Noam Chomsky says Israel, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is carving up the West Bank with illegal settlements.
Editor's note: Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among his recent books are Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, Power Systems, Occupy, and Hopes and Prospects. His web site is www.chomsky.info.
(CNN) -- The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks beginning in Jerusalem proceed within a framework of assumptions that merit careful thought.
One prevailing assumption is that there are two options: either a two-state settlement will be reached, or there will be a "shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality -- a state'from the sea to the river'," an outcome posing "an immediate existential threat of the erasure of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state" because of what is termed "the demographic problem," a future Palestinian majority in the single state.
The policies are quite clear. Their roots go back to the 1967 war and they have been pursued with particular dedication since the Oslo Accords of September 1993.This particular formulation is by former Israeli Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin, but the basic assumptions are near universal in political commentary and scholarship. They are, however, crucially incomplete. There is a third option, the most realistic one: Israel will carry forward its current policies with full U.S. economic, military, and diplomatic support, sprinkled with some mild phrases of disapproval.
The Accords determined that Gaza and the West Bank are an indivisible territorial entity. Israel and the U.S. moved at once to separate them, which means that any autonomy Palestinians might gain in the West Bank will have no direct access to the outside world.
A second step was to carry forward the creation of a vastly expanded Greater Jerusalem, incorporating it within Israel, as its capital. This is in direct violation of Security Council orders and is a serious blow to any hope for a viable Palestinian entity. A corridor to the east of the new Greater Jerusalem incorporates the settler town of Ma'aleh Adumim, established in the 1970s but built primarily after the Oslo Accords, virtually bisecting the West Bank.
Corridors to the north including other settler towns divide what is to remain under some degree of Palestinian control -- "Bantustans," as they were called by one of the main architects of the policy, Ariel Sharon, in a reference to the territory set aside for black South Africans during the apartheid era.
Meanwhile Israel is incorporating the territory on the Israeli side of the "separation wall" cutting through the West Bank, taking arable land and water resources and Palestinian villages.
Included are the settlement blocs that "will remain part of Israel in any possible future peace agreement," as stated by Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev as the current negotiations were announced.
The International Court of Justice ruled that all of this is illegal, and the Security Council had already ruled that all of the settlements are illegal. The U.S. joined the world in accepting that conclusion in the early years of the occupation. But under Ronald Reagan, the position was changed to "harmful to peace," and Barack Obama has weakened it further to "not helpful to peace."
That will complete the isolation of any West Bank Palestinian entity. Meanwhile huge infrastructure projects throughout the West Bank, from which Palestinians are barred, carry forward the integration to Israel, and presumably eventual annexation.
The areas that Israel is taking over will be virtually free of Arabs. There will be no new "demographic problem" or civil rights or anti-apartheid struggle, contrary to what many advocates of Palestinian rights anticipate in a single state.
There remain open questions. Notably, pre-Obama, U.S. presidents have prevented Israel from building settlements on the E1 site -- a controversial area in the West Bank that Israel hopes to develop -- which would complete the separation of Greater Jerusalem from Palestinian-controlled area. What will happen here is uncertain.
As the negotiations opened, Israel made its intentions clear by announcing new construction in East Jerusalem and scattered settlements, while also extending its "national priority list" of settlements that receive special subsidies to encourage building and inducements for Jewish settlers.
Obama made his intentions clear by appointing as chief negotiator Martin Indyk, whose background is in the Israeli lobby, a close associate of negotiator and presidential adviser Dennis Ross, whose guiding principle has been that Israel has "needs," which plainly overcome mere Palestinian wants.
These developments bring to the fore a second common assumption: that Palestinians have been hindering the peace process by imposing preconditions. In reality, the U.S. and Israel impose crucial preconditions. One is that the process must be in the hands of the United States, which is an active participant in the conflict on Israel's side, not an "honest broker." A second is that the illegal Israel settlement activities must be allowed to continue.
There is an overwhelming international consensus in support of a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, perhaps with "minor and mutual adjustments" of this 1949 cease-fire line, in the wording of much earlier U.S. policy. The consensus includes the Arab states and the Organization of Islamic States (including Iran). It has been blocked by the U.S. and Israel since 1976, when the U.S. vetoed a resolution to this effect brought by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.
The rejectionist record continues to the present. Washington's most recent veto of a Security Council resolution on Palestinian territorywas in February 2011, a resolution calling for implementation of official U.S. policy -- an end to expansion of Israel's illegal settlements. And the rejectionist record goes far beyond the Security Council.
Also misleading is the question whether the hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would accept a "Palestinian state." In fact, his administration was the first to countenance this possibility when it came into office in 1996, following Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, who rejected this outcome. Netanyahu's associate David bar-Illan explained that some areas would be left to Palestinians, and if they wanted to call them "a state," Israel would not object -- or they could call them "fried chicken."
His response reflects the operative attitude of the U.S.-Israel coalition to Palestinian rights.
