Cross-posted from Mondoweiss.
SEPT. 21 — Hoo boy. It was a real Israel lovefest in Manhattan as Republicans, members of U.S. pro-Israel groups and Likud politicians convened at the prestigious W Hotel in Union Square, Manhattan yesterday morning. The press conference was led by GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry and KM Danny Danon. From JPost:
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry will hold a press conference with American and Israeli-Jewish leaders in New York on Tuesday in which he is expected to address the upcoming deliberations at the United Nations, MK Danny Danon (Likud), said on Saturday night.
Danon, who will participate at the press conference, said he would ask Perry ahead of the conference to adopt the initiative the MK is advancing to annex Judea and Samaria in response to the unilateral Palestinian moves at the UN.
Danon, already in the U.S. to speak at nationwide Israel fundraisers and rallies prior to the UN vote, has proposed an “Annexation for Declaration Initiative,” which would “establish full sovereignty over the Jewish communities of the West Bank . . . our historic homeland of Judea and Samaria:”
Under [my] three-state solution, Arab-Israelis residing within Israel would be welcome to join the official new State of Israel. The remaining enclaves of Palestinian towns and villages in Judea and Samaria would become part of either Egypt or Jordan, and the Egyptian and Jordanian borders would extend accordingly to these designated towns.
Both Jordan and Egypt have expressed strong support and concern for Palestinians living in the West Bank. If they truly care so much, then they should readily agree to a three-state solution and incorporate the Palestinian towns located adjacent to their current borders.
Perry avoided endorsing this proposal, though, proclaiming his support for a two-state solution (but not at this present time through the UN). Most of his remarks were directly or indirectly aimed at the Obama Administration rather than the Palestinian Authority or the PLO, though he said that the U.S. should consider cutting all aid to the Palestinians if the UN vote goes through, a measure already proposed by members of Congress.
While Perry sought to present himself as a pro-Israel centrist, members of Congress have approved a resolution that mirrors Danon’s. The annexations would include the settlement areas “as a start,” and expand to encompass the “empty land” of Area C, a designation for almost 60% of total West Bank territory (less than 10% of the total Palestinian population resides in Area C). The land, susceptible to drought, is at least partly underpopulated by Palestinians because under the Oslo Accords, Area C has seen:
Demolition of livelihood structures — including commercial structures, educational facilities, wells, water cisterns, water storage tanks, farmland and animal pens — by Israeli authorities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem increased by about 85 percent in 2010 and so far in 2011.
In Area C, Israel retains military authority and full control over the building and planning sphere, while responsibility for the provision of services falls to the PA.
About 70 percent of Area C is classified as a firing zone, settlement areas, or nature reserves, and is inaccessible to Palestinians.
Danon argues that all this is right and proper because the land constitutes what was “Judea and Samaria”: there’s no Palestine, he insists, never was and certainly won’t be on the Jews’ God-given property. So while it is right for South Sudan to pursue statehood, in Danon’s opinion — “just like Israel, its people live with a sense of resolve and confidence that their existence is a God-given right,” he has said, and “the creation of this new nation deserves the attention and admiration of the entire international community” — it is not right, not God-given and certainly not admirable for the Palestinians to attempt to do so now or ever, as it will just lead to the establishment of an Iranian-backed “terrorist state” like Gaza.
All this will no doubt garner a robust “Amen!” from Perry, since he is all too happy to project past onto present, Israel onto Texas, Arabs onto Mexicans, and the “struggles” of Texan pioneers in the 1830s and 40s onto the “struggles” of Israeli settlers in the the 21st century. As he rather famously wrote in The Jerusalem Post last week: “historian T.R. Fehrenbach once observed that my home state of Texas and Israel share the experience of civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies.”
So it’s exactly the same — except for the part where Texans actually participated in a referendum over their annexation by the U.S. (granted, it was a referendum that whoeheartedly endorsed slavery). The non-Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria will presumably not have the luxury these (white) Texans did, though they will certainly be welcome to vote with their feet on whether they remain in Greater Israel or not.
Yet, as Max Blumenthal has pointed out, Perry’s remarks are in fact, too clever by half. According to Blumenthal, what Fehrenbach actually said in his work Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans was this:
The Texan’s attitudes, his inherent chauvinism and the seeds of his belligerence, sprouted from his conscious effort to take and hold his land. It was the reaction of essentially civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies they despised. The closest 20th-century counterpart is the State of Israel, born in blood in another primordial land.
With that in mind, Danon is even more deserving than Glenn Beck is of an honorary Texan citizenship. Hell, make him an honorary Texas Ranger. Make everyone in Likud (among other parties) an honorary Texas Ranger. They could then do some whistlestop campaigning in the West Bank wearing official badges.
Yisrael Beitenu’s Avigdor Lieberman would probably look good in a bolo tie, and I think spurs would not look out of place on Im Tirtzu jackboots. But I shudder to think what Perry would wear to such a West Bank rally . . . especially as a U.S. president.
Perry will also be hosting a fundraiser targeted at Jewish donors in Manhattan this week (which may or may not be part of the venue with Danon on 9/20).
Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.