Top Ten Steps that are Necessary for Lasting Gaza-Israel Peace (or, Good Luck!)

1. The Israeli blockade on Gaza exports and non-military imports must be lifted altogether. Ben White points out that the restrictions on goods brought into Gaza via Israel are still very substantial, despite Israeli assertions that the blockade has been eased.

And, the blockade on exports is almost complete, with some minor exceptions, and is devastating to the Gaza economy. Real per capita income among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is less today than in the early 1990s!

These Israeli policies are a form of collective punishment imposed by an Occupying power on a noncombatant occupied population. Israel also imposes restrictions on Palestinian travel outside the Strip (even, sometimes, unconscionable delays for patients seeking specialist medical care– delays that lead to their deaths). Collective punishment, obstacles to free movement as part of an Apartheid regime, and occasional Israeli attacks that show blatant disregard for civilian life are not only illegal in international law but constitute a set of systematic war crimes that rise to the level of crimes against humanity as defined by the Rome Statutes.

While it is unfortunate that small homemade rockets are sometimes fired by small militant groups from Gaza into Israel, it is impossible to expect social peace from a people being economically strangled.

2. Palestinians must be granted citizenship in a state. It is all the same to me if it is a Palestinian state or if they are given Israeli citizenship. The aggressive, far-right Likud Party is setting things up so that there isn’t really a place to put a Palestinian state anymore. In any case, it is unacceptable for millions of Palestinians to be kept stateless by Israel. Stateless people have no real rights, since rights are enforced by a state. Gaza is lawless because it lacks a state, and Mr. Netanyahu won’t let one be formed. Among the rights that stateless people lack is the right to security of property. Palestinian property is being daily stolen from Palestinians by Israelis, who use Israeli law, administration and the courts to deprive stateless Palestinians of their rights. Mr. Netanyahu played a central and self-admitted role in reneging on the promises made by Israel to the Palestinians as part of the Oslo Peace Process and Madrid conference, and the reason he could do so with impunity is that Palestinians are stateless. Treaty obligations to them don’t have to be honored.

There are probably only about 12 million stateless people in the world. Many are individuals who get caught between countries (as with women who lose citizenship for marrying a foreigner and emigrating with him, but who are not eligible for citizenship in their new country either). Palestinians are the largest single group of the stateless, probably amounting to some 5 million. An additional 3.6 million Palestinians in Jordan have Jordanian citizenship for the moment, but it is apparently not necessarily permanent. Some 40,000 Palestinians from Gaza who had attained Jordanian citizenship have had it withdrawn again.

Statelessness was common in the 1930s in Europe. Franco made millions of Spanish leftists stateless. The Nazis withdrew German citizenship from the Jews. The Communists declared the White Russians stateless. Gypsies were often stateless.

I’m sure most Jews would not wish to be responsible for Palestinians being kept stateless in the way that the fascist German state rendered Jews stateless in the ’30s. It seems certain that stripping citizenship from Jews and Gypsies was what allowed the Nazi state to genocide them. The stateless, having no rights, can be ethnically cleansed or killed with relative ease.

3. Egypt should broker a rapprochement between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas. As long as these two are at daggers drawn, Palestinians are easily divided and ruled by Israel and the US, and they have fewer means to resist having their land stolen and having their lives blighted by the blockade.

4. Egypt’s President Muhammad Morsi should put pressure on Hamas leaders to foreswear the use of terrorist tactics toward Israel. The US federal code defines terrorism as the deployment of violence by a non-state actor against civilians for political purposes. Deliberately killing innocent non-combatants is a war crime and always carries the taint of illegitimacy, and if Hamas wants to amount to anything politically it must take this step. Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s use of terror has deeply damaged the Israeli left and virtually killed off the Israeli peace movement– the people most likely to come to an understanding with the Palestinians.

5. New elections for the Palestine Authority should be scheduled, perhaps overseen jointly by Israel and Egypt. The winner, even if it is Hamas, must be recognized as the legitimate government of the PA.

6. Israel must return to a moratorium on its colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, so as to permit genuine peace talks to start back up. Settlements are the number one obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Palestinians cannot be expected to negotiate over how much of the pie they get if the Israelis are digging into the pie and eating most of it while the negotiations are proceeding.

7. Israel must cease expropriating the property of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and must recognize that the status of Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. Likely, in any successful negotiations, part of Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine. There is no reason in principle that the city cannot be shared. Chandigarh in India is capital of both Punjab and Haryana states, which are rather more populous than Israel/Palestine.

