Israel's Peace Now movement, in collaboration with Haaretz newspaper, hosted a panel discussion at a Tel Aviv bar yesterday to analyze the impact of the incoming Netanyahu-headed government on Israeli-Palestinian relations, on efforts to end the occupation and on efforts to advance peace.
Haaretz newspaper today published a powerful essay by Israeli novelist David Grossman conveying his dismay at the manner in which Benjamin Netanyahu is forming his new coalition and at the damage – some likely irreversible – that Netanyahu is causing to Israel. The essay reflected the sentiments of many Israelis. It was the leading story of Haaretz’s Hebrew edition, under a one-word headline: Chaos.
Following is the English translation of Grossman’s essay.
For Israel, There Is No Way Back from Netanyahu’s Chaos
Under the guise of democracy, Netanyahu is warping the character of Israel itself, sowing the seeds of anarchic chaos, hatred and violence which cannot be tamed
By David Grossman
Dec 28, 2022
Everything that has happened in Israel since the election is ostensibly legal and democratic. But under its cover – as has happened more than once in history – the seeds of chaos, emptiness and disorder have been sown in Israel’s most vital institutions.
I am not talking merely about the enactment of new laws, extreme and outrageous though they are, but about a deeper, more fateful change, a change in our identity, a change in the character of the state. And the election wasn’t fought over this change; this isn’t what Israelis went to the polls to vote on.
Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.
Hadar Susskind 00:09
Hello, everybody, welcome. I am Hadar Susskind I'm the president and CEO of Americans for peace. Now, I'm thrilled to have you all with us today. In just a minute, I will introduce our wonderful guests. But for those of you who are regulars, you know that this is the part where we play my favorite Washington game: filibuster for a minute until everybody has signed on. So again, thank you for being with us on what is actually a really gross, rainy, awful day here in Washington DC. But hopefully, wherever you are, it's nicer than here I'm going to start us off actually before the intros and everything with just a little bit of housekeeping. So I remind everyone, first of all, that this webinar is being recorded, and we will share it with everyone who is here, everyone who has signed up. So if you want to watch it again later or share it with other people, you will be able to do that. We will start and have some opening remarks from our colleagues here. But after that, as usual, we will open it for questions and discussion. So again, please use the q&a function at the bottom of the screen and type your questions in. We will get to as many of them as we can, of course, please keep them relevant to the conversation. The chat will not be active. So we're not using the chat. We're not using the hand raised. If you want to get in with a question, please use the q&a function. So with that, I will say one more time. Welcome, everyone. Hello, you're so glad to have you with us. I'm Dr. Susskind, President and CEO of Americans for peace now and I have with me today, three friends who are wonderful guests, and I'm really excited to have them for this conversation. So first of all, Shaqued Morag, from our colleagues in Israel from Shalom Achshav from Peace Now. Shaqued is the Executive Director. Jessica Montell, the Executive Director of Hamoked, and Avner Gvaryahu, the co director, I think I got that right, of Breaking the Silence. So we're going to keep it short intros, because I know that all of you who are with us today know Shaqued, Avner, Jessica, and know of their and their great work. So we're gonna jump right in. And what we are here to talk about is, is difficult. It's the frankly, very difficult new reality that Shaqued and Jessica and Avner and many others are facing, which is the incoming Israeli government, which I'm sure everyone knows, has now been announced the coalition partners were announced last night and in their coalition agreements, you know, some of that language is about how they are going to, you know, basically attack civil society and attack, particularly progressive Israeli organizations. We know this government is not even a return to the bad old days of previous BiBi governments, it's, it's far worse than that. It's far more extreme than that in many, many ways that we can touch on. But one of them I think, is a really explicit language that we've heard from some of the members and some of the partners, and they've, you know, they've gone after some of your organization's already and some of you by name. So there's a lot and there's a lot to talk about, and a lot to think about how to respond to that. Shaqued, I'm gonna come to you first and just, I think, throw the whole question open, you know, what are you what are you seeing? What are you most concerned about with this new government, as it relates to how they're going to, you know, in how they're going to engage with Shalom Achshav and with other organizations and civil society?
Shaqued Morag 03:37
Well, I'll start with a very general framing, because we haven't seen the full agreements yet. And we in some of the bills are just what we call goats, that are going to be taken out afterwards or just what, like individual initiatives that might go forward or not. But the general atmosphere is that the West Bank is annexing as we've been talking about annexation of the West Bank, and in denying it, but not only that, the changes in authorities a symbolize and and pose a threat, use metal of actual annexation, but also the the modus operandi of how they treat a civil society is leaking already from the West Bank towards Israel. The and we already see how the way that they treat civilians the way they that that police treats Arabs and protesters and whoever that is making the work much harder. They're importing already the standards and the, the way the actions that they allowed themselves to do perform the important from the occupied territories into Israel. We've seen, for example, last week, confiscation of Palestinian flags and arrests of activists that were holding them in Haifa, inside Israel. That's after it's been a long time, but more intensively in the last few months, they they've been confiscating flags in the West Bank in Hawaii, and he's Jerusalem. And that's, I think that once we have ministers that are from the settlements, and not generally from settlements, but the most extreme ones, we're going to have two ministers from Hebron. This morning, I've talked to Michael Sfard, he said, it's a settlement that is smaller than a normal kibbutz. And we don't recall any time in history that the single peoples had two ministers in the government. So this tiny settlement is going to be represented by two ministers in the government. And it's not only that, they will change the law in a way that will prevent us from acting they are in bringing with them the general perception of who should and shouldn't be allowed to speak, who should and shouldn't be able to meet with soldiers, with students, with school students who should or shouldn't be able to go into universities, and schools, TV channels, newspapers, what seems today, a protected by law can be very easily changed not only by legislation, but also but by, by generally approach, let's say, that is sends the message that it's better not to let us have the state and have the right to speak. And I mentioned the media, we must remember that the media has already changed a lot. And in some of the changes might also cement this change. Reporters from what used to be channel 20, is now channel 14 are already in more mainstream media, this channel is becoming mainstream, and now is starting to close the the public channel. And the way that the media frames, a our activities, our messaging are a people given our title, the title that is given to us, you can see please now, the same report will will call us an extreme left organization. In in, let's say, Atoll, so game website of of the funeral, the date of the religious Zionism, and we will be called the political movement of the Zionist left on our newspaper and website. So once the more the voice of the extreme right becomes stronger and more mainstream, this will frame us differently, we will be less, I'm sure, less invited and less welcomed in a places that try to see themselves as centrist or is none political. We've experienced that back in 2015. Government. And one last thing that I will mention, and then I'll give the stage to Avner, that will come up I guess, with more concrete examples. But one thing that are is already mentioned that they're intending to do is to try and limit our sources of funding. It's already happened in 2015, when they forced us to announce once we are supported by foreign governments, now they claim that they're going to forbid it if you look very deeply into the legislation it says they'll forbid funding from states that Israel is not having relations with. But it's already framed as if a whatever foreign funding will be forbidden and limited. And again, even if it won't stop us from doing what we're doing, it will mark us in different colors and less, less legitimize ones. That's all for now.
Hadar Susskind 10:34
Thank you Shaqued. Avner, I want to come to you next. And you know, I want your, your broad view on any of these pieces. But also just, you know, in thinking about Hebron, and what we've already seen with the actions of some of the soldiers there and how they are treating people from Breaking the Silence in particular, but from the left overall, you know, and how does that feel to you like this new incoming government is empowering that in a different way, also.
