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Dan Rozenson is a young professional in Washington, DC. Naturally, he assumes he is destined for greatness. The Compendium is an informal collection of his (mostly informed) opinions on policy, politics, and culture. Special focus on the Middle East.

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21 November 12

Some things to take away from Pillar of Defense

With the dust settling now in the Levant, it’s becoming easier to get a picture of the who, what, when, where, and why of Operation Pillar of Defense. Here are some important takeaways from the last week.

  • Make no mistake: This was a fight Israel wanted to have. Tensions were high throughout early November, culminating in an attack on an IDF Jeep on November 10. Israel responded with airstrikes, and the Gaza groups upped their rocket activity. By November 12, the militant factions signaled readiness for a truce. Netanyahu clearly did not want a truce on those terms. On November 14, he oversaw the assassination of the chief of Hamas’s military wing, ensuring that a broader conflict would erupt. The assassination of Jaabari was an intentional escalation on the part of Israel, who saw the reigning “ceasefire” regime as weak and in need of a shakeup.

    In addition, it is clear that Hamas’s stockpile of Fajr-5 missiles was a source of major concern for Israel. About a month ago, IAF jets took out a facility in Sudan that was probably full of these longer-range missiles. They would be smuggled through Egypt and into Gaza for Hamas’s use. Then, in the hours after Jaabari’s assassination, Fajr-5 launchers were the highest-priority bomb targets for the IAF’s first wave of strikes. Although Iron Dome has somewhat neutralized the threat from the Fajr, Israel clearly believes that they represent an unacceptable level of danger for Israeli.

  • The Iron Dome system did both of its critical jobs: protect Israeli civilians from rocket fire, and preserve freedom of action for the Israeli government. Although not perfect, Iron Dome performed admirably in combat. It intercepted at least 342 rockets that would have landed in settled areas, including in the Tel Aviv area. By keeping Israelis mostly secure from the Palestinians’ main weapon, Netanyahu was able to delay—and then shelf—a costly ground operation in Gaza. Iron Dome is expensive to operate, but it has proven to be worth the cost. ($275 million in U.S. funding doesn’t hurt, either.) It is rumored that South Korea is now looking at purchasing the system to defend against short-range North Korean missiles.
  • Netanyahu did a better job than I thought he would. When I anticipated the announcement of a ceasefire on November 14, and instead heard that Israel took out a senior Hamas leader, I was convinced it was Bibi at his worst. He had attempted assassinations on Hamas leaders before, even when the tactical benefit was dwarfed by the strategic cost. (The most egregious example was in 1997, when he poisoned Khaled Meshaal on Jordanian soil. An enraged King Hussein got Bill Clinton on Netanyahu’s case. Netanyahu then flew the head of the Mossad out to Amman to deliver the antidote. Netanyahu then had to release Hamas “spiritual leader” Ahmed Yassin to get the Mossad agents out of Jordan.)

    As I discussed above, the blowback from the assassination was intended. Even so, Netanyahu was cautious. He demonstrated to Hamas that he had a wide range of options at his disposal by getting his cabinet to authorize the call-up of 75,000 reservists—enough manpower to, in theory, eject Hamas from its seat of power in Gaza. But he did not rush in with a ground invasion, recognizing the tremendous political and human costs that kind of operation would exact. He may have waited too long to sign a ceasefire, as people died today who would not have had a ceasefire been signed yesterday. Israel’s operational objectives were met already, which made the hang-up in arranging the ceasefire very frustrating for people outside the government.
  • There’s one clear loser in this affair: Mahmoud Abbas. He has been busy campaigning for the Palestinian cause at the UN and other symbolic gestures. His total irrelevance to the conflict lays bare how weak the Palestinian Authority is. Worse, Israeli leaders seem not to care. Netanyahu’s policies often end up politically strengthening the elements he wishes to weaken. That’s fine if he’s willing to deal with Hamas politically, but he doesn’t seem to be.
  • Relatedly, Israel still has no long-term strategy for dealing with Hamas. Stripping Hamas of long-range weaponry is a clear operational objective, but it is not a strategic one. The Palestinian Authority is not about to retake the Gaza Strip, so the only elements left in contention are Hamas and the Salafi radicals. Netanyahu sooner or later is going to have to develop something resembling a vision for Gaza beyond permanent containment. He also can’t continue to weaken Abbas and then claim Abbas is too weak to be a peace partner. The word for that is chutzpah.