8. Israel must cease demanding that people recognize it before negotiations begin. There is something pitiful about being that insecure, or too clever by half in being that Machiavellian. For Palestinians, some forms of ‘recognition’ involve giving up basic claims and rights that they believe should be part of the negotiations. The Israelis are trying to set things up so that the Palestinians have to give away most of what they want to negotiate about before they even get to the table. The PLO recognized Israel as part of the Oslo accords. It was rewarded by being marginalized, emasculated and betrayed. Why should any other Palestinian political force wish to be taken for a ride that way? As for Israeli complaints that Hamas wants to destroy them, that is ridiculous. It is not ridiculous that Hamas might have such aspirations in the long term, it is ridiculous that a tiny poverty-stricken and militarily virtually non-existent entity like Hamas should be taken seriously as a military threat to nuclear-armed Israel.

9. Israel and the Palestinians, in the light of Hamas pledges of renouncing terror tactics and Israel’s moratorium on land theft, must return to the negotiating table for final status talks and the swift implementation of Oslo.

10. The United States should cease blocking United Nations Security Council resolutions critical of Israel. If the Israelis continue their illegal blockade of Gaza and their massive land theft from the Palestinians of the West Bank, the UNSC should place economic sanctions on Israel. The US moves to paralyze the UNSC on the Palestine issue are the height of hypocrisy, similar to the diplomatic cover it gives the government of Bahrain. Note that among the most severe sanctions in history are being applied to Iran, for doing things that Israel has also done. American hypocrisy on Palestine has long detracted from the moral authority of the US and the UN in the Middle East, and weakens American diplomacy and soft power, to the detriment of US interests.

I’m not stupid or naive. I know that almost none of these 10 points is likely to be realized. All I’m saying is that these steps are what would would be necessary for the achievement of peace. They won’t be taken, and therefore intermittent wars, bombings, attacks, and the blighting of human lives will continue. The US will likely at some point suffer further for these failures, just as it did on 9/11, which was launched in part to punish Washington for its treatment of the Palestinians. Given how many of our liberties we lost with 9/11, you worry that another such large-scale attack will finish off the constitution altogether.

That point is why George W. Bush and Barack Obama have not really served US interests well in the Middle East, since neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is at the center of the region’s geopolitics. Both have kicked the can down the road, just as Mitt Romney admitted he would do. We know that US politicians behave in this way because the Israel lobbies, including those of the Christian Zionists, are a successful single-issue interest group. But in attempting to ensure that the Israeli right wing is never impeded in its ambitions, they are dooming Israel. Eventually the region will just become too hot and nervous-making for most Israelis, and more will begin leaving every year than coming in. Over time they will be diminished, as the once-dominant Christians of Lebanon have been, through out-migration. Unfortunately, this scenario will unfold over decades, and will cause us all a lot of headaches on the way.

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41 Responses

  1. In the last paragraph and sentence, the one consolation is that the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio will probably not continue the downward course you so ably describe for decades, because the problems of climate change (or some other crisis of the waste products of our so-called civilization) will probably get to us all first.

  2. At this point, I would settle for any concessions on the part of the USA or Israel, even small ones. That might be a start.

    “You don’t get invaded” is not a concession.

  3. On your point 2: immigrants can be granted citizenship, but people who have always lived in a country are already citizens. Their citizenship cannot be granted, only recognized.

    Israel is very clear about where its borders are. Just check out some non-controversial source such as the Israel Meteorological Service. Having declared where its borders are, and enforced them militarily, Israel must recognize as equal citizens all people who have always lived in those borders.

    • Interesting linguistic distinction here the Israeli’s could never bring themselves to back off of, if history is any judge. “Granting” mean it was theirs alone to give this favor, while to “recognize” clearly indicates that status was there all along.

      Its a power thing, but more. It’d be a slippery slope: they might “give” the palestinians some land, possibly, maybe, at some point, if they land were totally worthless and they had wrung every cent out of the US they could. But they will never “return” something, with the implication the palestinians every had any right to it.

  4. I wish these ten, especially the last, would be implemented soon. It is disingenuous of Israel to play the victim.

  5. How about the most important thing that Hamas should give up on their anti-Semitic fantasy of ridding the region of Jews. Instead of waging war against Israel, Hamas and all the other Muslims should start following the Quran which says very clearly in more than one place that that Jews own this land and will return. Why Hamas and other Muslims who claim that the Quran is their constitution ignore what is written there?

