giggle test. Anything outside those parameters will not fly, I agree with you, will never be accepted.
IRENE GENDZIER: Let's continue.
EVE SPANGLER: OK. There are other questions if we're ready to move forward.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. My name's Richard, I'm a PhD candidate in Applied Mathematics at MIT. So this is not my area of expertise, I'm just here as a enthusiast. So my question is what role do media, especially US domestic media, play in shaping the public opinions of Americans on this issue? And as non-expert, how should we pick and choose different sources in order to develop a more informed, less biased view on the issue? Thank you.
IRENE GENDZIER: Well it's a great question to ask. It's not so easy to answer. The media obviously has an enormous role in shaping opinion in what we know and what it is that we don't know. So we have to apply pressure, or we have to diversify the number of sources that are available.
For those of you who look closely into major, not social media but the press, you know how difficult that is and what kind of internal struggles go on. I think that there is a change at the present time. I think that coverage is beginning to open up.
I've been interested, perhaps you have too, in the coverage of the New York Times on Gaza. It depends who's writing the articles. And you can tell real differences. There are often adjectives that are used to suggest qualifications, X number of Palestinians were killed as Palestinians claim. A phrase like that is enough to undermine the information. Nonetheless, there is more information that is being presented.
So I think that public support for that, in the form of letters and expressions of support. I think there's evidence of movement all over the country in many areas besides the press. There are organizations that have been created. The Jewish Voices for Peace is, I think, an important organization that has opened the doors for many people to participate. Universities are under great pressure to contain supporters, for example of BDS. But that's become a public issue now. That's good. In other words, you can mobilize opinion. So I think first to acknowledge the importance of the issue raised, I think that the media is very, very important. I don't believe that the media makes policy. But I think that the role of the media in enforcing a certain line of policy is key. And every effort that we can make to contest that, and to call for greater diversity would be very desirable. Go on. Anyone else?
SALIM TAMARI: I think you spoke more than necessary.
CREW: OK. I think then we have one over here. Yes, sir?
AUDIENCE: Yes. MIT alumni, also I'm at Tokyo Renewable Institute. My question is very simple, maybe the answer's very difficult, I don't know. Why was that in 2000, Yasser Arafat was unable to swallow the agreement at the Camp David Accords? Any explanation would be appreciated. No. It was 2000 when Clinton was president. When Clinton was leaving office, he almost had to deal [INAUDIBLE]
STEVE VAN EVERA: You want me-- I'll comment on what I think happened. I think that the parties came very close to making peace at Taba. And I think that Arafat-- this is my interpretation based on lots of fragments of data-- didn't get it. He did not understand two things when he was at Taba. This is January-- they go to Taba a few days after New Year's and they've got about two weeks. January 20th, Clinton is going to leave the White House. And on February 5th or so, there's going to be an Israeli election and Netanyahu is going to win. He's going to replace Barak.
Sharon, yeah, sorry. What am I saying. Sharon's going to win. And Arafat, I think, thought he had all spring to make a deal. And didn't understand that all Americans aren't alike. And that Clinton is more inclined to push for peace than his successor. Because Bush is going to bring in a bunch of people much less peace-inclined. And that Sharon is going to be much less peace-inclined than Barak.
Things I've heard is that Arafat was still-- in March, you know, a month and a half later-- still trying to get the talks going again because he assumed that the talks would still be going. So, to me, he made a horrifying misjudgment. That's my summary. He blundered magnificently.
SALIM TAMARI: If I may add, I think I agree with you that in Taba the two sides were very close to make a deal. The blame on Arafat at the time, is a product of the media, since you asked it. Because what happened was not that the Palestinians rejected the deal, but they were looking at a situation where the impending collapse of the Ehud Barak government was about to happen. And they did not want to engage in a deal which would not be carried by a future Israeli government.
So what they agreed on in Taba is to go back to continue the negotiations after the elections. And this was seen as a rejection of a deal by Arafat. Where, in fact, what happened was that the result of the deal was preempted by the collapse of the labor government, and the coming of Sharon to the state. And this is what happened.
AUDIENCE: Can someone on the panel explain the difference between what was on the table at Camp David and what was on the table at Taba about seven or eight months later?
SALIM TAMARI: It was the same. What happened in Taba was they work out few more details on refugees. Which basically corresponded to the package proposed by President Clinton at the time. And in Taba the question of negotiations was all details, which were already fleshed out in Camp David. The difference between Taba and Camp David is the impending collapse of the labor government. Which was not yet clear in Camp David.
STEVE VAN EVERA: I haven't read your work on this, and I defer to you because you're closer to the subject. This is controversial. My student, Jeremy Pressman, wrote what I thought was the best article on Camp David at Taba. And he said that the Taba deal-- the deal on the table at Taba was significantly more generous to the Palestinians than what was on the table during the summer at Camp David. That basically Barak came into Camp David with a really, shall we say, unrealistic view of what he could persuade the Palestinians to concede.
And I'm dimly recalling the first territorial breakdown was something like only-- Was it 88% of historic Palestine was going to wind up as a Palestinians state? 12% would remain with Israel? Didn't look remotely like full withdrawal.
SALIM TAMARI: Of occupied territories.
STEVE VAN EVERA: Sorry. Other way around, other way around.
EVE SPANGLER: Other way around.
STEVE VAN EVERA: Other way around. But anyway, I thought that the territorial discussion moved quite a distance toward something that looked more like full withdrawal. We can check footnotes later. I'm just quoting my student, Jeremy.
SALIM TAMARI: What was being discussed was one fifth of the historic Palestine.
STEVE VAN EVERA: Right.
SALIM TAMARI: And the land swap involved whether it will be 2% or 3% of that area.
STEVE VAN EVERA: I thought that the summer discussion was much less generous than that, but I could be wrong.
AUDIENCE: My name is David Rosenberg and with great difficulty I'm going to resist trying to correct anything I've heard and merely ask a question.
EVE SPANGLER: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: You're welcome. And the question is in view of the territory of the mandate for Palestine having been divided as giving 77% to the Arabs and what was Transjordan and is now Jordan. And prohibiting Jewish immigration to that territory and giving only 23% for the Jews. Why did the United States and the West, generally, not abide by the 1922 Treaty and by Article 80 of the Charter of the United Nations and make sure that at least in that 23%, the Jews had the right to settle anywhere and that was to be facilitated by the mandatory powers. Why was that?
IRENE GENDZIER: I don't want to comment on your history, which I don't entirely recognize, but I would only say this, that in '48 the US was supportive of Abdullah's agreement to take over the Palestinian territory that the Israelis would cede, in part, because the US was not sympathetic to the idea of a Palestinian state. So this very early became an ideal solution.
Marshall was quite happy, apparently, when he heard about this. Just at the moment when he was beginning to sympathize with the idea of the US going back to the U.N. To dismantle the partition and talk about trusteeship. So when he heard about the secret agreements, the exchanges between Abdullah and various Jewish political figures, he found that encouraging. But there's nothing encouraging about the results.
SALIM TAMARI: Actually, this question is very interesting because it corresponds to the-- within Zionism there's a historical debate between where is Palestine. And the revisionists always insisted that Palestine includes Transjordan.
And today the historic reversal has come back because there's a lot of Likud people and people on the Israeli right who believe that Jordan is Palestine. And this makes the Jordanian government very nervous about the intentions of the current Israeli government. So thank you for bringing it to our attention.
EVE SPANGLER: I think given limited time we maybe would want to hear the next three questions. So these two and one over here, perhaps. And then people can respond to all or some of them. So why don't we start here and then go to the next two there.
AUDIENCE: Hi. [? Auri ?] from Harvard. So I'd like to discuss the refugees, in two sets of refugees, because nobody is really talking about more than a million Jewish refugees after the defensive war. The six of them has invaded Israel in '48. Following the '49, close to a million refugees were essentially deported from Muslim countries all the way from Morocco to Iran. Most of them came to Israel. And its account for more than half the Jewish population in Israel. So effectively it was a population swap.
Now the second refugee element is that Palestinian objectionism is solidly about refugees. So even at 2008, not just 2000, 2001 negotiation with Olmert and Abu Mazen, Abbas. There was also another Palestinian rejection and last month Salam Fayyad gave a talk at HKS and asked them if there is the same resolution. Meaning a population, tell it to swap, removing of settlements. East Jerusalem for Palestine, will there be a resolution. He said no, and the main reason was the Palestinian refugees and the right of return. So I'd like your views on the Jewish refugees and the Palestinian refugees.
EVE SPANGLER: Can we have the next two questions?
AUDIENCE: I'm an MIT alum. Where frequently we would try to understand the present by looking at counterfactuals and maybe, specifically, for Professor Tamari with a list of horribles that you read. What if-- and you talked about the 47 borders-- what if when Israel had declared its independence the five Arab nations hadn't invaded with the thought of wiping all the Jews into the sea. And if that theme has not continued to be enunciated one way or another by major Arab leaders, major Arab organizations like Hamas and others, would the weltanschauung of the Israelis be different? Would there have been a '67 war? Where does the blame really lie?
