Allowing Israeli settlers to remain in the West Bank may ease the burden of drawing a border, but it is not in the interests of Palestinians or Israelis
Israeli children in the settlement of Itamar in the West Bank. / Reuters
The Atlantic's new special report "Is Peace Possible?" is featuring multimedia presentations on the four core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Borders, Security, Refugees, and Jerusalem. These are complex issues, so post your questions in the comments section of each chapter, send them via email (to Questions@IsPeacePossible.com), or tweet them to us at @IsPeacePossible.
Much of your Borders presentation focuses on how to draw the final borders of Israel in order to evacuate as few Israelis as possible from the West Bank. Why can't Israelis stay in the West Bank as citizens or residents in the new Palestinian state? Are Palestinians insisting on a Judenrein?
Allowing settlers and settlements to remain in the future state of Palestine, and therefore obviating the need to evacuate them forcefully, would remove one of the biggest obstacles to reaching and implementing an agreement. There are a few different versions of this concept, but most of them involve the idea of leaving those Israeli settlers who wish to remain (and there are many who would not want to) in existing settlements, most likely under Palestinian sovereignty but with some limited autonomous rights.
Obviously, the novel part of this proposal is to make it part of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, as Israelis live in settlements right now, but absent the legitimacy of any significant international actor. The only party that could grant Israeli settlers and settlements the legitimacy they need is the Palestinians. So the key question to ask here is whether the Palestinians would accept such a notion.
Why are Palestinians so opposed to this idea? To Palestinians, the settlement enterprise in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and formerly in the Gaza Strip is the most potent symbol of Israeli occupation. In their eyes -- and in the eyes of the vast majority of the international community -- they embody Israel's aggressive strategy to chip away at what is left of the 22 percent of their historical homeland that they claim for a state. Politically, the continuation of settlement growth and expansion has signaled to them Israeli insincerity about a viable two state solution. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Palestinians insist that as part of a final resolution of the conflict, all settlements and settlers will be removed from within the borders of the new state of Palestine. For them, it would be the minimal correction to an historic injustice.
Palestinians claim that once they are satisfied that this injustice has been rectified, they would be ready to consider allowing Israeli Jews to become residents or citizens of Palestine in accordance with Palestinian immigration laws and relevant clauses of the peace treaty. "Once we have peace and two states on the ground, we will have to work on the best of the special relationships between Palestinians and Israelis," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Jerusalem Post. "I hope the day will come when Israelis can live freely in the state of Palestine."
It is difficult to gauge the level of sincerity with which Palestinians endorse such an option. On the one hand, it is the radical elements of the settler population -- historically and currently the source of violent aggression against West Bankers -- that are most likely to want to live in the new state of Palestine. On the other hand, it would be difficult for Palestinians to enact policies that discriminate on ethnic or religious grounds. "The kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, co-existence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever," Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in 2009. "Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the State of Israel." (In turn, it would also be difficult for Israel to demand Palestinian immigration policies that allow Israelis to become residents or citizens if Israel would not allow the same right to Palestinians.)
Even though the idea of Israelis remaining in a future Palestinian state has recently gained traction in right-wing Israeli and international circles, many Israeli officials object to it. Their first concern is the Israeli interest of clarifying that the two-state solution is a two nation-state solution: Israel fulfills the national aspirations of the Jewish people and Palestine fulfills the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. Accordingly, mixture of populations should be kept to the absolute minimum necessary. For years, Israeli officials criticized the Palestinian Liberation Movement for being the only nationalist movement that wanted, in their demand for a return of Palestinian refugees to homes and properties left in 1948 within Israel proper, to settle parts of its people outside their independent state. Now, some Israelis seem to be arguing for a similar trend.
Secondly, allowing settlers and settlements to stay intact in Palestine would undermine the basic Israeli rationale for amending the 1967 lines. If all settlers could stay where they are -- why change the 1967 lines to annex some of them at all?
Thirdly, and not least important, is the issue of security. Should violent incidents occur between Israelis living in the new state of Palestine and Palestinian citizens or security forces, the Israeli government would be in a very tough spot -- pressed to act in what essentially is a domestic Palestinian matter of law and order. Any incursion could threaten the peace agreement by infringing on Palestinian sovereignty; if it didn't act, the Israeli government would allow its citizens to come under threat a few kilometers from its borders, within the historical land of Israel. "How can I provide Israelis living in Palestine with security?" asked former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni during the Annapolis negotiations. "I cannot bear the responsibility of their life in case they are exposed to danger and then the army will have to interfere."
There are many technical challenges to the implementation of such a proposal. Will the settlers be granted Palestinian citizenship or will they be only residents of Palestine? Will dual Israeli-Palestinian citizenship be allowed by Palestine? by Israel? What will be their civil obligations to Palestine and to Israel? Will they be able to vote in either or both places? But the key impediment to its adoption is that, despite its allure in relieving the need to evacuate Israeli settlers, it is in the interests of neither Palestinians nor Israelis.
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
This wasn’t terribly surprising. When Streep was asked, last year, in the course of promoting her extremely feminist film Suffragette, whether she is herself a feminist, the actor replied that, no, she isn’t. Instead: “I am a humanist,” she said. “I am for nice, easy balance.”
