Danby responds to Hawke article in the Australian Financial Review

February 21, 2017 by Michael Danby
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Bob Hawke is a respected former Labor PM (AFR 13.2.2017) but he has incorrectly elevated Israeli settlements in the West Bank as the major barrier to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Failure of the Palestinian leadership to pursue direct negotiations with the Israel is the key blockage. The basic paths to a solution lie not in international resolutions and criticisms but on direct negotiations between the parties.

Yes Israel’s parliament passed a bad law on adverse possession of abandoned private property, which like bad law in Australia or the US, will be overruled. Israel and the Palestinians agreed in the Oslo II Accords in 1995 that settlements and location of a final border between Israel and a future State of Palestine will be among the “permanent status” issues to be decided by direct negotiations. Permanent-status negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders were conducted at Camp David in 2000, in Taba in 2001, in Jerusalem in 2008 and in Washington DC in 2010.

During the negotiations in 2008 Israel made an offer (with a map) that would have connected the major settlement blocs and the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods to Israel. This would require Israel get 6.3% of the West Bank, which is where about 80% of the settlers live and within which all of the government-authorised settlement construction and expansion occurs. This 6.3% area would be compensated with 1:1 land swaps from Israel’s pre-1967 territory, including an access way between the West Bank and Gaza. Only in November 2015 did Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas finally admit in an interview that the Palestinians had rejected the offer and made no counter-offer.

In 2009-2010, Israel implemented a 10 month freeze on new settlement construction. The Palestinians spent the first nine months dodging direct negotiations with Israel, and the final month seeking an extension of the freeze, without engaging on the core issues.

So despite many opportunities to conclude a fair two-State agreement, the Palestinian leadership has gone out of its way to avoid coming to terms with Israel.

A far more powerful obstacle to the achievement of a Palestinian state has been the internal divide between the secular nationalist and theocratic movements within Palestinian society. The former is led principally by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) which controls the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, and the latter is led principally by Hamas, based in Gaza. The bitter differences between these two movements, including over whether or not to make peace with Israel under any circumstances, have degenerated into internecine violence on many occasions.

In order to constitute a State in international law, the Palestinians must have an effective government, A single centralized administration capable of asserting its authority over the people within its claimed territory – the West Bank and Gaza Strip – and the capacity to deliver on any international agreements it may enter into. At present, given the PLO-Hamas split neither criterion is satisfied.

Extending diplomatic recognition to a State of ‘Palestine’ that does not exist would be an exercise in wishful thinking, not realism.

Hawke’s reading of the current realities rests on surprising historical errors, such as his throwaway reference to the Palestinians as the “indigenous” people of the Holy Land. In contrast to the complete absence of Arabic writing or inscriptions to be found anywhere in the Holy Land dating before the Muslim conquests of the 7th century CE, and the absence of any reference to Palestine as a descriptor for a people before the late nineteenth century, there is a plethora of documents and other archaeological artefacts attesting to the unbroken chain of Hebrew, Israelite and Jewish language, culture, religion and civilisation in the Holy Land over the last 3,250 years. Coming from a Christian family, Bob Hawke must put some credence to the Bible which attests to millennial Jewish ties to the Holy Land.

Hawke claims that the UN allocated the Jews “exactly 56.47 per cent” of Palestine and is the claim they owned 94 per cent of the land were given 47 per cent of their own country”.

In fact, in the part of the country that became Israel, 8.6 per cent of the land was owned by Jews and 3.3 per cent was retained by Arabs who took up Israeli citizenship, while 16.9 per cent was abandoned by private owners who fled the fighting during the civil war or the Arab military invasion in May 1948.

The rest of the land—over 70 per cent—had been vested in the British-administered Mandatory Power, and accordingly reverted to the State of Israel as its legal heir. The greater part of this 70 per cent consisted of the Negev, some 12,725 square km all told, or close to 50 per cent of the 26,630 square km in all of Mandatory Palestine. Known as Crown or State Lands, this was mostly uninhabited arid or semi-arid territory, inherited originally by the British Mandatory Government from the Ottomans. In 1948 it passed to Israel as the successor State.

No Palestinian demands were raised during the period of Jordanian rule between 1948 and 1967 for the West Bank to break away from Jordan and become part of a separate State of Palestine.

