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Minnesota must divest from Israel Bonds; group to sue state

The Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign plans to sue the state for its investments in illegal projects that violate the human rights of Palestinians.

Since 1967 more than 500,000 Israeli Jewish settlers have moved into the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, inviolation of Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution Number 446 in 1976 declaring the settlements and settlers illegal. They were also declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, and by the United States State Department [PDF]

In order to settle that many people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, infrastructure must be built. Many of the settlers live in the West Bank and work inside of Israel, and roads were built to facilitate their commute. Electricity was brought out to the settlements; water distribution networks were constructed; and the more than 430-mile apartheid wall was constructed, all of which is equally as illegal as the transferred civilian population itself. All of the land on which these construction projects were built is confiscated Palestinian property, and in the projects have left thousands of Palestinians homeless and destitute, devastated the Palestinian economy and violated Palestinians' human rights.

The settlements, their infrastructure, and the separation wall are paid for through Israel's Ministry of Finance, which sells Government of Israel Bonds to finance these projects. Israel Bonds can be purchased by individuals, organizations and states. Currently 22 U.S. states and the District of Columbia invest in these Israel Bonds, often as part of state pension and retirement funds. Minnesota currently holds over $18 million in Israel Bonds, an amount that is small compared to the overall state investments, but is a significant amount given that the money isused for illegal projects.

Holding investments in illegal projects that violate human rights and international law exposes Minnesota taxpayers to potential lawsuits from aggrieved individuals under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), an 18th century law allowing foreigners the ability to sue entities in the United States for aiding and abetting in the commission of crimes against those individuals.

Illegal under Minnesota law
In addition to the international law violations, Minnesota state statutes governing the activities of the State Board of Investment (SBI) prohibit investment in the government bonds of any foreign country, with the exception of Canada. So, the purchase of Israel Bonds is illegal under Minnesota law. The SBI is madeup of Gov. Mark Dayton, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Attorney General Lori Swanson and State Auditor Rebecca Otto and is the agency charged with managing investments for state retirees. The Minnesota Legislature passed divestment bills prohibiting investments in companies doing business in Iran and Sudan, but in neither case did the Legislature prohibit investing in the government bonds of those countries. This was unnecessary since existing legislation already prohibited it.

Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC) is an organization of volunteers dedicated to human rights and justice who are urging the state to divest from Israel Bonds. Members spent many months meeting with both state legislators and SBI personnel to urge them to divest from the Israel Bonds. Even after it was pointed out to the SBI that the investments were illegal, the SBI refused to divest.

Lawsuit to demand divestment
On Tuesday, MN BBC will serve the State Board of Investment with a lawsuit demanding that the board immediately divest from the Israel Bonds that it holds and refrain from purchasing any more. This lawsuit, carrying no monetary settlement, demands divestment on the grounds that 1) the SBI's investments in foreign government bonds (with the exception of Canadian bonds) are illegal according to Minnesota statutes; 2) investments in Israel Bonds aid and abet Israel's continuing violations of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention; and 3) by investing in illegal settlement activity, the SBI exposes Minnesota taxpayers and the state pension plan to potential lawsuits.

MN BBC believes strongly that the law is on our side, and that by divesting, Minnesota will stand on the right side of history. People of conscience must stand up for justice and demand equal rights for all. Minnesota must end its complicity with Israel's human-rights and international-law violations.

Sylvia Schwarz is a water/wastewater engineer in St. Paul and a member of the Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC).

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Comments (44)

Rightly or wrongly, much of the world regards Palestine as a kind of concentration camp run by Israel with the aggressive support of the U.S. The Israel/US tie is a very costly friendship.
This should start a few comments.

Thank you, BBC. Israel can break all those international laws, commit war crimes and steal Palestinian property for its illegal settlers (sometimes giving as little as an hour for families who have owned them for centuries to get out before Israeli bulldozers move in) -- and gets away with it all with impunity because the U.S. makes sure that it is never held to account.

This divestment is a step toward bigger change in our relationship with Israel and all the Middle East. If Israel were to comply with the U.N. resolutions it has ignored for half a century, it would also be conforming to the Arab plan for peace guaranteeing Israel that none of its neighbors would ever attack it.

Peace At Last would be Israel's reward. And ours.

