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.
In the final days of the Obama administration, scholars and journalists took stock of all that he had done to combat the dangerous rise of climate change. Barack Obama, they pronounced, had built up a surprisingly vast array of climate-concerned rules and guidelines across the government. He had turned the many policy-making tools of the many federal agencies toward preparing for this one imminent disaster.
Well, that was then.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump will sign an executive order that will demolish his predecessor’s attempts to slow the pace of climate change. It is an omnibus directive that strikes across the federal government, reversing major rules that aim to restrict greenhouse-gas emissions while simultaneously instructing departments to ignore or downplay the risks of climate change in their decision-making.
Years of misleading coverage left viewers so misinformed that many were shocked when confronted with the actual costs of repeal.
As the Republican Party struggled and then failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, pulling a wildly unpopular bill from the House without even taking a vote, a flurry of insightful articles helped the public understand what exactly just happened. Robert Draper explained the roles that Stephen Bannon, Paul Ryan, and others played in deciding what agenda items President Trump would pursue in what order. Politicoreported on how and why the House Freedom Caucus insisted that the health care bill repeal even relatively popular parts of Obamacare. Lest anyone pin blame for the GOP’s failure on that faction, Reihan Salam argued persuasively that responsibility rests with poor leadership by House Speaker Paul Ryan and a GOP coalition with “policy goals that simply can’t be achieved.”
Donald Trump observed that health care policy is “so complicated.” The next item on his agenda, tax policy, will be just as knotty.
“Health care is a very, very complicated issue,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said last week in an interview with Mike Allen at Axios. “[Tax reform’s] a lot simpler.”
America’s health-care industry is roughly one-sixth of the economy, or about $3 trillion. U.S. federal tax revenue is roughly one-sixth of the economy, or about $3 trillion. Health care is a complex national cross-subsidy, where, for example, the healthy support the sick. Taxes are a national cross-subsidy, where, for example, workers support retirees. With health care, Americans interact with with an amorphous institution, with a maze of entrenched interests, in which they ultimately just want access to an excellent bundle of services at an affordable price. With the federal government, Americans interact with ... okay, I think you get the point.
Democrats want the chair of the committee looking into collusion between the Trump administration and Russia to recuse himself, and hearings have ground to a halt for the moment.
Embattled House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes is now facing Democratic calls for his recusal from an investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia, as the inquiry grinds to what is at least a temporary halt.
The California Republican has been on the hot seat since announcing last week that he had vague but significant information about “incidental collection” of information about Trump transition team members by U.S. intelligence agencies. “Incidental collection” is when the communications of someone who is not the target of surveillance are picked up because they are corresponding with a target.
Jared Kushner’s new initiative promises to tap the expertise of the business community—but government isn't a business.
This week President Trump put his son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of a new White House office, the Office of American Innovation. It will reportedly be staffed by former business executives who will operate like a SWAT team to bring new ideas to government.
This is an admirable undertaking. Like any large organization the government can always use fresh ideas. But the reality is that government is like the private sector only in some pieces of its operations—consulting business executives can be very useful, but a real government-reform effort must be led by people with in-depth knowledge of the government itself. Otherwise, it will simply be another initiative that is forgotten almost as soon as it is announced.
The rise of faith-based counseling in America’s most Christian regions has brought the clash over religious liberties to the therapist’s couch.
In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, life in the town of Easley, South Carolina, was tense for Leigh Drexler. Pick-up trucks with airborne Confederate flags seemed more prevalent than ever before, and her grandparents—who had never voted in their lives—registered to cast their ballots for the Donald himself.
Drexler felt isolated. “My family has always directed their point of view at me, but it has been a million times worse than normal,” she told me last October. “Every time we’re in a conversation, it’s either about the election or religion.”
It’s a dynamic that led Drexler, who identifies as a democratic socialist and an atheist, to go online in search of a therapist—someone who would perhaps better understand her lack of faith. She scouted towns within a 20-mile radius, but only “faith-based” practitioners turned up. She resorted to distance counseling over the phone with a therapist a few states away. “I knew there would be Christian counselors here, but I didn’t think that was all I was going to find,” she said.
President Trump may feel liberated to pursue tax reform after the failure on health care. But the GOP’s to-do list in Congress only gets harder from here.
“In a way I’m glad I got it out of the way,” President Trump told the Washington Post last week in the moments after he and Republican leaders in Congress pulled the plug on their first major legislative priority, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
Health care was hard. Really hard. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” the president had said in a now-infamous quote. The health-care legislation was pulled without a vote last week after House Speaker Paul Ryan told the president there were not enough votes from Republicans to pass it.
The implication of Trump’s musings about the difficulty of passing complicated health-care legislation is that he believes the rest of his agenda will be much easier. Tax cuts? Everybody like tax cuts. The legendary border wall. More defense spending. A big, bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from the courses—and, in an uncertain environment, students keep being suckered.
Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work, they typically wear a patina of respectability. That's the case with Advanced Placement courses, one of the great frauds currently perpetrated on American high-school students.
That's a pretty strong claim, right? You bet. But why not be straightforward when discussing a scam the scale and audacity of which would raise Bernie Madoff's eyebrows?
The miscellany of AP courses offered in U.S. high schools under the imprimatur of the College Board probably started with good intentions. The idea, going back to the 1950s, was to offer college-level courses and exams to high-school students. The courses allegedly provide students the kind of rigorous academic experience they will encounter in college as well as an opportunity to earn college credit for the work.
A new book argues that the giving patterns of today’s wealthy may present challenges to the democratic process.
In 2011, Michael Bloomberg gave the Sierra Club $50 million, the biggest donation in the club’s history, to expand the organization’s Beyond Coal initiative, which sought to shut down coal-fired power plants across the country. He gave $30 million more in 2015. The Beyond Coal campaign now says it has helped shut down 251 coal-burning plants, thanks in large part to Bloomberg’s donations.
The campaign’s success is good news if you’re an environmentalist who wants to replace coal with renewable energy, but not so great if you’re a coal miner watching his livelihood slip away. In a democracy, both sides might argue the issue of whether to shut down coal-fired power plants to their legislators or express their preference at the voting booth. But Bloomberg’s $80 million in donations inarguably gave a boost to the environmentalists’ side, and led to changes on the ground.
Conservatives once warned that Obamacare would produce the Democratic Waterloo. Their inability to accept the principle of universal coverage has, instead, led to their own defeat.
Seven years and three days ago, the House of Representatives grumblingly voted to approve the Senate’s version of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats in the House were displeased by many of the changes introduced by Senate Democrats. But in the interval after Senate passage, the Republicans had gained a 41st seat in the Senate. Any further tinkering with the law could trigger a Republican filibuster. Rather than lose the whole thing, the House swallowed hard and accepted a bill that liberals regarded as a giveaway to insurance companies and other interest groups. The finished law proceeded to President Obama for signature on March 23, 2010.
A few minutes after the House vote, I wrote a short blog post for the website I edited in those days. The site had been founded early in 2009 to argue for a more modern and more moderate form of Republicanism. The timing could not have been worse. At precisely the moment we were urging the GOP to march in one direction, the great mass of conservatives and Republicans had turned on the double in the other, toward an ever more wild and even paranoid extremism. Those were the days of Glenn Beck’s 5 o’clock Fox News conspiracy rants, of Sarah Palin’s “death panels,” of Orly Taitz and her fellow Birthers, of Tea Party rallies at which men openly brandished assault rifles.