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The Only Democracy? » Discrimination » Time Magazine Weighs Risks of Israel’s Comfort with Status Quo

Time Magazine Weighs Risks of Israel’s Comfort with Status Quo

Time Magazine provides  an in-depth analysis by Tony Karon of the dangers inherent in Israel’s failure to move forward on a two-state solution,  the apartheid nature of the current status quo, the growing influence of Israel’s settlement movement,  and the need for a change in strategy by Obama and his international allies.   Another sign of mainstream media’s shift toward more honest discourse on these issues!

For Palestinians, the status quo is desperate:  living under siege in Gaza or walled up in the West Bank as more and more of their land is gobbled up by Jewish Settlements.  For Israelis,  the status quo is comfortable indeed:  a booming economy, a vibrant westernized culture, and the Palestinian people out of sight and out of mind.  So why should Israelis care about changing the status quo?

The Time article considers this question, beginning with Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s recent warning that without a two-state solution,” a single political entity named  Israel will end up being either non-Jewish or nondemocratic.”

Former President Jimmy Carter suffered a verbal pummeling three years ago for comparing the standoff between Israel and the Palestinians to apartheid — the South African system that meant not only segregation, but a denial of citizenship to a whole category of people. And so it was ironic that a key Israeli leader warned his people that the status quo on the territories conquered by Israel in 1967 amounts to the same thing. Barak’s point was to warn that unless the Palestinians are given an independent state of their own, the world will eventually notice that their lives are controlled by an Israeli state that denies them citizenship, raising the specter of the sort of international isolation and sanctions that helped change South Africa.

The article goes on to analyze how the growing influence of the settlement movement in Israeli life has shifted the political mainstream to the right and made a two-state solution more improbable than ever.

For even the most moderate segment of Palestinian leadership, a two-state solution would have, at the very least, involved setting the 1967 borders as the basis for negotiation, and accepting East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. But Israel’s political median has moved steadily to the right since the days of Rabin, and the minimum demands acceptable to Palestinian moderates are deemed too much for the Israelis. The militant settlers who believe they have a God-given right to build their homes in the occupied territories are now part of the mainstream, disproportionately represented in the army’s mid-level officer corps, and an important support base of the Netanyahu government. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is himself a settler. The religious-nationalist ideological core of the settler movement has threatened to violently resist any attempt to move them, and for many Israelis, the cost-benefit analysis weighs against uprooting them: Why risk a domestic civil war in order to return land to the Palestinians, who might later turn it into a base to fire rockets at you? Perhaps in another generation.

The report concludes that President Obama and his international partners must “change the cost-benefit analysis for the Israelis and Palestinians by raising both the inducements to act and the consequences of inaction. As long as the status quo remains more politically comfortable than the alternative, there’s no reason to expect any progress.”

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Carol Sanders was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She is a retired legal services attorney and author of legal texts. She lived in Israel from 1963 to 1966, where she worked on a kibbutz, did graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and served as an assistant to the then-mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek. Carol is a long-time activist with Jewish Voice for Peace, and is the JVP representative to the Middle East Advisory Committee and a member of Bay Area Women in Black.

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