AUDIENCE: I'll try to be very quick. A question just to Irene. I'm glad you've gotten onto the later period, around the time of the Red Scare in the US. And I'm wondering how much, if you've found, that the documents you've been studying reflect that. And the fear that, somehow, Israel as a socialist inclined to country is more dangerous because of its affinities with the Soviet Union. Did that enter into your reading?
IRENE GENDZIER: OK. So let me very, very quickly comment on the first. So, again, I'm answering within the context of the work that I was talking about earlier. The US was very aware of the situation of Jewish refugees.
The Earl Harrison committee that was sent out by Truman, for example, to look at the situation of Jewish refugees in the American-occupied zone of Germany came back with a very harsh report on their conditions as a result of which, the US asked that 100,000 Jewish refugees be allowed into Palestine while it was still a British mandate. The result of that was a rejection on the part of the British.
The decision to hold-- the Harrison report was in '45-- to hold a series of meetings. One with the Anglo-American committee, that was followed by other developments. To say the US was aware of that issue is something that I want to emphasize. But there was a lot more discussion than that.
Gordon Mariam, for example, was someone who was very, very active in the division of Near East in the State Department. And kept insisting that the refugee situation is an international problem. The European refugee situation is an international problem. And he also said, OK, what about the advanced industrialized states with the US first? Why haven't they opened their doors to European refugees, to Jewish refugees in particular?
There was a lot of discussion about the nativism and the racism involved in the rejection of refugees, as well as in the indifference to existing quotas that were not filled. There's more to say on that.
I'm afraid I don't really agree with the notion of a swap Jewish refugees who Palestinian refugees, among other things. By the way, US officials at the time, saw it in sheer numbers that the number of Palestinian refugees expelled, who fled or expelled, by Jewish forces in Israel after '48. The number goes as far as 900,000. That is a US figure that is often cited. They claim that that was, of course, much greater and the total of European Jewish refugees who survived the war. It doesn't eliminate the question of the situation of those Jews.
As far as the predicament of Jews in Arab countries and the pressure that some felt, and as a result of which left, in the example of Baghdad, Iraq, in 1950. These are important questions. I don't want to sidestep them. They will take a lot longer to recognize. But the notion that there is some kind of a swap? No. There is a revanche policy, if you want, that's pursued and that's important.
On the last question, Nancy's question, I think that US officials were very concerned about the Stern Gang, which they saw as sympathetic to the Soviet Union. This was an exaggerated interpretation of what relations were between the Stern Gang and the USSR. But your question is very apt. This issue does come up. Not in 1950, but earlier.
So some have interpreted this as a sign that the Cold War really is the explanation for US policy. I never accepted that. But the concern about Soviet influence in Eastern Europe and in the Mediterranean, of course, though that US intervention in Greece and the concern that the Soviet Union had involvements in Iran. That they sought to shift the orientation of Israel were-- I don't say they were illegitimate, they were real concerns. This doesn't equal to a McCarthyist politics. But I think it was a fact.
Certainly the idea in recognition, discussion of recognition, the issues repeatedly came up. "Let's do this before the Soviets do it. Let's take advantage of this before the Soviets do it." Israel maintained relations with the Soviet Union and they-- after all, the Russian position on partition and statehood is a very important factor in understanding Israeli sympathy for the USSR.
SALIM TAMARI: I just want to say a word about refugees. This is the first time I hear the number one million mentioned. Because the Israeli claim is 800,000. I was on the refugee commission after the Madrid Peace Conference and I was in a group that negotiated with the Israelis on the issue of refugees. And it came as an afterthought, the Israelis never raised the issue of a swap. That our Jews were expelled from the Arab countries and your Palestinians were expelled or lost their homes-- because they did not acknowledge how they lost their homes-- in '48. That came as an afterthought later.
And remember that the Iraqi and Egyptian Jews, and later the Moroccans, left in reaction of the fate of the Palestinians in the '48 war. Now, that does not justify what happened to them. But what happened was much later. The question of the anti-Jewish legislation was enacted in Iraq and later in Narses, Egypt that had nothing to do with the Palestine issue. It had to do with the nationalization of the Suez Canal and liquidation of assets by foreign nationals. So the question cannot be equated with that.
And number two-- which is more important in my view-- the bulk of Arab refugees to Israel, that is Jews of Arab country origins came from Morocco, the majority were Moroccans, not Iraqis or Yemenis or Egyptians. Most of the Moroccan Jews were not refugees to Israel. They were immigrants.
It's true that in Morocco there was a great deal of agitation against the Jews but they were not forced to leave. They chose to leave and many of them kept their citizenship until today and they often go back to their country of origin. Which is certainly not the situation with the Palestinian refugees. So the two issues cannot be equated in that sense.
STEVE VAN EVERA: About the '50s and peace, making peace in the '50s?
[INAUDIBLE] had not invaded Israel [INAUDIBLE] declaration [INAUDIBLE].
IRENE GENDZIER: I don't.
AUDIENCE: They had accepted it and had not said that they would drive the Jews--
IRENE GENDZIER: Oh Yeah. You're right. Right. Right.
AUDIENCE: Would the world be different? Would the output of the people who had just escaped the ovens felt maybe they had some [? friends? ?]
AUDIENCE: After returning after 1,700 years to their homeland.
SALIM TAMARI: You think if the Arabs had not threatened the state of Israel as it was being formed, the state of Israel would have abided by the condition of the partition plan and accepted to be in the region in which 45% of the population would be Arab? That is a totally unviable situation.
The Israeli strategy for expansion was built into its acceptors of the partition plan. It was just tactical. There's no question about it in my mind or in any reasonable historical mind.
IRENE GENDZIER: I could say also, if you read Israeli sources on this period, they're very revealing of the Israeli perception of Arab intentions and, above all, of Arab political and military weakness.
One of the most moving accounts is of the utter weakness, incompetence, militarily, of the Egyptians by-- I could name a number of different Israelis. But they had a very accurate sense of who their enemies were. And they had very little respect for their military prowess. So the notion that they would be driven out?
When Eliahu Epstein, who was a Jewish agency representative in the US, and became close to Max [INAUDIBLE] and through him eventually met people in the oil sector, they discussed some of these things. So did Weismann on his trips to the US. So did Judah Magnes and Nahum Goldmann on their trips to the US sent to talk with Department of State figures.
None of them expressed concern about being driven into the sea. They expressed frustration at the lack of adequate US support. But they were very, very clear cut on what their long-term intentions were. Which were, above all, to create a state and to accept partition as a transitory period.
So your description to me is, I recognize perhaps where it comes from, but I don't recognize it as a statement of fact.
EVE SPANGLER: So I think with that, we'll call this panel concluded.
JOHN TIRMAN: All right. Thank you. We're going to start for the second panel, which is "Looking Ahead," perilous territory, I think. But nevertheless, we'll follow the same format as we did for the first panel, which is to say we'll have a Q&A after all three speakers are finished.
And chairing the panel today is Barry Posen, who is Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT and Director of the Security Studies Program. He serves on the Executive Committee at Seminar XXI. He's written several books, including the most recent one, highly regarded, Restraint-- A New Foundation for US Grand Strategy. He has been, as many of you know, one of the leading international relations theorists in the world, I guess, not just the country.
BARRY POSEN: That's an exaggeration.
JOHN TIRMAN: That's an exaggeration? OK, just the United States. And North America, maybe? And so it's a great pleasure to have him chair. And he will introduce the panelists. Barry?
BARRY POSEN: Thank you. So good afternoon. Thanks for coming out. Thank you, John, and to all those who worked to organize this panel this morning and the panelists today.
We're reflecting upon the 70 years of Israel's existence, both what it means for the state of Israel and what it means for the Palestinians who've been in conflict with the Israelis since before the creation of the state. We're pleased to have three speakers on this panel, and I will introduce them all at once. We all have long introductions. We all know who we are, so I'm going to kind of take the liberty of economizing a little bit and just mention a few highlights.
And I'll talk about the order. First, Anat is to my right-- not politically, but--
She's the Schweitzer Professor of Philosophy at the Quinnipiac University and was formerly a professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv, from which she retired. She's held visiting positions to all kinds of really cool places, including the University of Bergen, which I kind of them because Bergen is very cool.
Among her publications are "Peace-less Reconciliation" in the book Justice, Responsibility and Reconciliation in the Wake of Conflict. That's a Springer book from 2010. She's worked in many different organizations in Israel, and perhaps the one you may have heard of-- most probably heard of-- was she was chairperson of the board of B'Tselem, the Israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories during the Second Intifada, 2001 to 2006, a very sad period.
