Friday, March 8, 2013

Lara Friedman is Chicken Little

Lara Friedman is back on the Huffington Post to do what she always does: insist that the two state solution is dying and it's Israel's fault. This time, it's in a piece titled Killing the Two State Solution Through the Suspension of Disbelief, and since no one knows more about disbelief than Lara Friedman, I thought it was worth going through.

Friedman hasn't declared the two state solution was dying since last October when she accused Netanyahu of "killing it," and now the new target of her wrath is Dennis Ross, who dared to publish a 14 point plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Ross says the goal of the 14 point plan is to "chip away at the sources of each side's belief about the other's commitment to a genuine two-state solution," because both sides believe the other doesn't want a two state solution. Friedman declares that Ross' plan "would actually kill off the two-state option entirely" and here's her reasoning why:
"The truth is, the two-state solution -- in terms of facts on the ground -- is still alive, but it is neither immortal nor infinitely malleable. This is not merely a subjective statement. A clear lesson of decades of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts is that three concrete conditions must exist for the two-state solution to be possible. First, it must be possible to delineate a border based on the 1967 lines that leaves two politically and economically viable, maximally contiguous states. Second, this border must allow for a politically and economically viable Israeli capital in Israeli Jerusalem and a politically and economically viable Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Third, it must be possible to compensate for changes in the 1967 lines through land swaps carried out on a one-to-one ratio."
What Friedman doesn't even attempt to answer is why those "three concrete conditions must exist." "Must" is a very loaded term, it means that her conditions are a requirement for peace. Except that in reality, they aren't. Just to take one example, why the Palestinians need to have a capital in east Jerusalem? They have a capital already, Ramallah, and they do not and have never owned east Jerusalem. In reality, the Palestinians want Jerusalem, and they have convinced Friedman that they would be satisfied with only half of it. But if peace really mattered more to them then anything else they would be happy to leave all of Jerusalem in the hands of Israel. The Palestinians do not need Jerusalem, and Arab sovereignty over it is only a requirement for peace as long as the Palestinians insist on making it one. Friedman doesn't even attempt to argue that they do, she just declares herself to be correct and moves on.

As we have discussed on this blog before, both sides have certain demands that are "deal breakers." Only Palestinians, however, pretend that their demands are requirements for peace.

Friedman also doesn't attempt to answer of why any of those three conditions being met would stop Hamas' goal of a Palestine "from the river to the sea," but such basic truths are always far away from any Peace Now article. Notice how she also ignores the so-called "right of return" demand, an inconvenient one for any Palestinian supporter.

So how does Ross' plan violate those three conditions?
"At the core of Ross' recommendations -- and others being bandied about (e.g. here, here, and here) -- is the suggestion that Israel adopt a decision to "limit" settlement construction to areas west of Israel's unilaterally-built separation barrier. Ross treats this as an Israeli concession that would demonstrate Israeli seriousness about the two-state solution.
In reality, it would do the opposite, gutting the very concept of the two-state solution. It would signal a unilateral Israeli decision that the 1967 lines will not be the basis of future negotiations, contrary to international consensus, previous peace efforts, and President Obama's May 2011 speech. It would signal that Israel has no intention of ever agreeing to any Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, giving the kosher stamp to Israeli settlement construction that will cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank. Finally, it would mean that Israel is taking the entire notion of one-to-one land swaps off the table, since Israel lacks sufficient land reserves to compensate for the amount of West Bank land that is now west of the separation barrier."
So let's examine these lies one at a time.

 "It would signal a unilateral Israeli decision that the 1967 lines will not be the basis of future negotiations." Uh, why? Would you care to prove that? Even if it does, the 1967 lines are not the basis of future negotiations, according to President Obama's speech that Friedman herself linked to, the 1967 lines with land swaps are. That has been a staple of the final deal ever since the '90s. And there is no indication building within existing settlements "signals" such a unilateral decision. Friedman is simply lying. When the only good talking point she has is settlements, everything must tie back to it, no matter how little sense it makes.

"It would signal that Israel has no intention of ever agreeing to any Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, giving the kosher stamp to Israeli settlement construction that will cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank."
I'll ask again, why do the Palestinians need a capital in east Jerusalem? Maybe continued settlements would indicate that, but that's no reason to declare the two state solution dead. If the Palestinians think Jerusalem is more important to them then peace, that's fine, I can respect it. But then don't tell me Israel killed the two state solution because the Palestinians won't let go of their demands.

 "Finally, it would mean that Israel is taking the entire notion of one-to-one land swaps off the table, since Israel lacks sufficient land reserves to compensate for the amount of West Bank land that is now west of the separation barrier."
If you follow Friedman's link, which she hopes you won't and just take her word for it, the article actually poses a question about whether there are sufficient land reserves for a swap, not declares it a fact that Israel doesn't. One Tel Aviv professor doesn't think there's enough, but a former member of Israel's negotiating teams thinks there is. There is no basis in the article for Friedman's statement of "fact" that Israel doesn't have enough land to swap. She is purposefully misleading her readership.
This leaves aside the question of whether there needs to be land swaps at all. As I said above, it's taken as a matter of faith that it will happen. But again, land swaps are a demand put forward by the Palestinians to compensate them for the settlements. If Israel just said, "Guess what? You are being ridiculous. Here is 98% of the West Bank, and you get no land swaps. Now take it or we bomb the bejeezus out of you," and the Palestinians said no, that would be an incredibly stupid decision. It isn't fair that the Palestinians don't get compensated for the settlement land that they think should go to them, but guess what? Life isn't fair. The Palestinians want us to believe that they are victims of ethnic cleansing while simultaneously thinking up excuses why they can't make peace. They can't dance that two-step forever.

Here's how she ends that paragraph: "For the Palestinians, this is not only a non-starter but a fait-accompli that blocks the way for future negotiations."

Lara: you don't speak for the Palestinians. You're an American Jew. You don't know what they want. Their democratically elected leadership tells you things which you ignore, why do you think you know what they want better than they themselves do? But at least you admit that the block in the negotiations is not what Israel does but the way the Palestinians react to those actions. That's a start.

Friedman wraps up with taking more shots at Ross' plan and declaring her "conditions" are the way to peace. All in all, another misguided, hopelessly naive attack piece on people who don't blame Israel for all the problems in the Middle East. Perfect HP material.

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