"The Israelis don't want to occupy anybody," he told the mostly-packed auditorium. "Here is a statement of fact...Gaza to this moment, since 2005, has not been occupied by anybody. There is not a single Israeli soldier in Gaza today." On the question of settlements: "There are people who believe that there is settlement activity in the Palestinian territory. I don't believe that," Weiner said. "At some point Palestinians and Israelis are going to negotiate where the border exists. Right now the settlement that is going on is in Israel."
That is an interesting point. Since no final border lines have been agreed upon, the Jewish communtiies - not "settlements" - are not in "Palestinian territory". Of course, the Arabs assert that all of Israel is "Palestine" and today, they agree (actually, only a minority do and even those I have trouble believing) to a "two-state solution" and in their graciousness would agree to let Israel occupy parts of Palestine although whether they stop at the Green Line or prefer the 1947 partition lines. As Alex Yacobson wrote about this matter:-
This would have been a huge diplomatic triumph for the Palestinians—if a state based on the 1967 borders is indeed their maximum strategic goal. The leading Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, explained in a June 25, 2009, interview with the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour why the Palestinians were in no rush:
At Camp David they offered 90% [an understatement, according to all we know about the Camp David talks—A.Y.], and [recently] they offered 100%. So why should we hurry, after all the injustice we have suffered? The agreement will not be stable anyway, unless it is based on international law and on justice.
On the issue of the right of return, the Palestinian negotiator’s understanding of international law and justice in fact precludes any compromise on substance:
The Palestinian decision makers do not have the right to decide the fate of the refugees; only the refugee himself can decide his own fate. It is not up to the international [community] either. It is the refugee who has the right to choose whether to return to Israel, return to Palestine, or remain where he is—and in all of these cases [he is entitled to] compensation. It is not the Right of Return or compensation; it’s the Right of Return and compensation (Middle East Media Research Institute translation).
This Palestinian demand (strongly reaffirmed in the resolutions of the Fatah conference in 2009) is tantamount to nullifying the independence of the Jewish people rather than seeking independence for the Palestinians.
And he continues:
...why should we accept that the choice is between depriving the Palestinian state of its sovereignty over the land on which Jews now live and evacuating those Jews from their homes? If we are talking about a negotiated peace and peaceful coexistence, there is no need to evacuate anyone. Israeli Jews now living in the territories should have the right to remain under Palestinian sovereignty—not as settlers with extraterritorial status but as a Jewish minority in the Palestinian state, fully subject to Palestinian jurisdiction (just like the much larger Arab minority in Israel). If this is accepted, the whole issue of settlements as an insurmountable obstacle to peace is defused. Of course, there is every reason to oppose the expansion of settlements now. But there is no reason to regard every apartment that we cannot stop being built in some settlement or in East Jerusalem as another nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.
The peace treaty should specify that Israeli Jews living in the West Bank should have a right to stay and keep their property and houses (mostly built on state land). The problem of “land grab” results from the wide municipal boundaries of the settlements established by Israel; these, naturally, will be redrawn by the Palestinian authorities. The Palestinians have no demographic problem: the overwhelming Arab majority in their future state is in no danger. The massive Israeli investment in infrastructure for the settlements—mainly roads—will benefit the future Palestinian state.
And how did the educate and cultured crowd at the New School react?
much of the crowd vocally disagreed with Weiner's characterization. There were frequent outbursts—"Coward!" and "Liar!"—but the combative congressman was unfazed.
Congressman Brian Baird from Washington was present and Baird claimed he had "traveled to the Palestinian territory after Operation Cast Lead, and had come back convinced that the report was an accurate portrayal of the conflict, and its toll on the civilian population" and he "also questioned a vote in the Knesset that would have criminalized the suggestion that Israel not be a Jewish state, which Weiner defended as Israel's prerogative."
"It's a Jewish state. That's what it was created to be," Weiner said. "And it's a right to have a Jewish state. Just like in Egypt there's going to be an Islamic state."
But wait. Who was the moderator?
The unenviable task of moderating the debate, and periodically taming the rowdy crowd, fell to New York Times' columnist Roger Cohen, whose pointed questions about Israeli's actions drew critiques from Weiner, and from the congressman's supporters in the audience. "Are you moderating?" one yelled. "You're a typical New York Times correspondent!" shouted another.
Weiner's parting shot:
"We have to start pushing back on the notion that it is somehow anathema to progressive thought to support a democracy in the Middle East that is Israel."