Whenever someone cites "Minnesota statutes" without citing the actual Minnesota statutes in question, the claims being made are usually suspect. Is it in fact illegal for Minnesota to purchase foreign government bonds as Ms. Schwarz and the soon to be filed lawsuit claims? Minnesota statute section 11A.24, subd. 2 provides that:

"Government obligations. The state board may invest funds in governmental bonds, notes, bills, mortgages, and other evidences of indebtedness provided the issue is backed by the full faith and credit of the issuer or the issue is rated among the top four quality rating categories by a nationally recognized rating agency. The obligations in which the board may invest under this subdivision include guaranteed or insured issues of (a) the United States, its agencies, its instrumentalities, or organizations created and regulated by an act of Congress; (b) Canada and its provinces, provided the principal and interest is payable in United States dollars; (c) the states and their municipalities, political subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities; (d) the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, or any other United States government sponsored organization of which the United States is a member, provided the principal and interest is payable in United States dollars."

That language provides that the types of bonds that are permitted include bonds issued by the U.S. or Candadian governmental entities, but are not limited to bonds from those countries. If I am missing something, I would ask that that Ms. Schwarz or anyone involved in the lawsuit set me straight. But by my reading of the statute, the claim that Minnesota has illegal invested in foreign (non-Canadian) bonds has no merit.

The second argument behind the lawsuit is really a political one and not a legal one, and is not going anywhere. The final argument is just nonsense and demonstrates a lack of understanding of how bond financing works.

You may believe that the law is strongly on your side, but you are wrong. That isn't to say that your cause is unjust and that Minnesota should not divest itself of Israeli bonds. My point is simply that filing a frivolous lawsuit probably isn't going to help.

Thank you, Dan Hintz, for your clear explanation of laws, amrkets and politics.

There is a genuine support amongst the American people for Israel and against Arab nations. Israel is associated with liberal democracy and guilt about the Holocaust (why didn't we do more, etc.). Arabs are associated with terrorism, high oil prices, despotic leaders, Islamic extremism, and hating America.

Most Americans don't know about how Israelis treat the people of the West Bank, slowly colonizing through settlements while carrying on a policy similar to Apartheid in the land they control. Most Americans have never met an Arab, and only recently became aware of the desire of Arabs to live in modern democracies, too. It will be a long, slow, change, but a successful democracy in Egypt could help Americans gain a little more perspective.

AIPAC is less important than people give it credit for. When Americans change their mind about Israel, their representatives will too, and all the lobbying in the world won't change that.

Zionism is the belief that Jews have a right to live as an independent, self-governing people, free from oppression, in Israel, their homeland.

Islamist Arabs, supercessionist Christians, anti-Semites and leftists parade these Jews in front of the world in an attempt to justify their genocidal motives to destroy the only Jewish country on the planet. They will attempt to do so militarily, through political isolation, and though economic blackmail.

So far, it has been a failure. The BDS movement has gone no where, even with their rantings of libel and defamation. I know you guys miss us Jews as victims, as a source of taxation and property throughout history, our use as an outlet for violent mobs.

Those days are over. Jews are not going to be shoved into cattle cars; we are not going to be shot and thrown in ditches; gassed, burned, executed by the millions; forced to pay jizya; be at our peril day and night, our property, families and lives confiscated.

Israel is the home of the Jews, its been that for thousands of years, before, the Muslim invasions, the Christian invasion, the Roman invasion. Israel is our home, it is ours - and the Islamists, jihadists, their left wing collaborators aren't taking it from us. Let the Arabs go to East Palestine, Jordan. It's not quite an even trade for the 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab lands since 1948. It's good enough.

On one hand, it's a disgrace that MinnPost saw fit to print and the Greater Twin Cities United Way sponsor printing this eliminationist filth. On the other hand, it's good to know who these people are and what they are up to.

Targeting the Jews and not targeting other countries (including Hamas controlled Gaza) that have far worse human rights records is intellectually dishonest, a gross double standard. By attempting to destroy Israel, Sylvia Schwarz and her group engage in moral and material support for jihadists, Islamist supremacists and murderous anti-Semites.

Neal, I will briefly disagree with you what you mentioned "So far, BDS movement has gone nowhere". And here's why from a Tuesday headline from Haaretz: Rage in Israel as BNP Paribas pressured to pull out

http://www.haaretz.com/themarker/rage-in-israel-as-bnp-paribas-pressured...