    • This is a good starting point; Hamas should accept Jews in Israel and Israel should accept Palestinians in Israel. No cleansing of either population.

      You have another good point about holy books. The Palestinians should stop quoting the Quran in support of their crimes and Israel should stop quoting the Bible in support of theirs.

      There is one biblical quote that we all should follow: do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.

      If Israel started talking about becoming a country of equal rights all other problems would be well on their way to being solved.

    • the Qur’an doesn’t say any such thing. And, you can’t expect Palestinians to lie down and let themselves be economically strangled.

  6. Juan,

    You ought to have included in your list the obvious requirement that the Palestinians stop shooting missiles across the border into Israel. The US press didn’t bother until this latest flareup in violence but the missile launches against Israeli cities have been going on for months. That sort of blatant terror must cease.

    • Do the Palestinians have a peaceful venue for venting their grievances? Can they march on the Knesset and be heard? Can they peacefully march in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for equal rights? Or are they forced into violence?

      • Surely you don’t seriously believe that, do you? If so, then get ready for lots more bloodshed. And yes, there is a way to get their rights: Stop all violence immediately, renounce a rancid, racist charter which demonizes Jews and open full negotiations with Israel on a final status agreement for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank & Gaza. That’s the only way out of this mess. Sorry but Israel’s not going to allow its citizens to serve as punching bags for someone claiming “grievances.” Violence only leads to violence. I can’t believe that I actually have to belabor the obvious here.

        • If it’s understandable and even reasonable that Israeli not serve as punching bags, why isn’t it equally understandable or reasonable that Palestinians not serve as punching bags? Do you know the death and injury toll for both sides? Haven’t Palestinians been punched far more often than Israelis?

        • Nice hit on all the talking points.

          But I read some of the Israeli newspapers and blog comments, and you have one hard row to hoe claiming any moral high ground on any substantive basis when it comes to rancid racism. Too many “kill all the Arabs” and “push them into the sea” and “they are not even human” out of the fertile vocabularies of Israeli writers and netizens to count…

          And of course all the other stuff that Professor Cole and others have pointed out about how Israelis have been doing it to the Palestinians. And just a little way down the page, there’s the argument that Israel must keep the Palestinians down, because after all someday, those smelly distant relatives whose water and gas and arable land many Israelis covet and have already taken much of might some day ALSO have nuclear weapons and an overwhelming air, navy and land force that they might use to do to the Israelis what is being done to them. Unassailable logic, all right.

          And humans being what they are, those of us who have a little experience of bloodshed can be pretty certain that there will be a lot more. It’s just what us self-justifying tribal vicious humans do. Behind all kinds of pretences to moral righteousness. All equally putrid. But so wonderfully seductive, and so soul-satisfying when your Enemy lies hacked and bloodless at your feet.

    • Yes, we all know the missile barrage has destroyed the Israeli economy, preventing Israel from adequate food and water and causing all its Jewish citizens to fear they may be killed without notice. We all know that Israel has no representation on the world stage, which is correct because Israel refuses to renounce terrorism. We all know that Palestinians block any measure to protect Israel in Congress or the UN.

      Who are you kidding? Israel occupies Gaza and the West Bank in defiance of UN and Geneva accords, and it is the right of the people of Gaza to defend themselves.

      Israel is a war crime.

      • My reply above to “MyComment” applies to you as well. Israel is not a “war crime.” That’s so deep into the darkness that it doesn’t even deserve a response.

    • Isn’t that #4 on the list? Maybe I’m reading it too broadly.

      • For me, it is clearly encorpassed in the 4th item but bots are not capable for understanding text.

  7. It does little good to condemn Israel for doing bad things in the hopes of stopping Israel from doing bad things. Israel has gotten away with it in the past will continue to get away with it in the future.

    Rather, let’s ask what drives Israel to do these things and why they think that it is OK to do them. In essence, let’s discuss the moral issue. Israelis like to think of themselves as a moral people. Why is that?

    The answer is in the founding ideology of Israel; Zionism, the idea that Israel should be a purely Jewish state. Zionists will not compromise on this goal. They may occasionally work some strategic compromise but their end point remains the same. They may accept one step back in order to gain two steps forward. It is a strategy that has worked brilliantly. They see no reason to change.

    It is Zionism that must be defeated. The idea of creating an ethnically pure state should be anathema to everyone especially Jews. For much of history it is this thinking that was used to target Jews. Now the Palestinians are the victims.

