I’ve decided to respond to Ted via a new posting rather a comment. He has vociferously contested my first entry on this topic, with three comments. I’m sorry that Ted prefers to remain anonymous; he refused my invitation to engage in an e-mail discussion.
The argument that all settlements beyond the Green Line are illegal is a powerful one, which I tend to agree with. But what people like Ted miss is that it is “an argument” (and there are counter-arguments, even if he and I don’t buy them).
The application of all law, from the issuing of a ticket for jay walking to applying the 4th Geneva Convention, is subject to political decisions and the discretion of the pertinent legal and law enforcement authorities. International law (especially dealing as it does with sovereign states) is, of necessity, even more subject to politics and discretion than local and national laws.
I certainly don’t think it would be wrong for the NY Times to make more references to the 4th Geneva Convention than it does; I wish it made more references to the Geneva Accord/Initiative (and to the Meretz party for that matter), both of which Ted disdains. But to denounce the NY Times for not echoing our exact views is to confuse a general newspaper with a partisan publication.
Re Ted’s crack about Meretz, the Geneva Initiative and the settlement blocs: Meretz is not in love with the settlement blocs (where most West Bank settlers reside within a few kilometers of the old 1967 boundaries), but unlike Ted, Meretz is trying to actually end the conflict rather than prove itself to be absolutely right (or “left”). Aside from their illegality and everything else, for Israel to remove all the settlements and all 400,000+ settlers (counting not only those in the West Bank, but the 150,000 or so who inhabit the newer neighborhoods of Jerusalem built in formerly Jordanian territory) would likely be both politically and physically impossible. It took 50,000 IDF soldiers to remove 8,000 settlers in Gaza, along with their 7,000 rowdy supporters. Do the math: Israel does not have the half million to 1.5 million soldiers required to remove them all, nor would it be able to command the soldiers to do so (if it had such numbers) without risking civil war.
But the Palestinian Authority isn’t even suggesting that neighborhoods like East Talpiot be abandoned. It is rightfully complaining about plans to expand Har Homa or Maaleh Adumim.
The value of the Geneva Initiative is that it provides a model for a mutual agreement that carefully balances the needs and rights of both sides. It is not about one side dictating terms to the other. It offers hope that the two sides can withdraw from their most hardened positions— enough to permit a new reality to take hold. But it’s not a magic bullet and it won’t be easy. It disturbs me but is not surprising that an absolutist, like Ted, would have difficulty with something like Geneva, which is all about compromise.