Thank you, MinnPost, for having the courage to post Ms Schwarz article.

To clarify my comment, "these Jews" referred to anti-Zionist Jews.

"Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC) is an organization of volunteers dedicated to human rights and justice..." Since MNBBC is silent about women being denied the opportunity for education in Gaza and Lebanon under the policies of Hamas and Hezbollah, MNBBC must see the patriarchal sexist governments in Gaza and Lebanon as not violating the rights of women. Hmmm. Similarly, the silence on suicide bombers killing women and children eating pizza in Tel Aviv or riding a public bus in Jerusalem demonstrates MNBBC's apparent belief that these terrorist acts are not violations of human rights or justice. Hmmm. I believe Israel needs to change its policies on settlements in the West Bank. Its expansion into the West Bank is wrong. I also believe that women in Gaza and Lebanon should be allowed the same rights as men. Why doesn't MNBBC believe that as well? I guess MNBBC supports human rights for some, but not others. So much for its supposed dedication to "justice". In the meantime, maybe the Legislature should petition our congressional delegation to halt all U.S. aid via the United Nations to Gaza until the oppression of women there ends. Since MNBBC supports "human rights and justice", surely they would be supportive of that, right?

#3 - Dan Hintz

"but are not limited to bonds from those countries .....But by my reading of the statute, the claim that Minnesota has illegal invested in foreign (non-Canadian) bonds has no merit. "

Well Dan, could u point out where in the statute it says or implies "not limited to". You seem to be making up stuff to suit your vision of the law.

The judge may throw it out, and of course our legislature will probably call a special session to rewrite the law. Both however point to the state of our pandering, rather than any hewing to any sense of fairness or justice when it comes to our Middle East Policy.

#10 Tom Lehmann

How many more phony straw men are you going to set up? Do we as Americans, support the policies in Gaza and Lebanon. Of course not. But we support financially the policies in Palestine. Big difference.

Raj, I'm not making anything up and its not my "vision" of the law - its just basic statutory construction. Contrary to what Ms. Schwarz claims, the statute does not limit bonds to those from the U.S. and Canada. The statute is right there in my comment - go ahead and read it through. Or look it up for yourself:

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/pubs/

It isn't spelled out that the bonds aren't limited to the U.S. and Canada, but if the statute doesn't limit them to the U.S. and Canada, then they aren't limited. If you look at sections 11A.241 through 11A.244, you will see that several countries (Northern Ireland, Iran, and Sudan) are specifically limited. If you could only buy U.S. and Canadian bonds, why would there be statutes limiting bonds from these countries? The answer is that there is no such limit and Ms. Schwarz doesn't know what she is talking about.

The judge will throw it out, and I hate to break it to you, but there is going to be no special session or change in the law. I am sympathetic to what is going on in Palestine, but unlike some of the people on both sides here (i.e. #2 and #6) I think there is plenty of blame to go around and that there is going to have to be more compromise and less grandstanding to bring about any real change. What I know won't help, though, is filing frivolous lawsuits and making baseless accusations.

Mr. Hintz wrote: "I think there is plenty of blame to go around".

Moral relativism must be a very warm and fuzzy place.

Re. the U.S role in Israeli/Palestinian issues: If MinnPost readers are not already doing so, I encourage everyone to read online English language versions of some of the most highly-regarded media sources from other UN member countries. For years, reporters/columnists have shaken their heads in bewilderment at the stances taken by the U.S. on these issues.

And don't forget to check in on Haaretz, the highly-regarded Israeli news source (www.haaretz.com). We might learn some Truths that are not available through most U.S. media outlets.

Dan Hintz

"The obligations in which the board may invest under this subdivision include guaranteed or insured issues of (a) the United States, its agencies, its instrumentalities, or organizations created and regulated by an act of Congress; (b) Canada and its provinces, provided the principal and interest is payable in United States dollars; (c) the states and their municipalities, political subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities; (d) the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, or any other United States government sponsored organization of which the United States is a member, provided the principal and interest is payable in United States dollars."

Cutting and pasting from your own link....please show me which section of this statute which allows to invest elsewhere. The wording clearly states "may invest in" and then lists section a),b),c),d).