Avner Gvaryahu 11:03
So hi, everyone, it's a pleasure to be here. I think this is a really important conversation. I think it's so important that I'm holding myself from what's happening in the other room right now, which is Hanukkah party with my mother in law's house. And fondue, which is known throughout Jerusalem. But it's it's really good to be with you guys. Hebron, I think that as, as Shaqued mentioned, the entire reality for Palestinians, first and foremost, and for human rights organizations, human rights defenders, you know, those those Israelis and internationals trying to stand with and for Palestinian rights, is is going to be more under assault like everything Shaq had mentioned till now, let's remind ourselves is still under the previous government. Right? We've been seeing this shrinking space reality also, under this last government, with ministers from labor ministers from Meretz, who, in some cases, tried to curb some of these phenomenons and many places didn't try enough or didn't try at all. And in the end of the day, where where were we headed.. We had the we, we found ourselves exactly where where we were heading for a very long time. I think what we what we saw in Hebron over the last couple of weeks, maybe even months is definitely something that you know, those of us who have been in the city, feeling the atmosphere felt even before the results of the election but definitely emboldened by the beggar phenomenon. Right. And as you know, Shaqued mentioned 2 MKs out of 120 who reside in Hebron and and have for many years been main actors in the city. This emboldens a lot of the action so definitely a shift in in sort of the the actions of the settlers that that that's something that we've been feeling over the last couple of weeks, but I think that what unfolded a few weeks ago, the weekend after, Jews around the world read about the Shabbat Chayei Sarah was a very telling moment. So and for those of you listening that didn't follow all the details. What happened in Shabbat Chayei Sarah in Hebron, it was nothing less than a pogrom. I mean, it um, this is such a hard word to use, but that's what happened. There were 30,000 Jews who came to visit the city for the weekend, right sort of the settlers of Hebron, Woodstock, if you'd like, or Burning Man. And basically, there was violent attacks that started really, with the beginning of the weekend starting Friday, and these attacks continued throughout the weekend, in some cases 32 for the some case masked in some cases, not, settlers attacked Palestinian families. And this and this was a more extreme even than than what we've known in the past and the weekend afterwards, a group of Israelis, many of them actually ultra orthodox and and religious came to support Palestinians and solidarity. Right in my book, there's nothing more you know, Jewish, nothing more Israeli than that you go and support families under attack. And they were basically not only detained and, and harassed by soldiers, but eventually, one of these activists was beaten up. Some of the videos are online, you can find them just Google, you know, Hebron and the last things you'll find are definitely that. And what happened in that junction, by the way, it's the same junction that Zarya shot and killed the Palestinian, the very famous case, a very tense place. What unfolded there was something that for us who visit Hebron regularly was was surprising, because it's not that all the soldiers love what we do, it usually takes a while for them, you know, those of them that will break their silence to come and speak with us. But while they're there were a nuisance. But the fact that they not only started this confrontation with a group, but then detained and later on, you know, beat up this activist really shows how they're emboldened by the big fear doctrine. And that is something that is already affecting Palestinians. The the soldier who, who beat up the activist, afterwards, I learned this was pretty known to the Palestinians living until Roma does this aggressive soldier. So this translates into how Palestinians are treated, but also a general atmosphere for activists in in the city itself. And I think that part of what we're trying to anticipate and and see how we, how we address it, or prepare ourselves is what what's going to unfold in the city and what's going to happen there. And we'll, at some point, will, will, will they close off the city? And I think something, you know, a few of us were talking about this actually, in a meeting this morning... I think part of of what could be an outcome of this government is, you know, we're constantly trying to expose realities, right, and break silences and talk about realities on the ground. But it's very much the might be that with this new government will see a much more proactive, proactive measures to prevent internationals from entering specific places are generally the West Bank. Journalists, activists, and I think that that makes this moment and this conversation of, you know, of all of us together, so much more important, right? And making sure that the information keeps flowing, that we continue talking about the reality now and by saying a headline that, that I saw today in Israel Hayom right, Israel Today, the right wing newspaper, the front page was basically some sort of signal from, from the US to this new Israeli Government about not giving visas to violent settlers, which, which was something that was on the radio for a very long time. And I think that one of the things that this government will fear is exactly the work that that all of us here are doing is is this kind of conversation, sharing information exposing realities talking about, about settler violence and settlement expansion, and the violence of occupation. So I think yeah, Hebron is a place to definitely look at, not because it's, it's out of the ordinary, but because it tells, you know, such a, such an important story about what's happening in other places as well.
Hadar Susskind 19:05
thank you Avner. You know this story you just mentioned about, you know, the the US considering not giving visas to those suspected of being part of violent attacks, because well, I shared it this morning. It, it's a big deal. It is a big deal. On the other hand, when I shared it, I wrote, you know, us considering treating Israel like all other countries, right, because actually, it shouldn't be a big deal. Like, that's literally American policy. It's not American policy for everything except for Israel. But that's often been the way it actually plays out. One little side note, and I'm going to share this private thing on a video that's being recorded and we're going to put out publicly but it is being referred to, at least among certain people here in Washington as the Ben Gvir Rule, right because while it is stated as a general and I think they mean it, it could apply to anyone. There is literally a question as to whether Ben Gvir would be himself granted a US visa should he seek to come here - which my guess is Netanyahu is smart enough to try to keep them clear from from finding out the answer to that question, but we shall see. With that, Jessica, I want to turn to you, you know, so much of your work is engaging directly interfacing directly with Palestinians trying to help them navigate the, you know, intentionally Byzantine processes of the occupation and all the bureaucracy around that. So, you know, Avner was talking about and Shaqyed was was touching on also, you know, issues around violence and delegitimization. Of the left, but what about what they could just literally do to your work and your day to day ability to do that?
Jessica Montell 20:38
Yes. First, it's great to be here. And to see such interest and engagement on these issues. It's clear that the new government will result in a very severe deterioration for Palestinian human rights, and a real threat to the ability of those who defend Palestinians to be able to do our work. And I don't think there are a lot of secrets they've been very open, I mean, that the coalition negotiations, the agreements between Netanyahu and the coalition partners, all of these figures, we know for months and years, what their agenda is. So on the one hand, we have a lot of information to be preparing for what's to come. That doesn't necessarily make it easier. So I mean, I would flag Bezalel Smotrich who now-- they are passing laws that he would be the second Minister within the Defense Ministry, specifically, his coalition agreement states that he would be in charge of the civil administration, and appointing the head of the civil administration. And much of the focus around that the civil administration is actually an arm of the Israeli military responsible for civilian affairs. So of course, he's concerned about settlements. And you know, legalizing outposts setting up new settlements, infrastructure, funding, support, expansion of settlements, all of that is part of the job of the civil administration. But most of the civil administration, in fact, is dealing with Palestinians. And this has really been lost sight of in all of the talk around the Smotrich law. You know, the whole permit bureaucracy, Palestinians who need a permit to build a house in Area C, but Palestinians throughout the entire West Bank, who want to move from place to place between the West Bank and Gaza, to enter Jerusalem or Israel, to cross the separation wall to get access to their lands. On the other side, I mean, everything, you need a permit from the Civil Administration, who now is going to be headed by, you know, the person who has spent most of their career restricting Palestinian development in Area C and expanding settlements there. So it's quite blatant and extreme what his agenda is. And then, you know, the flip side of that, also, as you said, the ability of us to be doing our work. And I've never started to talk about this, anything that has been even a little bit effective, they are going to target. So the ability of solidarity activist to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, the ability of us to be challenging their actions in the Israeli courts. And we know that they have marked, you know, the courts as a site of opposition to them. I mean, absurdly considering the courts to be left wing and very interventionist, in terms of restricting Israeli Government and military policy, although we know, in fact, it's exactly the opposite. I mean, humble kid is probably the organization with the biggest caseload in terms of petitions to all levels of the Israeli judiciary. Now, we're winning a lot of cases. But you know, not the big important cases. I mean, this morning, we were in the Supreme Court challenging a punitive home demolition, it's clear, we will lose that petition before we even set foot in the courtroom. So it's not at all the case that the court is, you know, tying the hands of the military, or the government and yet this rhetoric around having to restrain the courts. So, you know, how, how will they go about both appointing judges that are aligned with their ideology, and also passing laws that restrict who can petition the court under what circumstances what the courts can rule on? All of those questions. And, and I think for me, there are two you know, this sort of broader implications of this government of all sorts of forces that we are familiar with. And it's really important to point out that this past year has been terrible for Palestinian human rights. I mean, maybe the worst, in a decade or two, when it comes to really all of the parameters. The numbers of deaths and injuries of Palestinians, the numbers of Palestinians in administrative detention, settlement expansion, settler violence, not being restrained. And that has been confusing for a lot of people to have a government where you have merits and the Labour Party as part of the government. And yet the reality on the ground has been so terrible for Palestinians. All of those forces are only going to be heightened. And I think both in terms of the shaping of the narrative. And on the one hand, you have these very radical forces that will be encouraged and magnified, and a self censorship on the part of, you know, whole sectors of society that don't want to, you know, risk infuriating, you know, being in the sights of these people. I mean, in terms of the Choquette gave the example of what is peace now and how you can frame Peace Now, what is so clear to me in all of the conversations around area see that? Let's say the journalists that in parentheses to explain what is area see, they say those parts of the West Bank under complete Israeli control, no, the West it there, it's not under the control of the Israeli Knesset or the Israeli government. The West Bank is under complete Israeli military control. But But already this shaping of the narrative that actually Area C of the West Bank is ours is is Israel's, you know, all along, we have had that battle, that'll, let's say over the narrative. And that only is going to increase that sort of entrenchment, not only of the policies, but of how we are allowed to talk about all of these issues. I mean, you know, whether occupation is a factual legal term to describe Israeli military control over the West Bank, or occupation, is some radical, you know, expresses a radical political agenda to call the West Bank under Israeli military occupation. And then the second issue that I want to flag this sort of self censorship, you know, Israelis are afraid, and for good reason, I mean, a broad section of Israelis, let's say mainstream, you know, as it is, nobody wants to identify as being left left has a very negative connotation for the majority of Israelis. And then you think about judges that are dependent on this government for promotion, civil servants, journalists, public figures, I mean, you know, everyone that then is undertaking some sort of calculus about how to weather this government. And of course, that is scary for Well, precisely at the time that everyone needs to stand up. I mean, everyone really needs at this point, to stand up. A lot of people are not going to be willing to take the personal risk, that standing up is going to require.