    The fact that those in the peace camp talk about “moderating” Israel is only playing into their strategy. It is accepting the Israeli world view. This is what we must reject. We rejected that type of thinking when Segregation and Apartheid were defeated. Let us reject the same thinking when it emanates from Israel. As long as Zionism rules Israel there can be no peace.

    • Actually, Israel has a collective hissy fit every time someone forgets the mantra, “Israel has the right to protect itself.” ect. etc. If one president ever had the courage to call their war crimes war crimes, then Israel might implode.

  8. “I’m not stupid or naive. I know that almost none of these 10 points is likely to be realized.”

    Which does not mean that it is not worthwhile pointing out that they should be realized. It is worthwhile pointing it out, repeatedly. It needs to be pointed out.

  9. There is another thing that must happen that is not on this list – the people in the United States must be better informed about the Israel/Palestine situation. We can all help to amplify the voice of Juan Cole and others who are not invested in the hardline Israeli narrative through social media. The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) is a great source of info. Their fact sheet “A Pattern of Abuse Against American Citizens” is eye-opening: link to

    Another hope that I hold out is that once Hillary Clinton is replaced as secretary of state by someone without all of the Israeli connections from New York and other political baggage she carries – just maybe, a shift away from the “We support Israel, no matter what” stance might be possible. (They say I’m a dreamer!)

  10. Riddle of the day:
    When is the number “5” much higher the the number “150”?

    Answer: When the former is the number of Israeli “war” deaths, and the latter the number of Palestinian deaths.

    It’s not the hobnail boot on Gaza’s throat, it’s the annoying wiggle of that adam’s apple.

    Wake up and smell the symmetry.

  11. Love some of these comments: While it is unfortunate that small homemade rockets are sometimes fired by small militant groups from Gaza into Israel…” Yeah, particularly if you’re on the other end of it…..unfortunate indeed. How about this: ” As for Israeli complaints that Hamas wants to destroy them, that is ridiculous. It is not ridiculous that Hamas might have such aspirations in the long term, it is ridiculous that a tiny poverty-stricken and militarily virtually non-existent entity like Hamas should be taken seriously as a military threat to nuclear-armed Israel.” In other words, Sure! They want you dead…..but they can’t make that happen……yet……so what are you worried about?” I’d offer up similar advice to the US in invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

    On many points, Professor Cole is of course right – but he also forgets that Israel did not make Abbas and the PLO irrelevant, PALESTINIANS did with the 2nd Intifada and their support of Hamas…..who marginalized whom?

  12. Good to see this item linked to and quoted on the Guardian’s Middle East blog today. Sadly, though, it didn’t seem to get any attention from the commenters there – the dicussion (as so often on sites with large numbers of commenters) having descended largely into schoolyard name calling.

  13. Mere citizenship is not enough. Can you imagine how Israeli citizenship “rights” would go downhill for Palestinian Arabs if all the exiles of 1948 were “granted” Israeli citizenship and permission to return to somewhere inside “Israel”? It’s bad enough today for those who live there. It might not include the right to vote, and, even today, many Palestinian political parties cannot “run” for elections because they do not agree that Israel is “the state of the Jewish people”.

    • The State of Israel has clever ways to commit de facto discrimination upon its Arab citizens.

      For instance, IDF military service is compulsory for Jews but permissive for Arabs. Arabs are in segregated units in the IDF or, in the alternative are frozen out of many areas of the military due to their status as non-Jews. As a result a very small percentage of Arabs serve in the IDF, although significant numbers of Druze and Bedouin do so.

      Eligibility for assistance from many social programs administered by the Israeli government is determined by having a family member acquire service in the IDF. Since this includes the vast majority of Jewish citizens but only a very small percentage of Israeli Arabs, this system accomplishes the discriminatory effects intended.

      I could raise many more variations upon this theme of anti-Arab discrimnation by the State of Israel, but I believe one can understand how it is invidiously implemented by Israel.

  14. “We know that US politicians behave in this way because the Israel lobbies, including those of the Christian Zionists, are a successful single-issue interest group.”

    You have you read Prof. Chomsky’s criticism of the thesis that U.S. policy towards Israel can be reduced to the influence of ‘Israel lobby’? It’s worth reading. Since the article is not long I won’t summarize too much of it but basically he argues that by overly focusing on the influence of AIPAC and evangelicals we tend to overlook the fact that U.S. foreign policy is set by the “strategic-economic interests of concentrations of domestic power in the tight state-corporate linkage” and that thus U.S. policy towards Israel cannot be seen as originating with a narrow Lobby rather than with the broad support of most of the U.S. political-intellectual class.

    link to

    • It is impossible to understand the lopsided Congressional resolutions and the bizarre media distortions without taking full account of the Israel lobbies. Mearsheimer & Walt have pointed out that it is to the extent that the government does things that make no sense from a Realist FP point of view.

