Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Israel, day 7: Palestinians and Palestine

The big day of the trip was the day we went to Ramallah, capital of the Palestinian Authority (for my previous posts regarding this trip, go to here, here,here, here, here, and here). ‘‘Twas the big day because it was least in the control of our hosts—the speakers were chosen by the Palestinians, so any effort by Academic Exchange to play us (see my wrap up post later) would be challenged here.
The day started with an Israeli retired colonel who works for a think tank that has been involved in the peace process. He did a nice job of explaining the series of events that followed the Oslo agreement.  A name that came up, General Keith Dayton, that struck me.  Dayton was head of the US effort to train and equip the Palestinian security forces.  He was also my boss in 2001-2002 as he was the boss of the European section of the J5. Anyhow, the idea was for the palestians to provide security in the parts of the West Bank where the Palestinians had authority (zone A) and then police zone B where the authority is a bit mixed (the Israelis run zone c which is 60% of the West Bank).  The speaker said something else that reminded me of the Balkans: the best cooperation is among the Israeli and Palestinian criminals.  I asked about Pal civ-mil, as there has not been an election in ten years (neither the incumbents nor the Israelis want Hamas to win, as they did in Gaza).  There was a coup attempt a few years ago, and Israel helped prevent it from succeeding.  Perhaps the most surprising news from my questions was that the amount of training Israel provides for occupation duty is very limited: three days! As most troops rotate among the three major missions—Gaza, the northern border, the West Bank—the IDF is putting poorly prepared troops into difficult spots.  That the conscripts are quite young and not that well trained leads to deviations from the rules of engagement and, thus, international law.  One lesson of the 2006 war in Lebanon was to increase the length of the command courses.  I am still unsure of how Israel’s civil-military relations work as I asked about that far too late in the trip (our shepherd is a retired general who was most generous but I didn’t get alone time until the ... last supper).

Then onto Ramallah, where the city was a mix of very modern, well kept buildings and cars and not so much.  We met with a series of Palestinian officials.  The first put together a case for,what Israel had done wrong with much exaggeration but also provided some of the narrative that helps to shape the discourse and dispute.  He did say something that echoed what we heard from Israelis near Gaza: Israel is afraid of nonviolent protest.  A common theme on this day was more criticism of Trump since anynthought of US has an honest broker is gone (more on multilateralism below).  He spoke about demanding equality rather than two state solution, which differed from the next guy.  He concluded by suggested that we should not be lulled by the current state of exhaustion since there was the same exhaustion before both intifadas.

The next guy, a negotiator, was very dynamic (slick some said).  He insisted that they had recognized Israel’s right to exist in the pre1967 boundaries.  He insisted, unlike the previous guy, that the only solution is the two state solution.  He argued that Pompeo among others is turning this into a religious conflict which helps ISIS.  There was not much discussion of ISIS re West Bank this week so this was pretty striking.  He said nice things about USAID, and a common theme of the day was how Trump’s policy changes are making things worse (so much for Trump tweets vs words). He had many negative things to say about the Arab countries and Iran “don’t try to be more Palestinian than us!”  Which led to a nice rant
  • Real threat to Iran is Iran 
  • Real threat to Arabs are other Arabs
  • Real threat to Israel is the occupation 
He told a fun story where he met with Christians united for Israel who said: “only peace of Jews, Muslims convert to Christianity” and his response was that if Netanyahu does it, he would think about it.  He had much to say about Kushner, Greenblatt, and Friedman—the US negotiating team.  He also asked Trump “did you develop a technique to kill ideas with bullets?” Which Trump didn’t understand.

On a one state solution with equal rights, he said that we (the Palestinians) would change everything and the Israelis know it.  

We then met with a higher ranking politician, who argued that the world was with the Palestinians except for Israel and the Trump Administration, which disagrees with the previous speaker’s take on Iran.  The two state solution is the shortest path to peace, he said.  Again, 67 borders, don’t need 1948, ok with some land swaps.  He said they wanted security, willing to have a third party provide security in demilitarized Wesr Bank, including US or NATO with Jerusalem as open city.   He did tend to give US way too much credit as he said US was behind Hamas and was using Iran threat to distract everyone.  A key theme was that current situation was apartheid... which our resident Africanist could poke holes in, but i did keep,seeing “separate but equal”

His take on the recent meeting in Bahrain over economic development: these amateurs (Kushner, etc) think all we want is money: “there was no money in the first place. If there was money, Jared would be thinking about how to take it.”

The last speaker was from the PA foreign ministry.  She asserted that Arab states could not betray Palestinians without upsetting the Srab street, which was the first mention of the Arab public this week.  She pointed out that Trump was unilaterally deciding final status issues like Jerusalem.  She asserted that the Palestinian diaspora is less pragmatic than PA, which reminded me of my long dead diaspora project.  She had a great point about folsmsayinf Palestine is not ready doe statehood in two words: South Sudan.

She then went on to sound like Trudeau: that the PA wants to uphold the multilateral order.  Sure.  It makes sense that the vastly weaker player would want a multilateral solution rather than just working with Israel and Trump. Also, two stare solution as “we need separation”

We then returned back to the hotel for one last briefing and I was too tired to pay much attention.  We did get re-energized with a late night tour of tunnels under the western wall. Our guide tried to remember a concept he had once read about that would explain why the first temple’s loss hit so hard, and damn near all of us in the group either said endowment effect or prospect theory.  He gave us a good review so the history of this spot.
  1. The middle of what is now the Temple Mount is supposed to be where God started when he built the planet
  2. This is where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac
  3. This is where they built the first temple
  4. And the second, which Herod (nasty dictator but good builder) reinforced.
  5. Where Jesus was killed, buried.
  6. Where Mohammed flew to seventh heaven
  7. Where the Golden Dome of the third holiest site in Islam was built.
Our tour of the tunnels, including three baths (one fed by a stream), was most interesting.  I can’t imagine being anyplace with a longer history.  The archeological effort here makes clear how far this stuff goes back.  

Lots and lots of path dependence on this day: that previous decisions shape the choices available to the next folks, whether that is how the British ruled, how the 67 war provided many opportunities, how the settlers are creating facts on the grounds, how leaving Gaza led to the rise of Hamas and shifted Israeli politics along with the second intifada.

In short: oh my.

1 comment:

Irina said...

Great semi-spew. I found the perspectives of the respective speakers particularly interesting,