Time for realpolitik to return to Israel

Israel’s early generations of leaders were gifted with a strong pragmatic instinct that stood out in a region where self-deluded demagogues made one foolish move after another. Lately, however, Israel’s political elite has been abandoning sensible thought for a strange combination of alarmism and bravado. A look at Bibi Netanyahu’s approach to each of the major challenges and opportunities in front of him reveals a continuing paralysis coupled with a mentality of denial and wishful thinking.

To take one important issue, Israel is treating the Arab Spring all wrong. Israeli leaders are right to note the potential downside to a new Arab political environment. However, this should not be their public face; they need to engage positively with the Arab world, even if it is not reciprocated immediately. That means Netanyahu should stop referring to the events as moving the Middle East “backward.” Such a verbal champion of democracy should know better than to condescend Arabs by calling their desire for a representative government “illiberal.” This is hypocrisy.

What’s worse, Israel’s own claim to democracy is getting muddied by fascistic elements who bear no respect for the rule of law. The “price tag" campaign of sabotage — borderline terrorism — against Palestinians has now also become an insurgency against the state itself. In the year 2011, more acts of terror were committed by Jews than by Palestinians in the West Bank. Although Netanyahu and his defense minister may grasp the necessity of disrupting the movement, they desperately must confront an even grimmer reality: that 70% of the country’s national-religious and ultra-Orthodox approve to some degree of the attacks, as well as 46% of the country as a whole. That kind of attitude is unhealthy for a liberal society.

Meanwhile, there is a deeply uncomfortable realization that must set into Israeli minds: The Palestinian future will include Hamas. The Palestinian Authority has failed to realize its political aims time and time again, and at the same time Hamas is gaining friends in the Middle East. Add the rise of Islamists in Egypt and Syria’s downward spiral, and geopolitics has encouraged Hamas’s movement into the mainstream. Hamas leaders are not ready to signal a true strategic departure toward non-violence, but a number of forces are subtly changing the group’s cost-benefit calculus toward moderation.

Israel, rather than hiding from these developments, must grab the bull by the horns. Specifically, it should test Hamas’s intentions by using the other Arab states as intermediaries. Although these Arab states are mostly focused inward on feeding their populations, I am certain that an Israeli request to meet secretly with Hamas leaders would command attention. If Israel felt uncomfortable linking Hamas too closely with Egypt, countries like Qatar or Tunisia might be able to serve as substitutes.

According to some recent reports, Hamas leaders are quietly contemplating a switch to non-violence. If that is the case, then a back channel with a trustworthy Arab government would be the perfect way to learn about it — both for Hamas and for Israel. Hamas seeks regional legitimacy, while it would behoove Israel to establish positive relations with the new governments of the region.

It is not clear that Hamas is ready to become a responsible actor yet. That is why Israel should keep these conversations out of sight for now. But it is also not clear that there will ever be a better time to “trap” Hamas in a non-belligerent mindset. That is why sitting back as Hamas determines its future without any Israeli input is strategic folly for Netanyahu. That Israel would have to imagine negotiating with Hamas does not seem fair at all. But most of the hard decisions Israel has made in its history were not made because they were fair, but because they were prudent.

What’s new with Salaam Fayyad these days?

Two related stories in the news recently caught my eye. First, Israel Central Bank governor Stanley Fischer’s bid to head the International Monetary Fund picked up the endorsement of Salaam Fayyad, who’d worked at the IMF for years before entering Palestinian politics. He commented that Fischer is “supremely qualified for the job. Indeed, it’s difficult to see how one can be more qualified.”

To me, this is what is different about Fayyad — he doesn’t tie the Palestinian aspiration of independence to the automatic denigration of anything Israeli. Two years ago, commentators said Fayyad was clever but politically unknown. Today, he is the most popular and effective leader the Palestinians have. Fayyadism represents the best chance for their statehood.

Fayyad’s non-zero-sum approach is one reason why Hamas opposes his nomination to be the Prime Minister in a Fatah-Hamas unity government. (Mind you, Fayyad is not even a member of Fatah.) If Hamas is as pragmatic as its apologists claim, then they will certainly revert course and back Fayyad.

Calling all Israel advocates! Danger ahead!

I’m fairly unhappy with the pro-Israel community in the United States. (I refuse to blame simply the “lobby,” for it assigns the pro-Israel community too much coordination and ignores non-expert opinions.) Many of the people with whom I’ve sided in the past (positions I do not renounce) appear dreadfully shortsighted these days. They have fallen for Bibi’s act, unaware of the danger in which he is placing Israel and too readily believing that the Obama administration is making radical shifts in Middle East policy. I can see for the first time how center-right Zionist voices are castigating the left and center-left in irresponsible ways.

