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A two-state solution is the only way
By LESLIE WAGNER
12/31/2012
The whole right-wing discourse over the fate of the territories mirrors the citizens of Shalom Aleichem’s shtetl who tackled their problems by following their own twisted logic.
 
Barry Shaw (“Why a two-state solution will never work,” December 28, 2012) uses over 1,200 words essentially to make one point: that a two-state solution is a threat to the existence of the State of Israel, because any Palestinian state will be run by Hamas. He challenges those who believe in a two-state solution to justify their belief in such a situation.

I am happy to take up Mr. Shaw’s challenge. We should begin by noting that two polls this week showed that a large majority of Israelis, including a majority of those voting for the Likud and Bayit Yehudi, support a Palestinian state established under conditions that are well known. But Mr. Shaw believes these conditions will not be met.

Any Palestinian state, he argues, will be run by Hamas, and any demilitarization agreements will be broken. Although I don’t agree, let us, for the purpose of this response, assume Mr. Shaw’s worst-case scenario.

The establishment of a Palestinian state will not happen in a void, but with an agreement to end hostilities, and with the support of the Arab League and the international community. This will change the context of the dispute, the involvement of other parties, and their relationship to the Palestinian government.

However, I do not rely on the international community for security; I rely on the deterrent power of the IDF. The towns of Metulla and Kiryat Shmona are as close to Hezbollah’s guns and rockets in the North as Kfar Yona and Netanya will be to the borders of a Palestinian state. Yet hardly a shot has been fired in anger from Lebanon for over six years. The silence from there during the recent Gaza war was most eloquent.

The Hezbollah terrorists know what destruction will fall on their local population if they seriously threaten Israeli citizens.

I am not a military expert, and neither, I suspect, is Mr. Shaw. I do note, however, that most of those with recent senior military experience, including former IDF chiefs of staff and heads of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) regularly support a two-state solution.

Given their experience, they have obviously factored Israel’s security needs into their proposals. I trust their judgement. Mr. Shaw apparently does not.

THERE IS no magic wand to ending the conflict with the Palestinians.

It will be done slowly, over a long period and with many challenges en route. Mr. Shaw either believes it will never happen, which is a counsel of despair, or that it has a better chance of being achieved through the continuation of the existing situation, possibly developing into a single-state solution. I believe that while the establishment of a Palestinian state might not by itself create peace, it will create more favorable conditions through which the conflict can be managed and eventually resolved.

The current situation cannot hold. If Israel, by its words and actions, continues to undermine a two-state solution, Hamas will probably take over in the West Bank long before there is any negotiation about a Palestinian state. It will then be able to use the “oppression” of the Palestinians to justify its attacks. To adopt Mr. Shaw’s rhetorical approach, I might ask if we are prepared for a third intifada with regular attacks on settlements, not to mention within Israel itself. Are we ready for yet more delegitimization of Israel for killing “innocent” Palestinians just seeking to create their own state, which the United Nations has approved? And whom will Mr. Shaw blame for this outcome, the two-state advocates again? Perhaps this time he will look in the mirror. These events will weaken Israel’s security and diplomatic position. The idea that the status quo can continue, even for a few years, does not stand up to serious scrutiny.

BUT I have a question for Mr. Shaw to match the one he set for people like me. I understand your concerns about the threats from a Palestinian state. To some extent, I share them, but I believe they can be managed. More positively, I believe the existence of a Palestinian state will both strengthen the Jewish values of the Jewish state, and help secure its long-term future, making the risk of going down this path worthwhile. But what, Mr Shaw, is your vision of the future? I know what you don’t want – a Palestinian state – but what do you want? What will be the status of more than two million Palestinians in this vision? I have read some answers being offered by right-wing Knesset hopefuls in the current election campaign, and they are laughable.

They include making West Bank Palestinians citizens of Jordan, presumably without giving Jordan any sovereignty over the land in which they actually live. But we can deal with that, I’m told, by bribing the Palestinians to leave for Jordan, and of course they will readily agree. Or we could give them autonomy over their own lives, like a glorified local authority.

I am sure they will be thrilled to be responsible for emptying their own dustbins, but whose citizens will they be? Perhaps they will receive Israeli citizenship, but without its full democratic rights, and we all know what the name for that is.

The whole right-wing discourse over the fate of the territories has a Chelm-like quality to it, mirroring the citizens of Shalom Aleichem’s shtetl who tackled their problems by following their own twisted logic, completely impervious to the ridicule to which it exposed them outside their own small world. And please don’t quote Bilam’s famous saying that we are a people who dwell alone.

As Bible commentators have pointed out, Bilam meant this to be a curse. Some people seem determined to make sure that it happens.

The writer is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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