Two days ago, an interview appeared with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, in the Sheldon Adelson-funded daily freebee Israel Hayom, a Netanyahu propaganda outlet also known in Hebrew as the “Bibiton” (“Bibi” for Benjamin, “iton” meaning paper in Hebrew).
The interview is a huge wink-wink to Israel to go ahead with annexation of a third of the West Bank, a major prospect opened up by the Trump ‘deal of the century’ and a plan standing at the base of the new Netanyahu-Gantz unity government agreement. The annexation is set to be able to start July 1st.
“We’re talking and listening, and everyone understands that come July, certainly, people on the Israeli side, want to be ready to go July 1,” Friedman says. “We are not declaring sovereignty – the government of Israel has to declare sovereignty. And then we’re prepared to recognize it along those lines. As the secretary of state said, it’s Israel’s decision in the first place. So, you have to go first.”
We have to remember that this is a Jewish settlement patron talking here. Friedman has been a major fundraiser of the Beit El settlement, built wholly on stolen Palestinian private property. Like Jared Kushner, whose family fund has been sponsoring the most fundamentalist religious settler institutions (as the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in Yitzhar), for Friedman to feign ‘impartiality’ here is downright ridiculous. His “we are not declaring sovereignty” is an egregious fallacy, as it is not for the US to do that anyway, so it’s not as if this indicates any kind of holding back, really. He’s basically saying ‘go ahead, and we’ll follow’. This comes atop recent US recognitions of Israeli unilateral annexations, first of East Jerusalem (in moving the embassy) and then of the occupied Syrian Jolan (Golan) heights. It’s almost as if Friedman is begging Israel – ‘do it, we’re right here to give the stamp of approval’. And Friedman knows he really doesn’t need to beg hard.
But there are concerns from the right, as there were with the Oslo accords (even though Rabin assured it would definitely end up with “less than a [Palestinian] state”), that this ‘deal of the century’ might somehow result in some kind of a Palestinian state, even if it is a Bantustan state for all practical purposes and intents.
So here comes a huge racist wink-wink by Friedman:
“I understand them, but [we are saying] you don’t have to live with that Palestinian state, you have to live with the Palestinian state when the Palestinians become Canadians. And when the Palestinians become Canadians all your issues should go away.”
This language may appear mystical to many – but it is quite clearly coded language for those whom Friedman is speaking to. He is basically saying ‘don’t worry, it’s never going to happen anyway’, because the Palestinians will never become Canadians. And his formulation clearly echoes that of a former senior advisor of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dov Weissglas, who in 2004 sought to soothe concerns that the nearing 2005 Gaza ‘disengagement’ plan might somehow lead to a Palestinian state. Weissglas:
“What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did. (My emphasis).
It’s worth appraising the larger section from Weissglas’s interview in Haaretz in 2004, to see the greater logic here:
“The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress. […] That is exactly what happened. You know, the term `peace process’ is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The peace process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The peace process is the evacuation of settlements, it’s the return of refugees, it’s the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen…. what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did.”
It is a very similar logic to Friedman’s. This is a plan that is meant to freeze things. Ostensibly, there is also a partial freeze on building settlements over half of ‘Area C’, for a 4-year period, as this area is potentially allocated, according to the Trump plan, as an ‘expansion’ of Palestinian areas A and B. According to the Oslo interim accords, area C, comprising over 60% of the West Bank, was to be under temporary full Israeli control, for the 5-year interim period, during which final status negotiations should have begun. In reality, Oslo allowed Israel to freeze area C and establish it as a major arena of ethnic cleansing. Area A was full Palestinian control (major population centers), and area B was shared control through Palestinian Authority coordination with the Israeli military. Friedman explains the differentiated logic of the area C annexation:
“There are three categories of territory in Area C: There’s the area that is populated by Jewish communities and sovereignty allows these communities to grow significantly. That’s the majority – let’s call that 97% of the population – and in those areas, there’s no restriction on growth. For example, Ariel will be the same as Tel Aviv [there will be no restriction]. So that’s category number one. Category No. 2 is the half of Area C that will be reserved for the Palestinians [to be reserved for a Palestinian state for the allotted four years], and there will be no building there – from either side – Israelis or Palestinians. Then there’s a third category, called the ‘enclaves’ or the ‘bubbles.’ This is 3%, the Jewish communities that are remote. And so, what happens to them is, Israel declares sovereignty over those communities, but they don’t expand – they can expand up but they can’t expand out. So as to the vast vast majority of settlements, the rules would be the same as in the Green Line [Israel 1949 ceasefire line].”
