Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Kerry wasn't wrong: Israel's future is beginning to look a lot like apartheid

Chris McGreal                                 Guardian/UK                                              14 May 2014

The howls of outrage from the pro-Israel lobby are probably the best indicator that John Kerry and his chief Middle East mediator, Martin Indyk, had it right. Organizations claiming to speak for America's Jews reeled in horror after Kerry dared to say it two weeks ago: if Israel doesn't reach a deal on an independent Palestine it risks becoming an "apartheid state"

The second blow came a week later, when Indyk said that Binyamin Netanyahu's government had "sabotaged" the latest negotiations with another surge in Jewish settlement construction in the occupied territories and large-scale expropriation of land that does not belong to Israel. After years of traveling through the West Bank and South Africa, it's blindingly clear to me: the ever-expanding settlements are, indeed, carving out the geography of West Bank apartheid.

Israel's intent in the West Bank is an issue that has largely been off-limits in Washington. But Israel needed challenging. For all their public professions of horror, influential members of Netanyahu's party and its allies were happy enough to see the peace talks collapse – and to have an excuse to scorn Kerry. They see an opportunity to diminish the American role, abandon lip service to the two-state solution and, eventually, move toward the very outcome Kerry warned about.

Danny Danon, the increasingly powerful chairman of the central committee of Netanyahu's Likud party and Israel's deputy defence minister, called Kerry's comment "unacceptable". But Danon openly opposes his own prime minister's professed support for a two-state solution – as, apparently, do a majority of Likud members. In an interview late last year, Danon told me that there is not going to be a Palestinian state.

His aim might be drawn straight out of the South African playbook: Danon says bluntly that he wants to take the bulk of West Bank land – Judea and Samaria, as it's known in Israel – while ridding the Jewish state of responsibility for governing the mass of Palestinians. "Long-term, I am not talking about annexing the Palestinians. My goal is to annex the land in Judea and Samaria with the minimum amount of Palestinians," he told me. " I want the majority of the land with the minimum amount of Palestinians."

That was, essentially, South Africa's 1960s blueprint for the supposedly self-governing Bantustan homelands intended to rid white South Africa of millions of black people while taking the best of their land. I saw that plan in force in South Africa so I put it to Danon that not only is his policy similar but that the end result might look much the same: a patchwork of Arab towns and cities in the West Bank surrounded by Israel. He didn't deny it. "Of course we will keep building," he said.

The US secretary of state saw the future far more clearly than his critics. [Abridged]


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