Sanders’s Contribution toward Mideast Peace

While victorious Hillary Clinton is expected to pivot right to attract disenchanted Republicans, Alon Ben-Meir hopes she will at least adopt Sen. Sanders’s more evenhanded approach toward peace negotiations between Israel-Palestine.

By Alon Ben-Meir

Following the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the next administration must adopt a new and realistically balanced policy toward Israel and the Palestinians to bring an end to their conflict in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative.

Throughout the primary campaign, only Sen. Bernie Sanders had a position on this consuming conflict that was fresh, balanced and welcome, especially given the increased intractability of the conflict and its dangerous implications not only for Israel and the Palestinians, but also for the U.S.’s strategic interests in the Middle East.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

The continuation of the conflict also has direct consequences on the security of the European Union, precisely because it feeds into the region’s extremism from which the E.U. suffers greatly. In this regard, France’s initiative to resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is timely and should be pursued despite the initial lack of consensus at a recent meeting in Paris between the European, American and Arab foreign ministers on convening an international conference at the end of the year to address the conflict in earnest.

Throughout the primary campaign, Sanders articulated his position concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stating that: “I read Secretary Clinton’s speech before AIPAC, I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people. … Of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long term there will never be peace in that region, unless the United States plays … an even-handed role in trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people. … There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”

What is admirable about his stand is not that it is new, but that it is articulated by a significant presidential candidate. Although he has failed to secure the nomination of the Democratic Party, he has become a major political force and the presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, must seriously take into account his position on this critical issue.

Smearing Sanders

Many Israeli and American Jews cynically accuse Sen. Sanders of being an apologetic, self-hating Jew who is willing to bend backwards only to demonstrate that he is even-handed, when in fact he is undermining, from their perspective, Israel’s national security concerns.

On the contrary, I maintain that Sanders has taken this even-handed position precisely because he is committed to Israel’s security and well-being; he fully understands that time is against Israel, and those who really care about Israel’s future must speak out. Sanders recognizes that Israel has no future as a Jewish, democratic and secure state unless it recognizes the Palestinians’ right to a state of their own and “treat[s] the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”

Many American politicians who support the policy of successive Israeli governments are, in fact, exploiting Israel for their own benefit. They want to draw not so much the votes of the Jewish community and their financial contributions, but the tens of millions of votes of the critically important evangelical constituency, whose support of Israel, for religious reasons, is unwavering.

Due to its traditional one-sided policy, the U.S. has become the enabler of Israel’s addiction to the occupation and settlements by allowing successive Israeli governments to pursue a disastrous policy of expansionism, even though such a policy was and still is to Israel’s detriment.

As a result, the U.S.’s involuntary acquiescence has allowed Israel to defy the international community with impunity, further strengthening Israel’s resolve against making any significant concession and rendering peace ever more elusive.

Ironically, instead of protecting Israel’s national security, the U.S. has inadvertently exposed it to constant threats and violence. The fact that the Palestinians and the international community have failed to compel Israel to change direction does not suggest that the Israelis are winning. Israel is, in fact, only digging itself into an ever deeper hole from which it will be unable to climb unscathed.

This is what both Sanders and the French initiative want to avoid, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be wished away. Direct involvement of the U.S. and the E.U. continues to be essential to changing the dynamic of the conflict, provided that careful lessons are drawn from past failures.

Outside Assistance

Given the intense hostility, hatred, and total lack of trust between Israel and the Palestinians, the resumption of direct or indirect negotiations will lead to nowhere as neither side is able to deliver the major concessions that will be required to reach an agreement without full public support.

A map showing Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories.

A map showing Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories.

For these reasons, the French initiative, with the backing of the next U.S. administration, must support a process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians that precedes formal negotiations. Although the June 3 meeting in Paris left the prospect of convening an international conference to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process later this year somewhat ambiguous, the participants have nevertheless agreed on a positive joint communique.

The communique calls for “fully ending the Israeli occupation” which represents an important shift from the U.S.’s prior position, and that “a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.” It further states that the status quo is unsustainable and “actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, are dangerously imperiling the prospects for a two-state solution.”

The U.S., in conjunction with France and the E.U., should develop the mechanism that would establish a process of reconciliation to advance the prospect of peace, and to that end create a commission of reconciliation. This commission should consist of individuals who are apolitical, greatly respected in their community for their integrity, and hold no formal position in their government.

These individuals must be unbiased representatives, skilled in their profession, deeply committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians — seeking no reward or compensation — and devoted humanitarians. As such, the combined talents and creativity of the Commission will be unsurpassed, their power of persuasion will be formidable, and their unbiased perspective will make them a major force in advocating for the reconciliation process.

In addition, a fair-minded Israeli and Palestinian, who are fully committed to peace and with a deep knowledge of the internal affairs of their respective communities, would act as general counsel to the commission. The process of reconciliation undertaken by the commission should include scores of people-to-people interactions that would begin to mitigate some of the distrust between the two sides and pave the way for substantive negotiations 18 to 24 months down the line.