If there was one kernel of truth in Peter Beinart’s NYRB essay last year, it was that mainstream Jewish voices haven’t vocally confronted the disturbing rise of some deeply unsavory influences on Israeli politics and society. Beinart partially attributed a weakening of Israel’s liberal character to demographic shifts — including the exponential growth of Haredi Jews and post-Soviet immigrants. (This is difficult to dispute.) And yet Ron Kampeas of the JTA is seeing conspiracy where there is none:

Matt Yglesias, at Think Progress, writes about the Daily Caller op-ed in which Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Gevalt) castigates American Jews for not being his kind of American Jew. … But Yglesias seems to have contracted Walsh’s unseemly “they’re all alike” affect in this passage:

Israeli politics has drifted toward the hawkish right over the past ten years even as Jewish Americans remain on the progressive left. That change in Israeli politics, meanwhile, has been in part driven by a demographic shift away from the kind of secular ashkenazi Jews who predominate in the American population. 

Say what? Ashkenazim have a genetic predisposition toward liberal democracy?

Yglesias said nothing about any “genetic predisposition.” What he said is that secular Ashkenazi Jews, who make of a large proportion of American Jewry, tend to have more liberal views than the demographic groups mentioned before.

Beyond failing to raise concerns about Israeli attitudes, staunchly pro-Israel elites in this country (save for a few brave souls, like Jeff Goldberg and even Leon Wieseltier) have yet to call out Bibi Netanyahu for leading Israel into an abyss. Netanyahu is the most passive of Israeli leaders, aimless and meandering. He is a master of tactics and an amateur in strategy. In this respect, his leadership style resembles Yasser Arafat.

In a few months, Israel will be presented with bad options and will have saved itself no goodwill against which to make its decisions. The Palestinians might declare statehood at the UN, placing America to take a huge fall for Israel by vetoing it. Alternatively, the Palestinians will face their people at the conclusion of Salaam Fayyad’s two-year state-building initiative and have no diplomatic achievements to show for it. In either of the above scenarios, a third intifada is a strong possibility: 70% of Palestinians expect one if diplomatic processes fail. (And a third intifada could well strain the U.S.-Israel relationship to the breaking point.)

The world is not generally charitable to Israel, but the wind is at the Palestinians’ backs more now than ever. Bibi’s failure to make Israel a credible peace partner has in effect saved the Palestinians from becoming one themselves. So Netanyahu has the next few weeks to roll out a policy that could stave off disaster. It would have to go beyond the token gestures of the past like releasing prisoners. He instigate a modest handover of territory in the West Bank from Israeli security control to Palestinian control (making more Area A and less Area B), or make a serious offer to resolve a core issue of the conflict (borders being the easiest). It’s hard to imagine anything else placating the PA, if even that will. But the alternative — doing nothing — is a surefire way to get all the wrong results.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of statehood

Fatah and Hamas have signed a sure-to-be-temporary unity government, adding yet more complications to Israeli-Palestinian relations in the coming months. Jeff Goldberg is on target:

1. Prime Minister Netanyahu has some breathing space. He can claim, with more legitimacy than he had earlier this week, that Israel is under siege; this will stabilize his coalition, and possibly even bring in the opposition leader, Tsipi Livni, to his coalition;
2. It’s not good that Netanyahu has breathing space. Breathing space, for him, means paralysis in the peace process (so-called). Israel must find, now — not later, but now — a formula that will allow it to withdraw its settlers from beyond the security fence, and to create conditions for the emergence of, at the very least, a more autonomous Palestinian entity, one that would become independent as soon as Israel can figure out a way to neutralize the Iranian threat.
3. The Third Intifada might be only a matter of months away. The first intifada was one of stones; the second, suicide bombers on buses. This next one will be the Intifada of rockets. I think it’s coming.
4. It is not Hamas that is changing. It is the Palestinian Authority, which is sidelining Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the man most responsible for bringing the Authority the international credibility it needs to declare independence. This is not to say that Hamas is all-powerful; it is watching with trepidation as its second-most important ally, Bashar al-Assad, appears in danger of losing his throne, which would not be a bad thing for anyone except the Assad family.

This is absolutely correct. The Fayyad initiative places Israel in a very precarious position internationally by stealing the high ground and the momentum. Bibi’s non-policies and Fayyad’s promise could easily have convinced Europe to back unilateral statehood in the West Bank with eventual expansion to Gaza. This would have made life extremely difficult for President Obama, who would appear to be singularly responsible for lack of Palestinian statehood. 

