In the News    
In the News: June-July 2010
Presbyterians: End U.S.-Israel Aid Over  
Settlements In Palestinian Land

by PATRICK CONDON  (Associated Press Writer)
July 7, 2010

Read excellent commentaries that analyze these significant steps forward by a major US church, in Commentary & Analysis   read them>>

Photo: Delegates wait to speak at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, Friday, July 9, 2010 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS — Presbyterian leaders strongly backed a proposal Friday that included a call to end U.S. aid to Israel unless the country stops settlement expansions in disputed Palestinian territories.

But they said the 172-page report, which details their church's approach to issues in the Middle East, was a sincere effort to mend long-standing fractures between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Jewish groups.

It earned qualified praise but also criticism from pro-Israel organizations, which have long taken issue with various Presbyterian statements on Middle East peace.

Church delegates approved the report by an 82 percent vote during the church's general assembly in Minneapolis. It's meant as a comprehensive guide to the denomination's more than 2 million members on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We feel we've brought together people who previously had trouble talking about some of these issues together," said Rev. Karen Dimon, pastor at Northminster Presbyterian Church in North Syracuse, N.Y., and chairwoman of the committee that produced the report.

Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said he still took issue with major aspects of the report, but said it contained "important signals" that could lessen long-standing tension between Presbyterians and pro-Israel Jews. He said it strengthens support for Israel's right to exist and removes comparisons of Israeli policy to apartheid.

"Concerns remain, but I have hope that authentic dialogue and better relations can come of this," Felson said.

The Anti-Defamation League said the report managed to "avoid a rupture with Jewish people, but bias against Israel continues." The Simon Wiesenthal Center said the report "takes definite sides in a complex struggle."

But the Rev. J.C. Austin, director of the Center for Christian Leadership at New York City's Auburn Seminary, disagreed.

"We are refusing to designate a winner or loser," said Austin, who helped prepare the report.

Photo: A general view of the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit in the occupied West Bank, on March 8, 2010. Beitar Illit is in the foreground of the photo. (GETTY)

The denomination's relationship with Jewish groups took a hit in 2004, when the church's general assembly voted to authorize "phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel" because of Israel's policies toward Palestinians. That stance has since been softened, and this year convention delegates voted down an amendment to the Middle East report that would have put divestment back on the table.

Despite the strong convention vote, some delegates expressed concern that the Middle East report remained too slanted toward a Palestinian perspective.

"There are many longtime friends in the Jewish community who believe this report misstates Jewish theology and misquotes the Jewish voice," said the Rev. Susan Zencka, pastor at Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church in Stevens Point, Wis. "We have come to a position of Palestine good, Israel bad. Life is not that simple."

But supporters stressed that the overarching goal of the report is to encourage activism toward peace in the Middle East.

"I fully support a state of Israel, but I also believe Israel's peace will not come until they seek peace with Palestinians," said Dottie Villesvik, a church elder from Everett, Wash.

The church's annual convention is scheduled through Saturday. It began July 3.

The Independent    
June 30, 2010

Methodists launch boycott over West Bank
By Jerome Taylor, Religious Affairs Correspondent
[This article refers to the Methodist Church in Great Britain.]


The Methodist Church today voted to boycott all products from Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories becoming the first major Christian denomination in Britain to officially adopt such a policy.

The decision was made at the church’s Conference in Portsmouth, an annual gathering which decides Methodist policy. The official stance of the church, the fourth largest Christian denomination in Britain, will be to boycott any products made on Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Lay Methodists will also be encouraged to follow the church’s lead.

The move will inevitably put Methodists on a collision course with Britain’s Jewish community. The Board of Deputies of British Jews had already expressed concern over a 50-page report which had been compiled by a Methodist committee and sent to all its churches before the conference explaining why a boycott was justified.

In December, Defra introduced new advice on labelling, recommending that packaging of products imported from the West Bank should distinguish between Palestinian areas and Israeli settlements.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, said, “This decision has not been taken lightly, but after months of research, careful consideration and finally, today’s debate at the Conference. The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region.

Ben White, campaign coordinator for 'A Just Peace for Palestine', said: “This is a clear show of support from Jews and Christians who understand that a real peace for both peoples requires justice. It stands in stark contrast to the disingenuous threat that listening to the call of Christian Palestinians and upholding international law and human rights will damage ‘inter-faith relations’ – on the contrary, inter-faith dialogue is not facilitated by ignoring serious questions about injustice.”