Arie Arnon is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Economics at Ben-Gurion University. He's been a visiting faculty and visiting scholar at Stanford and Berkeley and SOAS in London, the University of Pennsylvania-- you get around to good places. He's worked as a senior economist in the research department of the Bank of Israel and is a consultant to the World Bank. And he was a founder of the program on economics and society at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.
Perhaps most interesting for this group is he's done a lot of research on the economics of the Palestinian-Israeli relationship and the Palestinian economy. And he's now the Israeli coordinator of something called the Aix Group, which is an independent Palestinian, Israeli, and international think tank focused on writing about economic issues as they affect the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
And finally, our last speaker will be Leila Farsakh. She's associate professor and chair of political science at UMass Boston, so she's a neighbor. She's the author of Palestinian Labour Migration to Israel-- Labour, Land, and Occupation in 2012. But she's published on many questions relating to the political economy of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, alternatives to partition, international migration, and a whole host of academic journals.
She's also worked for a number of international organizations, including the OECD. In 2001, she won the Peace and Justice Award from the Cambridge Peace Commission here in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where we find ourselves today.
So without further ado, I we'll start with you, Anat.
ANAT BILETSKI: So I thought that you--
ARIE ARNON: [SPEAKING HEBREW]
ANAT BILETSKI: I think Arie's going to start.
BARRY POSEN: Oh, you want to start with Arie? I thought you wanted to change it.
ARIE ARNON: I didn't want anything.
BARRY POSEN: No, I thought Anat wanted it. I thought you wanted to go first. No, we'll start with Arie. That's fine.
I've received two different messages, right? So we'll start with Arie. That's fine.
ARIE ARNON: We'll start. So first, I'm very happy to be here and thank everybody who made it possible. My first comment is really about pessimism and optimism. In many of the discussions, certainly in the part of the world from which I usually come, which is the Middle East and Jerusalem-- West Jerusalem, I should say-- pessimism, among people who think more or less like I think, is the coin of the day.
And I'm quite happy that it is not so much so here. I don't feel this pessimism anymore. I think that the most important aspect of looking to the future, looking forward, prospects, is to find ways to return to a serious discussion of what is the political compromise between Israelis and Palestinians that can give us better results than the failures that we had faced over the last, let's say, 25 years since Oslo.
And what I will try to discuss in the next few minutes is to outline what was missing from the agenda, especially on the Israeli side of the equation during those 25 years because it's not obvious, but it is essential that people will understand that we are talking about two, two people, two nations, two sides, two whatever but two.
And it is not obvious on the Israeli side. And certainly, it is rejected by the Israeli government today that there are two equal sides, so to speak, with legitimate claims that should be answered in as much as possible symmetrical fashion, symmetrical arrangement. And this was not so in the past.
Part of the collapse that we have heard about over previous discussion was that Oslo when it started 25 years ago was basically a ceasefire agreement. It was not an agreement about any contours of their permanent status. Their permanent status was just listed as problems to be solved, but nothing was said really about the solutions, not to the settlements, not to the borders, not to Jerusalem, not the refugees, nothing, so much so that people will not remember.
But when Rabin accepted the final versions of the Oslo agreements, he did not believe that there is nothing there even about the freezing of the settlements. He sent someone, [? Armond, ?] to find that it is really so, that the other side agreed not to spill out the freeze on the settlements and not to speak about the other issues.
So a compromise between the two is very difficult because the two sides, even those who supported a political compromise 25 years ago or 30 years ago, even those who supported it have different narratives. We have heard about it implicitly or explicitly in the previous discussion, as well.
The historical description of what happened in Palestine/Israel over the last 120 or 130 years is very different. Also, among those who are the candidates for supporting a political compromise, 1917, 1929, 1936, 1948-- you can have a long list of debates about what happened. I'm not going there because I don't have time.
One of the basic important failures on the Israeli dovish-- they call it "left," but you can better call it "dovish"-- side of the equation was that for most of them, the problem was 1967, as if the conflict started in 1967. And the solution is concerning 1967, basically, land for peace, if you want. '67 borders are not exactly '67 borders, including '67 borders in Jerusalem, which was a big problem.
All the other aspects of the conflict, mainly-- not only, but mainly-- the refugees issue, the 1948 refugees, Palestinian refugees, was not part of the discourse of peace since '67 on the dovish side of the Israeli society. This brought us in my view to Camp David seven years after Oslo with a conflict that was built-in and was doomed to fail, doomed to fail the negotiations because on the Israeli side, the preparations for a resolution of the refugees problem from '48 was zero.
Also mentally thinking about it, think tanks, papers-- understanding that it is important. For the Palestinians, it was essential. Half of the Palestinian population are defined as descendants belonging to basically refugees. So if we want to have a better start in the next round, we should have the two sides sharing the same set of problems that are to be resolved, including, most importantly, the refugees. I'm not saying it is easy.
And on the refugees, of course, you have two different narratives on the two sides. But luckily for us, I think, going into a political compromise does not necessitate an agreement on the narratives. The two sides can keep their own narratives, go to negotiations, and reach a political agreement on a compromise and keep faith to those narratives they had. It is not essential. It will be good if the two sides can agree on the narratives. I don't think they can, and I don't think, luckily, that it is essential.
So if we start from this point, then we really go back to defining the issues and the conflict in a way that will change it. It's not only 1967 that we are discussing. It is 1967 and 1948. And if you want, it's pre-'48, '48, and post-'48 and '67. It is the historical compromise that we have to reach. And to do this, we need to agree that there are two sides and that they have their collective rights, not only individual rights.
That is my view, and I belong to those who came to the conclusion many years ago, too many years ago, that two states are the only framework that can solve the conflict between the two sides. It doesn't have to be '67. It has to be two states. It doesn't have to be a Jewish state. It can be a binational state.
If you ask me, it can be two binational states. I'm not sure the Palestinians will agree to it, but binationalism is not the problem here. The problem here is that on the two sides, one of the basic desires is to have self-determination. If you want to call it "sovereignty," call it "sovereignty." If they want to call it "state," call it "state." But this desire is fundamental, and you cannot bypass it.
And this is difficult. It is a small land, you all know. The territory is restricted. To have two states is not an easy option. If I'll talk a little bit about the economics of the two states, it is interesting to note that in 1947 when the partition plan 181 was passed in the UN, the two sides were supposed to live in what we call an "economic union," in an economy that has no borders within it.
There is a long appendix to the 181 decision that describes in detail how this union should work. It is more or less like the EU these days. Trade is open, labor flows inside, et cetera, et cetera. It is two states, if you want, with Jerusalem, as we have heard, as a separate entity. And the two states are living within one economy.
Since '67, almost all the discussions about a two-state solution went in another direction, including the Aix Group that I belong to. I think all the ideas about two states between Israel and Palestine went to the concept of two economies-- two states, two economies.
It has good rationale behind it, I think. The gaps between the standards of living on the two sides, it is, since '67, one to 10, one to 12. It is a huge gap, not as was the EU before it was created, where they had much more convergence in standards of living and sizes. It's both the size of the economies-- it's, in fact, one to 20, the sizes of the economy. And the standards of living are very different.
To have the two societies after such a long and bitter war-- hopefully, we assume that there is an agreement of two states-- living in one state, one economy or even in two states, one economy will bring with it huge priorities that I think will be very difficult to handle.
It is better for the two sides to have at least for a while-- maybe 10 years, maybe 20 years. Maybe after a while, people will re-discuss it and decide that they want to have an integration process, like in the EU. But it is better to live for a while in two economies which each one has its own policies, trying to go on a path of convergence between the on the standards of living between the two sides.
So if we talk a little bit about the economic aspect, then the question of borders between the two sides is important and was never discussed properly, although in 2000-- it's not the last but the serious attempt to resolve the conflict and reach a permanent agreement-- there were also discussions about the economics of the conflict. And in those discussions, it was clear that by 2000, opposite to what happened in the Oslo agreement in '93, the two sides were very close to a point where they agreed.
In fact, they agreed already in principle to have borders between the two states. There was a failure. At the end, nothing happened. But the two sides' official negotiations among the economists were very close to say, let's have what we call "FTA." It's going back to concepts that we don't have time now to discuss but necessitate borders between the two sides.
FTA is like NAFTA. It is the agreement that the two sides have their own trade policies to some extent-- not fully, but to some extent. So let me conclude because time is running against us, against me, especially.
The Oslo process failed, no question about it. The failure was basically the collapse of Camp David. We have to understand the collapse of Camp David. In the previous session, some ideas were-- I think still a lots of books and papers were written about it. But it is still a big question why exactly the two sides failed so badly in Camp David, 2000 because what we see today is the direct result of this failure.
This failure was translated on the Israeli side to the "no partner" slogan, "no partner" slogan meaning that the Israeli government, the labor government, Baram, came back from Camp David and said, I unmasked the other side. They don't want peace.