But, in the typical Palestinian way, they have stunted their momentum and given cover for the wrong elements in Israel. I would have been tempted to encourage the Quartet to find a creative way to get the Palestinians statehood later this year assuming steady progress in the West Bank and no serious initiatives from Bibi. Now, I cannot in good faith support immediate statehood. Their right to statehood does not outweigh Israel’s right to secure borders, a right which Hamas denies them.

Like Goldberg, I fear for the hard-earned progress Fayyad has made in the West Bank. I fear that it will be enveloped by violence. By way of historical analogy, a comparison can be made to the summer of 2000. The “interim period” set out under the Oslo Accords had ended, meaning negotiations were only supposed to take place under the realm of “final status” — for the Palestinians, statehood. Thus, expectations were high leading into the infamous Camp David Summit in July. The bitter disappointment stemming from that summit fueled the second intifada ten weeks later.

I pray we are not witnessing a repeat. PM Fayyad’s two-year statehood initiative ends in September. What could instead have been a pressure-cooker strategy to make Netanyahu withdraw/delineate boundaries/do something useful instead has been ruined by Hamas. It is not inconceivable that we will see an intifada in 2011 — the diplomatic effects of which would be catastrophic for the United States.

A semi-defense of the UNSC resolution on Israeli settlements

I must admit to feeling wobbly regarding the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity as “illegal.” I ended up supporting the American veto, but only reluctantly. Here are Jeff Goldberg’s thoughts:

1) All of you who tell me, when I’m giving speeches or speaking on panels, that President Obama is an enemy of Israel, could you please stop your nonsense for a while? Thank you.

2) It would be very nice if Prime Minister Netanyahu would reciprocate this enormous show of good will and confidence, by, oh, stopping settlement growth. Here are some other things Bibi could do.

3) Why couldn’t the U.S. convince the Palestinians to withdraw this resolution in the first place? Don’t we fund the Palestinian Authority government? This resolution, while emotionally satisfying to Palestinians, achieved nothing, except annoying the two countries — Israel and the U.S. — that the Palestinians most need to bring about the creation of a state.

I agree with point 1 and point 2, but I take slight issue with point 3.

American credibility is lower than ever. There was no cost to ignoring the U.S. on the issue, because Obama has never really explained the costs of ignoring his wishes. The lack of American credibility also increases the PA’s desperation to show its people that it’s agitating for statehood. Absent American underwriting of any positive steps, the UN is there next avenue. I don’t expect Israelis to find the resolution helpful, but I understand the Palestinian impulse to feel like they have to do something.

Cracking the whip on Israel and the PA: Some concrete ideas

As I mentioned last week, the next American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians should be much more comprehensive in its consideration of possible behavior and outcomes. What I suggested was to link a set of policy ideas together — ideas which would form a script for the Obama administration depending on the actions of the players in the region.

The new script must spell out for each side what the benefit of cooperation and the price of intransigence are. Things get a little involved, so I have a diagram to illustrate what I mean. I will explain it below.

So what’s this unwieldy chart mean?

First, it begins with the formulation of the new policy. This refers to the preparation of the policy and its supporting bureaucratic structure. In other words, this needs to be a script that’s understood and followed by the president on down. It also includes, as I mentioned before, the replacement of George Mitchell as Middle East envoy.

The second step is the articulation of this blueprint to the parties. It would be unwise to simply hand over the playbook to the Israelis and Palestinians. However, the U.S. can make clear that it will not be afraid to incur costs against those who don’t cooperate.

The general message to the Israelis is that if they can’t see it within themselves to freeze settlement construction once again — despite the large package of inducements the U.S. offered — or provide the Palestinians with a concession of equal value, then they should not take for granted American public support. In practice, that might mean not working as hard to protect Israel in international fora, such as in circumstances when the U.S. is at odds with the rest of its Western allies (as opposed to when the West is united in supporting Israel).

The Palestinians should be treated similarly. Notice that a number of arrows point to “Palestinian compliance” on the chart. That’s because one of the main challenges Obama faces right now is simply getting the Palestinian Authority to the table. They feel that their ability to not enter negotiations is one of their biggest points of leverage, and as it stands right now, that’s correct. But if Netanyahu makes a good-faith effort to reach out, Mahmoud Abbas should reciprocate. If he doesn’t, the U.S. should explain that there’s not much they can do to help the Palestinian cause if the Palestinians won’t.