>>Read excerpts from the Methodist Conference Report

To download the full report from the Methodist Conference, click here (896K)

The same story from the perspective of a major Israeli newspaper
Jerusalem Post
July 1, 2010

UK Church to boycott Israeli goods
By Jonny Paul

Methodist Church rejects products from the West Bank.
LONDON – The Methodist Church of Britain voted on Wednesday to boycott Israeli-produced goods and services from the West Bank because of Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.”

“A majority of governments recognize the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as illegitimate under international law,” the church body said at its annual conference in Portsmouth.

The church body will now encourage Methodists across the UK to follow suit.

The motion stated that the boycott of goods “from illegal Israeli settlements” was in response to a call by the World Council of Churches – which advocates divestment from Israel – and by Palestinian civil society and “a growing number of Jewish organizations in Israel and worldwide.”

“The Methodist Conference notes the call of the World Council of Churches in 2009 for an international boycott of settlement produce and services and the support given for such a boycott by Christian leaders in Palestine in the Kairos document,Palestinian civil society and a growing number of Jewish organizations both inside Israel and worldwide and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements,” the church said.

Last year, the Methodist Church set up a working group to “work for an end to the Occupation, an end to the blockade of Gaza, adherence to international law by all sides and a just peace for all in the region.”

The resulting 54-page report produced by the church body, titled “Justice for Palestine and Israel,” met with a fierce condemnation by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Council of Christians and Jews and British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

In a statement released after Wednesday’s vote, the church body said the decision, which carried unanimously, had the goal of ending “the existing injustice.”

“This decision has not been taken lightly, but after months of research, careful consideration and finally, today’s debate at the conference,” said Christine Elliott, secretary for external relationships. “The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region.”

Jewish community leadership organizations reacted with dismay. In a joint statement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council said it was, “This is a very sad day, both for Jewish-Methodist relations and for everyone who wants to see positive engagement with the complex issues of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Methodist Conference has swallowed hook, line and sinker a report full of basic historical inaccuracies, deliberate misrepresentations and distortions of Jewish theology and Israeli policy.

“The deeply flawed report is symptomatic of a biased process: The working group which wrote the report had already formed its conclusions at the outset. External readers were brought in to give the process a veneer of impartiality, but their criticisms were rejected. The report’s authors have abused the trust of ordinary members of theMethodist Church , who assumed that they were reading and voting on an impartial and comprehensive paper, and they have abused the goodwill of the Jewish community, which tried to engage with this issue, only to find that our efforts were treated as an unwelcome distraction,” the statement said.

David Gifford, the chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews, said he was disappointed that the Israeli narrative was not heard during the debate.

“I was very disappointed at the emotive nature of the debate which again did not hear fairly also the pain and cry of the Israeli,” Gifford said. “It was right to hear the pain of thePalestinian but in the end the vote of the Methodist Conference was to boycott goods and services that originate from the West Bank. We shall have to see how this will affect future relationships of the Methodist Church with other churches, the CCJ [Council of Christians and Jews] and with the British Jewish community.”

The Board of Deputies said the conference should “hang its head in shame.”

“This outcome is extremely serious and damaging, as we and others have explained repeatedly over recent weeks. Israel is at the root of the identity of Jews and of Judaism, and as an expression of Jewish spiritual, national and emotional aspirations. Zionism cannot simply be ruled as illegitimate in the way that the conference has purported to do. This smacks of breathtaking insensitivity, as crass as it is misinformed. That this position should now form the basis of Methodist Church policy should cause the conference to hang its head in shame, just as surely as it will cause the enemies of peace and reconciliation to cheer from the sidelines.”

Anti-Zionist and anti-Israel activists who support a blanket boycott of Israel were the main sources of the document. They included Israeli-born academics Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim; Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions; Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer; and Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk.