It is not a matter of construct. It is right there.

The consequent statutes under Iran and Sudan if not specifically excluded could have allowed the state to invest under d). For ex. an oil exploration project in Sudan by the Asian Development Bank. And that is legal for NGO org in Israel also.

Finally, does it really matter. Our laws at the Federal Laws when it comes to the Middle East have been specifically ignore when it comes to Israel. So when it comes to state law, I would not be the least surprised that our pandering politicians , in the case of upholding of Ms. Khans suit, would hold a special session just to rewrite say 3 words of a statute.

There is plenty of blame to go around is kind of milquetoast, especially when we as Americans have been forced to subsidize the actions of one side. Especially, when those actions violate our own principals.

Neal Krasanoff

"Moral relativism must be a very warm and fuzzy place."

Selective memories and selective morality must be a really convenient place to tuck into.

Raj, the answer is in the part of the quoted statute that you omitted:

"The state board may invest funds in governmental bonds, notes, bills, mortgages, and other evidences of indebtedness provided the issue is backed by the full faith and credit of the issuer or the issue is rated among the top four quality rating categories by a nationally recognized rating agency."

That means that Minnesota can invest in any government bonds, etc. where the investment criteria are met. Subsections a-d provides a list of investments, but does not say that investments are limited to those listed or that the list is otherwise exhaustive.

I now see what you were saying about re-writing the law, and I do think you are right about that. If the court actually interpreted the statute to limit investment to U.S. and Canada (a problem not only for Israeli bonds but for those from many other countries) the legislature would fix it.

"There is plenty of blame to go around is kind of milquetoast, especially when we as Americans have been forced to subsidize the actions of one side. Especially, when those actions violate our own principals."

I don't think its milquetoast at all - its just realistic. The settlement expansion, the building wall, the general treatment of the Palestinians, the blockade of Gaza, etc. - all of that has been extremely counterproductive and indeed, in violation of our own principals. On the other hand, I feel that the Hamas Charter - which calls for the destruction of Israel - violates our principals. Shooting rockets into Israel violates our principals. Kidnapping soldiers violates our principals. I am sure you will argue that these things are minor and pale in comparison to the transgressions of Israel, and maybe you are right. But you can't simply ignore them. There are a lot of Israelis that want to see a peaceful solution and justice for the Palestinians, but their own security comes first. This is a country that has been invaded (or had invasion attempts) on a number of occasions in its short history. You aren't going to get anywhere by pretending that isn't an issue.

Neal, is anyone who disagrees with you immoral? Do you honestly believe that fault for this dispute (or any longstanding dispute anywhere) rests completely with one side? You are aware that Israel has at various times apologized for things that have occurred during the dispute with the Palestinians - that even Israel does not claim to be completely free of fault?

Dan Hintz

Firstly, I applauded for your willingness to discuss in a very rational way. I realize (thru the power of Google:)) that I am arguing law with a lawyer, but that shall not deter this Don Quixote, if i may.

Respectfully, you are wrong, I believe. An Israeli Govt Bond is not a security, it is a govt. obligation. The state can invest in say Checkpoint Software and its Israeli stock, because it is covered under securities but not Israeli bonds.

In regard to the "milquetoast". During 60's Civil Rights, there were very few extreme radical who wanted "to kill whitey". Now looking back, would you say the wrongs in the Civil Rights moment were on both sides.

Similarly in Apartheid South Africa, the ANC was labelled terrorist. Yes, Nelson Mandela was a "terrorist". Now looking back, what do u say ?

It calls comes down to which party is actively manipulating the status quo and which party's threats and actions have more effect on the ground. And we all know where that answer lies.

In India there is Kashmir. In Kashmir a non-kashmiri cannot buy land, until Kashmir is settled ("it will never happen"). That way the govt. has proven it is bent backward to accommodate the lesser party. Can we say that in Israel ?

Raj #12

How many more phony straw men are you going to set up? Do we as Americans, support the policies in Gaza and Lebanon. Of course not. But we support financially the policies in Palestine. Big difference.

