The Fate of the Palestinians

Palestinian demonstrator in Bilin (dominika zarzycka via Shutterstock)

by Graham E. Fuller

The “Deal of the Century”—Trump’s modestly named new proposal for peace  between Israel and the Palestinians—has long been said to be nearing completion. Ongoing turmoil in Israeli politics makes that presumed launch date  less certain. But whether or not Bibi Netanyahu will maintain his own hold on power in the new September elections probably makes no serious difference to the fate of the Palestinians. Can there any longer be any doubt about the long-term strategy of Israel’s overwhelmingly powerful Right, and its own dark calculus for the Palestinians’ future?

Many observers, including myself, had long since ceased to believe there ever was any serious intention on the part of Israel to permit a meaningful Palestinian state to come into being alongside Israel; successive far-Right election victories have exposed the true face and end game of the Israeli Right—endlessly enabled by the charade of the so-called US “peace process.”

Fact is that a “Two State Solution” never truly existed except, maybe, in the minds of a very few professional diplomats. The real nature of the “peace process” at bottom involved a fairly cynical exercise at running the clock out on any negotiations over the years so that Israel could continue to establish ever more irreversible “facts on the ground” with every passing year. (“Establishing facts on the ground” —a euphemism for the ongoing takeover of Palestinian lands—is a routinely invoked Israeli term.) By now the massive accumulation over the years of these land seizures by Israel under various pretexts, and the ever expanding Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands, make quite clear Israel’s ultimate goal of outright total domination, if not possession, of all of Palestinian land and every aspect of their emasculated future. Indeed avid Zionists such as Daniel Pipes have unabashedly advocated that only when the Palestinians come to realize they have been utterly defeated and politically  crushed will they be softened up enough to accept the diktat of an Israeli-imposed settlement. That is essentially the Bibi-Trump-Jared Kushner plan at heart—only to be leavened by some Gulf Arab blood money.

The pro-Israeli moderate think tank, J Street, in its 4 June 2019 bulletin described the Trump plan as essentially “designed to punish and alienate the Palestinians while embracing the hardline positions of the settlement movement — helping the Israeli right to entrench the occupation and prevent the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.“

Indeed, a number of Israelis themselves worry about the future prospects for any genuinely democratic lsrael when it denies citizenship to a significant portion of the population. Netanyahu’s declaration, long before the elections, that Israel is now officially a “Jewish State,” and  a “nation-state only for Jews” could not be more explicit.  (Imagine the reaction if any West European country declared the foundations of the state to be ethnic/religious and not citizenship-based—or if Germany were now to declare itself a “German state.” The uproar would be deafening.)

But Israel has little interest or faith in placating western liberals who had hoped the time-honored Jewish traditions of tolerance and worldliness might predominate in the future state of Israel. Instead Israel has consigned itself to being a small Middle Eastern state in full legal embrace of exclusivist  apartheid nationalism with its bag of political tools and dirty tricks on sale to a whole host of dictators on how to stay in power by hook or by crook. (See, for example, Psy-Group, an Israeli firm specializing in working for hire around the world in manipulating elections, currently under investigation by the FBI for activities in the US.

Israel is well on the way to becoming a pariah state.

But for large numbers of the dominant Israeli Right, even having any Arabs at all within the Israel state—second class or not—is undesirable. It suggests a foreign polity that than sullies a racially and religiously pure Jewish Israeli state.

So what then? The logic of the Israeli Right for a longer term solution points mainly to the gradual expulsion— through legal procedures, land seizures, intimidation, pressure, oppression, here and there even by force—of all Palestinians in the country so that the lands “promised to Israelis by God”  will now be in their  hands. The only remaining question will simply be how unpleasant and public the gradual expulsion and ethnic cleansing process of Palestinians has to be.

By now Israel feels it has all the time in the world. The US has given Israel everything it wants and more without negotiations: Jerusalem as the capital of Israel for Jews only, massive military subsidies more than to any other country in the world,  the end of any pretense on limiting Jewish encroachment onto ancient Palestinian lands, ever more draconian security controls over Palestinians, and now even sweeping attempts to criminalize within the US any efforts by Americans to boycott Israeli firms operating on Palestinian lands.

Ultra-nationalist Israelis believe that Palestinians, long weary of living under  oppressive and miserable daily discrimination—especially in the open-air prison of Gaza—will eventually abandon their homeland entirely so that the State of Israel can have it all. The certain expectation is that professionally skilled Palestinians and those with any aspirations for their own futures will ultimately all choose to depart from an untenable situation.