International Solidarity Movement   
June 23, 2010

Justice for Adeeb Abu Rahma: Peaceful protest is
not a crime
(more news on Adeeb in second article)

The conflict between the Israeli military and security and the popular non-violent Palestinian resistance is reaching a crisis – in large part a tribute to the worldwide credibility and admiration the resistance is steadily winning. [emphasis added]

Today in Palestine, such resistance is breaking out in larger towns, small villages, Bedouin encampments, in both Christian and Muslim areas. People are marching, chanting and singing, carrying signs, and often using very funny or touching street theatre. Palestinians are calling for their rights, joined and assisted by international and Israeli volunteers in a new model of friendship and brotherhood that offers hope for the future.

This movement has terrified the Israeli establishment, especially as the usual techniques have failed to stop its momentum. Arrests, serious and crippling injuries, deaths, and destruction of property (the ability to earn a living), have all made huge and painful inroads into people’s lives and hopes. Despite this, resistance continues.

Widespread sentiment is that this is the last chance, that no one can stop now if they ever wish to gain their freedom and the justice that has been denied them.

A perfect symbol of this conflict is Adeeb Abu Rahma from Bil’in: one of the most charismatic, courageous, creative and, at times, hilariously funny activists.

Adeeb has been convicted for crimes of “incitement” – that is, urging the villagers to come out on Fridays to join the weekly protest – and for belonging to the Bil’in Popular Committee. These manufactured “crimes” apply to all the leaders and most of the participants of all the nonviolent movements in all the towns and villages of Palestine. If they are determined by the Israeli military to be illegal in Palestine, and a heavy sentence applied, then the entire resistance movement is threatened. Which is, of course, the point.

Adeeb is due to be sentenced in a few days. International law specifically recognizes the right of occupied people to resist occupation – that these people have chosen to do this in a nonviolent way shows great wisdom and restraint. This choice should be welcomed rather than criminalized by Israel if they have any intention of living here in peace with their neighbors.

International Solidarity Movement
July 4, 2010

Israeli courts criminalize protest: Adeeb Abu Rahma sentenced to two years

Israeli repression of Palestinian non-violent resistance against the Wall and the Occupation takes a disturbing turn: Adeeb Abu Rahma, from Bil’in Village, sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

On 30 June 2010, grassroots activist Adeeb Abu Rahma, member of the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements, was sentenced by Israeli military court to two years’ imprisonment, after being arrested on 10 July 2009 during a weekly demonstration in Bil’in, and after spending 11 months of detention in the Ofer military complex in the Occupied Territories.

Adeeb Abu Rahma is a taxi-driver and he has 11 children, he’s well known for his generosity and constant presence at village of Bil’in’s weekly demonstrations against Israel’s wall and for his commitment to popular nonviolent resistance, and the sentence is part of Israeli strategy to repress and criminalize popular nonviolent struggle against the Occupation and the Wall.

The sentence that condemned Adeeb states that he is guilty of “encourag[ing] violence”, “activity against public order” and of being “present in a closed military area”, as Bil’in has been declared every Friday from 8am to 8pm, in order to prevent the weekly demonstration. Adeeb lives in the village, and always has; so he has been convicted of being present in his own home.

Adeeb’s case relied on the forced confessions of four Bil’in youth – 14, 15 and 16 years old – arrested during a night raid by Israeli soldiers and forced to state that Adeeb told them to throw stones at the soldiers.

Adeeb Abu Rahma’s arrest is just the latest in a series of repressive measures implemented by Israel in order to stop the popular nonviolent resistance of Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals. Palestinian protestors are targeted by mass arrests, night raids and criminalization of the members of the Popular Committee members who lead the protests.

For the past five years the people from Bil’in have waged an ongoing struggle against the Israeli wall and the Occupation. Other villages such as Nil’in, Al-Ma’asara, Budrus, Jayyus, An-Nabi Saleh, Iraq Burin and Al-Wallaja have joined this struggle.

According to data provided by Addameer and Stop the Wall, more than 1,566 Palestinians have been injuried and 16 have been killed between 2005 and 2009 during nonviolent demonstration in the Occupied Territories. Since 2002, in the villages of Bilin, Nilin, Al-Ma’asara, and Budrus, 176 Palestinian citizens have been arrested.

Today more than ever, it is necessary to campaign for the release of more than 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners, among which more than 300 are minors.