Raj, I agree with you that we don't support the policies of Gaza and Lebanon. But to be fair we do help underwrite those governments through U.S. support for U.N. aid to Gaza and the Hezbollah camps in Lebanon. I would have more openness to MBBC if it recognized the violence against women in Gaza and Lebanon as well as the indiscriminate terrorist attacks on Israel via suicide bombers and rocket attacks. But its apparent view that only Israel is causing problems in the region and Hamas and Hezbollah policies are just fine, thank you, doesn't wash.

Mr. Hintz wrote: "Neal, is anyone who disagrees with you immoral?"

Don't be hyperbolic. Thanks.

Raj, you are right not to be deterred just because you are arguing with a lawyer. There are plenty of lawyers who don't know what they are talking about, and occasionally that includes me. I think, though, that we are going to have to agree to disagree on the interpretation and see what the court does with it.

As far as the analogies you make, the biggest difference is that the Palestinians have not had a Mandela or a King or a Gandhi. The reason these leaders were so effective is that their commitment to non-violence gave them the moral authority to expose the oppression their people faced. They were called terrorists and all kinds of other things, but it didn't stick because it wasn't true.

Unfortunately, instead of Mandela, the Palestinians got stuck with with Arafat and the leaders of Hamas. And whether or not you want to label Hamas as a terrorist group, they sure aren't non-violent. You want peace in Israel/Palestine? Then you have to convince moderate Israelis and Israel supporters worldwide that justice for the Palestinians is in Israel's best interest. As long as Hamas and the Palestinians keep using violence as a tool, that isn't going to happen. It may not be fair that they have to go first in renouncing violence, but if you are going to use the King/Mandela/Gandhi model, that is what its going to take.

Alright, enough of this rhetoric and relativist crap. The end game of the BDS anti-Semites is the same as the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hizb'Allah, the Mullahs of Iran, or any of the Islamists: to eradicate Israel and either subjugate - or at the worst - engage in the genocidal slaughter of the Jews.

Tom Lehman #12

How is taking land for settlements a valid response to Hamas and Hezbollah ?

Your predictable non-answer to the above question, will clearly show that all blinded Israeli right wing sympathizers do is throw up one straw men after another,

Dan Hintz,

Ever tried a non-binding arbitration with a Nigerian email scammer who has continuing access to your clients checking account ?

That is how Netenyahu wants to "settle" the Israeli Palestinian dispute. The whole world, except AIPAC sponsored US, knows it. Israeli settlement program is a deliberate and calculated program to dispossess Palestinians. You can read about it in Israeli papers itself. It is called "facts on the ground"

Hamas and Hezbollah have nothing to do with Israeli land seizure, just excuses to avoid even acknowledging the dispute.

I grew up in India, where we have more muslims than all of Middle East combined. We have lots of terrorism, But we had no Al Qaeida. Why ? Because there is true participation of minority Muslims in govt, Not the one black guy in the country club charade ....We had Muslim president, judges, army generals. actors, billionaries . all because India don't enact laws to screw the muslims over and blame it on "terrorism".

"Alright, enough of this rhetoric and relativist crap. The end game of the BDS anti-Semites is the same as the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hizb'Allah, the Mullahs of Iran, or any of the Islamists: to eradicate Israel and either subjugate - or at the worst - engage in the genocidal slaughter of the Jews."

And the guy who wrote that accused me of being hyperbolic. Awesome.

Raj:

"Hamas and Hezbollah have nothing to do with Israeli land seizure, just excuses to avoid even acknowledging the dispute."

Exactly. And because Hamas and Hezbollah engage in violence, that excuse is going to carry the day. That excuse is going to be good enough for Israelis to elect a guy like Netanyahu and for American politicians to resist calling Israel into account for its actions. That excuse wins. Again, I'm not saying its fair and I'm not saying its right. But if the Palestinians are going to give Israel that excuse, Israel is going to be able to do whatever it wants.

The only way you are going to get peace and justice is by taking away that excuse. And the way to do that is by the Palestinian leadership renouncing violence. Stopping the rockets. Stopping the rhetoric about destroying Israel. If you can remove security as a central concern for Israel and its supporters, then you will see a change. It worked for King. It worked for Mandela. And as you point out with your India example, it worked for Gandhi. And what the Palestians are doing now isn't working.

"That excuse is going to be good enough for Israelis to elect a guy like Netanyahu and for American politicians to resist calling Israel into account for its actions."