In this regard, Sen. Sanders should insist that the Democratic platform reflect this new approach, and if Hillary Clinton becomes the next President, she must commit herself to pursuing such a course. Simultaneously, as I mentioned a number of times before, the Arab Peace Initiative should provide an overall umbrella under which an Israeli-Palestinian peace (based on a two-state solution) is negotiated in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, which a majority of Israelis and Palestinians would fully support.

By raising the need for the U.S. to play an even-handed role to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Sanders has introduced a new critically important paradigm that the next administration must adopt, and in conjunction with the French initiative, they can create a much better prospect of ending the debilitating and explosive seven decades-old conflict.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. alon@alonben-meir.com           Web: www.alonben-meir.com

17 comments for “Sanders’s Contribution toward Mideast Peace

  1. June 13, 2016 at 09:21

    I hope and think that Bernie has unlocked an opportunity for other politicians to also raise this issue, and to aim for a new paradigm
    that will bring the best and highest for all concerned.

  2. delia ruhe
    June 10, 2016 at 18:02

    Dream on, Alon Ben-Meir. There is a slow-motion genocide going on in Palestine, and the only reason it’s slow is that a fast one would reflect poorly on Israel.

  3. Zachary Smith
    June 10, 2016 at 00:05

    In this regard, Sen. Sanders should insist that the Democratic platform reflect this new approach, and if Hillary Clinton becomes the next President, she must commit herself to pursuing such a course.

    IMO a person has to be smoking some darned good ‘stuff’ to imagine Queen Hillary “must” commit herself to anything. Especially to a path she has emphatically denounced already.

    Israel is, in fact, only digging itself into an ever deeper hole from which it will be unable to climb unscathed.

    Unless Alon Ben-Meir defines English words differently than myself, this sentence is blatant nonsense. On another thread I posted a recent Google News link, and here is another version of that story.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2016/06/08/israeli-official-wants-annex-half-west-bank-kick-out-palestinians/slN1ReSrxChB5Q1zNgwSCI/story.html

    From the Israeli point of view, directly murdering the Palestinans isn’t presently a good option. But marching the subhumans out of the “holy land” at the point of bayonets most definitely is a good option for the murderous thieves. At the very worst the ******** who inhabit the little shithole of a nation state would have to hunker down for a year or two until the ‘mainstream’ media forgot about the story.

    I’m with another poster here who spoke of Alon Ben-Meir’s role as ‘running out the clock’ with his pious handwringing while the final ethnic cleansing of Greater Israel is in preparation.

  4. exiled off mainstreet
    June 9, 2016 at 18:50

    I agree with Mr. Hunkins and the others (except for the guy who overreacts to the fact the poster has an Israeli name) on this. There is no chance that Hillary will do anything but continue to be a dangerous narcissistic war criminal on this as well as other issues. The bottom line is that survival trumps political correctness. They should rerun the daisy ad to counteract her campaign. She is obviously the far greater evil as people as intelligent as the British pro-palestinian MP George Galloway and Mr. Parry himself implicitly recognize.

    • David Smith
      June 9, 2016 at 19:38

      Alon knows I have him accurately pegged(even if you don’t), but he could not care less, he knows my opinion means diddle.

  5. Drew Hunkins
    June 9, 2016 at 18:35

    “Alon Ben-Meir hopes [Hillary Clinton] will at least adopt Sen. Sanders’s more evenhanded approach toward peace negotiations between Israel-Palestine.”

    I have a better chance of being the starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs tomorrow.

  6. David Smith
    June 9, 2016 at 16:19

    Alon Ben-Meir, you do not fool me for an instant. You have never uttered or written a single honest word on this subject. Your useless, arrogant talk is meant to run out the clock while Bibi stomps on the “cockroaches”. As a native born American, I resent your presence in my country, and had I the power, would deport you instantly.

    • Bart Gruzalski
      June 9, 2016 at 16:40

      Hey David,

      What did you think about my comment?

      Gosh, I hope you don’t brutalize me like you did the Professor!

      Any ideas how we get Clinton put on the sidelines?

      Cheers,

      Bart

    • Dennis Rice
      June 9, 2016 at 17:52

      “Any ideas how we get Clinton put on the sidelines?”

      She won’t be indicted, you can bet on that.

      The Department of Justice and the FBI do not have the balls for it.

      And if anything ‘harmful’ is said at all, it will be after the Democratic convention,
      not before.

      “…justice for all” is a joke in this country.

      Oh, the lies we teach our children in our schools !

      That’s why Hillary and Trump are the top nominees.

      She’s “too big to fail.”

    • David Smith
      June 9, 2016 at 19:02

      Bart, your comment is excellent. My only point of disagreement would be that the United States is a Plutocracy, and The Propertied Class wants Hillary for President and fracking and Putin’s head on a stake, and they intend to get it. They don’t care what I think and would thoroughly enjoy putting me in a FEMA camp or watching a cop shoot me in the street. But I am a tough as nails peasant and they got nothin’ I want, and that’s the only thing they really fear.

    • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
      June 12, 2016 at 14:22

      You overreacted entirely to Alon Ben-Meir’s comment, and the fact you talk about FEMA camps shows that you are a right-wing conspiracy theorist.

  7. Bart Gruzalski
    June 9, 2016 at 14:27

    Dear Professor Alon Ben-Meir,

    I want to say that I too believe Sanders has been the only candidate in this election cycle to “get it right” on the Israeli-Palestinian question. In the prior election cycle, 2012, Ron Paul the libertarian also got it right. If Sanders becomes the Democrat’s candidate (I have not given up on doing what I can as a writer to make sure she does not become the actual candidate—and many others are doing what they can do), then there is a chance that we will see some changes and will also witness a public debate of the issue.

    A public debate would be very useful. Many Americans don’t realize that on the first business day of the year, the US gives $3Billion to Israel as foreign aid—even though Israel is a successful nation that is not poor and not in need of foreign aid. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are in desperate straights and are poor by Israeli standards—they need aid much more than Israel, but saying that –or saying that the US SHOULD give aid to the Palestinians—is whistling in the dark.

    That is the problem with your article. In your very first paragraph you say:

    “Following the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the next administration MUST adopt a new and realistically balanced policy toward Israel and the Palestinians to bring an end to their conflict in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative.”

    You make similar “must/should” claims later in the article:
    • “The French initiative, with the backing of the next U.S. administration, MUST support a process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians….”
    • “The U.S., in conjunction with France and the E.U., SHOULD develop the mechanism that would establish a process of reconciliation….”

    Why would Hillary Clinton, if she were president, ever do any of these things? How would a President Hillary Clinton respond? Robert Parry told us in the Consortiumnews article, “Democrats Are Now the Aggressive War Party”:

    “When she [Clinton] appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 21 – at a moment when it appeared she had all but nailed down the Democratic nomination – Clinton showed what you might call her true colors, fawning over how loyal she would be to Israel and promising to take the very cozy relationship between the U.S. and Israel “to the next level” (a phrase that usually applies to couples deciding to move in together).”

    If Clinton becomes the Democratic candidate, however many ‘SHOULD’s and ‘MUST’s anyone offers, even claiming that they are in reality better for Israel, is a waste of ink. A president Hillary will do what she said, tighten our relationship with Israel while blaming the Palestinians for all the problems. She and Netanyahu won’t ever agree that the apartheid course Netanyahu’s government is on is in any way bad for the Israeli state.

    There are lots of things I think the next president should do, among them:

    • Should ban fracking
    • Should negotiate with Putin
    • Should befriend China
    • Should bring all the troops who are overseas back home.

    ‘“Should’s and ‘must’s express our goals and our hopes. If we really want to see a different policy toward Israel and the Palestinians coming out of the Democratic Party platform, we need to keep doing what we can to insure that Clinton does not become the Democratic candidate for POTUS.

    There are things we can do—we just need to start doing them.

    • Rob Roy
      June 10, 2016 at 02:42

      Bart,
      Well said. Thank you.
      RR

  8. Bill Bodden
    June 9, 2016 at 12:57

    For these reasons, the French initiative, with the backing of the next U.S. administration, must support a process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians that precedes formal negotiations.

    Unfortunately, this suggested reconciliation will probably have much in common with the “reconciliation” that occurred in the South between whites and former slaves after the Civil War. The development of a Ku Klux Klan in Israel is worth contemplating..

  9. Joe Tedesky
    June 9, 2016 at 12:20

    “Hillary Clinton, must seriously take into account his position on this critical issue.”

    Hillary will seriously consult with Netanyahu on day one, and forget what ever it was that ‘that Bernie fellow’ had to say. Already when Hillary refers to Bernie’s positions on the issues, she is using words such as ‘taking into consideration’. Bernie Sanders is, or was the only candidate between both parties who sincerely meant what he said. All the other candidates were either making things up as they went along, or as in Clinton’s case just flat out lied. I predict that within two years there will be plenty of the Hillary voters wishing they hadn’t voted for this narcissistic woman, let alone making her our country’s first woman president. With all of the educated talented women this country has to offer, why Hillary?

    • Bill Bodden
      June 9, 2016 at 13:02

      Progressives in the Sanders’ or other mold have been anathema to the oligarchs in the Democratic Party for generations as the great journalist and historian Walter Karp explained. This “unity” that Hillary and her surrogates talk about really means surrender on Bernie Sanders’ part and bringing his followers to heel.

    • rosemerry
      June 10, 2016 at 05:29

      You are correct. Already the “hugest” military donation to Israel has been agreed by the Obama maladministration, and Hillary will be applauding. To continue to arm a belligerent, nuclear-armed, illegally occupying power led by a dangerous, inflexible PM who has no intention to accept Palestine and its people in any form except as unarmed underlings to be used as experiments for weapons tests shows no understanding of humanity or fairness. The present situation, with US and European help, suits Israel but not the rest of us.

      NB Jeff Halper’s fact-filled and/but fascinating book “War Against the People” is well worth reading.

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