Hadar Susskind 28:48
Thank you. So I want to remind everybody who's with us that if you've got questions, you can use the q&a font function. Any you know, and we will, we'll go through and get to as many of them before I go to some of the questions. I just want to ask our guests. Is there anything else that came up in the conversation that you want to respond to or add to maybe Shaqued irst? If not, I can go to questions. That's fine.
Shaqued Morag 29:16
Sorry, you want me to address the questions?
Hadar Susskind 29:19
No, no, I was saying before I started asking all the questions. Is there anything that either I've never said or Jessica said that you wanted to speak to?
Shaqued Morag 29:27
No, no, I think they covered the entire thing. And I not doing well, thank you.
Hadar Susskind 29:35
Okay, then. Then I'm gonna go start taking some of the questions here. And again, you know, some of these I'm gonna smush together in a couple of different ways, because there are a lot of them that, that speak to the same questions. So, you know, actually, Jessica, what you were just talking about, about, you know, how are people going to stand up and who's going to be willing to take those personal risks? So we know that's true of people like the three of you who lead civil society organizations, we're also seeing the push now around educators on in terms of what's going on with education in the country and asking people to stand up there. But one big area and one big question mark that I can say, you know, for me, as somebody who served in the IDF now quite a long time ago, is, frankly, a terrifying question is, how is the military going to respond to this? And how is the military gonna respond to the new political leadership? And also specifically, right, there's a new religious IDF Chief of Staff. And do we think that? Do we think that the military, both in terms of its rules of engagement, how it treats Palestinians, but also how it treats Israeli citizens and how it engages around things? Like I've known what you were talking about and cover on? You know, do we think that's going to change? What, what, what are the questions and concerns around that? And, Avner, I'll start with you on this. And anybody else who wants to weigh in, obviously?
Avner Gvaryahu 30:57
Yeah, I mean, I think that it's it's a real question. I mean, both the military and the police and other different institutions. It's sort of an interesting and weird and maybe even funny for those of us following. We're in this battle for a while, sort of, as you know, many of us have been sort of our camp has been challenging the institutions for many years. And now it's sort of we're looking to the institutions to save us, right. Will the military be strong enough to stand the political changes? Will the will the Will the police be strong? So I think we have in order to be able to, I think that to pass these, these four years better than where we are now. Maybe less, maybe more? I don't know. But but to pass that and utilize this moment, we have to be honest. And if we're honest about definitely about the military, we have to know, we have to be we have to we have to be frank, that the the settlement movement has been, you could say has been using, or you could say has been working with various elements of of various institution, but definitely the Israeli military. Right there. Jessica mentioned the civil administration. And we'll be happy to share sort of a short document that some of us put together around sort of the coalition agreement, and sort of the real intentions of, of the religion scientists have smoked, reach and attend now. And sort of what they're planning to do within the civil administration. We just published a report a few months ago detailing what the civil administration is, and dozens of testimonies of soldiers serving in the civil administration in recent years, the civil administration is not a body that's there that's there to deal with the civilian aspects of Palestinian lives. It's another arm of control, it's there to maintain our control over Palestinians. It's true that they have different elements and aspects and things that have to do with civilian lives. But it's all in that prism. So I'm saying that just when we try to look at what what might happen within the military, we have to understand that the military has been used by the settlement movement or is working with a settlement movement for many, many years. And this will will obviously go to a whole new level. So I don't think we can look to the military to stop this, we might see moments of sort of trying to hold on to some of the sort of military ethos or to hold on to specific elements that that are dear to the military. But in terms of the ability to push back on political pressure. I think if there's something that we what we've seen throughout the years, is that part of the reality of the Israeli occupation and the military occupation, is the military is not built to deal with political pressure. Right? They know how to how to deal with Palestinian protests or Palestinian violence, right. That's what they're built to do. They know how to go to war, right? That's what the military does. They know how there's all kinds of things militaries know what to do with the with the military does not know how to do and is not built to do is deal with political pressure. And we've seen this throughout the year. As you know, some members of parliament that represented merits in recent elections, there are, you know, stories of them as high ranking officers, and then being pressured by the settlers to do things that don't align with their political ideology. And I think when When, when, when that was true 1015 20 years ago, this will definitely be true. When not only Ben Gvir will have power but let's not forget that the Likudnik's ideology, right? Bibi's ideology, in many cases in that far right, you have Galan who is probably going to be the minister of defense, right? He's he's not a he's not a member of peace now. Right. I mean, I mean, in that sense, the entire system is going through a very dramatic change. And I think that that, especially because of that, like understanding where we are, right, that that's sort of a shift that has been going on for many, many years of strengthening the, the center right in the far right, or sort of the apartheid camp or the you know, forever occupation camp. We have to understand that the addition of Smotrich and Ben Gvir is is up the stream. Right and not not not against the stream. Maybe that's I'll end with that.
Jessica Montell 36:28
So maybe I'll just jump in to add because I think what is different is the removal of the mask. And and both the Ben Gvir the coalition agreements for Ben Gvir politicizing the police in a in an explicit way, that has never been the case before that the commissioner of the police is now directly, you know, answers to the most extremist of the of the ministers and also smooth rich that that again, he will be appointing the head of the civil administration and the head of COGAT that the coordinator for government activity in the territory. So again, that it's that it is explicit that somebody with that ultra nationalist agenda is politicizing these bodies. And in some ways, that's an opportunity for us. I mean, again, this confusion of a terrible government doing terrible things. That is a coalition, including left wing politicians, which has in some ways stymied also the international community. And you saw very clearly the way that Europe and the United States were unwilling to do anything that would undermine this previous government over this past year. So the fact that a lot of trends that we have been warning about that have been, you know, somewhat submerge that have been not explicit. Now, everything is clear and explicit, there is no illusion about this government about who are the people who are we give, given unprecedented powers, I mean, powers that the minute the exact same minister in the last government did not have. So that mask being removed is an opportunity, if all of us, and that definitely includes, you know, the international community, the US administration you know, has to be able to seize that opportunity to respond appropriately.
Hadar Susskind 38:40
Yeah. And I'll tell you, you know, you said that European governments, the US government's didn't want to push too hard. I mean, for the last, you know, few years, that's what we heard, when we met with Biden administration officials, when we met with senior leaders in Congress, we got over and over again, you know, when when Bennett and Orla peed, were were in power. Well, we can't push too hard because, you know, the government there is so so fragile. And if it falls apart, we're gonna get a horrible right wing government. Well, we all know where we sit today. I will say, having spent this this last holiday week here in DC, as it's been with the opportunity to be at a number of different congressional receptions and White House events and talk to some of these senior people. I do think there is an understanding in Washington, that this is different. And a conversation I have had with senators this week with senior White House people this week, was saying, you know, we, all of us, including those political leaders, need to be prepared to think about and talk about and do things that we haven't done in the past and things that we were not necessarily willing to do or at least they were not willing to do in the past because they were uncomfortable, but that this is a different reality. And, you know, that's, as everybody on this call knows or assumes that's going to take some time to actualize. But there were a lot of shaking heads. And I think there really is an understanding that things are different and require some different responses. Shaqued, I want to come to you with a different kind of question, actually. And we'll come back to what the US should do and more policy. But one of the questions that's actually come up in the q&a spot of a few times in different ways, and then people have asked me as we're preparing to bring an APN group to Israel and Palestine soon is, you know, are you actually personally afraid concerned for your safety? I'm not and I talked a little bit before about activist being, you know, being attacked by police. All of you are literally out there on the front lines. How, you know, how does that... How do you feel about that?
Shaqued Morag 40:49
So the short answer is, yes, it's frightening. And I become a mother during this year, and I am less willing to expose myself to risky situations, of course. And it's frightening when the police that is supposed to defend, you might pose another threat of violence. And, of course, soldiers violence is something that we haven't experienced much before. And this is not to us as well. But I must say that, I mean, in terms of violence, the whole issue, that what brings us to the political activity that we're doing is violence that we're trying to prevent. So we don't have the privilege to avoid a activity and avoid going out there. And if we're absent, things are going to change in our absence, we must be there one way or another. And, and our reaction is, is the opposite. I mean, in the face of violence, we should bring more and more Israelis that support the two state solution in our case, and they oppose Occupation and the proposed violence, to bring them to the ground. And at some point, they could, they will not be able to call everybody on artists. I mean, it's so absurd that it was a delivered as okay to attack a group in Hebron because they are anarchists, whoever knows them knows that they're far from that definition. And when when we bring more and more Israel, Israelis that are a, let's say, not anarchists, I, I hope that it will minimize some of the violence. And again, we don't have an alternative. We don't. I mean, if we don't meet this violence, there will be there. The next clash between Palestinians and Israel is one way or another inside Israel, or in the West Bank, or, I mean, I, personally, truly don't believe that the policy of this government will keep us more safe than the previous governments, or, of course, then a peace agreement. So they use the excuse of personal security. But in fact, we are all going to be exposed to more and more violence in Israel, not only out there in the territories. So now in this in this climate violence becomes something more casual, that has less less effect on activists, unfortunately, but but when you use your your weapon, you make it when you normalize it. So I mean, the other side's weapon when they use violence, and as you can see it and invite more protests, When the police used water guns on protesters, it brought more protesters because in the face of violence, people can visualize and understand the threat. It's not a vague anymore. You can you can witness it, you can sense it. So I mean, in a way, it might even make us stronger. Hopefully.