IOW, the Jews defending themselves against genocidal maniacs and building houses. The Jews have a right to defend themselves and need no one's permission to build house on land liberated from the Ottoman Turks or the Jordanian Arabs.

Mr. Hintz: read the Hamas covenant, the blood libels and the Nazi-like political cartoons in the Arab media, the consistent calls for jihad against the Jews, the calls for their slaughter. It is not hyperbole.

I have nothing further to say.

Neal, the Jews absolutely do have a right to defend themselves. That doesn't give them the right to take land that has belonged to the Palestians for far longer than Israel has existed.

The Hamas charter and all the other stuff you cite is just political rhetoric. It is a real problem in the sense gives Israel a justification to do what it wants, but no one believes the endgame is the destruction of Israel. If the Palestinians (including Hamas) could get independence with the 1967 borders, they would take it in a second. Unfortunately, that deal has passed them by.

As I said Mr. Chamberlain, I have nothing further to say.

The Chamberlain reference is so lame its barely worth acknowledgment. I wasnt aware that the Palestinians were invading their neighbors. Their territory is shrinking as Israeli settlements expand.

Neal, do you real think the status quo is a long term solution. Don't you think that Israel would benefit from resolving this conflict.

Apologists for both sides demonstrate the problems both Israel and the Palestinians face. Mr. Hintz, you do very good job of illustrating this dynamic.

Dan Hintz,

Your points are very good and very well stated.

Ultimately i believe the solution if not the 1967 borders will be in the changing demographics of America, not Israel.

As we get more minority majority, you will see a peeling away. Because a lot of minority sympathize with the Palestinians and will not put up with this.

Also Muslim population in America will grow by leaps and bounds. Then the true fun will start !!!

Except for the U.S. and Israel, the entire world considers Hamas and Hezbollah resistance groups formed against Israeli violence and oppression.

Hamas' original documents did call for the destruction of Israel, but modern Hamas members seek only justice for the 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza by Israel's military (which year after year after year carries out armed attacks with planes and tanks purchased from the U.S. with the $3 billion in annual aid we give them) and for the West Bank Palestinians whose land the illegal settlers steal more of each day.

Jonathan Schell, in "The Unconquerable World," traces the history of oppressed peoples. Each such population has tolerated its oppression as long as it could before reaching a breaking point and fighting to end it -- peacefully IF POSSIBLE and violently if not.

Our own OWS (the 99%) is a good example of peacefully seeking to end the unjust rule of our economy by the 1%. As Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon are examples of violent resistance when nothing else will work in the face of Israel's violence toward them.

I want to invoke Godwin's Law.

It probably wouldn't get past the moderator.

"I want to invoke Godwin's Law."

It's comments like these that sets one's reputation. Don't be surprised if people start to ignore what you type.

In truth, Israel will be safer when a proper Palestinian state has been consolidated. That is a point that too few Israelis and their American supporters appreciate.

Is recognizing Palestine as an independent state more detrimental to peace than expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank?

Just when you thought the thread is over, some one else decides to chime in.

"Is recognizing Palestine as an independent state more detrimental to peace than expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank?"

Yes. When the Jews unilaterally left Gaza the Arabs turned it into a missile base. Jews can built houses and live anywhere they want in Judea and Samaria. The Arabs can remain on the land they own. If they don't like living near Jews or living in a parliamentary democracy, they can leave and go live in any one of the Islamic republics.

Neal, twice on this thread you have announced that you have nothing further to say, but then went on to say more things. Then you say:

"Just when you thought the thread is over, some one else decides to chime in."

Are you used to having the discussion end when you decide its time to end? Once you give the last word, that's it? Its kind of wierd.

Raj, I think you are right about the demographics, but it will be decades if not longer before Muslims have anywhere near the influence that Jews do in this country. My hope would be that the situation could be resolved well before then.

Richard, I'm not sure if getting it from both sides means I'm on the right track or that the situation is just hopeless.

Bernice, I think the attitude expressed in your comment (#35) is the most counterproductive on the entire thread.

"Hamas' original documents did call for the destruction of Israel, but modern Hamas members seek only justice for the 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza by Israel's military"

Whatever the original documents said, the current documents do, in fact, call for the destruction of Israel. Are you saying that "seek[ing] only justice" is consistent with the destruction of Israel? Because if that's true, then I am more inclined to take Neal's side of the argument. Why should Israel trust an organization that is calling for its destruction?