Wall Street Journal    
July 2, 1010
Israel's Foes Embrace New Resistance Tactics

Hamas and Hezbollah Find Inspiration In Flotilla,
Support Protest Movements

by Charles Levinson

 JERUSALEM—Hamas and Hezbollah, groups that have long battled Israel with violent tactics, have begun to embrace civil disobedience, protest marches, lawsuits and boycotts—tactics they once dismissed.
 For decades, Palestinian statehood aspirations seemed to lurch between negotiations and armed resistance against Israel. But a small cadre of Palestinian activists has long argued that nonviolence, in the tradition of the American civil rights movement, would be far more effective.

 Officials from Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, point to the recent Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in which Israeli troops killed nine activists, as evidence there is more to gain by getting Israel to draw international condemnation through its own use of force, rather than by attacking the country.

 "When we use violence, we help Israel win international support," said Aziz Dweik, a leading Hamas lawmaker in the West Bank. "The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets."

 Agence France-Press/Getty Images
Israeli troops approach a model of a ship representing the Gaza aid flotilla during a demonstration by activists in the West Bank in early June.

 Hamas and Hezbollah, the Islamist movement in Lebanon that has been fighting Israel since the early 1980s, haven't renounced violence and both groups continue to amass arms. Hamas still abides by a charter that calls for Israel's destruction; Palestinian youths still hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers across the West Bank separation barrier. And the flotilla incident didn't fall into conventional standards of peaceful protest: While most activists passively resisted Israeli soldiers, some on the boat where protesters were killed attacked commandos as they boarded, according to video footage released by Israel and soldiers' accounts.

 The incident triggered international condemnation and plunged Israel into one of its worst diplomatic crises in years. In response, Israel said it would take some steps to ease its blockade on the Gaza Strip.

 After the incident, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on supporters to participate in the next flotilla bound for Gaza. Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of the Hezbollah politburo in Beirut, said it was the first time Mr. Nasrallah had forcefully and publicly embraced such tactics against Israel.

 "We saw that this kind of resistance has driven the Israelis into a big plight," he said. Organizers in Lebanon say they have two ships ready to sail, but no departure date has been set.

 A senior Israeli foreign ministry official said Israel recognizes "changes in the tactical thinking of Hamas and other resistance movements." The official said the groups are no less committed to Israel's destruction, but have simply concluded they are more likely to defeat Israel by encouraging its international isolation instead of through military force.

 "People who are provoking violence are using peaceful protest as a cover," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.

 The Palestinian protest movement picked up steam in the past year, spearheaded by activists in the West Bank and a coalition of pro-Palestinian international human-rights groups.

 The absence of peace talks for much of the past two years has pushed the Palestinian Authority leadership to embrace the movement as well. Dominated by members of Hamas's more moderate rival Fatah, they long advocated a negotiated settlement with Israel and dismissed popular protest campaigns.

 But in January, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad launched a campaign to boycott products produced in Israeli settlements and to plant trees in areas declared off limits by Israel. In April, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outlawed settlement products in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas.

 Hamas's turnaround has been more striking, said Mustapha Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian advocate for nonviolent resistance. "When we used to call for protests, and marches, and boycotts and anything called nonviolence, Hamas used these sexist insults against us. They described it as women's struggle," Mr. Barghouti said. That changed in 2008, he said, after the first aid ship successfully ran the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

 "Hamas has started to appreciate just how effective this can be," Mr. Barghouti said.

 Hamas has started organizing its own peaceful marches into the Israeli-controlled buffer zone along the Gaza border and supported lawsuits against Israeli officials in European courts. Hamas says it has ramped up support for a committee dedicated to sponsoring similar protests in Gaza.

 Mr. Dweik, the Hamas lawmaker, recently began turning up at weekly protests against Israel's West Bank barrier.

 Salah Bardawil, a Hamas lawmaker in Gaza City, says Hamas has come to appreciate the importance of international support for its legitimacy as a representative of the Palestinian people and its fight against Israeli occupation, and has adapted its tactics. Hamas hasn't claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in years and now denounces the tactic as counterproductive. Since an Israeli military incursion into the territory in December 2008-January 2009, it has also halted rocket attacks into Israel.

 "Hamas used to believe [international support] was just empty words," said Mr. Bardawil.

"Today it is very interested in international delegations … and in bringing Israeli officials to justice through legal proceedings."


San Francisco Chronicle
June 20, 2010

Protesters prevent unloading of Israeli ship
by David Baker

Hundreds of demonstrators, gathering at the Port of Oakland before dawn, prevented the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship.

