You never let a serious crisis go to waste.... What I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. – Rahm Emanuel
The Palestinian leadership, abetted by many Western governments, has now torn up every agreement made with Israel... By essentially unilaterally declaring the existence of an Arab Palestine, the world has abrogated that [Oslo] agreement. – Prof. Barry Rubin
The Palestinian Authority is a fictional entity. It continues to exist only because of the IDF.... We should let it fall apart.... – Prof. Efraim Inbar
The recent decision to announce approval for construction of thousands of housing units in the E1 area east of Jerusalem in response to the Palestinian unilateral bid for statehood at the UN reflected yet another grave error of judgment by the Israeli authorities.
Relegating rights to retaliation
Of course, this is not to say that Israel should refrain from building on the 11.7-sq.km. area atop the barren hills, adjacent to the eastern fringes of the capital, joining it to the town of Ma’aleh Adumim, with its 40,000 strong Jewish population.
Of course it should not. The development of Jerusalem’s east flank should be considered no more than the natural urban growth of the city — an indisputable Zionist imperative, expressed and endorsed by virtually every government over the past four decades.
Indeed, it was none other than Israel’s current president Shimon Peres, who as minister of defense in Yitzhak Rabin’s government in 1977, urged Israel to “create a continuous stretch of new settlements; to bolster Jerusalem and the surrounding hills, from the north, from the east, and from the south and from the west, by means of the establishment of townships, suburbs and villages – Ma’aleh Adumin, Ofra, Gilo, Beit El, Givon...to ensure that the capital and its flanks are secured, and underpinned by urban and rural settlements.”
Significantly, most the locations cited by Peres in the above except are considerably farther from Jerusalem than the much maligned E1 site, which is less than 6.5 km. from the city center and the historic King David Hotel, itself some 1.5 km. from the Knesset.
But lamentably, by deciding to approve construction plans hard on the heels of UN General Assembly Resolution A/67/L.28 granting the Palestinians non-member state status, the government gave the unfortunate impression that its action was more one of retaliation, rather than an exercise of a self-evident, nonnegotiable right.
The timing and context of the E1 approval conveyed the unequivocal impression that had the Palestinians refrained from the UN bid, Israel would have refrained from authorizing the construction.
It thus reduced what should have been considered an unconditional right to a conditioned tit-for-tat response. Rather than being seen as a substantively valid initiative, an indispensable Zionist initiative was perceived as being relegated to a spiteful reaction.
An unavoidable imperative
Paradoxically – or is that perversely? – even figures on the far Left have articulated the rationale for the development of E1. For example, in a recent posting on the radical — indeed as designated by some, anti- Zionist – website +972Magazine, perennial Palestinian apologist Larry Derfner made a presumably unintentional, but compelling, case for construction in the disputed area.
In a piece titled “Israeli consensus much prefers Ma'aleh Adumim to peace,” he writes: “Ma’aleh Adumim, 4.5 kilometers east of Jerusalem, built in 1975, is...deep in the heart of the national consensus. Ma’aleh Adumim is thought of, correctly, as a suburb of Jerusalem; the people aren’t popularly regarded as settlers but as average middle-class Israelis; in past elections, a decent percentage of them voted Labor, and a few even voted Meretz.”
In what one can only assume is an attempt at disparaging sarcasm, he continues, peppering his prose with profanities, presumably permissible in progressive postings:
“It’s not one of those ‘tiny, isolated settlements,’ it’s a ‘settlement bloc,’ it’s one of the ‘Jerusalem-area’ settlements, it ‘protects Jerusalem’ by being on the high ground nearby, it gives Israel ‘defensible borders’ – it’s a Jerusalem security defensible borders settlement bloc with 40,000 people, for fuck’s sake, do you want to give that up, are you crazy?”
Then, apparently endeavoring to show that Ma’aleh Adumin and peace are incompatible, Derfner drives the following point home powerfully: “And here’s the thing – to keep Ma’aleh Adumim, Israel has to build E1, those thousands of homes connecting it to Jerusalem, because otherwise the only thing connecting it to the capital will be a thin highway with nothing but Palestine on either side. Indefensible. Not viable. Ma’aleh Adumim would be isolated. So if you want to keep it – and who doesn’t, except the left-wing fringe? – you have to build E1.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself, Larry.
Whatever his motivations, Derfner’s analysis is spot on and underscores dramatically why it was a serious misjudgment to allow the development of E1 to be seen as a response precipitated by the Palestinian UN initiative. For unless Ma’aleh Adumim is to be abandoned — something which no Israeli government over the last 40 years has ever contemplated – it can only be secured by “welding” it to Jerusalem — which in turn requires undertaking the construction planned in E1.
It therefore makes little sense to predicate such a national necessity on what the Palestinians may or may not do. After all, even if the Palestinians were to take the inconceivable step of rescinding their UN accomplishment, it would not diminish the need to build in the contentious area.
This brings up several interesting questions on the issue of territorial contiguity, which opponents of the E1 project have raised vociferously, wailing that it would cut Bethlehem off from Ramallah, thus dooming any possibility of a two-state solution (TSS).
These claims are demonstrably bogus, as even a cursory glance at the map would reveal.
One can only wonder whether TSS advocates realize how such claims undermine the basic rationale of their case. For if the viability of a Palestinian state can be irreparably jeopardized by a construction project on 11.7 uninhabited sq.km., if the whole notion of Palestinian independence stands or falls on whether such a project is implemented or not, surely then the entire TSS-concept is so ludicrously fragile that it is operationally untenable.
The question of contiguity
But of course the question of territorial contiguity is entirely contrived.