Indeed, some Palestinians may feel they can work better to keep the Palestinian cause alive by living outside Israel and speaking out in the West and global forums. But talk is weak, possession of the land is decisive. Some dedicated Palestinian patriots and nationalists will remain at all costs inside the borders of Israel so as not to abandon to Israel all the farms, lands and villages of their forefathers. Others will simply lack the resources or even the will to leave Palestine to try to forge a new life outside. Over time, between oppression, draconian laws, periodic violence and hopelessness, the Israeli expectation is that the numbers of Palestinians will inexorably drop. Israel has plenty of time to assume control and ownership of every last scrap of Palestinian land to establish a “Palestinian-free” Israel.

But Israel still faces the nagging problem of being essentially a western “settler state” based in Palestine. Students of the past know, however, that western settler states in the world have never had a happy history. Israel was indeed founded almost exclusively by white Europeans—Jews— on foreign Palestinian lands based on God’s promises and relying on a very small Jewish population in Palestine over the centuries. Other settler states established by Europeans—such as in Crusader times—eventually came to an untimely end. States such as South Africa, Northern Rhodesia  (today’s Zambia) , southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)  all underwent a stage as white European settler states that eventually could no longer make a go of it as minorities among a large black majority. While some may object to the term “white settler state” in reference to Israel, it still is the case—a state settled by white European Jews on the increasingly broken backs of Palestinians. Over time, bolstered by massive Zionist money and immigration policies, and the well-founded guilt of the West for the outrages Europe perpetrated upon its own Jews over centuries,  Israel was eventually able to assert its power through achieving a Jewish majority.

Palestinians as individuals and as a people, of course, will have a future —but they will not likely be allowed to have it on their own ancestral lands now under creeping annexation by Israel. Palestinians are a gifted, educated and skilled professional and mercantile people. They will find places to live and work, as many already have to a great extent in other places in the Middle East and in the West.  But people in this part of the world don’t forget. The Jews did not forget “God’s promises” and the Palestinians will not forget their millennia-long lives in Palestine, known even in the Bible as “Philistines”—now a derogatory term. Their cause will forever resonate, and will inevitably serve as a rallying cry in the future to extremists who may seek violent action against their Israeli oppressors. Indeed, Palestine was the source of Osama bin Laden’s original call—to right this wrong against victimized Muslims. And while some Arab leaders like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (of bone-saw fame) and the emirs and kings of many Gulf states have decided to make a cynical Faustian pact with Israel in order to gain access to pro-Israeli American congressional support by meeting with Israelis here and there, the sole goal of these rulers is to ensure the survival of their own authoritarian rule by cozying up to Washington’s client state in the Middle East.

It is indeed ironic to watch pro-Israeli think tanks in Washington now swing in behind the bloody-minded and reactionary policies of Saudi Arabia to become Saudi advocates in DC, so long as those rulers will support Israel. Such policies are doubly cynical since Israelis are well aware that these countries, especially Saudi Arabia, have long been ideologically deeply anti-Israel and strongly anti-Semitic to boot. Only the several kings of Jordan have had the dignity not to bow entirely before the Israelis to gain US favor, partly because of the tens of thousands of Palestinians already forced to take refuge in neighboring Jordan.

Israel can, and will, easily survive their exercise in the major ethnic cleansing processes that lie down the road. The world will protest, but Israel knows that “international opinion” cuts very little weight in global Realpolitik. Israel is unlikely ever to be truly accepted as a part of the Middle East, but there are worse things. You can’t bank respectability.

It is unfortunate that we now witness visible evidence of a rise of recent genuine anti-Semitism in the West and elsewhere over the past decade or so. Such anti-Semitism seems to be a stock device of many nationalist-chauvinists leaders looking for scapegoats.

Yet, can we utterly exclude the possibility that some of this rising anti-Semitism may be at least partially connected to the revulsion of many (including a high proportion of American Jews) at the narrow, racist, and apartheid quality of the Israeli state itself, and with Netanyahu’s sleazy politics, now set ever deeper in concrete? Large numbers of genuine liberal voices exist, Jewish and non-Jewish, who nourish no inherent anti-Jewish sentiments but find a great deal to criticize in today’s Israel, especially one that dominates US policy in the Middle East. Zionist tactics to smear any and all quite legitimate criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitic hate speech” certainly does little to win sympathy for Israel either, especially in today’s America where efforts are under way in the US to legally forbid any criticism of Israel at all.