Hadar Susskind 44:45
Hopefully, indeed. Okay, I'm just looking at the time we've got 15 minutes. I've got a couple topics I still want to hit. So one question that's come up in a few a few questions here is sort of I phrased it as: But what now? And so there's some questions about, you know, what now is there, you know, new political parties and movements on the horizon to respond to this? What now? Is there new movement, collective movement organizing on the horizon responding to this? And also specifically, you know, is there any growing movement among, you know, young people refusing to serve? So, so I would say, I'm looking at all that are what, what are the responses that you think we will, we are seeing or hopefully we'll see from the progressive side. And I know, that's a that's big and broad. So there's a lot of different pieces that we can put in there. But maybe Avner, I'll come to you first with that.
Avner Gvaryahu 45:46
So, you know, sort of in Kings phrases, right phrases is like, where do we go from here? Right. I think it's a title of one of his books and famous speeches like, where do we go from here? And I think that the the first thing that we are going to go in to see is trying to embolden strengthen, build, see how strong the house that we build this, right, because many of us, I think, since 2015- 16, with the last wave of sort of very aggressive attacks on on many of us. I'm sure this is true. of course, Jessica and Shaqued, I would say personally, that when I started my role as director, and later on co director, a lot of what we were thinking about was, how do we prepare our house? Right, our organization, our community, for the storm? Right, and you don't know how strong your house is till the storm hits. So we're about to see how strong the house is that we built. And I think that is going to be a very big element. But I, I think that through that, we will also see what emerges, because to your question, there's a lot of ideas out there and a lot of feelings of, you know, a very clear feeling. I think probably one of the strongest and most important feelings is that the sort of the the the lack of political outlet, that we're in a sort of political catastrophe, it's not only the demise of merits, right, it's a weakening of labor, it's the split of the joint list, in the end a lot of what organizations and movements can do. And it's, it's not that many, many see sort of the civil society organizations as an alternative to the political sphere, that that that is wrong, right? We cannot, it cannot be an alternative, it has to be part of a puzzle. And I think at this point, that's the biggest thing that we don't have, because it's not that there are, you know, if you look at the numbers, the same amount of center left or left these, you know, it's, it's, they didn't disappear, the people are still here, right. And there's a big, big energy of people that feel they don't have not only that don't have a voice, but now that they're, they're under attack. And there's an there's an interesting moment here, where, you know, my my, my brother in law works in sort of a pluralistic branch of sort of Jewish education that has joint projects with the Ministry of Education. I just spoke with him a couple of days ago, and I said that you guys worried like, you think you're on the radar? And he was like, I don't think so. So he just texted me like, Oh, we're on the radar. We're on the blacklist. You know, I think it's something that it creates a moment and this moment is true for us here. It's also true for you guys there. But But I think that the heart of what what we do see is is a lot of a moment of organizing and and people coming together from places that you wouldn't necessarily expect. And I think that from that, I hope that we will also see more opportunities for maybe a political outcome. I saw one of the questions talked about new party that is the or party that that's coming up. I don't think it's there yet. There's a lot of ideas. But but but I think that it's a bit too early to sort of understand that and there's there's at least two to four years that we have to deal with this. So I actually think the right thing to do is to understand how who we are what the camp is and how we fight back, and then think of sort of the next steps in that sense. Gotcha. So one of the other things that I want to throw it out to all three of you is, you know, a question. We have been mostly talking, obviously, in this conversation about Israeli Jewish Israeli civil society, organized organizations. Can you tell us, you know, Are there efforts to strengthen cooperation with Palestinian civil society organizations, whether that's, you know, Palestinian citizens of Israel, or West Bank, Palestinians? Maybe Jessica, you want to speak to that a little bit?
Jessica Montell 50:35
Yes. And, you know, the issue that I, I wanted to raise throughout this conversation is about privilege and the shiftin identities around privilege that we're going to see with this new government. And it has been very clear up till now. I mean, what I the risks, I take what I expect from the police and the military, in terms of their treatment of me, even as somebody who is speaking out in protest, who is taking action, to be challenging them. Still, it has always been very clear, I think, for all of us, on this call as Jewish Israelis, we benefit from a privilege that Palestinians under occupation, cannot do the same things that we do with the same level of safety, and Palestinian citizens of Israel, also. So this sort of hierarchy is going to be undermined in to some extent. And on the one hand, I think all of us that have a level of privilege need to be standing in solidarity with people that are more vulnerable. But I think new categories of people, I mean, the the blacklist, as was referred to, and apparently there is such a list, you know, with names and organizations that these extremist ministers have already prepared. And it's not just us who are already used to being on their blacklist, but LGBTQ activists, and you know, the reform movement, that is also enemy number one, for this government. So this past year, when you had attacks on Palestinia human rights and civil society organizations, it was very important that Israelis stand in solidarity with with them, I mean, the criminalization of Palestinian organizations, the fact that Al Haq, and other well respected human rights organizations were called terrorist organizations and, and are threatened with being shut down that we are not cowed by that, again, that attempt to change the narrative, and stand with them. And I think then that is the test for, you know, it's a whole like assembly line that that everyone has to support, you know, the people in front of them that are being subjected to attack. I mean, that's how we see, as I've never said, how strong our house is, who stands who's willing to stand with us. And of course, the risk is mitigated, the more that it's shared among all of us. I mean, that's, you know, the more everybody steps up, and there are people, you know, there's a little bit of a phenomenon here of the dog catching the car. And, and not everyone who voted for all of the parties that are coming into power, are happy with the most extremist elements that are being given powers that not everyone wants them to have. So, I mean, again, there are opportunities to be expanding the community of people who speak up whose support others that are vulnerable and under attack. And, and of course, the the major alliance that has to be built is between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. I mean, both in terms of the political organizing that has to happen, as the as the political alternative to this government, and also in civil society, where you have already strong bonds, but those have to be really invested in and made stronger.
Hadar Susskind 54:24
So thank you. I want to ask and Shaqued I'm going to come to you with this first question about one more part of the broad coalition, which is actually the diaspora Jewish community and particularly, obviously, in our case, the American Jewish community. You know, there are lots of examples that all of us could list over the past years where US government pressure and US Jewish communal displeasure, has had an impact on the Israeli government. Right now, people here are terrified in the American Jewish community that this government is basically saying we don't care and we're seeing, you know, not just like you're saying not just the usual suspects, not just us, you know, we're seeing a Foxman come forward and say, Oh, maybe his support for Israel is conditional. Now, of course, his condition has nothing to do with treatment of Palestinian, or treatments of Israeli civil society. It's about, you know, defining who was a Jew. But the reform movement, as you mentioned, people like Abe Foxman, Tom Friedman, other folks who are have not been, as Chuck had been saying, you know, the anarchist left are coming forward and expressing their concern, and so far feel like they're getting, you know, nothing back from from this incoming government. So I guess the question part in this is, you know, do you think this government is going to care about the voice of the American Jewish community? And then the thing I want all of us to, to kind of end with is giving down the American Jewish community, the actual American political voice, you know, how much do we think they're going to care about that? Because obviously, that's what where we spend our time and there are a lot of things where I think there are opportunities for that. But it's a big question that a lot of people here are asking. So Shaqued, I'll start with you, and then we'll go around.
Shaqued Morag 56:10
Thank you. First, I must say that the turnout to this event shows that the there is interest among the Jewish community abroad and that we must strengthen this collaboration. I think that it first, what did what has already happened in Israel is that the Israeli wider opposition camps, let's let's that was represented generally by the last government, and is now becoming opposition is starting to understand that there is a strong link between the different threats that the new government poses, you cannot just objectively just defend, let's say, women's rights, or LGBTQ rights, or a separation of state and religion, or a freedom in education and ignore the occupation, or ignore the racism against them, the Arab society in Israel, it's all linked and the those values on the right wing, as I said, they came from the same source back in the most exquisite extremist settlements in the West Bank. And I really hope that this link can strengthen abroad as well. Because our impression is that sometimes it's easier to recruit the diaspora around the Judaism issues, rather than the questions of the Palestinian Israeli conflict, because then you can split around the let's say, vision and solutions and two state solution one solution, and if we agree that the occupation is a major threat, and regardless the solution, we should unite and objected and object, then the new steps of annexation, that will prevent any solution. I think that the most urgent understanding that must be shared among all active, active Jewish communities abroad. And also, if we talked about a US Civil Society in Israel being threatened include and delegitimized. I believe that the strong support from the mostly the Jewish communities in the states will give us a strong back. I mean, it's easy for them to say that we are agents of foreign governments from Europe, led and of course, when it's Germany is some of the right wingers have some more criticism. But once we are supported by the Jewish community in the States, it gives us more legitimacy. It means that we represent the Jewish people, not only the Israeli left, we come from Jewish values, we are driven by the same feelings. And I think I can't stress enough how important the role of the Jewish community abroad is and will be in the future and I'm sure also that even if some of the extreme right, belittles the importance of the connections between the US and Israel, Netanyahu will not harm it so easily. And it can be a France that that will distract or will will prevent some of the harm. So thanks again for being with us tonight. And for for being interested.