And if you ask the Israeli political system today, a majority-- center, right, and also part of the dovish side-- do believe that Israel has no-- Jews in Israel, we should say-- don't have a partner on the other side. To correct it, to change it, to make the historical compromise a possibility again is the mission that we have to take upon ourselves.
And on this, I would say that if we look forward and we try to outline some changes, then the most important change is that it should be found Israelis and Palestinians will start working again to legitimize a program framework, political ideas that will be in line with we are two on this land. We have to find a political compromise that will include everything, the territory, Jerusalem, the refugees, and everything else, including the huge gaps we have in economics between us currently.
This is not an easy mission, but all the other missions that were proposed-- one state, one man, one vote, et cetera-- ignore the basic animosity between the two sides, the huge package they have on their backs that they should deal with before entering and supporting with majority-- not 100%, but at least 60%-- a political compromise that is still, in my view, possible. 15 minutes passed.
BARRY POSEN: Now. Now it's your turn.
ANAT BILETSKI: Thanks. I always say that I love being after everybody because I want to answer everybody. I won't have time to answer everybody, but I think most of what I say is somehow a rejoinder to what Arie just said.
Ilana Hammerman wrote about five years ago, "There can be no genuine discussion here about the present and the future without a discussion about the past." And that's what we had, I thought, the panel about the past. But I really think that you can't talk about the past or the present or the future unrelated to the others. There is a ball here that is so intertwined that we can't just say, oh, here's where we're going when we look at the future.
On the other hand, I think that what I will say about the future is that big elephant in the room that Salim brought up, and I thought, oh, there goes my elephant. And that was, of course, the one-state idea, solution, concept. I don't like the OSS, One-State Solution, label, but I do like thinking about the idea of one state.
And I don't expect for this to be a debate right now between us, but I want to tell the story of the idea of one state and try to show that given where we are now and given where we've come from, it is actually the way to go or the only viable way to go. There is a very almost personal story of those of us who were one-staters, then became two-staters, then adopted again the one-state thought. And the story is very chronologically clear.
I think until about '73, there were groups who talked about one democratic state for all the people or peoples living in Israel/Palestine. And I remember in around 1973, the argument that was thrown back at people who believed in some sort of vision of one state, a Democratic-run state, what was thrown at us was that if 99% of the Jews want a Jewish state and 99% of the Palestinians want a Palestinian state, then who are we to say to them?
What is our authority, moral or otherwise, definitely political, to say to them, oh, you have to live together and all be democratic together? And it is about that point that the two-state ideas started being bandied about and then well-articulated. I want to remind everyone that Golda Meir was still on record as saying there is no such thing as a Palestinian nation or Palestinian people.
So it was in the '70s considered radical to recognize Palestinians as a nation and to say that there should be a Palestinian state. It wasn't a conventional foregone conclusion at all. I think the first time that it came out in Israel really explicitly was in 1988, in the elections when Hadash, the Jewish Arab Communist party, used that as their slogan for elections. They said "two states for two peoples."
So this is 1988. It's not such an old idea to talk about two states for two peoples, and it became the rallying cry of the left, of the doves in Israeli society, who were not as weak then or as minuscule as they are now. So that was the two-state idea, the two-state program that was later-- and I find that fascinating, actually-- that was later adopted by the whole world.
It didn't come from the world originally. It was then adopted. And I would say it's what we've been talking about when we talk about peace negotiations. That whole idea of negotiations has been based on the two-state idea definitely since 1993 with Oslo and I would say till maybe today. And that is what I want to be a little skeptical about.
Now, in the last 25 years since Oslo, definitely since 2000, what we're hearing, what we've been hearing more and more loudly, is the assessment of people who travel the land, the assessment of people who go to the West Bank, who talk to people on the West Bank, who see what is happening on the West Bank. And I'll say a little more later about Palestinians living inside Israel.
But the main phenomenon that we're seeing when you travel the West Bank is that idea that there is nowhere you can draw that line. There is nowhere where you can see a border between Israel and Palestine if you were to go that way of the two-state solution. So the chronology's very clear, first the ideology of one state, then a two-state idea that takes over as an ideology and a practical negotiation format for many years.
And I might have said 25 years-- probably 10, 15 years, where we're hearing the two-state solution is no longer possible. I call that my superficial story, and what I want to do is problematize it. I want to say that even though that is the story of how a lot of us experienced the politics that were going on, we have to think about things a little differently.
So here's another little vignette. 10 years ago-- almost 10 years ago-- I was at a conference at Tufts. I don't remember what it was about. I do remember people on the panel. I will not mention their names right now. It was about Israel/Palestine.
And I asked in general the panel, I said, what you guys are talking about is actually one state, at which point a person who is an expert in Israel studies and security studies said to me, there is no chance for a one-state solution because 99-- again, that 99-- 99% of Israelis refuse to accept it.
And that speaks to your idea of compromise. If at least one group that we know of is all unanimously against that one state, then how can you even think of it as a goal and objective in any sense because his point was a solution has to be acceptable to both. And the thought that I had then was, why is it 99%? And is it really 99%? This is 10 years ago.
I did ask someone else at a different point, suppose 99% percent of Israelis-- and I am speaking here from the Israeli perspective. I should have said that right from the beginning. Suppose 99% of Israelis do not want to accept that idea of one state. What do we do with that type of group unanimity?
And someone else-- at another conference, someone said to me, when have you ever heard of the privileged group giving up on their privilege with no resistance or protest? And I take that very much to heart. I don't exactly know why compromise means what we have taken it to mean.
If a privileged group is in the wrong, why do we need to compromise? I admit to coming from philosophy. I worry about concepts, in particular, the concept of compromise.
All right. So the question is then, why is the idea of one state so unimaginable? Why has it become a pie in the sky for some people and something that can hardly be investigated by-- call them "realists," perhaps? And I think there are two arguments that one can find here. One I would call the "Jewish state argument" and the other I would call the "separation argument." I think that what Arie was talking about was the separation argument, so I'll get to that in a minute.
The Jewish state argument, of course, is based on Zionism, on the idea that Jews make up a nation, a people, not necessarily a religion, and that the self-determination of a people, what you have called "collective rights" must consist of sovereignty and a state. We all know that as the nation-state format of how the world works.
So if this is Zionism, by giving up the idea of a Jewish state and saying this will be one democratic state, you've basically given up on Zionism. Israelis-- again, not 99% but very many of them-- think of themselves as Zionists. And therefore, accepting the one-state solution means defaulting on a Jewish state. I didn't say "Jewish rights." I didn't say "Jewish culture," "Jewish tradition," "Jewish beliefs," "Jewish togetherness," "Jewish family"-- "Jewish state." If you accept a one-state solution, you default on the Jewish state.
The second argument is the separation argument. I think it's less principled, less nuanced-- more instinctual. I'm not blaming you for being less nuanced, less principled, or more instinctual. But the separation argument looks at the history that we just heard last time is about 150 years' history, a history of conflict, and says that these two peoples cannot live together. You must separate, given the facts on the ground of this conflict, of the animosity.
We don't have time here to go into the history. I just want to mention Ariella Azoulay, who just recently found in the basements of some ministry in Jerusalem 100 contracts or agreements written between Israeli towns and kibbutzim on the one side and Palestinian villages on the other in 1947 and '48, telling each other, promising each other that they would not attack each other. We were never taught that. We were never told that. Nobody ever talks about that.
And of course, if you dig into the history, you can hear all sorts of stories about Jews and Palestinians living together in that small area. So I beg to merely be very skeptical about that argument that says we must separate because we cannot live together. But those are basically the two arguments that come out against the one-state solution, one if you are a one-stater, you're anti-Zionist-- the other, if you're a one-stater, you're living in dreams, thinking that these two peoples can live together.
What I want to then say is that perception and conception go together. These are myths promulgated by media, by education, by the way we talk, by our language, and by the communities in which we live in Israel. Of course, some of it carries on into America, as well.
I think that that truism, that 99% of the Israeli Jews object to the idea of one state, is no longer true. And I think it's no longer true for a very good reason. I love telling these stories because people have written and said things that are so fascinating. There is a wonderful political scientist called Meron Benvenisti. I think he was here, too. I think he was in our Jerusalem project here, actually.
Meron Benvenisti in 1969, '70, wrote that there's no going back from the '67 lines. He said, there's no going back to the '67 lines. He said that, quote, "This country is a shared land, a single homeland."
He's a wonderful writer, and he was always there a beacon but a very solitary beacon. He was on his own. He was what we always used to call "the radical left." And we all knew that if you wanted to hear something about one state, you go to Meron because he also knows the history. He knows how to analyze these things.