Regrettably, however, there seem to be few prospects for the emergence of a more open multicultural Israel down the road. Many Israelis will shrug and just attribute it all to simply “living in bad neighborhood.” Indeed, a neighborhood whose character they helped found.

Sadly, Palestinians are the primary victims.

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his first novel is “Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan”; his second novel is BEAR—a novel of eco-violence in the Canadian Northwest. (Amazon, Kindle). Reprinted, with permission from grahamefuller.com

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6 Comments

  1. The Palestinian leadership is the dumbest (or the most corrupt?) that I know of. They cannot recognize their friends from their foes! They look to the Saudis for help- a 5 year old could tell you that this is suicidal.

  2. Ali Hashim

    Saudis have money. Politics and diplomacy is all about money and patronage.

    And then, Palestinian people are Sunni Muslim or Christian Arabs. They prefer Arabs to Iranians.

  3. Pretension of leadership by experts in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are still circling each other like fighting cocks. The next time they clash, not only will they likely kill each other, but destroy “their own natural habitat.” It is a description that George Kenan used to explain American skill at foreign policy. Here’s my cut at a solution:

    Israel – Palestinian Peace

    Without Israeli and Palestinian agreement, a lasting solution is impracticable. I have a suggestion which may take root in the soil between the rocks of the troubled land.

    The objective is for Israel and Palestine to agree to live along side each other with an agreed border, and with a population/immigration policy that allows citizens to legally transit between the states responding to economic opportunities, e.g., employment.

    Both Palestinians and Jews have experienced diasporas. The right of return ought to apply to both. Jews and Palestinians could have the right to migrate between Israel and Palestine like Canadians and Mexicans do with us when they have a job offering.

    Israelis resident in Palestine, and Palestinians resident in Israel, could own property in either state in accordance with the laws of each state. Citizenship would be subject to the laws of each state. Voting would require citizenship. Permanent resident aliens would enjoy equality before the law.

    My suggestion resolves some basic issues. The demographic and political issues of the state of Israel would be manageable. The number of Palestinians returning would depend on the economic need and absorptive capacity of the Israeli state. The specter of a wave of Palestinian refugees overwhelming Israelis by shear numbers would be unrealistic.

    The issue of settlements would also diminish. Jewish settlements on Palestinian land would continue to be titled to Jews, but subject to Palestinian law, and visa versa. Israelis living in these settlements would continue to live and work there, or in Israel, as a commuting work force.

    Claims originating at the birth of the two states could be settled by an agency with appropriate funding and authority. Funding would be subscribed to by national and international agencies.

    Insofar as security is concerned, hostility between Israelis and Palestinians would begin to lose political credibility. A rising tide of trade and employment would make peace and tranquility a popular objective. In the interim, an international security force could be introduced to maintain tranquility between the states.

    Israel as a homeland for Jews would be settled.

    Jerusalem remains. That issue can be resolved largely based on negotiations to date. The wisdom of “Solomon” should take hold.

    Best regards,

    Jaime L. Manzano
    Federal Senior Executive and Foreign Service Officer (Retired)
    7904 Park Overlook Drive
    Bethesda, MD 20817

  4. JMANZANO1930J

    You do not understand the Israelis – they do not want any Arabs in Israel – including those with Israeli citizenship.

    Palestinians position is that Israel must go back to 1948 borders.

    Muslims view sovereignty over Al Haram Al Sharif to be non-negotiable.

    Jews, in spite of the absence of any evidence over 100 years of archaeological digs in Palestine – believe that the legendary Temple of Solomon stands at the site of Al Haram Al Sharif.

    Protestants want Israelis to destroy Al Haram Al Sharif, so that Jews could build their temple there, to be proceeded by the destruction of Israel, the Second Coming, and the ascendance of White Protestants to Heaven – damned be the Muslims, the Catholics, the Orthodox and any one else.

  5. An unreservedly grim and undeniably realistic analysis by the perceptive Graham E. Fuller. Palestine, R.I.P. (in my dreams…not gonna happen: the Palestinians will writhe, and writhe, and writhe forever over what coulda-shoulda been in any sort of denouement based on objective fairness and justice).

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