Palestinians’ post-1967 claim of ownership of the West Bank based on the right of national self-determination. Settlements are an important issue of the conflict, but the real obstacles to Palestinian statehood and a peace agreement remain political, not physical.

Australians should not view Israel through the prism of one law retroactively legalising “absent possession” such laws where quite common for abandoned property throughout the Western World. Israel is a creative bastion where the only growing population of Christians in the Middle East live not discriminated against. It is perhaps the epicentre of the world’s technological revolution where in Tel Aviv 150,000 gay people peacefully parade or where an equal number can light the Xmas trees in Bethlehem or Jaffa.

Israel sits in a Middle East beset by war, economic failure and ugly sexual violence. Its Attorney General has said that this new law retroactively legalising 4,000 homes will be invalidated by Israel’s Supreme Court. As then U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said in explaining the U.S.’s abstention in the Security Council on the resolution Bob Hawke mentions – “even if every single settlement were to be dismantled tomorrow, peace still would not be attainable without both sides acknowledging uncomfortable truths and making difficult choices”. Recognising a state of Palestine will do nothing to encourage the Palestinians whose adamant continuing refusal to negotiate directly with their Israeli counterparts is the key blockage to peace.


10 Responses to “Danby responds to Hawke article in the Australian Financial Review”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    In 1492 the Jews were expelled from Roman Catholic Spain along with Muslims and Protestants.

    The Ottoman Empire welcomed the Jews to Istanbul were they settled and those that remain to this day speak a language that is a mix of Yiddish, Spanish and some Turkish.

    In WW2 the holocaust was largely perpetrated by Roman Catholic, even Hitler was raised an Austrian Roman Catholic.

    This make me wonder what the Israeli have got against the Palestinians.

  2. Leon Poddebsky says:

    Just think about the enormity that has been most recently perpetrated by former Australian Labor Party bigwigs: advocacy for a genocidal Hamas-“Palestinian” Authority state.
    Doesn’t this horrify Jews in Australia?
    If these former roosters, now mere feather dusters, had it in their power to fabricate such a state, just contemplate what would be the fate of millions of Jews- and not just in Israel.

  3. Leon Poddebsky says:

    The oh so “humanitarian” feather dusters of the Australian Labor Party can never redeem themselves for their inaction, even at the level of mere empty rhetoric, over the oppression of the people of West Papua by Indonesia.
    The Papuans gave Australian forces invaluable assistance during World War Two against the Japanese, but the ALP’s justification for its existence has become to propagandise on behalf of a Hamas-PA state rather than to care for the welfare of its closest neighbours.

  4. Leon Poddebsky says:

    Hard-liners like Larry Stillman cannot produce any evidence (because there is none) for the existence ever of a corporate /national demographic or political entity called “Palestinians” or “Palestine.” The ancient Romans, e.g., who conquered Judaea, issued commemorative coins which bore the inscription, “JUDAEA CAPTA,” not “Palaestina capta.”
    The distinguished Arab historian, Phillip Hitti, vigorously asserted this in his evidence before a commission of inquiry during the Mandate era. And Hitti was a vehement anti-Zionist!
    Zuheir Mohsin, late fuhrer of the terrorist organisation, a-Say’ika, told the truth in an unguarded moment, when he said that the Arabs invented the ‘Palestinian’ label merely as a political weapon against Israel.
    Hardliners like Larry Stillman seem to believe that the multiple offers of statehood to the Arabs who today call themselves ‘Palestinians,’ never happened: 1937 ( the Peel Plan;) 1947 ( the UN partition recommendation; 2000 ( the Barak government’s offer;)2008 ( the Olmert government’s offer.)
    That kind of predisposition is reminiscent of Soviet-style amnesia that used to be implemented in successive revisions of Soviet encyclopaedias, where “facts” became “obsolete” as political expediencies shifted.
    Hardliners like Larry Stillman seem to think that Hamas and “Palestinian” “Authority” should be given a free hand to rocket Israel’s international airport from the heights of central Israel.
    Hardliners like Larry Stillman “forget” that a large proportion of the “Palestinians” are not even indigenous to The Land of Israel. That fact is reflected in their family names, like Masri (Egyptian), for example.
    The Larrys of the world need reminding that when Israeli Minister, Lieberman, suggested that in any future agreement, the Arab-Israeli city of Um al-Fahem be included inside a Palestinian political entity, the Palestinian inhabitants of that city protested vigorously that they insisted on remaining within Israel’s borders rather than become part of a “Palestinian” state.
    In the West hardline people of ill- will agitate for recognition of a non-existent ‘Palestinian” state in flagrant violation of international convention and in flagrant violation of a host of agreements and international law, while ‘Palestinian” society is still saturated with lust for Jewish blood: why do they do this?
    Because they will feel that they can wash their hands of the consequences, which they know full well, will follow. This is the “egalitarian socialist” ethic, according to which the Arab nation deserves 99.9% of the Middle East, but the Jewish nation is “morally obliged” to imperil its minuscule state’s existence by immediately donating its most strategically vital portion to a society that is brought up on a hatred of Jews, not just Israeli Jews, from cradle to grave.