This was in 1969 that he wrote these things. It took 30-- no, where are we? 50-- almost 50 years. In 2010, he wrote another book. He's written many books, by the way. He wrote in '76 Jerusalem, the Torn City. West Bank Data Project was a big project that he had, Conflicts and Contradictions in '88, and my favorite was called Intimate Enemies-- Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land. This is 1995.
In 2010 or so, he put out his last book. And then in 2012, he was interviewed in Haaretz-- granted, a leftist newspaper but definitely as leftist as The New York Times. And he was interviewed on the cover of the magazine talking about one state. And those of us who had so often talked about one state said, this is interesting.
He is given the cover of the weekend magazine. Something was going on there, the fact that this is a subject that can be talked about, that is not put on the side just for the weirdos to deal with. I would say that since 2010, the number of articles on the option of one state has mushroomed.
In 2013, Gideon Levy-- granted, a radical dove, radical leftist-- wrote an article called "Time to be Singleminded," all right? And Gideon was mourning the fact that the two-state solution is over. This is not a matter of just driving around the West Bank, which he does often, of course. It was an analysis of how two states are no longer possible for many reasons. And he was explaining how we can and must live on that one land.
I just want to quote something very short. He said, "If you will it, it is no dream, one just state for two peoples. The establishment of a Jewish state was perceived as something no less crazy less than 100 years ago. Subversive? The establishment of a Palestinian state was considered no less subversive even less than three decades ago. So yes, these dreams have become fact."
He went on to explain that we are living in one state, but it's not a just state, and there's no equality in it. That piece made a lot of noise. A lot of people reacted. A lot of people responded. A lot of people talked about it.
And less than a year later, Gideon wrote another article, "Who's Afraid of the Binational State?". I wrote him an email saying, how did you go from mourning the two-state option to being so happy about the one-state option? And he wrote, quote, "I'm so enthusiastic about being liberated from the nonsense of the past."
All right. So what I'm trying to say basically is that Israelis are thinking about this. This is not one group only. I want to, and we might later have a chance to disagree with Steve, who said that numbers have been consistent in the polls. They haven't been consistent.
The two-state solution used to be, as you say, 60. In 2007, it is now less than half for both group-- forget about, for a moment, Palestinians. I cannot speak for them. For Israeli Jews, it is less than 50% now. The idea of one state in the polling has gone up to 13%, 14%, 15%. I'm not talking about annexationists who want one state of a different sort.
So I do want to finish with two points, and I will try to make them as short as possible. The main-- I don't want to say "attack" on me, but the main--
BARRY POSEN: Critique--
ANAT BILETSKI: Critique-- thank you for the word. The main critique that I have heard was an article. And I think we heard that somewhat from Salim today, but it was an article by Assaf Kfoury, who wrote something called-- an article called "One-State or Two-State? A Sterile Debate on False Alternatives."
And Kfoury's point was that we are all just talking. We talk about one-state. We talk about two-state. We talk about these utopian visions. And his point was that we have to worry much more right now about the hardships-- that was the word he used, the "hardships"-- that Palestinians are undergoing right now. And when he wrote this in 2007, the hardships were the wall, the roads, and the settlements.
Well, what I want to say is that we've lost the wall. We've lost the settlements. We've lost the roads. The way the land looks now, those are things that we can no longer fight about. What can we fight about? Human rights-- equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis.
A wonderful friend of ours called Rani Talmor, who was very prescient in 1984, she said, "This is one state. There's one sovereign power here from the river to the sea." She said, "It's just an apartheid state." I want to say it's not just. It's not equality.
The label of "apartheid" is a different discussion. If you want to say "apartheid," fine. Whatever it is, it is one state, in the sense of having one controlling sovereign power over it. And the point is to fight only on the level of human rights for Palestinians. And that can be done given facts on the ground and given a change in Israeli conceptions only in one state.
And I'll end with the words of another journalist poet, [INAUDIBLE] who wrote about Meron Benvenisti's article who argued with him, who thought that one state would actually perpetuate Jewish hegemony and colonialism, which was weird.
But he ended his article, and that's how I want to end my words, quote, "Do I support Meron Benvenisti's binational state position? Yes. Do I support two states for two peoples? Yes.
Do I support a state of all its citizens? Yes. Which is most preferable? Whichever comes first." Thank you.
LEILA FARSAKH: So I suppose it's me? OK. Thank you very much. And it's really a real challenge that I'm the last one to speak, and I'm now the one who's supposed to give you some optimism after what we've heard in the earlier panel and what has been said here, especially that we're having an interesting Israeli debate that now the Palestinian will try to resolve, which in a sense is emblematic of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
What I would like to do in the 15 minutes we have is really to think. I'd like to a little bit-- I was hoping that the earlier panel would say, what is it that we achieved over the past 70 years? And where can we go ahead now that we are in this reality? And I think Salim did very good job in explaining we are very clear about what Israel achieved. Israel achieved a lot.
It's strong, steady-- has what it wants. We don't need to go over that. But I think it's useful to just do a little bit of a reminder what did the Palestinians achieve and how can they go forward. That's what I can talk about because I think what has been expressed before, there's still some optimism that the two-state solution can go ahead.
It is the only game in town. How can we make it happen? We have two views here, one saying, well, we have to make it happen by revisiting '48 rather than negating '48, whereas Anat clearly says, well, no, we need to think something different.
And I'm of the opinion that definitely the legacy of the past 70 years and also 25 years of peace process, which you should not ignore, is precisely that we are back at the drawing board. But we cannot start drawing a new solution before understanding what has been achieved and why the two-state solution is dead or why there is no option or possibility for reviving it because I think it's easier to say that the two-state solution is dead than saying that we have a one-state solution.
We are in a one-state reality, but defining a one-state solution is much harder because it involves addressing fundamental questions that two parties do not want to address and which are much, much harder to address and easier to handle in a two-state solution.
So what has been achieved to my Palestinian point of view? I think from a Palestinian point of view, we should not forget that there are three major achievements that have been obtained over the past 70 years. First of all, I think it's very important to remember that it is no minor achievement that the Palestinians resurrected themselves from oblivion, which the 1948 war inflicted on them, to assert themselves to exist as a people with a right to self-determination, not just with human rights.
The big problem of '48 and above all your ending solution to '42 50 years ago-- 51 years ago-- was precisely that it locked the Palestinian in a problem that they are a humanitarian problem that needs a humanitarian solution, rather than a political problem that needs a political solution.
And the importance of the Palestinian struggle over the past 50 years is precisely how they reasserted the Palestinian right to self-determination, which came to be defined not simply as a return but gradually-- and this is a second achievement-- how the Palestinian national movement shifted from defining its project as the liberation of all Palestine to coming to terms with the fact that the only option in town is a two-state solution because we have UN's solution to endorse it, above all, 181. But also, 242 insinuates it.
And it also came around to accept that a Palestinian state and part of Palestine is better than no state. So it opted for the state option precisely because having a state is the only way how to have rights. So although it will not provide full justice, although it cannot provide a solution to the Nakba, it can provide citizen rights.
It can provide some return. It can provide protection from foreign intervention. It affirms the equality of Palestinian rights with the Israeli right to self-determination. And that's a major achievement, which was very costly.
And thirdly, I think the Palestinians acquired an international recognition of their rights as people and of their right as a state, which is no minor achievement today. People do not know that, but 20 years ago, 30 years ago, it was still very difficult in the United States to talk about the Palestinians. They were still terrorists 30 years ago.
And this institution, 15 years ago, you could not talk about Palestine the way we're talking about it here. So that's a major achievement. Everybody is aware, including the Israelis, that there is something called the Palestinian people. There is something called Palestinian rights. These rights are not just humanitarian rights but also political rights.
And fourthly, I suppose what is very important with Oslo-- and this is the major thing about Oslo-- is that it provided the first Israeli recognition, Israeli official recognition, of the existence of the Palestinian people and that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to be resolved with the Palestinians rather than with the Jordanians or the Arabs. They were not Arabs.
And as my Israeli friends know very well, there was not the word "Palestinian" in the Hebrew dictionary before 1993. After 1993, we discovered that there is something called Palestinians. So it's not minor. So if all these have been achieved, if Palestine resurrected themselves from death, everybody recognizes their right to a state.
We have an international recognition of the importance of the Palestinian state to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is with the roadmap. We have today a recognition of a Palestinian state as a non-member state in the United Nations. Everybody is trying to push for this two-state solution, and we even have the Israelis recognize the idea of them. They're not against the Palestinian idea of a Palestinian state within conditions.
But here, I would like to remind everybody that Israelis, since the occupation of 1967, have already tossed with the idea of a Palestinian state. They've been talking about the Palestinian state. They first proposed it in 1967, soon after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and it was rejected because the Palestinians did not want to have a state which was empty of any sovereignty. But the idea of a Palestinian state that can be controlled by Israel was always there.