  15. Juan
    Can you address the nyt article re: Hamas missles being supplied by Iran. You refer to them as “homemade”.

    • It is a matter of proportion. Of the hundreds of ‘rockets’ the Israelis complain about, almost all are home made. A few larger ones may have been smuggled in from Iran. It is possible that even the Fajr- models were made in Gaza on Iranian models. Rocketry of this primitive sort isn’t that hard.

  16. Reading the text of the ceasefire agreement, it looks like Hamas has achieved a significant victory. The border crossing are to be opened, restriction of travel is to be ended, assasination of Gazan leaders is to end. It remains to be seen if Israel keeps it committment, but at the very least, a legal document is in place enunciating these right of the people of Gaza. Another thing: Israel has probably learned that they can kill a lot of people, and cause a lot of destruction, but they cannot make a fundamental change in the political situation in their favor. They ought to have learned that with Hezbollah in 2006. Compared to the Gaza assault in 2009, they found the world had changed – Egypt was not so compliant sending it Prime Minister to Gaza during the fighting and providing medical aid and a background of 80 million Egyptian citizens no longer obliged to keep their voices quiet, the world’s journalists were no longer barred from Gaza, and pictures from Youtube, as well as some of the world’s press, circulated around the word in instances. There another point: one way of measuring victory is to note the jubilation and celebration taking place in Gaza compared to the distempered drabness of the reaction of the Israeli people. They are celebrating life, while the Israelis are morose that they could not conduct more destruction and killing.

  17. very nice piece, Juan, thank you. As usual, you are very even-handed.

    “I’m not stupid or naive. I know that almost none of these 10 points is likely to be realized. All I’m saying is that these steps are would would be necessary for the achievement of peace. They won’t be taken, and therefore intermittent wars, bombings, attacks, and the blighting of human lives will continue…. ”

    …. I’ve been following the issue for years, and yes, I was beginning to think like this myself, and it’s really very debilitating when you can’t imagine any good outcome, which really there doesn’t seem to be here…

    But just yesterday I had a new thought, optimistic. It struck me how like this situation is to the situation in the American South during Jim Crow, and how endlessly dreary that also must have seemed, for decades. I remembered reading of liberal Southerners, young people (let me put that in caps, YOUNG PEOPLE, because I think this is what is important) young people, liberal-minded, sickened by the apartheid culture, they moved away from their homes in the South vowing never to return, and probably many of them did not return. There were many American writers, Southerners, who moved away. And isn’t this what is actually happening in Israel? It’s one of those well-kept secrets, hidden in full view. About a million Israelis have emigrated. Many millions hold foreign passports.

    The Israelis themselves are sickening of this. It will change, but it might take another full generation for peace. And I doubt very much if it will be the two-state solution.

  18. The “two-state solution” is now impossible; the “facts on the ground” make it impossible, and those like “John,” above, who argue rubbish like this:

    open full negotiations with Israel on a final status agreement for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank & Gaza

    …are actually apologists for the continuance of the apartheid policies of the Zionist State. They know full well that the settlements will never be dismantled by any Israeli government, and that the settlements would make of any “sovereign Palestinian state” a ridiculous Bantustan under full Isreali economic and political control.

    What has to be “negotiated”–and probably only through a long, Gandhian struggle on the part of the Palestinians, and a violent, bloody reaction on the part of the Zionists–is a pluralist, secular, non-theocratic and democratic Israel-Palestine. The deciding factor in such a struggle, which would force racist Zionist fascism to reveal its ugly face before the whole world, would be global public opinion. Sadly, the only thing that now can free the Palestinian people must be non-violent, ahimsa-practising martyrs, dying to persuade the world to FORCE the Israelis to give up the racist, Nazi-like dream of an ethnically pure “Jewish State.”

  19. israel will never allow the two state solution because that makes it harder for israelis to keep the rich Palestinian oil & gas deposits off the Palestinian, not israeli coast. Refer to the original map of Palestine above & extrapolate. That is why the ultra right & right wing get so much ‘support’. They’ll kill every Palestinian to keep that oil, sell their land & take the water of the Palestinians. Thievery of the worst kind on the most massive scale. There is no religious component, only greed & victims and if we allow it, who’ll be next.

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