Hundreds of protesters picket the Oakland Docks where the Israeli Zim ship
intends to offload cargo.

The demonstrators, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, picketed at Berth 58, where a ship from Israel’s Zim shipping line is scheduled to dock later today. The day shift of longshoremen agreed not to cross the picket line.

International pressure to end the Gaza closure has increased since Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of ships attempting to run the blockade on May 31, killing nine people. Last week, Israeli officials announced that they would loosen but not lift the blockade, allowing more goods to enter the impoverished area.

“Our view is that the state of Israel can not engage in acts of piracy and kill people on the high seas and still think their cargo can go anywhere in the world,” said Richard Becker, an organizer with ANSWER, one of many peace and labor groups involved in Sunday’s action.

Becker estimated that 600 to 700 people joined the demonstration, many of them arriving at 5:30 a.m. Oakland police, who estimated the crowd at 500 people, reported no arrests.

The demonstrators want to block the unloading of the Zim ship for a full day. After convincing the day shift of longshoreman to honor the picket line, the demonstrators dispersed around 10 a.m., Becker said. The ship is scheduled to arrive in mid-afternoon, and the demonstrators plan to gather again around 4:30 p.m. and re-establish their picket line before the evening shift of longshoremen arrives at 6 p.m.


From Jewish Peace News
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Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman is renewing his calls to resolve the Israel / Palestine conflict by means of ethnic cleansing.  He wants to strip Palestinian citizens of Israel of their citizenship and to relocate them outside the future borders of Israel, borders that would be redrawn to include Jewish West Bank settlements.

These ideas are not new, but as Jonathan Cook argues below, it is significant that Lieberman's plans are reappearing at this point in the public debate.  Given Israel's currently low standing in the international community (at least as far as diplomatic language is concerned), and the Netanyahu government's failure to engage in the sort of diplomatic charade known as the peace process, Lieberman apparently sees an opening for his radical solutions.  But also, as Ben White has argued in a recent Al Jazeera article, Israel's deteriorating international standing is being accompanied by increasing state violence and displays of racist hatred against Palestinian citizens in Israel. [Photo: Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Foreign Minister (photo added by UMHLTF)] As Janan Abdu, wife of imprisoned Palestinian NGO leader Ameer Makhoul has said: "They are afraid of us, of our identity, and how the youth are proud to be Palestinian. I think we are entering a tough period and the people will pay the price."   

Judith Norman

Lieberman plan to strip Palestinians of citizenship
Jonathan Cook*
June 28, 2010

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's far-right foreign minister, set out last week what he called a "blueprint for a resolution to the conflict" with the Palestinians that demands most of the country's large Palestinian minority be stripped of citizenship and relocated outside Israel's future borders.

Lieberman warned that Israel faces growing diplomatic pressure for a full withdrawal to the Green Line, the pre-1967 border. Lieberman said that, if such a partition were implemented, "the conflict will inevitably pass beyond those borders and into Israel."

He accused many of Israel's 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of acting against Israel while their leaders "actively assist those who want to destroy the Jewish state."

Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party campaigned in last year's elections on a platform of "No loyalty, no citizenship" and has proposed a raft of loyalty laws over the past year targeted at the Palestinian minority.

True peace, the foreign minister claimed, would come only with land swaps, or "an exchange of populated territories to create two largely homogeneous states, one Jewish Israeli and the other Arab Palestinian." He added that under his plan "those Arabs who were in Israel will now receive Palestinian citizenship."

Unusually, Lieberman, who is also deputy prime minister, offered his plan in a commentary for the English-language Israeli daily newspaper Jerusalem Post, apparently in an attempt to make maximum impact on the international community.

He has spoken repeatedly in the past about drawing the borders in a way to forcibly exchange Palestinian communities in Israel for the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

But under orders from Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, he has kept a relatively low profile on the conflict's larger issues since his controversial appointment to head the foreign ministry more than a year ago.

In early 2009, Lieberman, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Noqedim, upset his own supporters by advocating the creation of "a viable Palestinian state," though he has remained unclear about what it would require in practice.

Lieberman's revival of his "population transfer" plan - an idea he unveiled six years ago - comes as the Israeli leadership has understood that it is "isolated like never before," according to Michael Warschawski, an Israeli analyst.