"As Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon are examples of violent resistance when nothing else will work in the face of Israel's violence toward them."

Nothing else will work? Has anything else been tried? Violent resistance is not going to work in Israel, but peaceful resistance might. As I pointed out earlier, if you want to get Israel to change its ways, you have to show that peace is in its best interest. But as long as people like Bernice keep deluding themselves into thinking that groups like Hamas and Hezbollah have anything to offer other than violence, we are not going to get anywhere. Sorry Bernice, but you are an enabler of violence. You are part of the problem, not the solution.

Two comments on this very good thread:

First, the position being promoted by the pro-Israeli side is that the Palestinians will only achieve progress and change through negotiation -- not through unilateral actions. The evidence "on the ground" in the form of illegal settlements, roads, the wall, and sequestration of (for example) water -- NONE of which were "negotiated" with the Palestinians -- does not support that view.

Second, my suspicion is that while many moderate Israelis would willingly settle for the two-state solution based on pre-67 borders, they are very aware of the civil war this would unleash between the moderate majority and the settler extremists.

Richard Schulze wrote:

"pre-67 borders"

otherwise known as the "Auschwitz lines".

Any more bright ideas?

If the Palestinians get their act together, Mr. Netanyahu is going to be in a position where he has to either agree to a deal with them (which will infuriate his coalition partners, and much of his own party as well), or refuse to deal with them (which could well be enough to get America to back away from its automatic support for Israel -- which would not go down well with a large number of Israelis). What Mr. Netanyahu needs politically, more than anything else, is for the Palestinians to maintain the status quo.

Richard, #42 is 100 percent right - you made my point better than I could make it.

Netanyahu and Israel's hard-liners can get away with settlement expansion, wall building and general supression of the Palestinians because Palestinian violence gives them the justification. As long as security is a legitimate issue for Israel, neither Israeli citizens nor Israel's supporters in the US and around the world are going to withdraw their support. Netanyahu depends on the violence and rhetoric to stay in power. If the Palestinians truly renounced violence, in word and in deed, it would spell the end of Netanyahu's political career.

Some will ask, why can't Israel be the first to renounce violence. And the answer (as pointed out by Richard) is that Israel is just fine with the status quo. There is no reason for Israel to go out on a limb. For the Palestinian people, however, there is a very urgent need. I hope for their sake that their leadership is actually interested in peace and a resolution to this conflict.

Israel is ready to make peace

Before June 1967, there were no Jewish "settlements" in the West Bank. The Palestinians could have had their state. They didn't want one. The West Bank was occupied by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt.

In June 1967, Israel conquered the West Bank in a defensive war, the only way it could survive. (Go back and read any newspaper from May 1967 and you'll see the threats and expected likelihood that Israel was about to be destroyed by Egypt and Syria, which would have led to a massacre and/or expulsion of all the Jews. "We'll push the Jews into the sea!" was the cry.)

Immediately after the war, Israel offered to trade much of the conquered land for peace. The Arab League met in Khartoum and issued the famous three "No"s -- No peace, no negotiation, no recognition of Israel. So why would Israel give back the land, the historic homeland of the Jewish people?

So Israel, in possession of the West Bank, allowed Israelis to move into empty spaces. Most of the "settlements" aren't taking anything away from Arabs. I have cousins in Mizpe Yericho, for example. I've visited them there. All around is empty desert. It doesn't infringe on any Arabs.

And to suggest that the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem is "occupied Arab land" is ludicrous. It was occupied by Jews until they were ethnically cleansed -- expelled -- by the Jordanian army when it conquered the Old City in 1948. Yet Jews living in the Old City today are considered "occupiers" by those who don't understand history.

The answer to the "settlements" is trivial. Let the Arab Palestinians grow up so that they can tolerate a minority in their midst. Then the presence of Jews in a future Palestine won't be a problem. Why shouldn't Jews live in Palestine? After all, a million Muslim Arabs live in Israel as full citizens. Under what nonsensical rules do we want to create a Palestinian State that will prohibit Jews from living there? Should Jews be prohibited from living in Minnesota? Should Muslims?