Even without going into the discussion of the options of connecting these two towns, barely 15 km. miles apart, by elaborate systems of tunnels/ over-passes that traverse E1, laying down a new road bypassing Ma’aleh Adumim from the west, rather than from the east, would hardly be an insurmountable engineering feat. True, this might make Palestinians’ journey somewhat longer, but it would still probably be shorter than the drive from downtown Los Angeles to Malibu along Sunset Boulevard.
By contrast, however, if the E1 project is not implemented, Ma’aleh Adumim and its tens of thousands of Jewish residents would have a real problem of contiguity. As Derfer points out — or perhaps, hopes — it would be an isolated enclave “with nothing but Palestine on either side. Indefensible. Not viable...”
It is more than a little bewildering to hear howls of hysteria from TSS-proponents, protesting that the possible need for a detour in the route between Bethlehem and Ramallah would critically undermine the viability of a Palestinian state, yet who see no problem in including the far-more detached, and far-more distant Gaza Strip in their envisioned entity.
One can only shake one’s head in puzzlement as to why they would raise such a bogus brouhaha over an essentially nonexistent contiguity problem, yet accept with total equanimity the virtually insoluble difficulty of the geographical disconnect between the “West Bank” and Gaza, where almost 40 percent of the population of the putative Palestine state reside.
Ill-considered, inappropriate, inadequate
The preceding paragraphs underscore why the government’s E1 decision, while substantively valid, was, in the context that it was taken, strategically inappropriate, politically ill-considered and operationally inadequate.
It inflicted no real retribution on the Palestinians in practical terms, yet it precipitated a maelstrom of diplomatic censure and again raised evermore tangibly the threat of economic sanctions, which may, as in the past, result in the declared Israeli measures being suspended or even totally abandoned, and in effect reward rather than punish the Palestinians.
I am not suggesting that Israel balk at the unwarranted display of international ire, but that if it is going to incur the wrath of the world, it might as well be for measures that have real and lasting — indeed permanent — strategic effects.
What would such measures entail?
The required recipe is implicit in the three introductory excerpts, which lay out:
1. The principle enunciated by Rahm Emanuel (Utilizing a crisis to facilitate actions which otherwise would not be undertaken);
2. The opportunity identified by Barry Rubin (The effective abrogation of the Oslo Accords by the world); and
3. The measures prescribed by Efraim Inbar (Let the Palestinian Authority fall apart).
Punitive penalties not provocative proclamations
The policy that flows from this prescription, and constitutes the fitting Israeli response to the Palestinians’ internationally endorsed “diplomatic aggression” at the UN, should comprise penalties that are permanently punitive – not mere proclamations that are little more than politically provocative.
As I hinted at last week, the first measure is to make it clear to the Palestinians — and to their international supporters — that if it is independence they demand, then independent they will have to be.
Accordingly, Israel must convey in unequivocal terms that forthwith it will cease to provide every service and merchandise that it provides them today. In other words, no water, no electricity, no fuel, no postal services, no communications, no port facilities, no tax collection or remittances will be supplied by Israel.
If sovereignty is their goal, then sovereign they will have to be.
After all, what possible claim could be invoked to coerce one sovereign entity to provide for another purportedly sovereign entity – and an overtly adversarial one at that? When Israel declared its independence in 1948, no Arab country rushed to help it develop and evolve.
Quite the opposite. The Arab world imposed embargoes and boycotts on it — and on anyone with the temerity to conduct commerce with it.
Mitigating the humanitarian impact
This message need not be delivered in a provocative, confrontational public statement but through confidential diplomatic channels to all concerned parties.
Although discretely conveyed, there should be no doubt as to Israel’s resolve to implement its stated intent — or as to the repercussions thereof: The Palestinians will have to find alternative sources for their utility requirements and day-to-day needs.
Without Israeli support — both military and monetary — it is an open question as to whether the Palestinian Authority will implode within a matter of weeks or months.
The mendacious mantle of Palestinian nationhood must once and for all be ripped asunder. It must be underscored that the burden of maintaining this fictional fabrication will fall to those nations that endorsed it – should they care to shoulder such an onerous and expensive responsibility.
It may be surprising how rapidly international appetite for Palestinian statehood wanes if its sponsors realize that they will have to bear the financial consequences of its sustenance.
Such measures are undoubtedly likely to precipitate great socioeconomic hardships for the Palestinians, which Israel should endeavor to mitigate.
It should do so — as I have prescribed in detail in numerous columns – by offering Palestinians wishing to extricate themselves from the unenviable predicament wrought upon them by their incompetent, corrupt leadership – and by their myopic and malevolent supporters abroad — generous relocation grants that will enable them to seek happier lives in some alternative country of their choice.
Far-fetched or feasible?
Of course, there will be those who are skeptical as to the feasibility of such prescriptions. And indeed, numerous operational aspects of its implementation —which regrettably cannot be detailed in a single column — need to be fleshed out.
But the skeptical and the fainthearted should remember that with sufficient resources, Israel managed to develop and deploy unprecedented defense systems such as the Iron Dome to withstand physical attacks.
There is no reason to believe that, with a commensurate investment of ingenuity and resources, an “Iron Dome” to withstand political attacks could not be devised and deployed.
After all, in the grim days of the 1950s when the country was hanging on by a thread, engulfed by waves of immigration, with its fledgling economy teetering on collapse and surrounded by a sea of Arab aggression, who would have believed that Zionism would outlast Communism; that the nascent nano-state Israel would outlive the mega-Soviet empire; that a struggling agrarian economy would within a few decades become one of the world’s leaders in industry and technology.
As once someone said: If you will it, it is no dream.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.