Friedman is asked “When does the four-year countdown begin?”, to which he answers “on the day that Israel begins to assert its sovereignty and declare the construction freeze in the areas agreed upon in Area C.”
Friedman says that there are no additional terms or steps, yet he is challenged by interviewer Ariel Kahana: “There are other reports suggesting that there is the new condition of an Israeli commitment to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Friedman’s low-key answer is calming for the Israeli expansionists who know what “peace process” really means – basically, nothing, with a pretense of “good faith”:
“On that issue, the condition is that the [Israeli] prime minister will agree to negotiate with the Palestinians and invite the Palestinians to meet, to engage in discussions and keep those discussions open, and pursue them in good faith, for four years.”
Kahana provides the expected Netanyahu propaganda: “He has actually already done so.”
And Friedman takes the cue in this Israel-apologetic waltz:
“And he has to continue that. Right now, the Palestinians are not willing to come to the table, but if two years from now they come back and say, ‘Wait, we made a mistake and are willing to negotiate,’ he must be willing to sit and have those discussions. But, it’s a finite amount of time, we want to keep that option [open] for four years. That’s the idea.”
See, its not meant to actually happen. The whole thing is set up to include terms that will ensure that the negotiation never takes place, for instance Netanyahu’s insistence since 2009 that the Palestinians not merely recognize Israel (which they already did per treaty in 1993), but recognize it as a Jewish State. This term basically demanded of Palestinians that they celebrate the essence of their dispossession, rubbing their noses in it after they have already made more recognition of Israel than Ghandi did of Pakistan. Then Netanyahu can say he’s open to talking “without preconditions”. That’s ‘good faith’ in Zionist terminology. Likewise, Friedman is presenting the immediate annexation of half of Area C as a fait accompli, and anything that Palestinians get from there on, they should be ever so happy. He’s being generous by his own measure:
“We’ve created the beginnings of an infrastructure fund that would grow dramatically if the Palestinians would come to the table and engage on this. We’ve identified the changes that would have to occur within Palestinian society and government in order for this to work – we are not ignoring the fact that Palestinians continue to pay terrorists or continue to incite violence. That’s further than anybody has gone before by a mile.”
Friedman throws in the repeated hasbara point, that Palestinians “pay terrorists”, since the Palestinian Authority pays support to families of Palestinians who have been jailed or killed by Israel. That there may be acts which target civilians and therefore arguably fall in the definition of “terror” is one thing, but Israel’s definition is very broad on that, and it considers any attack on armed soldiers to be “terror”. Likewise, Israel routinely jails Palestinians with no legal process (‘Administrative Detention’) for renewable periods of 6 months, and regularly applies collective punishment in the form of house demolitions, revoking of residency and work permits of family members etc., so the Palestinian economic assistance is also to be seen as a band-aid for that targeting. But the generalization that Friedman applies is meant to label Palestinians as terrorists and terror supporters.
And terrorists are unlikely to become Canadians, aren’t they?
Friedman waxes emotional about the “biblical heartland of Israel”, never mind that it’s in Palestine. Here he lists his own baby, Beit El. All of that stolen land is like the “Statue of Liberty”:
“And, Hebron, Shiloh, Beit El, Ariel, I mean these are not places people we’re talking about [handing over to Palestinians]. Even people that were talking about the Gush and Maaleh Adumim, which you could get even some Democratic administration to talk about the possibility– but nobody ever talked about the biblical heartland of Israel. And part of it was because we didn’t understand how important it is, to Israel. It’s unreasonable to ask Israel to give it up. It’s like asking the US to give up the Statue of Liberty.”
And that symbolism is very important, it’s in the “national DNA” of the “Jewish people”:
“It’s a small little thing [the Statue of Liberty] but we’re not giving it up – it’s very important to us. Or Lincoln memorial, at any price! Because it’s our national DNA. And [the same goes for] the Jewish people.”
Not at any price! Wow, what religious fervor! But if Palestinians seek merely East Jerusalem as a capital? Oh, come on, be reasonable! It’s all for the Jewish people! And if Palestinians say it’s “very important” for them, if international law says Israel shouldn’t annex it? That’s just tough. And if they say they won’t give it up, “at any price”? Well, then they’re just fundamentalist terrorists, how unreasonable!
Friedman is saying to Israel: Sit tight, keep on the masks for 4 years, we’ve got this for you. Palestinians won’t turn into Canadians in four years. We’ll make this step, consolidate another part of the colonialist conquest of Palestine, and then move on to take more. David Friedman is not advising Palestinians to emigrate to Canada – he’s telling them to go to hell.