Netanyahu's government has all but stopped paying lip service to US-sponsored "proximity talks" with the Palestinians after outraging global public opinion with attacks on Gaza 18 months ago and on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla four weeks ago in which nine civilians were killed.

Israel's relations with the international community are likely to deteriorate further in late summer when a 10-month partial freeze on settlement expansion in the West Bank expires. Last week, Netanyahu refused to answer questions about the freeze, after a vote by his Likud party's central committee to support renewed settlement building from late September.

Other looming diplomatic headaches for Israel are the return of the Goldstone Report, which suggested Israel committed war crimes in its attack on Gaza, to the United Nations General Assembly in late July, and Turkey's adoption of the rotating presidency of the Security Council in September.

Warschawski, a founder of the Alternative Information Centre, a joint Israeli-Palestinian advocacy group, said that, faced with these crises, Israel's political elite had split into two camps.

Most, including Lieberman, believed Israel should "push ahead" with its unilateral policies towards the Palestinians and refuse to engage in a peace process regardless of the likely international repercussions.

"Israel's ruling elite knows that the only solution to the conflict acceptable to the international community is an end to the occupation along the lines of the Clinton parameters," he said, referring to the two-state solution promoted by former US president Bill Clinton in late 2000.

"None of them, not even Ehud Barak [the defence minister and head of the centrist Labour Party], are ready to accept this as the basis for negotiations."

On the other hand, Tzipi Livni, the head of the center-right opposition Kadima party, Warschawski said, wanted to damp down the international backlash by engaging in direct negotiations with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank under President Mahmoud Abbas.

Left: Tzipi Livni, former Israeli government minister, head of Kadima Party

Lieberman's commentary came a day after he told Livni that she could join the government only if she accepted "the principle of trading territory and population as the solution to the Palestinian issue, and give up the principle of land for peace."

Lieberman is reportedly concerned that Netanyahu might seek to bring Livni into a national unity government to placate the US and prop up the legitimacy of his coalition.

The Labor Party has threatened to quit the government if Kadima does not join by the end of September, and Livni is reported to want the foreign ministry.

Lieberman's position is further threatened by a series of corruption investigations.

However, he also appears keen to take the initiative from both Washington and Livni with his own "peace plan." An unnamed aide to Lieberman told the Jerusalem Post that, with a vacuum in the diplomatic process, the foreign minister "thinks he can convince the government to adopt the plan."

However, Warschawski said there were few indications that Netanyahu wanted to be involved in any peace process, even Lieberman's.

Last week Uzi Arad, the government's shadowy national security adviser and a long-time confidant of Netanyahu, made a rare public statement at a meeting of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem to attack Livni for "political adventurism" and believing in the "magic" of a two-state solution.

Apparently reflecting Netanyahu's own thinking, he said: "The more you market Palestinian legitimacy, the more you bring about a detraction of Israel's legitimacy in certain circles. [The Palestinians] are accumulating legitimacy, and we are being delegitimized."

Warschawski doubted that Lieberman believed his blueprint for population exchanges could be implemented but was promoting it chiefly to further damage the standing of Israel's Palestinian citizens and advance his own political ambitions.

In his commentary, Lieberman said the international community's peace plan would lead to "the one-and-a-half to half state solution": "a homogeneous, pure Palestinian state," from which Jewish settlers were expelled, and "a bi-national state in Israel," which included many Palestinian citizens.

Palestinians, in both the territories and inside Israel, he said, could not "continue to incite against Israel, glorify murder, stigmatize Israel in international forums, boycott Israeli goods and mount legal offensives against Israeli officials."

International law, he added, sanctioned the partition of territory in which ethnic communities were broken up into different states, including in the case of the former Yugoslavia. "In most cases there is no physical population transfer or the demolition of houses, but creating a border where none existed, according to demographics," he wrote.

Surveys have shown that Palestinian citizens are overwhelming opposed to "population transfer" schemes like Lieberman's.

Critics note that Lieberman has failed to show how the many Palestinian communities inside Israel that are located far from the Green Line could be incorporated into a Palestinian state without expulsions.

Legal experts also point out that, even if Israel managed to trade territory as part of a peace agreement, stripping Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship as a result of such a deal would violate international law.

*Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. A version of this article appeared in The National published in Abu Dhabi.


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