Hadar Susskind 1:00:35
Okay, I want to go Jessica, and then Avner, just a minute or so each we're, you know, we're running past but closing thoughts that you want to share with folks?
Jessica Montell 1:00:45
Yeah, so I jump on in terms of I mean, let's focus on what, for this audience that US Jewish community and the US administration, this government will make noises, much less responsive to criticism and concerns from the American Jewish community and from the US administration? They perhaps don't all of them understand how dependent the Israel is, on those communities. Economically, diplomatically. You know, all in all sorts of ways, there is a huge and diverse toolbox. You know, all of those settlements, have friends of organizations, fundraising in the United States, enjoying tax exempt donations. How long is that going to continue? I mean, one tiny example, again, of what I think is a very diverse toolbox that can and should be used to make clear to this government that benefits come because of shared values and a behavior in line with international expectations. I mean, this government takes for granted all of the benefits of the relationship with Europe and still has, you know, the nerve to be saying that Europe is hostile to Israel, when, of course, the United States government and Europe, European Union, all of the member states, the best friend that Israel has, and really, that the link between privileges, and, you know, behavior and shared values has to be made much more clear.
Hadar Susskind 1:02:34
Avner Gvaryahu 1:02:35
You have now, a short anecdote, when Netanyahu started, his last, last government that was seen as the most right wing government in the history of Israel, when a kid was Minister of Justice and benefit and so on. He was that was one of the moments when the tenure was in conversations with Nani Moses. Right, who was the publisher of the the the whole note, some of these conversations leaked, right as part of the indictments against Antonio in the back and forth. And there was a moment there that I think is is important, especially for in this crowd, where Nani Moses asks, now, aren't you scared of the pressure or the criticism of the world as you're forming this right wing government? And attack now answers? The world doesn't matter. There's only one country that matters. And that's the US. And Netanyahu didn't change his mindset. If there's something you can say and attend. Now he's all in he's the same, same Netanyahu. You know, we've been throughout his political career. And in that sense, the importance of making your voices heard, you know, your communities, your rabbis, your synagogues, speaking to your elected officials, is so important to this point. And I really agree with Jessica, it's not necessarily as if the government will respond automatically, but they are paying attention. And also something to remember. There will be a day after this government. And it's important to continue to build those ties and bridges for the day after.
Hadar Susskind 1:04:21
That's right. Wonderful. Thank you for those closing thoughts on our Jessica, thank you shake head. For those of you who asked, we had over 225 people who are on with us today. So I appreciate each and every one of you. I appreciate you for being here today. And for all of your support. I will take this year end opportunity to urge you to please continue that support for APN and for our colleagues and friends. We can't do this work without you. So thank you all and we will see you soon. Goodbye.
As Benjamin Netanyahu presents his new coalition today to Israel’s President Herzog, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is deeply concerned about the impact of the incoming government on Israel’s future as a democracy and on its relations with its Palestinian neighbors.
Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived.
2. Hearings & Markups
3. Media & Members (general)
4. Media & Members (Elex & The Next Congress)
5. Members on the Record (Israel & Palestine)
6. Members on the Record (Iran)
7. Members on the Record (the rest of the region)
(FY23 NDAA) HR 7776: On 12/15/22, the Senate voted 83-11 to adopt the joint House-Senate compromise version of the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (which includes a number of other authorization bills). The House previously adopted the measure on 12/8/22 by a vote of 350-80). The bill now goes to the President, who is expected to sign it expeditiously.
- Once again — to keep the Round-Up from running crazy long, I’ve posted my summary of all the Middle East-related elements that made it into the final bill (and the ones that didn’t) here.
- Also, once again — Please note that the vehicle for the FY23 NDAA/omnibus is HR 7776 – a bill formerly known as the “Water Resources Development Act of 2022”. As in, HR 7776 has been repurposed into the 2023 NDAA (i.e., the original text was deleted and replaced with the consensus/compromise NDAA text).
Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.
Webinar Transcript- How Should President Biden Respond to Israel’s New Government? With Daniel Kurtzer
Ori Nir 00:02
And then one, two, and three. Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining this Americans for peace now webinar with Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer. Before we start our usual housekeeping notes. This webinar, as you probably all know, is recorded. We will post the video on our YouTube channel and the audio on our podcast please cast that will be done sometime later today. And the other note that you're probably all familiar with as well, is that you are encouraged to ask questions, you can do it at any point in our on our webinar, beginning now. To do it, please use the q&a tool that is at the bottom of your screen. I think it's on the on the bottom left, not the raise hand but the q&a tool. And please keep your questions short because we go through them as we go along with the webinar. One additional note, today's webinar will be shorter than the usual it's going to be only 50 minutes. So we will end sharp on 1250. Benjamin Netanyahu Likud party has reportedly finished its negotiations with its coalition partners, and is set to form a coalition. A government will be sworn in probably in about two weeks or so. It received an extension from the President today a 1010 day extension. Reportedly, an extension will be used to pass legislation in the Knesset that would accommodate coalition partners. This will be the most hardline right wing coalition in Israel's history. It comes in with a revolutionary verb to introduce policies and legislation that will change Israel's very character if implemented. With us to discuss the impact of Netanyahu new government on its impact on the US Israel relationship is Daniel Kurtzer. He's a current scholar former career diplomat. He represented the United States as ambassador in Cairo and in Tel Aviv. He was also instrumental in founding the Israel's baseball league. That's a little known fact. And recently, co authored a Washington Post article with Aaron David Miller headlined Biden should respond boldly to a radical Netanyahu government. And what we want to do today is to talk about the kind of reaction that Washington should the kind of the way in which Washington should react to the incoming Israeli government. Ambassador Kurtzer, then, thank you for joining us on this on this webinar. Before we address this the topic of discussion, I thought it would be interesting to recognize the date today Today's December 9, which is the 35th anniversary of the First Intifada, you probably remember that we met in 1990 when the first defiler was still going on. I had just arrived in Washington from Israel after covering the First Intifada as a journalist for more than two years. And what I wanted to ask you today is what lessons you think we should learn from the First Intifada, which would still be applicable or relevant today.
Daniel Kurtzer 03:42
Well, thank you, Ori, for inviting me. It's good to be with you again. I remember well, book the beginning of the Intifada, and its immediate and long term impact at the time, I was working as an adviser to Secretary of State George Shultz and as a speechwriter on the policy planning staff. And the Secretary realized, as we all did, that there was an inflection point that we had reached, where local Palestinians, those in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, took into their own hands. The idea of resistance against Israel PLO did not start that first intifada, in fact, they, they ran fast to catch up, but they almost never did. It was really the national guidance committee, as it was called, that set the policy and determined the actions. And so it was important in understanding that the people under occupation had some agency and were prepared to, to go out on the streets and to demonstrate that that agency the the second thing that I think is quite important for today, is the fact that Schultz tried during the Intifada, and Then Baker picked it up. A year or two later tried to translate violence into a political outcome. You know, we've seen in recent years, the outbreak of wars between Israel and Hamas over over issues related to rockets and so forth, and all those wars, kill people and destroy property. And then everybody goes back to what they were doing before. That first intifada demonstrated that you can use that kind of situation as an opportunity for a political breakthrough. It didn't happen right away. Schultz tried, there was a Schultz plan in 1988. And that failed, but it started the process that resulted in the Madrid peace conference, which was across a great procedural breakthrough.
Ori Nir 05:55
Right. And that violence, obviously was, I mean, it was not a nonviolent effort on the part of Palestinians. But it was unarmed. Unlike the Second Intifada, obviously.
Daniel Kurtzer 06:06
That's right. That's right. And I think that, you know, the difference between the two intifadas I think relates directly to that fact. The second intifada caused so many casualties killed and wounded in Israel, that it changed attitudes within the country in a quite demonstrable way. Whereas the First Intifada certainly hardened some attitudes. But it also provided that opening that President Bush and Secretary Baker were able to exploit and to use diplomatically.