So if we look now, though, at where we are today as today-- that is, in 2018-- one would argue, yeah, we achieved lots of recognition. We have an international commitment to a two-state solution. We have all the infrastructure for a two-state solution. We have international legal endorsement of a two-state solution, but we don't have any political will from the international community or from the Israeli side to impose a two-state solution.
And the question is, why isn't there the will? Or is it futile to ask why there is no will because I think if we look at the past 18 years since Oslo-- the past 25 years-- what has happened is that Oslo did not end the occupation. Oslo basically redefined Israeli colonization.
It did not end it. It redefined it and created an apartheid reality, as you can see from this map. I don't think Israel has ever wanted to create an apartheid reality. It ended up creating it because it wanted the land without the people.
But there was no place to get rid of the Palestinian people. So this apartheid reality leads us to the reality that we are now in a one-state reality. You want to call it "apartheid." you want to not call it "apartheid." But the fact of what we have on the ground today is a one-state reality, which has been said by different people, in which Israel is the dominant sovereign between the river and the sea and in which Israelis have full rights.
And the Palestinians are nicely fragmented by Israel into three different categories. We have the siege in Gaza since 11 years, which is unacceptable. But it has been going on for 11 years and where humanitarian conditions, let alone political rights, are being daily violated, as you can see on every Friday demonstration.
We have a divided Palestinian leadership. We have the West Bank, which is fragmented, as you see up there. And we have the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who definitely have more rights. But we basically started having three different populations under Israeli control who have different sets of rights and privileges or not privileges.
And in a sense, one could argue that despite the great achievement that the Palestinians achieved, the Palestinian situation today could be argued to be worse than it was in 1948, precisely because of the regional situation. Because of what's happening in Syria, what's happening in Yemen, what's happening in Egypt, the Palestinian catastrophe, unlike 1948, is not jolting the Middle East into big changes, as happened after '48.
We actually see the Palestinian cause forgotten because there are much more serious problems, one would argue, in the Middle East today, whether it is Syria or Iraq or Yemen. And then at the same time, much more acceptance of Israel regionally than it was in '48 or '67-- we can see the latest with the Saudi-Israeli rapprochement.
So what does this tell us? How can we go forward? I believe going forward, it is clear that we are in a one-state reality. And despite all the support for a two-state solution, we don't have the will to impose a two-state. And I'm not sure it has to do with the extremists. We can debate that.
Steve mentioned that there are extremists who made the regional compromise much more difficult. All our studies of the past negotiations reveal even by Israeli acknowledgment that what has made any negotiation fail, including the latest Olmert negotiation. Olmert, our best negotiation in 2008, has been Israeli intransigence. It has not been Palestinian. Palestinians have been very compromising.
It was Israeli intransigence because of the-- I don't know if we would call it the influence of the right. But the fact of the matter is that we have today in the West Bank 500,000 settlers that, if you want to remove them-- as you can see up there-- is going to lead to a fragmented Palestinian state.
So we are in an apartheid reality. How can we bypass it? And I think what this tells us is that moving forward, it is clear that the experience of 25 years of negotiation and 70 years of Nakba or Israel's creation is that, as Arie said, the two people need to find a way to live together and that this ideal two-state solution that could have been implemented has not been implemented.
And while this apartheid reality looks very grim, I think this apartheid reality both holds some very pessimistic outlook but also can provide some opportunities. There's a mystic side of the present reality that lies in the fact that this can endure for some time still to come because Israel is not forced into any compromise.
Israel is quite strong. The Middle East is very weak. The Palestinians are very weak. This apartheid reality can continue for some time. But on the positive side, the fact of the matter is that today, between the river and the sea, there is an equal number of Jews and Palestinians.
And when you start talking about 6.4 million Jews who have full freedom, political and economic and human rights, versus 6.4 Palestinians who have fragmented if no rights, this is a situation which is not tenable, especially if you take into consideration what is happening and has been happening in Gaza, which shows you a whole new generation now has grown up in the West Bank and Gaza who knows only Oslo and very soon also only siege. And their discourse and their aspiration is completely different from the state.
The Palestinian state project in my view has achieved its mission. It asserted the existence of the Palestinians as a nation and people with rights. But it's role for the Palestinian people is over. And tonight, the question of the challenge for the Palestinians is to try and think how can they redefine the national project.
And that's the big challenge because nobody is interested in this debate because it's a very difficult debate. It's a very difficult debate both for Palestinians and Israelis because they have to address the place and the role of the other in their community. It poses on them two difficult tasks. In other words, the task facing us ahead, the drawing board we are at, now both nations exist. Both people exist. Both cannot eliminate each other.
Moving forward, though, two things need to happen, in my view. First, we need to redefine the relationship between territory, sovereignty, and boundaries. This is something the Israeli right is happy to talk about because it's a way by which it maintains Israeli sovereignty.
But they also admit that there is such a thing called Palestinian people that need some rights. They cannot deny it. The Israeli right is aware of it, and they're trying just to dilute the notion of right and take their collective rights.
But the second and more difficult question is to address what is the place of the other and what right does the other have in each one's space or vis-a-vis each other. And this means that you need to do two conversations that are very difficult. On the Israeli side, I think what needs to happen, the Israelis need to address what can be defined as the Arab question and which entails accepting Israel's responsibility towards the Nakba, something Israelis still have a big difficulty admitting or dealing with, rather than excuse the Nakba because of the Holocaust.
It also implies that Israelis need to face the challenge that Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic. And that's also very difficult. It's also a difficult conversation to have because Israelis also need to really look at what has happened also to the Arab and Palestinian, as well as Jews of Arab descent.
This is a difficult conversation to have because it requires that the Israelis undo the colonial and orientalist foundation of Zionism. And this is difficult because Zionism has always defined itself as a civilizing project that seeks to universalize the Jew, including the Arab Jew, rather than admit the Arab dimension of Jewishness, if I can say.
This is something that many Israelis find very provocative, if I talk about the Arab Jewishness or the Arab dimension of Jewishness. But I think it's something that needs to be addressed, especially in view of over half of the Israelis are of Arab descent.
The other question, though, for the Palestinians-- and I'm about to finish-- the Palestinian challenge is to address what can be defined as a Jewish question, which namely is Jewish attachment to Palestine and needing to face that Zionism's outcome is not only colonialism. This does not mean that Palestinians can accept Zionism or give up dismantling Israel's colonial structure. But they do need to explain how to decolonize Israel without negating the collective rights of Jews and the cultural identity that they have formed over the past 70 years.
This implies, in other words, that Palestinians cannot just simply take out the democratic state project of 1971 and assume that every Jew is allowed to be in the state so long as he becomes an Arab of some sort. This, in other words, entails that both Israelis and Palestinians need to redefine their state and prioritize their political rights over national rights and also think of identity in a much more cosmopolitan or much more multiple dimensions, rather than a unitarian and locked identity.
I'll stop there. I'm sure you have lots of questions, and we'll take it from there.
BARRY POSEN: Do we have someone manning or "personning" the mic? And do we have questioners yet?
MAN: Oh, out here. Yeah. OK. Shall we move to the floor?
AUDIENCE: Hi. [INAUDIBLE] from Harvard again. I would like to open the discussion a bit because there is kind of stating either one-state solution, which I can say that only the hyper nationalist far right and the hyper globalist utopian far left seem to agree is a viable solution and the rest think is a delusional vision of the future, especially if you include the refugees that you want to send back to Israel. And the Jews become a minority, and we know how minorities are doing well in the Middle East.
So I am part of the 99%. But the bilateral, two-state solution is also not really working. Even the moderates, like Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, can't get it to work in 2008, mostly, again, because of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Now, there is a new kind of twist to a solution mostly based on regional solution, mostly because the holy sites and the refugee questions have to be resolved on the regional level.
And let's say Saudi Arabia and the Hashemite Kingdom will not just let the holy sites be decided by the Palestinians and the Israelis. So the question is, do you see some regional solution, either as a confederacy or a two-state enabled solution by the regional powers, in the near future? Thank you.
LEILA FARSAKH: You want me to address it? You want me to address it? Yeah.
ANAT BILETZKI: I want to do something else.
LEILA FARSAKH: Thank you for bringing this up, but I'm really very fascinated by why you put the blame on the Palestinians for the failure of the two-state solution. How do you explain this map? This is not a map that Palestinians created. It's a map that Israel-- yes, I'm talking to you-- is a map that Israelis created.
So if you think that the right of return-- we know today by Israeli historians, Israeli scholars, including Gershon Shafir, who's not considered to be very much on the left or, anyway, not very much on the right. But he has shown very clearly that it's Israeli intransigence, in his view, because of the settlement movement. So I think you can go on and blame, yeah, it's the Palestinians. They did not accept.
The problem is that you have had the best government with Mahmoud Abbas. You have done the biggest compromise ever in the history of the Palestinians. And despite that, there was no peace agreement signed.