If both Israel and the PA refuse to get with the program, there’s really only one lurking threat the U.S. can offer that might scare them enough to make a bold move: to walk away. Not completely, of course, but enough so that the leaders carefully consider the cost of having the U.S. disengage. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians want the Quartet to take on the main tasks of bringing peace. (Palestinians might publicly cry of U.S. bias in negotiations, but they would prefer no other interlocutor. American institutional memory, expertise, money, and sincerity is not matched by any possible replacement, and the PA knows this.)

This exercise hasn’t covered every possible contingency that might arise in the months ahead, but it demonstrates the structured thinking that must go into the Obama administration’s next move. And it takes into account the past mistakes from which it is now suffering, ones which have led the parties to forget that the U.S. has leverage. I still believe that imposing a settlement is the wrong thing to do at this stage; this is the best alternative.

How to save American policy in the Levant — if it’s still possible

The Obama administration’s catastrophically poor handling of the Israeli-Palestinian issue has set off a terrible chain of events. As it stands, American influence has never been lower. The Israeli government is composed of peace process ditherers. The Palestinian Authority’s public face is maximalist, for fear of losing whatever legitimacy it has. Meanwhile, a beleaguered administration seems not to have a policy — but that can’t last. Obama is hemmed in all sides, so what can he do?

The first thing Obama needs to do is re-establish a sense of American strength. Both the Israelis and Palestinians see the president as increasingly weak and untrustworthy — in other words, ignorable. He sticks to one policy at a time, without fallback options to respond to uncooperative behavior. To be successful in pushing peace, Obama must escape that view. At the same time, he cannot limit his options too early by dictating what each party should do. Since he is ignorable, this last-ditch effort would surely fall flat, too.

To make himself relevant, but also flexible, Obama needs to create competing and linked concrete solutions. By this, I mean that the U.S. needs to formulate a list of outcomes and processes it could accept in the medium term. He should present these outcomes as being alternatives, such that the participants will know that American policy will follow one of those paths. The alternatives should illustrate how good behavior will pay off and bad behavior will have consequences. I will elaborate more on competing and linked concrete solutions in another post.

For starters, the U.S. should set a code of conduct on each parties. The tone and content of what the Israeli government and PA say is important for priming the public. When the PA publishes reports denying Jewish claims to the Temple Mount, or when Avigdor Lieberman says peace is impossible, the U.S. needs to say publicly what it thinks about those comments, rather than the standard response of something being “unhelpful.” American language needs to be phrased in terms of commitments and whether each side is meeting them. This might be the only way that the Israelis and Palestinians will ever start to talk publicly of their own commitments as being more than suggestions.

A change in attitude to this degree requires new leadership. Part of that new leadership must include a new envoy to the region. Most of the problems in American diplomacy have not been George Mitchell’s fault, but he stopped being relevant long ago. An energetic, relentless enforcer is needed to wear the public face of the administration. Dick Holbrooke would have been great for the job; It’s worth seeing if someone like Aaron David Miller would be willing to take that role, especially since “tough love” is his m.o.

As I said before, there will be more on the set of concrete ideas to come.

The Guardian’s complicity in the death of the peace process

I am indeed sickened by how “irresponsibly" the Guardian is reporting the Palestine Papers. Countless details are glossed over, elided, hidden, misrepresented, over-emphasized, etc. Take one blaring headline: “Palestinian negotiators accept Jewish state, papers reveal.” Except not.

Here’s the actual text of the piece, which is reported with breathless and context-free enthusiasm:

[B]ehind closed doors in November 2007, Erekat told Tzipi Livni, the then Israeli foreign minister and now opposition leader: “If you want to call your state the Jewish state of Israel you can call it what you want,” comparing it to Iran and Saudi Arabia’s definition of themselves as Islamic or Arab.

Insistence by Israel and the US that Palestinians recognise Israel as an explicitly Jewish state, as part of a final settlement of the conflict and as being potentially linked to a loyalty oath for Arab citizens in Israel, is the focus of growing controversy.

No, it’s really not a growing controversy. I understand the Palestinian wariness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. But for goodness sake, the UN resolution that led to Israel’s creation mandates the creation of “[i]ndependent Arab and Jewish states.” Every Israeli government since 1948 has demanded recognition accordingly. Is it a controversy? Yes. Is it “growing” or in any way novel? No.