Ori Nir 06:40
Then let's get back to the article that you co authored with Aaron Miller. This is this was in the Washington Post a few days ago. You say there that President Biden should respond head on to this incoming Israeli government and you explain what you mean by that. But let me first ask you why. I mean, many people say Israelis have voted, the people have spoken, they democratically elected a government that is of a certain character. Sure, many don't like it. But why should the US take measures to express disapproval? And again, I'm intentionally posing the question in that way. Because I've heard it a lot from both people or people in both Israel and the United States. What What Why should the US react respond at all?
Daniel Kurtzer 07:35
Let me introduce my response by noting that the article in the Washington Post was actually the second article that I had written after the Israeli election, in that first article, noting the possibility that there would be some very problematic politicians who might be included in the coalition. I recommended that Prime Minister Netanyahu, reach out to the center in order to form a kind of national unity coalition, recognizing that he needed the far right wing to get elected, but did not need them to govern. In fact, they would present very serious problems for him. Of course, the deal that he would have had to make, to do that would be a Get Out of Jail Free card from whether dance or copied, but it seemed to be a deal that however, unhappily, everybody would enter, it would be better than bringing into the coalition. People who have a demonstrated record of racism, homophobia, you name it. These are awful human beings, who are now about to enter government. Now, Aaron Miller, and I recognize that this was a democratically elected government or will be a democratically elected government. And in a sense, President Biden has already recognized that. But that doesn't mean that our interaction with that government has to be the same. I'll say this, with the word love deal that to distinguish, in 2006, the Palestinians had an election, and Hamas ended up winning it. And you remember, at the time, the President George W. Bush said after that election, this was a free and fair election, and we're not going to deal with the government that emerges, because that government was representative represented by Hamas, an organization that's on terrorism list. Now, I say in the half deal, because there there isn't a direct connection. But the fact is that states have the ability to on the one hand recognize a fair election. That was under two akin in Israel, but to choose to, to, or to decide whether or not the individuals occupying critical posts are those with whom we could work. And so that's what prompted Aaron and me to write the article and to suggest a course of action for the Biden administration. Before the government came into being, as a kind of shot across the bow for the Prime Minister to say to him, Look, you know, we can't interfere in what you do. But you want to know that what you do will have an impact on what we do. And you might want to rethink the direction in which you're heading.
Ori Nir 10:38
So let's let's first, I want to remind people that they're encouraged to ask questions. Again, please do not use the raise hand tool, but the q&a tool, so the q&a tool that's at the bottom of your screen, then let's let's examine the recommendations that you make in the article for the Biden administration. And if we can do we have some time to do it. And more than then, you know, a 700, word op ed. The first one that I wanted to talk a bit of a bit about is, you state that the White House should make clear to Israel that the US and here's a quote, will not provide offensive weapons or other assistance to malign Israeli actions in Jerusalem in the occupied territories, say the United States specifically should warn against efforts to change the status quo or the status of the West Bank and the noble sanctuary, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, to legalize settlements, and outposts and so on and so forth. If I read this correctly, this is what you're what you're recommending is conditioning USA, which is a matter that the measure that has been taboo for past US administrations is is that really the case?
Daniel Kurtzer 11:55
No, it's not. USAID is already conditioned by what's called the Leahy amendments. Senator Leahy of Vermont years ago, introduced an amendment to I think it was the National Defense Authorization Act, which said that the United States should investigate. And if necessary, take action, if weapons that we provide are used in a manner that doesn't uphold values such as human rights. And so our embassies are tasked with monitoring the utilization of our weapons, and are supposed to file reports when weapons that we have sold or provided are used in that manner. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv, over many years, has had this as one of its mandates we've never actually followed through to take action. But governments, like the Government of Israel knows that we watched the utilization of our weapons. So noting this in advance of weapons sales, is really putting Israel on notice that we're going to pay attention. Now, one of the questions raised is, well, how do you distinguish, you know, offensive and defensive weapons, and it's, it's a valid argument, you know, a bullet is a bullet and a gun is a gun. But the point is, how the weapons are used. And if the new government takes actions, which prompt a Leahy investigation, then our argument is the United States should tell Israel, but we will take action, and it will impact weapons sales.
Ori Nir 13:39
And I know that you've also been instrumental in enforcing US policy regarding settlements, and offsetting US aid of a certain sort. In the past. Maybe you could say a few words about that. Sure.
Daniel Kurtzer 13:57
Look, I want to put into context first, that one of the things I'm very proud of was being part of several administrations that set in motion US Israel Strategic Dialogue and strategic cooperation. So this is not a long term punitive set of actions. It's rather part of a fabric of relations which the United States and Israel have woven over time. What you're referring to in the question is back in the period the run up before the Madrid peace conference, Israel asked for $10 billion in loan guarantees to resettle Soviet Jewish immigrants in Israel. Now, on the one hand, the administration was proud to have played a role in opening the gates of the Soviet Union for emigration. It was one of the achievements of the Reagan and the Bush administration. So we definitely wanted to help. But when we said to at that time prime ministership, Hear that we did not want any of our money used to resettle those immigrants to the occupied territories. The Prime Minister balked said he would not agree to that condition. And we ended up knocking heads until the Prime Minister tried to override the President's position in Congress, he failed. We did not provide the loan guarantees at the time that he wanted it. But we did provide them shortly thereafter, once the Madrid peace conference had been arranged. So it's an example of the effective utilization of American I would call it pressure. But on an issue that was extraordinarily important deferral, we were trying to bring together Arab States and Israel in a way that they had never talked before in an international conference leading to direct negotiations. And we didn't want an influx of perhaps a million Soviet Jewish immigrants, to start populating settlements and undercut the very negotiations that we were hoping to launch.
Ori Nir 16:08
Another recommendation that you mentioned, is has to do with the interaction between the US administration and the more extremist elements of this government. And you right there, that sorry, yeah. And you right there that the Biden administration should make clear that to Israel, that the Biden ministration will will have no dealings with the vendors not which party and their ministries if they continue to espouse racist policies and actions. Now, Secretary of State Biden Blinken, in his speech at the J Street conference earlier this week, said that the US will judge Israel's incoming government by its actions, not by the members of the government of the government. Do you think that Washington should avoid contact with Ben Vereen smart rich until they prove through actions that they are worthy interlocutors? Or do you think the opposite should be the case? In other words, you know, innocent until proven guilty? If, if you wish, what do you think? Yeah, well,
Daniel Kurtzer 17:22
look, in practical terms, there's no reason to have contact with them now, before they enter the government. And I think it's reasonable to allow a period of time to take place to see whether what they have promised to do is what they actually do. Or we don't have to run after them on day one, we should see whether or not they carry out the rather awful things that they have said publicly they intend to do. So I think Secretary Blinken is right. We don't have to make a big announcement about boycotting them. We don't have to, you know, make a show of it. But in practical terms, I think we should see how they act, how they comport themselves. If in fact, they are intent upon governing reasonably, and they don't do the things that they promised to do. Well, then it's that would be business as usual. But, you know, actions here are going to speak as importantly as words. And I think we ought to see those actions, in view of the terrible words that these people have used to define the policies that they promised implement.
Ori Nir 18:35
Then I got to zoom out a little bit and refer to something that you pointed out, which I think is an interesting distinction. You pointed out in the article that previous crisis that the United States had with Israel had to do with it were in the context of peace negotiations. In other words, they had to do with differences of opinions regarding policy, more specifically policy on Israeli Palestinian affairs. What we have now what we have today is a crisis that has to do with values with character. And I'm sure that you heard and perhaps even uttered the truism that the special relationship between the US and Israel and it is a special relationship is based on shared values. Does it still make sense to even talk about shared values? Now that we have a government that includes such a sizable to harnessed component?
Daniel Kurtzer 19:37
I hope it still is useful to talk about shared values, and I hope that the government that emerges from the coalition talks, in fact demonstrates that those values are still shared. That's not clear based on what we've heard from Ben Vera, smoke Trichur, Avi, Ma, OHS and others with regard to their intentions. So again, we're into the question of words and actions. And it's very troubling now, that you're right, as we said in the article that previous differences of you have normally related to peace process, whether it's settlements or negotiating positions or whatever. This is, in a sense far deeper, because it cuts to the fabric of, of really what binds the two countries together. Now, we also made clear in the article regarding our security relationship, that nothing should change, we are still and should remain committed to Israel's security and well being. But what kind of Israel is it going to be? In this respect? I, I've seen references I haven't seen the quotes yet to comments made by a Foxman, the retired director of the anti Defamation League, who has also called into question, his own lifetime commitment to Israel. If Israel hits in a direction that these guys say they want to lead it. So you know, this is not to peace process policy wonks. They know suggesting to put some pressure on Israel. This is far more fundamental and far deeper, and therefore should prompt everyone left center and right to think about this.
Ori Nir 21:27
We have quite a few questions already piling up from from the attendees. And I again, like to encourage people to post questions using the q&a tool. The first one that I'd like to read out to you, Dan comes from Nimrod Novick, who I'm sure you know quite well from your diplomatic experience. And what he's asking is whether you can assist the administration's appetite to follow your and And Aaron's recommendations.
