"Grab More Hills, Expand The Territory"

Accustomed as I have become to Henry Siegman's trenchant critiques of Israeli policy, his latest article in the London Review of Books--"Grab More Hills, Expand The Territory"--astonished me.  In this review of two recent historical studies of israel's settlements--by Gershom Gorenberg and by Idith Harel and Akiva Eldar-- Siegman writes:  "No Israeli government has ever supported the establishment of a Palestinian state east of the 1949 armistice line that constituted the pre-1967 border.  At the very least, the settlements were designed to make a return to that border impossible." (For Beyond the Pale's interview with Akiva Eldar, see our November 25,2007 show.)

He says this reproachfully, of course, though I remember a time some 20 years ago when advocating a "two-state solution" was considered too radical for the mainstream Jewish community--even by Siegman himself.  During the first intifada in the late 1980s, we appeared togeather on a Jewish cable TV show (whose name escapes me now):  I was the lefty and Siegman, at the time the head of the American Jewish Congress, was the defender (with some policy reservations) of the Jewish state.

In the years since, Siegman's moral honesty has made his criticism sharper as he has watched Israel make matters worse.  He left the AJC in 1994, joined the Council on Foreign Relations as a senior fellow and is now the director of their US/Middle East Project.  In articles in The New York Review of Books, and more recently in The London Review of Books he has offered sober, incisive analyses of the Israeli government, the "peace process" and the role of the United States.

In the stunning current piece, he concludes:

"The claim that it is only Palestinian violence and rejectionism that compelled Israel to remain in the territories is a fabrication.  As I argued in the LRF (16 August 2007), the assiduously promoted story of Israel's pursuit of peace and its search for a Palestinian 'partner for peace' was fashioned to buy time to establish 'facts on the ground': settlements that would so completely shatter the territorial and demographic contiguity and integrity of palestinian land and life as to make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.  In this, Israel's leaders have succeeded so well that Olmert, who claims finally to have realized that withouth a two-state solution Israel will become an apartheid entity that cannot survive, has not been able to implement even the smallest of the changes he promised in Annapolis.  The expansion of the settlements and of a Jews-only highway system in the West Bank continues without interruption.  The price that Israel and Jews everywhere--not to speak of the Palestinian people--may yet have to pay for this 'success' is painful to contemplate."