In the region, there is great skepticism about Washington's current revival of the "peace process." It is not hard to see why.
Cairo (CNN) -- As Egypt faces the gruesome aftermath of clashes that left hundreds dead, demonstrators plan to defy an emergency order and take to the streets to mark "Friday of anger."
The Muslim Brotherhood promised huge protests, and Egypt's military government showed no sign of easing its crackdown, setting the stage for what could become another catastrophic encounter of security forces and protesters.
"The struggle to overthrow this illegitimate regime is an obligation," the Muslim Brotherhood said on its website Friday, while urging people to protest peacefully.
Military vehicles were deployed Friday across Cairo and Giza, taking up positions in squares and securing important institutions, the state-run EGYNews reported. The agency said armored vehicles and barbed wire blocked all entrances to Tahrir Square, and 22 armored vehicles were in Mustafa Mahmoud Square.
The state-run agency said the military increased checkpoints at all entrances to Cairo to prevent arms smuggling to protesters.
A police officer was killed and another was wounded Friday in an attack on a checkpoint in New Cairo, a suburb southeast of the Egyptian capital, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
Police will use live ammunition to subdue any attack against police facilities, state media said.
Also Friday, at least 20 police officers were wounded when assailants fired on two security cars north of Cairo, according to EGYNews.
The leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom will have phone conversations to discuss Egypt, the office of French President Francois Hollande said. Hollande planned to talk to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Egyptian authorities rejected criticism from President Barack Obama and other world leaders for Wednesday's ferocious clashes, which left at least 580 people dead when security forces broke up huge sit-ins in Cairo, according to the Health Ministry.
More than 4,000 were injured. Casualties included civilians, police officers and bystanders.
The protesters support former President Mohamed Morsy, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader elected president in 2012 whom the military removed July 3. Morsy and some other Brotherhood leaders are under arrest.
On Thursday, state media said Morsy supporters were attacking police stations, hospitals and government buildings outside Cairo. The Interior Ministry said police would use live ammunition against any further attacks.
There also were dozens of reports of attacks, blamed on Morsy supporters, on churches and other Christian facilities across the country .
The "Friday of Anger" will begin with marches from mosques around Cairo, which will converge in central Ramses Square, according to tweets from Gehad El-Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman.
The Muslim Brotherhood's senior leader still at large, Essam Elerian, said Thursday the protests will continue until Morsy is returned to office.
"They can arrest me and 100 of us, but they can't arrest every honorable citizen in Egypt," Elerian told CNN. "They can't stop this glorious revolution."
Obama cancels joint military exercises
Obama on Thursday announced he had canceled joint U.S.-Egyptian military exercises, which had been scheduled for September.
"Our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back," the president said.
He called on the Egyptian government to lift a state of emergency decree limiting public gatherings. Addressing the government's opponents, Obama added, "We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully and condemn the attacks that we've seen by protesters, including on churches."
Churches, schools reported attacked
Dalia Ziada of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies said Thursday that her group had documented the burning of 29 churches and Coptic facilities across the country.
The Bible Society of Egypt said 15 churches and three Christian schools had been attacked, some set on fire.
State-run Nile TV reported Morsy supporters attacked a church Thursday in Fayoum, southwest of Cairo.
At least 84 people, including Muslim Brotherhood members, have been referred to military prosecutors for charges including murder and the burning of churches, the EGYNews site reported.
Echoes of violence
The violence echoed the upheaval that preceded the fall of Hosni Mubarak from the presidency in 2011. The military removed Mubarak after protests against his authoritarian rule, but not before an estimated 840 people were killed.
The generals yielded power to Morsy after elections, but the new president soon was accused of pursuing an Islamist agenda and excluding other factions from the government. Morsy's supporters say the deposed president wasn't given a fair chance and that the military has returned to its authoritarian practices of the Mubarak era.
The government reinforced the comparison by imposing a monthlong state of emergency, a favored tactic of Mubarak.
Obama warns 'further steps' could be taken
Obama, who has resisted calls to cut off military aid to Egypt and label Morsy's ouster a coup, on Thursday stressed the United States would not support one political faction over another.
"We appreciate the complexity of the situation," the president said. "While Mohamed Morsy was elected president in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians. We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians, were calling for a change in course."
But he said he may take unspecified "further steps" because of the government's crackdown.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay asked for an investigation into the violence.
"The number of people killed or injured, even according to the government's figures, point to an excessive, even extreme, use of force against demonstrators," she said.
Germany, France and other nations summoned Egypt's ambassadors to their nations to express dismay over the violence, with Italy typical among them in criticizing the "force used by police (as) brutal, disproportionate and ... not justifiable."
Denmark suspended economic aid to the country.
Even predominantly Muslim nations voiced displeasure, with Turkey recalling its ambassador in Egypt to return to Ankara in light of the crisis, a Turkish foreign ministry representative said.