Daniel Kurtzer 21:59
Well, first of all regards to Nimrod, whom I've known longer than the anniversary of the Intifada, and it's a very deepened and really nice friendship. Look, what we've seen in in the first two years of the administration is a relative unwillingness to move forward on some of the issues that we'd like them to move forward, for example, the peace process, you know, better relationship with Palestinians, but on the other hand, not reopening the consulate, not pressing for not even negotiations, but not pressing the peace process. So there's been a hesitation on the part of the very busy and preoccupied administration not to engage, except where violence kicks in, as it did in May 2021. In the war between Israel and Hamas and in Gaza. The question and I think Secretary Blinken addressed this, in his speech, is whether or not this is different. Whether or not the US can sit back and not pay attention and see Israel take actions that will move Israeli policy in such a direction, that it will be impossible ever to reconstitute a peace process, let alone focus on a possible two state solution. You know, if all the outposts that are illegal under Israeli Law, are magically waived to be legal, which of course all of this contradicts the commitment that Israel has made to the United States to dismantle illegal outposts. But if now these outposts are made legal, and if more infrastructure is built that ties settlements together, and disadvantages Palestinian life, let alone the idea of political and geographical continuity continuity for a possible state to drive Palestinians out as much as possible through actions on the ground. The administration may be forced to take actions that it frankly has not wanted to, in large part because it has so many other issues on the agenda. So the answer to Nimrod is I don't know. But, you know, as we said at the beginning of the conversation, this is a different kind of inflection point, you know, first intifada was one, maybe the Second Intifada Camp David second intifada was a second. And I think we're at a third point now where Israel may have finally decided to drive its policy off a cliff in a manner that will be inconsistent with American interests and values.
Ori Nir 24:48
Sort of following up on numerals question, I'd like to ask you a question that has to do with assessing current administration policies toward Israel Palestine. It's a complex Question. So I'll you know, I'll help you throw it. If you forget,
Daniel Kurtzer 25:05
I'll give you a complex answer. So that's okay.
Ori Nir 25:08
So I'm sure that you've heard recently a formulation that is new to my ears, which is that the US gold us objective now is to ensure equal parts of trying to remember exactly how it was put, but something like equal parts of freedom, security and justice or something along these lines for both Israelis and Palestinians, which tune sound like a framing that has to do with human rights, rather than statehood and sovereignty. But also, we do hear from the administration, we heard it in Lincoln's speech at J Street, that this administration is very much committed to the two state solution as a goal. So the first question is, how do you interpret this this new formulation? And secondly, if the imperative of the administration at this time ought is and ought to be keeping the path open toward the two state solution? What should the White House ask other players other than Israel to do Palestinians, Arab regimes, a part of it is in your article with maybe you can elaborate on it. So there's two questions here.
Daniel Kurtzer 26:35
Sure. So remind me of the second one when we get to it, because the first answer will will be a little bit complex. Yeah. And it gets into the the tall grass of peace process minuti. There is a view being espoused by some that the two state solution is dead and buried. And the parties ought to be encouraged to pursue a rights based approach, meaning that you take what has become effectively a one state reality without equality, and turn it into something more equal, where Palestinians enjoy equal rights, equal opportunities, equal justice, in a situation in which Israel remains the dominant player as continued occupation. The administration has taken note of that, but doesn't agree with it. And that's why they've always coupled that statement. And I can't remember it word for word either. But you got it pretty close. They've coupled that statement with a reminder that we still pursue the to state outcome, but realistically don't believe that we can restart the process of getting there under current circumstances, and that the way that might be available to restart that process, at some point is to build rights and to build the economy and to build avenues for equal justice. So there's a major difference here between those who have given up on two states and say, well, let's just go for the equal rights, even if it means a one state reality, and then later, we can argue for a one state juridically as opposed to the administration, which is saying, No, we haven't given up on two states. But in the meantime, there's no reason for Palestinians not to enjoy some better measure of equality. And that's why, you know, there's activities designed to try to build institutional capacity, economic development, and so forth. You know, back in the 1980s, the Reagan administration tried something called the quality of life initiative, which was a bottom up approach, you know, if you made life better for Palestinians, they would be better off and therefore more willing to negotiate. But the quality of life didn't work, not because we couldn't deliver more for the Palestinians. But because the Palestinians rightfully want to know where it's heading, is there a political vision or a political outcome to which the process is leading. So I think the administration is trying to signal that the outcome, the vision is still two states, but don't resist the idea of making your life's a little bit better if we can do so. As long as it's in that context of creating the conditions where at some point we might get to negotiations. Now, on your on your second point, we did address it briefly in the article by noting the incapacity of the Palestinian Authority right now it's weak. It's been unwilling to stop or to take actions to stop the growing violence. The there's a So long term succession crisis, that is, it's going to be with us for quite some time. And it's, it's really a shell of a of a governing authority. And so we did suggest we argued that Palestinians get their act together, and try to figure out how they're going to how they're going to reach the point where if negotiations are possible, they can present themselves as a negotiating partner. And we did call specifically on the Abraham accord countries, but before that, just Palestinians, what would that mean, putting their act together? If so, you know, if you think in Grand terms, it's kind of a constitutional convention, where you bring the various factions together. And you kind of sit in a room, you know, we call the Philadelphia they can do it in Ramallah. And you try to figure out what it is you want. Do you want a two state solution? Do you want Confederation? Do you want one state? Do you want something else? And secondly, try to figure out how you're going to organize yourselves? Is it God, is a Palestinian entity going to be a democratic? Is it going to be parliamentary system is going to be presidential system, they've kind of willy nilly ended up where they are, I think without deep thoughts, having gone into it, and now that you have a sclerotic leadership, you know, Alamance is a is a fine person. But you know, what do they say he's in the 18th, year of a six year term or something like that, that there's been no opportunity for Palestinians, to speak their peace and to decide how they want to govern themselves. So they really want to take this opportunity when they're not being asked to negotiate to figure out who they are, what they are, where they want to go with their their politics. Lastly, then on the Abraham accord states, you know, it's wonderful that some Arab states have normalized relations with Israel, it is 75 years overdue. It's something of which those of us who worked on Madrid are very proud, because we launched this in the multilateral talks that followed Madrid, in the Casablanca economic summit process. This started 3030, year 25 years ago, in bringing Israel Arab states together, and finally, for additional Arab states have decided that their own interests dictate establishing a normal relationship with Israel. But in so doing, they've largely ignored except for Morocco. But certainly three of them have almost affirmatively ignored the fact that there still is a Palestinian Israeli issue, which needs to be resolved. And reality is that their new relationship with Israel, gives them the ability to interact with Israel on the Palestinian issue in a way that they couldn't before. You look at all the investment and the travel and the tourism and so forth between Israel and the UAE and Israel and Bahrain. I hope those countries are using that to tell the Israelis look, we want to build the relationship. But you got to figure out how to make peace with Palestinians because they are part of this region and part of our national interests. So we argued for that as well.
Ori Nir 33:44
Yeah, yeah, we've seen an interesting kind of small window into the sentiment of the Arab public and in those countries and other countries at the, the Soccer World Cup now. It was kind of an interesting glimpse. I'd like to take another question from our audience here. And this one comes from my friend Martin raffle. You may know him Dan from his longtime affiliation with adjacent PA. So Martin's writing is writing concerns about Israel's settlement and human rights practices in the occupied territories long have existed but the US always refrain from holding back weapons, both defensive and offensive. What are the red lines that should move the US to finally move in that direction?
Daniel Kurtzer 34:36
Well, first of all, hello to Jim. Yes, we we've known each other quite this is like a family event. That this morning.
Ori Nir 34:44
We are community. Yes,
Daniel Kurtzer 34:45
yes, exactly. You know, there's there are there's a line which could get crossed, that makes settlement activity in the past chain. Change into annexation activity in the future. And I don't know how to draw that line right now, I don't know whether it's another 10 outposts or the legalization of the outposts or the road connection or the infrastructure connection. I think that's something that needs to be considered very, very deeply. But at some point, there's a sea change between the settlements against which we have railed for 40 years or more. And the transformation of the settlement enterprise into the annexation, its enterprise. You know, a couple of years ago, it looked like Israel might start annexing as a result of the way they read the Trump plan. And that didn't happen. And we're unlikely to see a kind of formal announcement or a headline that says Israel is annexing the territories. So that's why it's hard to calculate where that line is, that gets crossed. But I think it's imperative for parties that have a stake in this conflict like the United States to make a determination at some point, as that line gets crossed, Israel has to know that there are consequences. And I think that's what Aaron and I were trying to say in shorthand, as already noted, in 700 words,
Ori Nir 36:33
I'd like to ask you another question that that I think, will reflect a certain sentiment that I see here, we have a lot of questions being asked on the q&a. Something that I've been hearing from quite a few people, and I have to say, bothers me very much. And that is, there's a certain attitude of people wanting to just wash their hands of Israel, I have to say it's with a really with a heavy heart. What people are saying is, look, there is a certain trajectory of the demographic in Israel, the demographic of the segment of Israeli society that is predisposed to object to any kind of compromise with the Palestinians is growing in in such measures that they are now in the government and they and they don't seem to be. And they seem to be having a hold on the government, you know, going forward to state solution is becoming more and more difficult to attain. Is there is there a point at all and in another word, and another aspect of it perhaps, which is maybe a positive thing is that Israel is thriving economically, the GDP per capita is great. It doesn't really need foreign assistance. It can leave on his own live on its own. Why Why bother?
