Resolving the Palestinian issue? It's as simple as one, two, three.
Well, relatively simple when we strip-away Israeli rhetoric and look clearly at the key legalities of the situation.
Israel cynically portrays the issues as being deeply complex, part of its long game of evading international criticism while trying to break the Palestinians. Alongside the perpetuated myths of 'Palestinian intransigence' that followed Oslo, Olmert and his predecessors have sought to foster the notion of fiendishly difficult peace details bogging-down negotiations, requiring some kind of Olympian effort on their part to resolve it.
Not so, according to the esteemed US academic Norman Finkelstein. In contrast to many of the seriously intractable conflicts around the world, potential resolution of this one, he believes, is strikingly straightforward. Indeed, it's remarkable "how uncomplicated it is".
In his recent lecture at LSE, Finkelstein stressed this central fact: that all the key legal arguments over Palestinian rights have already been adjudicated in their favour by the International Court of Justice, or World Court. These, of course, stand alongside the multiple UN resolutions clearly condemning Israel's Occupation and aggressions.
Finkelstein is particularly keen to emphasise the significance of the ICJ ruling (9 July 2004). And with good reason, when we look closely not just at the ruling, but in how it was interpreted. In its deliberations over the "separation" wall, the Court had to consider not just the wall itself, but the core legalities surrounding the case. On three central points, which coincide with the three main "final status" issues, it found Israel to be in gross violation of international accords, which view as illegal the appropriation of land through aggression. As Finkelstein outlines, Israel was deemed to have acted illegally with regard to the 1967 borders, the West Bank settlements and annexation of East Jerusalem.
The UN Charter holds clear that it is "inadmissable to acquire territory by war", rendering Israel's 1967 land seizure, including East Jerusalem, illegal. Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, likewise, renders all Israeli settlements contrary to international law. All these violations clearly informed the actual ruling on the wall.
Following judicial application of these three legal points, the court came down in favour of the Palestinians, declaring, 14-1, that the wall is unlawful and should be dismantled, with appropriate compensation paid to those whose land has been encroached upon. As Finkelstein reiterates: "There is no ambiguity whatsoever" about the rulings. "The highest judicial court in the world has resolved these issues."
The right of return for Palestinian refugees has also been made specific by UN declarations. However, Finkelstein also notes that while remaining a legitimate negotiating point, there is ample room for conciliation, involving compensation for those dispossessed, a point consistently intimated by the Palestinians themselves.
Thus, on all the crucial issues, there is clear evidence of a linear formula to resolve the conflict. So, when people say the Palestinian issue is complex, long-standing and intractable, it's worth remembering Finkelstein's assertion that once we demystify the politics, it's actually very straightforward.
If Israel complies with international law and standing judgments over borders, settlements and East Jerusalem, there will be an end of the Occupation. The Occupied Palestinian Territories - the official UN-designated title of this land - will become a viable state. In time, with a fair settlement of the refugee issue and appropriate efforts to rebuild the devastated Palestinian economy, people across this land could, with reasonable expectation, begin to live in peace.
The relative simplicity of the outstanding issues here, however, highlights the zero-sum game Israel is playing in refusing to comply with international law, thus fostering ongoing conflict across the Middle East and beyond.
Israel, in short, is simply unwilling to give up what it has stolen. And neither, it seems, is Washington ready or willing to exert the necessary pressure on its favoured-client state to enforce a change of mind. Yet, while much of this can be attributed to the influential Israeli Lobby in the US, it doesn't follow that the US is simply beholden to Israel.
As Finkelstein argues (contra Mearsheimer and Walt), the Israeli Lobby may be powerful and share core goals with the neoconservatives - as in their common belligerent intentions towards Iran - but immediate US interests, rather than Israeli ones, will always have primacy in determining policy in the region. Any incoming US administration will, likewise, maintain support for Israel on that basis.
Yet, the terms of that support may be subject to change where the Occupation becomes an increasing liability for US interests, regional and domestic. In the latter regard, Finkelstein cites recent studies showing that support for Israel is diminishing among American Jews, the mainstay of its foreign political support. Identification with Israel among American Jews is waning, particularly within the younger demographic who don't share the same affinity as previous generations. Jews in the US are also, in general, liberal by inclination. And they're seeing more clearly, and with increasing embarrassment, the gross illegality and injustice taking place 'in their names'.
The situation is also unravelling from within the Israeli state. This week's report from the Winograd Commission, criticising Olmert's 'failed war' on Lebanon in 2006 (no mention, of course, of Israel's actual war crimes here), illustrates how the Israeli elite are now turning-in on themselves, seeking scapegoats and struggling to maintain the notion of Zionist invincibility.
Factor in Hamas's bravura blasting of the Egyptian-Gaza border defences, and we see a state increasingly struggling to comprehend and deal with its political and diplomatic weaknesses.
In sum, Israel's apartheid policies are approaching a state of hegemonic crisis. There's a growing awareness, domestic and foreign, of its oppressions and military limitations. And, as shown, it doesn't have a legal leg to stand on within the major international courts and assemblies. Beyond the confident posturing, these are all worrying concerns for the Israeli establishment.
In the final Q&A section of the lecture, Finkelstein takes-up the 'one-or-two-state' issue, arguing that the former only detracts from what is realistically achievable. He is also "agnostic" on the question of boycotting Israeli academia, supporting it in principle if shown to be having an impact, yet reticent about allowing Israel the space to shout about "academic freedom" rather than face the central issues.
Yet, beyond these tactical differences, the main issues and tasks remain clearly evident.
It's abundantly clear what has to be done by Israel to reach a just settlement. Its depressingly clear that it has no intention of pursuing one. Yet, it's reassuringly clear that, with all the key legal arguments on their side, the Palestinian case is gaining ground. It's also clear, for Finkelstein, that justice for the Palestinians must involve individual and collective mobilisation akin to the pressure brought to bear on apartheid South Africa.
As Finkelstein says, there's no need to mystify the conflict or complicate the practical actions needed to resolve it. "It's not rocket science". It's simple, really.