    If I were in the habit of making personal attacks on interlocutors, and giving them suggestions, in the way that Larry has attacked Michael Danby, I might have given hardline Larry this one: just apply for membership of the PLO or Hamas, or get an invitation to a “tea” party organised by Carr, Hawke and Evans.

  5. Michael Burd says:

    Well done Michael I hope you have cc Hawke .
    Isi Leibler had quite a bit to say about his ex friend in his weekly
    Candidly Speaking from Jerusalem report on our program Nothing Left worth a listen on the podcast Isi was quite animated and also devulged some very personal things about Hawke most would have been unaware .

    It is a pity michael you are still the Federal Jewish lone wolf in Canberra when it comes to
    Publicly and I unequivocally standing up for Israel and Jewish human rights .
    Your moral courage is to be admired .

  6. Adrian Jackson says:

    The UN should just draw a border from Jerusalem to the sea and to the Jordan River the other way. Israel to the north with Tel Aviv as capital and Palestine to the south with Gaza City as the capital.

    Jerusalem administrative zone and religious site, with access to all, should be administered by neither county but by a UN sponsored city council.

    Citizens of both countries could choose to live in either country or sell or rent their land and move to the other country. Problem solved.

  7. Adrian Jackson says:

    A patchwork of islands of land is unworkable.

    Perhaps the best solution is draw a new border from Jerusalem to the sea with Israel to the north and Palestine to the south. Jerusalem could be a open city administered by an independent UN body as it is important to the three monotheist religions who cant seem to live together.

    This old city contains many historic and religious buildings including The Wailing Wall foundations from an Israelite Temple destroyed by the Romans, The Dome on the Rock Mosque where Mohammad ascended to heaven and the Church of the Holy Secular claimed by a number of sometime brawling Christian sects and were that say Jesus was buried before he too ascended to heaven.

  8. Larry Stillman says:

    With hardliners and deniers of Palestinian existence like Danby there is no chance of any peace or reconciliation. He’s in the same category as an climate change denier or the worst of Palestinian nationalists.

    I suggest that when he leaves Parliament he migrate and run for the Likud or the ultra-nationalist Israel Home party. I think he would be welcome. He knows the line to take.

    I think his worst error here is to insultingly deny the Palestinians any historical legitimacy, while taking the Biblical accounts literally as if nothing intervened, or involved other peoples between those times and now. He appears to not be aware that invading Arabs of course intermingled with, well, the many different populations of the Land in the 7th Century, whether, Jews, Christians of various sorts (Byzantine Greeks, Chaldeans), surviving Samaritans, & Persians. So they, like the ancient Hebrews, became part of the country. Has he not seen, for example, Benny Morris’ maps of hundreds of Palestine villages that were obliterated, or accounts of expulsions? Or understood the manipulation of “present absentee” laws to deny people their property?

    And he has the cheek to imply that Bob Hawke gives Jewish connections no legitimacy which is rubbish of course.

    Others had presented good reasons for the failure of Oslo and take on Palestinian politics under occupation (the effects of which on Palestinian society he sidelines). The rejectionist line he takes makes sense to very very few countries internationally now (some dependent Pacific Islands included).

  9. Leon Poddebsky says:

    Hawke’s slanders are neither errors nor myopia.
    He is not an uneducated, unsophisticated person. He belongs to the elite of the Australian Labor Party.
    Hawke’s defamatory article is calculated, deliberate and malicious.
    Michael Danby has done truth and common sense a great service by unmasking “the new Hawke.”

  10. David Samson says:

    Well said Michael Danby, one would think that after a lifetime of socialistic policies and experiences, Hawke would understand more about the nation that gave him so much inspiration earlier in his career.

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