Daniel Kurtzer 37:59
So that's also a complex question. And it brings to mind I think it was Churchill, who said about the United States that the United States always does the right thing after it's exhausted all other alternatives. A lot of us want to believe that that's going to be the case with Israel, that the people of Israel have made a choice, they're heading in a very, very bad direction. And at some point, we'll see the light and head back towards a more reasonable position, whether it's center center right center left, but wherever it is, it will not include these seriously faulted people with seriously faulted ideologies, and seriously faulted ideas of what Israel should be and what its policy should be. So I would argue against giving up on Israel, not just because it's successful economically, and doesn't need the United States. Yeah, it can go its own way. And, in fact, Yossi Beilin, and I argued a couple of years ago that Israel ought to go its own way, in terms of independence from USAID, because that will free them from the kind of pressure that Herman Miller and I are suggesting might be brought to bear independent countries, like Israel, that's quite wealthy, don't need handouts from the United States. They need access to technologies defense equipment, but that's a different a different issue. So I I think the people who want to give up on Israel may be motivated by you know, positive motives that they've tried hard and they haven't succeeded and they can't do anything more. Some may be motivated by not so kind motives, you know, waiting for this moment when they can heap all kinds of challenges on Israel. But that's I think that's wrong. Israel's too important for the United States, it's too important for the Jewish community. It's too important for for most of the world, to simply wash one's hands. I think you have to work with the country work with the prime minister that, you know, at the center of our article was the idea of working with the Chinese Yahoo, to avoid the problems that look like they're coming at us head on. And hopefully, you know, he will. He'll stop before we reach that point.
Ori Nir 40:35
And are you are you mentioning Netanyahu specifically? Obviously, he's going to be the prime minister, but also because he probably is the person who is the most attuned to the United States and most and knows the in those bests than anyone else. The nature and the importance of the US Israel relationship.
Daniel Kurtzer 41:03
I think that's for sure. You know, a lot has been written about the fact that even though he has some ideological views that are consistent with the way things are heading, he's also risk averse. And I think that's true. I worked with him very productively when I was ambassador and he was the finance minister. We helped him and the finance ministry get Israel out of some very significant economic problems. So you know, he's not a wild eyed ideologue, or not a crazy man about to take the reins of power. As you noted, he also knows the United States now. I hope he doesn't get fooled by this idea that somehow he can rely upon his Republican friends. Our midterm elections have demonstrated that the Republicans are not as powerful as he may have thought they were during the Trump years. The fact that Biden's has Biden has held on to the Senate, with some question marks now with Senator cinemas defection, the house is still very close. It's it was not a train wreck for the Democrats. And I think that's on Yahoo has always had his finger on the American pulse. Who will recognize that he's got to take American thinking into account as as the government moves forward.
Ori Nir 42:36
Yeah, we have with us and I'm hoping that we can also ask him to turn on his camera. Jim Klutznick, the chair of our board, who wanted to join us and say a few words. I see that we're nearing the end of our of our webinars. So maybe I'll ask Jim to say a few closing words. Hi, Jim. Thanks for joining.
Jim Klutznick 43:01
Thank you. Mr. Kurtzer, I didn't mean to cut you off. But I very much appreciate. Appreciate what you've been saying today. I want to point out that by the way, I used to be on the advisory board. And if the new studies and I don't know if Abraham did he is still around.
Daniel Kurtzer 43:24
I believe he is. If you're still around, but he's retired. Yes. Yes,
Jim Klutznick 43:28
I know a lot of you've seen please give him my best regards.
Daniel Kurtzer 43:32
I shall, yes.
Jim Klutznick 43:35
The I think this last election, which I look at is being sort of crafted for the benefit of one one person. And to get as you put it, get the Get Out of Jail Free card is now starting to backfire on him with the cash carry characters he's helped put into a position of governing Israel. And what I want to point out is that the Israelis have been annexing the West Bank for a long time. De facto annexation is probably better for them with because they don't have to announce it. It's just government will. It's just government information does announce it. And if these people get in to power, I know you and I already talked about giving them a chance to prove themselves and that's probably correct. But other bad people have been elected democratically in other parts of the world over the years. And these people seem to be in that vein, regardless of whether or not Danielle who is an ideologue or not. He's, he's practical, particularly for his own benefit in this case. And my my question to you is because because annexation Sin has been going on constantly, no matter what goes on here, the Israelis will continue to annex by just setting up their illegal. And by the way, illegal is a funny term because it's within the illegal within their laws, sort of like a kangaroo court in many respects. And I've been trying to figure out how you break this core guardian, Gordian knot. And it seems to me, you touched on the lack of Palestinian leadership. But there's I shouldn't say the lack of there is a leadership. But it's not effective at this point. And it seems to me like you create bread, you need a starter dough. And the starter dough to me in this case, is leadership. And I really like to know what your understanding is of the possibility of leaders emerging. Because I think that's if you have an active Palestinian leader, which we don't at this point, after all these years, that sort of forces the issue, there's got to be some way to try to get this thing started. And that's my my question. That's my thought. That's my question to you. Do you see any prospect whether you can name people or not of how we can how the Palestinians can actually become active players here, as opposed to watching this de facto annexation take take place in front of their eyes?
Daniel Kurtzer 46:27
Yeah, Jim, thanks for that question. Look, I've been a canary in the coal mine for 40 years on creeping annexation. You know, when, when there were 50,000 settlers, instead of several 100,000, I was railing against settlements and writing memos to the Secretary of State in the need to see that stops. So what we're seeing now is, you know, something rolling downhill and gathering momentum. And a government that's about to come in, that will not only keep that momentum up, but probably find a way to, you know, jet propulsion it down the hill. But you're also right, that it's not a question of not having a partner if Palestinians have to be the partner of Israel. So that's always been a an idea that people have used to argue against negotiations, but it's a wrong idea. You've put your finger on the correct issue, which is, is there a Palestinian leadership, or leaders that can emerge that, you know, will turn will turn the direction of Palestinian politics. I had the first substantive conversation with Yasser Arafat in 1993, after the Oslo signing, I was in Tunisia and he called, he knew I was there. And he called to see me and I sat, sat with him for three hours. And I said to him at the time, you know, you have a unique opportunity to be the Nelson Mandela and George Washington, of the Palestinian national movement, you can define whatever it is that Palestine National Movement is going to do. But it has to be a vision, you have to it can't just be going back and recreating the PLO in Gaza and Jericho or in the West Bank and Gaza. And our thought wasn't up to the test, as it turns out, at Lawson has not been up to the test. And that does raise the question, is there? Or will there be a Palestinian leader or leaders who can emerge to do this? The one thing I have tried to hesitate doing is to name names. Because I don't want to I don't want to have a situation where having said a name I've I've put the curse on on the person. But there are there are smart Palestinians, including those who have worked in the Palestinian Authority and achieved a great deal and institutionalizing good governance and building capacity and improving the economy. Couple of them were pushed out, but they're there, which means Palestinians have the smart people and people with vision who can do this question is how they reemerge in policymaking for and I go back to the point I made to Ori it may require some kind of a national convention of sorts, in which they play this out and they fight and yell at each other and come up with different ideas, but also come up with a leadership that can move those ideas forward. Well, I guess the only thing I would ask you is if you can't name names, particularly on a session like this, maybe you can write us a note. You know, we're in the peace process business. And we go there from time to time was going there again in March and give us some hence we thought I whispered sorry, if you will whisper Ori. I know he's a good communicator. He'll get it back. Okay. Thank you very much for joining us today. Okay.
Ori Nir 50:12
Yeah. So, I'd like to thank you both Jim and Dan, for joining us. And I'd like to thank all of the people who joined us on this webinar. It brings this this brings it to an end. I want to wish everyone a good weekend. Shabbat Shalom and happy holiday season. And again, then thank you very much for joining us on this webinar.
Americans for Peace Now, together with Ameinu, Bend the Arc, Habonim Dror North America, J Street, New Israel Fund, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and T’ruah today released the following statement:
As Jewish American organizations, we oppose House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to strip Representative Ilhan Omar of her House Foreign Affairs Committee seat based on false accusations that she is antisemitic or anti-Israel. We may not agree with some of Congresswoman Omar’s opinions, but we categorically reject the suggestion that any of her policy positions or statements merit disqualification from her role on the committee.