Now, the point is we can always continue on that exercise, but this just keeps us in the same problem. It's because Israel needs the security. Israel can't trust the Palestinians. This is why it needs to expand because also, there is land. This just is a recipe for prolonging the reality further.
Now, as regards to the regional solution, yeah, one could argue that there are some regional solutions. Saudi Arabia is befriending Israel. Saudi Arabia argues that Iran is much more of a threat than Israel is. But the Jordanians are not very eager to take the Palestinians and consider this a solution.
The Israelis have always been in favor of a Jordanian option. Ever since 1967, we have the Jordanian option on the table, and it has been rejected. Now, what would make it work now? The Jordanians have no incentive to take it. So I just wanted to put out that for everybody.
ANAT BILETZKI: Right. Can I just add to that? I love the way facts are bandied about again as if they are facts. And you said only a crazy bunch on the right and another weird bunch on the left. We have polls. That's the one thing that we can work on.
Those are as scientific as one can get in a place perhaps like MIT. And what we're showing is 15% of, as you call it, the right wing-- sorry. 15% of the Israeli Jewish populace think that annexation is the way to go. That's not a tiny bit.
And 13% of Israeli Jews, the different 13%, say that a one-state is a possibility, a good possibility. That's not something that is absolutely unworthy of being treated as a real group. That's as you talk about facts.
What we also have-- and I think Arie can talk to that even more than I can-- are groups working together now of Israelis and Palestinians, not just the Aix Group. But I know of three or four big groups thinking of how to do this, given the changes in the environment in the Middle East in general. But these are groups of Israelis and Palestinians working together to figure out the more concrete, structural steps of these solutions. So there is something to work on and with.
AUDIENCE: OK. So--
BARRY POSEN: We're not going to turn this into a complete debate. We want to give other people a chance. It doesn't mean you wouldn't get another bite at the apple later if we run out of people, right? You might get another bite of the apple, but we should give other people a chance.
AUDIENCE: Hi. My name is Susan Podziba. I am director of the Sacred Lands Project here at MIT, and I actually worked with Meron Benvenisti some 30 years ago when I was a graduate student here. From my reading, there's been a lot of assessment of the failure of Camp David because of the failure to have suggestions about the sacred Esplanade, the holy basin of Jerusalem.
And when I listen to the left, I find there's very little thought given to the religion dimension of the dispute. And so I'm wondering how you integrate thoughts of the rise of the religion dimension of the dispute into your thinking. Thank you.
ARIE ARNON: This is not an easy issue by any means, certainly to people who consider themselves to come from a non-religious perspective, that is. And the truth is that the strength in politics and in opinion polls, if you want, both on the Israeli side and on the Palestinians, of Jewish political thinking and Jewish political power, Jewish in the sense of religious, religious powers and religious thinking is there.
And also, of course, on the Palestinian side, one cannot and should not ignore the fact that Hamas won the election in 2006. It's not something invented or fought or something. The answer, if you go back to any political compromise between the two sides, you will face it. The most difficult issue from this point of view is in Jerusalem, in the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount or the HaBayit, if you want it in Hebrew. It is a serious problem.
Now, if people want to quote the negotiations that Olmert-- before he went to jail, how do we say-- Abbas, on this point, they reached an agreement. It is well-known that they reached an agreement that was, if you want, a position that was pro-Arab or pro-Muslim or pro-Palestinian because it was a committee of five that was to decide the arrangements on this sacred area. So not everything with Olmert-Abbas ended up badly.
And if you'll talk about the refugees and go back to their negotiations, it also went a long way towards it. But again, like in Taba, almost a symmetrical situation there, Abbas was asked to sign an agreement without maps with a person who was on the way to jail, it turned out to be-- he was retiring. It was not clear what will happen to him.
But part of it is someone asked before if it is possible to impose the arrangement on the Palestinian side. There's also a question who represents and can impose an arrangement on the Israeli side. It is a political question that is for both sides.
So I would say, first, you are right. It is more important than 40 years ago, 50 years ago, to answer these issues. But it is not that it is impossible. If it is impossible, if you'll develop the discussion, I will say there is no compromise between the religious powers on the Jewish side and the Muslim side.
It means basically under the current conditions that there is no compromise possible between the two sides endgame. And then you go to other directions-- not a political compromise, but who will win, how the world will look like, et cetera, et cetera-- not a very promising discussion. Anyway, I'll stop here.
AUDIENCE: John, I'd like to ask you a question. [INAUDIBLE]?
BARRY POSEN: It's 4:30. Can we keep going a bit?
BARRY POSEN: Huh?
LEILA FARSAKH: Michelle?
MICHELLE: I think we can go on.
BARRY POSEN: Yeah. OK.
LEILA FARSAKH: We are mixing things up.
BARRY POSEN: All right. Well, then we'll keep going maybe 15 more minutes?
MICHELLE: 15 more minutes, yeah.
BARRY POSEN: OK. Good. Get some of the other questions.
MICHELLE: I have a question here.
BARRY POSEN: OK. Good.
AUDIENCE: So my big concern I worry about a lot is that the right will get stronger and stronger and stronger. And one day, I will end up facing an expulsion of the Palestinians. Am I worried about nothing?
LEILA FARSAKH: With the Palestinians or the Israelis?
ANAT BILETZKI: No.
ARIE ARNON: No. I will try to answer you and say you have to worry. I have to worry. They have to worry because someone said it before that the-- I prefer the word "status quo" than the "one-state reality" because it's not really a one-state reality. It is a status quo, in the sense that the Israeli government manages to keep it as is, meaning that they control the area.
And they don't let the Palestinians participate in the political process-- no right to vote, no influence. They are under their control. So you ask, what is their strategy? Do they believe that forever-- 50 years, 51 years, maybe another 50 years, 51 years-- they will keep it as is?
The only rational answer for this is that they dream, and sometimes they talk among themselves when you cannot record it that the only solution-- "solution"-- to speak about it is to repeat the Nakba. That is, the big mistake of '67 for them was that it was not '48.
So you should worry. And I should worry. And whether they can do it or not under the modern circumstances of the political world, international political world, some people say it is impossible to do it these days. I wouldn't count on it under all conditions.
ANAT BILETZKI: Can I just go--
ARIE ARNON: But this is a pessimistic point of view and--
BARRY POSEN: You wish to add something?
ANAT BILETZKI: I wish to add more--
BARRY POSEN: Because I do--
ANAT BILETZKI: Pessimism--
BARRY POSEN: Because I also wish to add something.
ANAT BILETZKI: So maybe you'll bring in some optimism.
BARRY POSEN: We'll bring in some but not much. But go.
ANAT BILETZKI: So we've been throwing around this word "pessimism" and "optimism." And I go farther than "pessimism." I go to "despair." I think there's nothing more despairing than the status quo. And I don't care what we call it. The status quo is something that Israel has been very good in for so many years.
I think the people who tell you, this can't go on, it has to explode or implode, or something has to happen, Israel has been very adept at keeping the status quo going. And what we are hearing-- I don't know if it's the past half-year or year-- are people talking about a new Nakba. They do say it out loud. It is at least in places where we can hear it.
Some of us may hear it. And if they don't say "Nakba," they say "ethnic cleansing." Or they'll say, we'll make it miserable enough for the Palestinians that they'll leave, right? And that is something that is often heard. Again, in those polls that I read voraciously, the polls have a certain percentage of Israelis saying that's what we need to do.
So again, the weighing of the numbers is not the important part here for me. For me, it is the despair that this is happening. And I do just want to say that the only thing that-- and I relate here to what Leila said. The only thing that keeps the despair at bay now are the new generations of people who are thinking of these things so differently.
They're not even thinking under a one-state, two-state. It's not those kinds of titles and logos. There are new generations of activists and thinkers who are not as jaded as we are, if that's the one word we can say.
LEILA FARSAKH: And just to continue on your point, I think, yeah, that can happen. But I think Israel has a much better solution right now. You have the siege in Gaza, with which you remind, the West Bank is if you don't like it and you don't cooperate, you can get a reality like Gaza. So you have the five-star prison, West Bank, and the miserable prison of Gaza.
But what is alarming for Israel is the fact that the Palestinians, going back to Steve, have evolved over the past, I would say, seven years-- and we see it again in Gaza-- on a nonviolent resistance. And this is something Israel doesn't like because it's very difficult to convince people that what Israelis are doing-- they're putting human shields when they are just burning tires. And they connected with the right of return.
Put yourself in the place of an Israeli. You expelled them, you imprisoned them, and they're still talking about right of return. And they're still going to take Gaza to the checkpoint in areas and trying to assert this right of return. It means that they are not going anywhere. And even if you put them in buses, Egypt will not take them. Jordan will not take them. So it's a situation which is not tenable.
