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.
On Tuesday, the late-night host once again devoted his show to the politics of American health care. This time, though, he offered indignation rather than tears.
“By the way, before you post a nasty Facebook message saying I’m politicizing my son’s health problems, I want you to know: I am politicizing my son’s health problems.”
That was Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday evening, in a monologue reacting to the introduction of Graham-Cassidy, the (latest) bill that seeks to replace the Affordable Care Act. Kimmel had talked about health care on his show before, in May—when, after his newborn son had undergone open-heart surgery to repair the damage of a congenital heart defect, he delivered a tearfully personal monologue sharing the experience of going through that—and acknowledging that he and his family were lucky: They could afford the surgery, whatever it might cost. Kimmel concluded his speech by, yes, politicizing his son’s health problems: He emphasized how important it is for lower- and middle-class families to have comprehensive insurance coverage, with protections for people with preexisting conditions. “No parent,” he said, speaking through tears, “should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It shouldn’t happen.”
Even Iran, with its abysmal human-rights record, feels comfortable criticizing the U.S.
In his sovereignty-centric speech Tuesday to the UN General Assembly, President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea”; called Iran “a corrupt dictatorship” whose “chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos”; and said Venezuela’s government “has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country.”
The remarks have prompted the expected reactions from Iran, whose foreign minister called it an “ignorant hate speech [that] belongs in medieval times,” and Venezuela’s foreign minister, who countered: “Trump is not the president of the world ... he cannot even manage his own government.” North Korea, whose nuclear-weapons and missile programs have raised tensions with its neighbors and the U.S., is yet to respond.
The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy.
It is insufficient to statethe obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.
Its faith-based 12-step program dominates treatment in the United States. But researchers have debunked central tenets of AA doctrine and found dozens of other treatments more effective.
J.G. is a lawyer in his early 30s. He’s a fast talker and has the lean, sinewy build of a distance runner. His choice of profession seems preordained, as he speaks in fully formed paragraphs, his thoughts organized by topic sentences. He’s also a worrier—a big one—who for years used alcohol to soothe his anxiety.
J.G. started drinking at 15, when he and a friend experimented in his parents’ liquor cabinet. He favored gin and whiskey but drank whatever he thought his parents would miss the least. He discovered beer, too, and loved the earthy, bitter taste on his tongue when he took his first cold sip.
His drinking increased through college and into law school. He could, and occasionally did, pull back, going cold turkey for weeks at a time. But nothing quieted his anxious mind like booze, and when he didn’t drink, he didn’t sleep. After four or six weeks dry, he’d be back at the liquor store.
The meaning of Trump’s fire and fury foreign policy.
Above all else, President Donald Trump wants the world to see him as strong. He has repeatedly described himself as “militaristic,” and his cabinet as a group of “killers.” He relishes saying the supposedly unsayable. When he spoke at the UN General Assembly yesterday, he surely wanted his listeners to be awed by his toughness. Better, as Machiavelli said, to be feared than loved.
Trump’s team loaded his speech with harsh words and phrases. He promised to destroy North Korea if attacked. He called the Iran nuclear deal an embarrassment. He rejected globalism and spoke at length about the benefits of sovereignty, nationalism, and patriotism.
But when one moves beyond the image Trump tries to project and looks at the consequences of his words, things look quite different. His UN speech was one of the least effective, weakest, and indecisive ever given by an American president. It’s not that it failed against some arbitrary standard set by the foreign-policy establishment he despises. It failed on its own terms. And how it failed tells us something important about where his foreign policy is headed.
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
Jeffrey Gerrish’s decision to cast a ballot in Virginia isn’t so much a gotcha on him as it is on the president’s voter-fraud commission.
Jeffrey Gerrish made a mistake. Not a big one, although he did break the law. But it’s a mistake many people make, and for the most part, they aren’t called out by the Senate Finance Committee and in the pages of The New York Times.
Most of the people who make the error, however, are not nominees of a president who has alleged that there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election, or who empaneled a commission to consider voter fraud that is on a dubious hunt to try to validate that wild, unsubstantiated claim. Jeffrey Gerrish, however, is President Trump’s nominee to be deputy U.S. trade representative, so it happens that investigators realized he cast his vote in the 2016 election in Virginia, even though he had moved to Maryland—a far less competitive state in national elections.
“If the world’s major powers can’t agree on what the UN is for, what does that mean for its future?”
Since the Second World War, American presidents have repeatedly gone before the United Nations General Assembly and made a similar argument: The United States has national interests just like any other country, but in the modern era those interests are increasingly international in scope and shared by people around the world, requiring more of the multilateral cooperation that the UN was founded to foster.
John F. Kennedy argued that nuclear weapons necessitated “one world and one human race, with one common destiny” guarded by one “world security system,” since “absolute sovereignty no longer assures us of absolute security.” Richard Nixon spoke of a “world interest” in reducing economic inequality, protecting the environment, and upholding international law, declaring that the “profoundest national interest of our time” is the “preservation of peace” through international structures like the UN. In rejecting tribalism and the walling-off of nations, Barack Obama asserted that “giving up some freedom of action—not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term—enhances our security.” These presidents practiced what they preached to varying degrees, and there’s long been a debate in the United States about the extent to which America’s sovereign powers should be ceded to international organizations, but in broad strokes the case for global engagement was consistent.
As Trump considers military options, he’s drawing unenforceable red lines.
Speaking before the UN General Assembly today, President Donald Trump announced that, unless North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, “the United States will have no choice but to totally destroy” the country. He sounded almost excited as he threatened, “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
North Korea is a serious problem, and not one of Trump’s making—the last four American presidents failed to impede North Korea’s progress towards a nuclear weapon. President George H.W. Bush took unilateral action, removing U.S. nuclear weapons and reducing America’s troop levels in the region, hoping to incentivize good behavior; Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush tried to negotiate restrictions; President Barack Obama mostly averted his eyes. North Korea defied them all.
Donald Trump used his first address at the United Nations to redefine the idea of sovereignty.
Donald Trump’s first speech to the United Nations can best be understood as a response to his predecessor’s final one. On September 20, 2016, Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly that “at this moment we all face a choice. We can choose to press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration. Or we can retreat into a world sharply divided, and ultimately in conflict, along age-old lines of nation and tribe and race and religion.”
Three hundred and sixty-four days later, Trump delivered America’s answer: Option number two. His speech on Tuesday turned Obama’s on its head. Obama focused on overcoming the various challenges—poverty, economic dislocation, bigotry, extremism—that impede global “integration,” a term he used nine times. Trump didn’t use the term once. Obama used the word “international” 14 times, always positively (“international norms,” “international cooperation,” “international rules,” “international community”). Trump used it three times, in each case negatively (“unaccountable international tribunals,” “international criminal networks,” “the assassination of the dictator's brother using banned nerve agents in an international airport”) Obama warned of a world “sharply divided… along age-old lines of nation and tribe and race and religion.” Trump replied by praising “sovereignty” or invoking “sovereign” no fewer than 19 times. And while he didn’t explicitly defend divisions of “tribe and race and religion,” he talked about the importance of nations “preserving the cultures,” which is a more polite way of saying the same thing.