Women in their 20s are told they're too young to settle down. Then, seemingly overnight, they start hearing they're spinsters. What gives?
Women in their 20s are told they're too young to settle down. Then, seemingly overnight, they start hearing they're spinsters. What gives?
Heterosexual women today, in certain milieus, find themselves placed into one of two categories: too young to settle down, and too old to find a man. There is a window of opportunity to get married, but it is ephemeral almost to the point of non-existence. It falls at a different age according to region, or the idiosyncratic biases of one's circle, but hovers around 27. "Too young" refers not to teen marriage, but to any commitment entered into by a grown woman deemed still a child by those around her.
Here's how it works: A young woman hears from friends and family that she needs to focus on her career or education, not some guy. She is warned of certain dangers: unsolicited male attention; unintended pregnancy, as if intended pregnancy were also a thing; and the desire hardwired into all straight men to turn their girlfriends into 1950s housewives. To entertain the possibility of it being difficult to find a husband, to even utter the expression "find a husband," is to regress to another era. And this advice is incredibly appealing, a rejection of the quaint notion that female heterosexuality is the desire not for men, but for a white picket fence.
And why stopping it requires that governments get out of the way
As it stands, the international coalition is far from winning the information war against the Islamic State. Its air strikes may be squeezing the group in Iraq and Syria and killing many of its leaders, but that has not halted the self-proclaimed caliphate’s ideological momentum. Indeed, at the end of 2015, it was estimated that the number of foreigners travelling to join militant groups in Iraq and Syria—predominantly the Islamic State—had more than doubled in the course of just 18 months. What’s more, while these figures may be striking, sheer numbers are less important than intent when it comes to the organization’s actual threat to the world. As we have already seen, it takes a very small number of people to unleash great terror, whether in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere.
Today’s empires are born on the web, and exert tremendous power in the material world.
Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t had the best week.
First, Facebook’s Free Basics platform was effectively banned in India. Then, a high-profile member of Facebook’s board of directors, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sounded off about the decision to his nearly half-a-million Twitter followers with a stunning comment.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades,” Andreessen wrote. “Why stop now?”
After that, the Internet went nuts.
Andreessen deleted his tweet, apologized, and underscored that he is “100 percent opposed to colonialism” and “100 percent in favor of independence and freedom.” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, followed up with his own Facebook post to say Andreessen’s comment was “deeply upsetting” to him, and not representative of the way he thinks “at all.”
How those three little words sound around the world
I love saying “I love you.” I’ll say “love ya” to my parents when I’m about to get off the phone with them, and “love you!!” to my wife as she’s heading out the door for work (“love you???” on Gchat means I’ve gotten myself into trouble with her and I’m searching for a way out). I tell my son I love him, and he doesn’t even get it—he’s an infant. I’ve been known to proclaim that I love sushi and football and Benjamin Franklin (I mean, how could you not love Ben?).
Many people in this world would find my behavior rather strange. That’s because Americans are exceptionally promiscuous when it comes to professing their love. In the United States, “I love you” is at once exalted and devalued. It can mean everything ... or nothing at all. This is not universally the case.
The drug modafinil was recently found to enhance cognition in healthy people. Should you take it to get a raise?
If you could take a pill that will make you better at your job, with few or no negative consequences, would you do it?
In a meta-analysis recently published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers from the University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School concluded that a drug called modafinil, which is typically used to treat sleep disorders, is a cognitive enhancer. Essentially, it can help normal people think better.
Out of all cognitive processes, modafinil was found to improve decision-making and planning the most in the 24 studies the authors reviewed. Some of the studies also showed gains in flexible thinking, combining information, or coping with novelty. The drug didn’t seem to influence creativity either way.
Einstein’s gravitational waves rest on a genuinely radical idea.
After decades of anticipation, we have directly detected gravitational waves—ripples in spacetime traveling at the speed of light through the universe. Scientists at LIGO (the Laser Interferometic Gravitational-wave Observatory) have announced that they have measured waves coming from the inspiral of two massive black holes, providing a spectacular confirmation of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, whose hundredth anniversary was celebrated just last year.
Finding gravitational waves indicates that Einstein was (once again) right, and opens a new window onto energetic events occurring around the universe. But there’s a deeper lesson, as well: a reminder of the central importance of locality, an idea that underlies much of modern physics.
Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.
— Deuteronomy 15: 12–15
Besides the crime which consists in violating the law, and varying from the right rule of reason, whereby a man so far becomes degenerate, and declares himself to quit the principles of human nature, and to be a noxious creature, there is commonly injury done to some person or other, and some other man receives damage by his transgression: in which case he who hath received any damage, has, besides the right of punishment common to him with other men, a particular right to seek reparation.
Across China, where new developments are keeping pace with the rapidly growing economy, reports continue to surface so-called "nail houses."
Across China, where new developments are keeping pace with the rapidly growing economy, reports continue to surface of so-called "nail houses." These properties, standing alone amid the ruins of other buildings, belong to owners who have stood their ground and resisted demolition. Defiant property owners say the compensation being offered is too low. Some of them have remained in their homes for years as their court cases drag on and new construction continues all around them. A few homeowners have won their fights, but most have lost. Meanwhile, these nail houses have become powerful symbols of resistance against the world's fastest-growing major economy.