But what is on the positive side is that precisely, people are redefining the struggle. Palestinians right now, like the rest of the Middle East, they're talking about rights. Give me my rights. I want the freedom to see the sea. I want the freedom to move. I want the freedom of equality, which is bringing it back to the African-American struggle in the United States.
Now, this doesn't mean that we are in it. What it means is that we are in a new reality that is being formed, a new language that is being created. Nobody thought in 1967 that you would have the PLO recognized after only six years after '67. Who would have thought in that depth of despair that something will come out.
Now, do we know it? No. But do we know what are the parameters of the discussion? I think we know them quite well. And I think Israel is aware if you put half a million settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, the majority of which move during a peace process, your intention is to dismantle the Palestinians, fragment the Palestinians, and this is what happened.
But despite this fragmentation, they're still struggling. So I don't know how you're going to square it. But I think that's also what's annoying the Israeli government, but that's another--
BARRY POSEN: I play games with numbers, sometimes, the arithmetic of passing time, to try and get perspective on things. And I think if the occupation goes on six more years, Israel will have sat on the West Bank for three times as long as it didn't, three times as long as it didn't. It is more natural to Israelis to govern this space and to have it for their own security purposes than it is not.
ANAT BILETZKI: In one year, 51-- 3 times 17.
BARRY POSEN: That's right. Now, second, and this is perhaps a shock given the tenor of the panel-- panels-- the reason we're having this conversation is because Israel is an extremely successful state. It's a successful war machine. It's a successful economic machine, a successful draw of immigration, right?
It's a very, very successful state. It faces many of the other problems that modern capitalist states are facing, inequality of distribution of wealth and other things, but it's a pretty impressive achievement. And the people who run that place, they're awfully confident folk. And they've overcome a lot of obstacles.
So these are not folk who are going to look at this and say, we can't sustain this. They're going to look at this and say, sure, we can sustain this. We can sustain this for a long, long time. So getting back to the question that prompted all of these dispositions, which is the question of expulsion, I know this language turns up in Israel. Israel's not under much pressure to engage in expulsion.
The second thing is if you think the Israelis are still a bit cagey, expulsion works politically in the world under conditions of chaos, under conditions of external invasion, under conditions of great fog of war. This is what made the expulsions in the '48 war possible and made them in some-- here, I don't want to make anyone angry, but, in a very crude and strange sense, legitimate.
Now, there are good things that happened in the region that make this less likely, and there are bad things that have happened in the region that may make it more likely. The good things that would make it less likely is there's no plausible military front of Arab states against Israel right now. Iraq has no force projection capability. They can barely take care of themselves. The Syrian military is crushed.
The Egyptian military is busy having lack of success suppressing al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda look-alikes. There's a Shia-Sunni civil war inside the Arab world. Where is the war that would create both the pressures and the camouflage to engage in an activity like expulsion?
Now, on the bad side is the Iranian presence in Syria and the Iranian relationship with Hezbollah. And if this goes very badly, it's possible that you could end up with quite an intense little war going on. And if that war were going on and if some Palestinians made the wrong choice during that war-- which they have done in other wars-- you could create the circumstances-- and I'm not sure it would be mass expulsion-- but certainly for some not very pleasant things to happen.
You're going to take some questions over here. Why don't we try-- and we're going to have to go sometime. Let's try taking, say, three.
AUDIENCE: OK. Hi. My name is Suri Bandler. I'm an MN student. I did my undergrad here, as well, and I study computer science. And in particular, I actually study how does the way a news article is presented impact the way that a reader understands it-- so lots of things related to what I'm interested here.
But I noticed a thread among each of your presentations which started with the idea-- and I don't know-- Professor Arnon regarding this kind of issue of trust that exists between both sides and the need to fix that trust in order to develop a circumstance in which there can be any plausible solution, regardless of what that looks like. And there were lots of things talked about, but one thing that I noticed that isn't talked about or are kind of hidden under assumptions or side allegations in a lot of the discussion is kind of what's going on with the Palestinian leadership.
And Mahmoud Abbas is presented as a moderate, and I would argue and push back that that's not accurate. We see when there's Jews who are praying on the Temple Mount the allegation that they're filthying the Temple Mount with their dirty feet. And any blood that is spilled for it will be purifying and whatnot. And you see a lot of this mirrored across a lot of his sentiment and it also mirrored in fact in funding for terrorism for--
BARRY POSEN: So the question would be?
AUDIENCE: So my question is basically, taking in all of these threads that we kind of are jumping around or not focusing on, what are kind of the steps going forward in terms of yes, we need to have responsibility and accountability and we need to fix trust. What steps do the Palestinian government and leadership need to kind of take-- whether that's from an externalization or an internalization process of it-- but to kind of recognize the fact that there are big problems in the Palestinian government?
And there's foundations for the lack of trust that need to be addressed, regardless of how cool and comfortable Israel is kind of presented as being.
MICHELLE: Barry, that has to be the last question.
BARRY POSEN: What?
MICHELLE: We have three minutes to--
BARRY POSEN: We have three minutes?
MICHELLE: So no more questions.
BARRY POSEN: No more questions-- OK, we've been given a hard stopping time. The panel can respond to this question and do any kind of batting of clean-up that they would like to do on any other point that's arisen.
ANAT BILETZKI: I want to say one thing on trust.
BARRY POSEN: You get 60 seconds each, apparently.
LEILA FARSAKH: No, I think our Palestinian leadership has shown great willingness to compromise, often being described as a traitor to the Palestinian cause. So I don't think the problem has been in the lack of possessing a willingness to compromise. At least, that's what the historical record shows.
Whether you have polarization of both sides-- definitely. What is the cause of polarization? That's what we have been discussing, and you can continue to read on. How you're going to move forward, you cannot move forward if you live with this reality. It's an oppressive reality, which does not favor compromise.
It favors more antagonism. It's just on the Palestinian side, I find it quite impressive that over the last six years, there has been a policy of nonviolent resistance, whether it is with the BDS movement or whether it is now in Gaza. And I think that's something that indicates that there is a justice to the cause and also an awareness that Palestinians' willingness has never been to eliminate the Israelis as much as to have their basic rights protected.
ANAT BILETZKI: Can I add a word on trust because that's such an important thing? And you gave an example of one side of it. If I quoted things that Israelis say or Jews say about what's going on in Har HaBayit, you would get the opposite information, of course.
But what I want to say about trust is of all those polls that I mentioned, just a month ago-- this was two months or three months after Trump's announcement about Jerusalem and the embassy-- the question that was asked-- and it made some headlines in Israel. The question that was asked was, can we trust one another?
And interestingly-- and I find this my only point of optimism for a moment. Interestingly, Jews in Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank, because they were the ones who were being asked, have the exact level of mistrust of each other. So that is--
BARRY POSEN: So there's an area of agreement.
ANAT BILETZKI: There's more than an area of agreement. The one group that says that they would trust and that they do trust the other group are the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who say that they do trust. And I thought, these are the people who are living together. They're the ones who you can pinpoint as those who are living perhaps not in one state but in a state where they have Jews and Palestinians working together, engaging together.
And they have the highest level of trust, as in from 40% to 83%. It's not a little bit more. And I find that a point of great optimism.
BARRY POSEN: Arie, you get the last word if you want it.
ARIE ARNON: Always. Always. Well, first, about Abu Mazen, one has to say you can criticize him for many things if you want. But to say that he's not a moderate is something that I find hard to believe in. Where you got it exactly, I don't understand.
There is nobody who over the last 25 years, 30 years, maybe more, was more moderate in terms of the conflict in the leadership than Abu Mazen. And I will not go on about it. We can discuss it later if you want.
The balance of power inside the two societies is what will change the feasibility or unfeasibility, impossibility, of having a political discussion. Meron Benvenisti, whom I know and appreciate, argued that it is impossible to have an arrangement from the early '80s, when there were not so many settlers and the facts on the ground were not so many. And it was an idea, but it was not really because of the facts on the ground but because he did not believe that the political forces will do what is necessary to do to implement an arrangement.
And this is really the problem. Even today, with all the facts, 600,000 Israeli Jews live beyond the green line. It's true, hundreds of kilometers of roads, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. You can transform the situation on the ground and create an arrangement that will reflect two states. It has not to be exactly on the green line, to change maybe some things, et cetera, et cetera.
But this is not the problem. The problem is the will, the political will, the necessity to decide who will feel to do it. You know it's true that Israel doesn't feel today that it is obliged to do it because security is good. But Israelis know that they live-- there are six million Israeli Jews, and they live in a region that is boiling and is much bigger than them.
And they know that if they can have an arrangement that will solidify-- what do you say-- their arrangements with Egypt and Jordan, it can be only if they will have an arrangement with the Palestinians. So this brings back Abu Mazen, the moderate, and the Palestinians who want, for their reasons, to have an agreement with Israel-- my final word.
BARRY POSEN: Well, we'll call that a note of optimism.