More importantly, Erekat’s words mirror almost perfectly what the Palestinian leadership says in public already. Here’s another part of the Guardian article:

Erekat signalled acquiescence but refused to formally discuss the matter [of recognition] further. “I don’t care,” he insisted in June 2009. “This is a non-issue. I dare the Israelis to write to the UN and change their name to the ‘Great Eternal Historic State of Israel’. This is their issue, not mine.”

And here is PA President Mahmoud Abbas talking in a public speech in 2009:

What is a “Jewish state”? We call it the “State of Israel.” You can call yourselves whatever you want. … You can call yourselves whatever you want. But I will not accept it. … You can call yourselves the Zionist Republic, the Hebrew, the National, the Socialist [Republic], call it whatever you like. I don’t care.

There is no betrayal or reversal of position. Perpetrating dangerous falsehoods like these show carelessness, or at worst — as Bernard Avishai suggests — some kind of delight at the power the media has to create mischief in a tinderbox environment.

Indeed, the Guardian seems content to simply use the leaks as an excuse to rehash the Palestinian narrative as if the year is 1990 and no peace process has begun. Take the astonishing article by Ghada Karmi — labeled “news,” not opinions, and linked on the front page — which tells you all you need to know simply from its headline: “Only Palestinian refugees can give up their right of return.” It’s almost beside the point that Karmi’s “article” makes the same basic legal mistakes that one hears from advocates of a “right of return”; the real issue is why the Guardian feels it has the duty to litigate maximalist Palestinian positions while pretending to still adhere to journalistic norms.

Al Jazeera and the Guardian must derive joy from seeing crisis in the Middle East. They have branded old as new, routine as dramatic. They have given a slap in the face to all those who have dared confront the powerful histories of the Arab-Israeli conflict from their own side. If the peace process is now dead, as Guardian commentators and copycat know-nothings babble, then surely this contrived insanity deserves a special honor for unnecessarily raising tensions during a time of uncertainty.

The duplicitious “Palestine Papers” coverage

Check out these headlines:

  • ‘The Palestine Papers’: The Final Nail in the Coffin of the Peace Process? — Time
  • Palestine Papers Puncture Peace Process — Periscope Post (Ooh, alliteration!)
  • The Palestine Papers: Why the Leak is So Serious — First Post

And first-class analysis like this:

If this were the ’50s, newspapers would be flying off stands like hotcakes. The “Read All About It” would refer to the newly released “Palestine Papers” a series of revealing documents (much like the equally scandalous Wikileaks) covering years of Palestinian-Israeli meetings and negotiations.

Excuse me, but shut up. Stop it. Nothing in these papers is new. The only difference is that now we have lurid details to accompany the storyline, which provides great fodder for journalists but doesn’t change anything.

Juan Cole is apparently so worked up about these non-revelations that he has decided to go reductio ad Hitlerum:

As for the Americans, Condi Rice is said to have told the Palestinians (with regard to their mass expulsion in 1948 and their loss of statehood) that lots of peoples have had bad things happen to them. But ‘lots of peoples’ don’t have nearly 5 million stateless people currently. Stateless people have no real rights. They are not citizens. The Nazis prepared for their move against the Jews by first stripping them of German citizenship. That gave denaturalizing people a bad name.

And lastly, the Guardian has removed any shadow of its neutrality with this omission:

Much of The Guardian’s reporting today on the Palestine papers emphasises the quote from Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, claiming that he had made an unprecedented offer to Israel of ‘the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history’.

However, the immediate sentence before this, which has not been cited in any of The Guardian’s analysis, reads:

‘Israelis want the two state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians.’

The first two page spread in the paper appeared under the banner ‘Israel spurned Palestinian offer of ‘biggest Yerushalayim in history’’, and references were also made to the quote in The Guardian’s editorial and in a comment piece by Jonathan Freedland. The quote is used to bolster the editorial line that negotiations have failed due to the intransigence of Israel, which refused to accept significant concessions by the Palestinians.

The original context of the full quote, however, reveals a second point: Erekat was acknowledging that the Israelis were committed to a peaceful solution. The full quote, from the Palestinian account of a meeting between Erekat and assistant US envoy David Hale, reads:

‘Israelis want the two state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarised state…what more can I give?’

The document of the minutes, which is entitled, ‘The Palestine papers: ‘the biggest Jerusalem in history’’, even highlights the two sentences,  which appear on page 3, adding an online annotation which ignores the first part of the quote:

‘Erekat, a fluent English speaker, demonstrates his sensitivity towards the Israelis by using the Hebrew name for Jerusalem.’