Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me
– A proverb of disputed origin

Stupid is as stupid does
– From the movie, Forest Gump

There is something about the discourse on the Palestinian issue that seems to induce the total evaporation of the mental faculties of otherwise ostensibly intelligent human beings.

Perplexing questions

How else can we explain the occurrence of so many perplexing – and vexing – phenomena? For example: Why is it that the feasibility of Palestinian statehood has been repeatedly disproven, but somehow never discredited – and certainly never discarded? How can it be that the land-for-peace formula has been undermined neither by the accumulation of past failures nor the accumulating evidence of its future implausibility? What makes any professed Zionist advocate a policy whose prospects for success are so slim and whose chances of ruinous failure so great?

Why do so many, who purportedly endorse rationality in human behavior, embrace such irrationality in their political credos?

But even more disturbing questions as to the conduct and motives of adherents/advocates of Palestinian statehood and the landfor- peace formula arise from their determined denial of the failure of their dogmatic doctrine and the devastation that endeavors to implement it have wrought.

Cavalier and contradictory claims

Prior to the Oslo process, the land-for-peace/ two-staters explained sagaciously that Palestinian terror attacks were the acts of extremists, driven by frustration at the lack of a peace-process. However, once the peace process was implemented, and Palestinian terror attacks not only continued but increased dramatic ally, they explained that these were acts of the extremists trying to impede the peace process – whose previous absence was invoked as the cause of their “frustration” that allegedly precipitated the pre-process terror.

So, according to the “enlightened” two-staters, terror is produced both by the lack of – and the existence of – the peace process. Go figure!

One of the main arguments put forward previously by two-staters was economic. Without peace, they warned, there could be no economic prosperity.

But then the violence of the 2000 intifada erupted, and the negotiations with the Palestinians ground to a halt. Yet lo and behold, with nary a peace process on the horizon, Israel’s economy strengthened, then surged, then soared – and another loony-left legend bit the dust. But get this! Now Israel’s economic success is being blamed for Israel’s apathy toward peace – or rather the lack thereof.

Thus in a September 2010 article entitled “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” Time magazine wrote: “The truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter [peace]. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money.”

So whereas previously peace was presented as necessary for attaining economic prosperity, now economic prosperity is being blamed for not attaining – or at least, not pursuing – peace. Confusing, isn’t it? They just can’t seem to stick to the story line.

More contradictory claims

Of course the whole raison d’etre – both moral and substantive – for initiating the Oslowian peace process on the basis of landfor- peace was the claim that was there was a credible peace partner (i.e. “someone to talk to”) with whom a sustainable agreement could be struck. Thus, according to the twostaters, territorial withdrawal could be achieved by a negotiated bilateral agreement.

However, when it soon became clear that this was not the case, rather than jettison the idea of territorial withdrawal, they jettisoned the idea that it should be negotiated. So the notion of unilateral withdrawal was born – which culminated in the disastrous “disengagement” from Gaza.

When confronted with the debacle into which the Gaza abandonment rapidly deteriorated, two-staters refused to admit error. Instead they now tried to excuse/explain the failure by complaining that the withdrawal had not been the product of a negotiation process – the acknowledged impossibility of which was presented as the need for unilateral measures in the first place. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

But wait, there’s more. Having apparently despaired once again of resurrecting the negotiations anytime soon, two-staters have rediscovered unilateralism, which now seems back in favor with them–big time, on the pages of The New York Times no less.

Thus, in a recent op-ed – endorsed this week by Tom Friedman (itself a reason for caution and concern) – a trio of prominent two-staters announced: “We recognize that a comprehensive peace agreement is unattainable right now… It now seems highly unlikely that the two sides will return to negotiations – but that does not mean the status quo must be frozen in place.” They then issued a call for – wait for it – “constructive unilateralism.”

Plumbing new depths of absurdity

You’ve got to hand it to The New York Times. When it comes to publishing delusional drivel on the Israeli-Palestinian issue the “newspaper of record” is difficult to match. But even by the Times’ standards, the April 23 opinion piece, “Peace Without Partners” by Ami Ayalon, Orni Petruschka and Gilead Sher plumbed new depths of absurdity – leaving one to puzzle over whether the only journalistic criterion for publication in the paper’s opinion section is denigration of Israeli settlements or support for Israeli withdrawal.

Indeed, the very oxymoronic nature of the title, “Peace without Partners,” testifies to the nonsensical nature of its content, which not only resurrects the failed formula of unilateral retreat but suggests a new one – of “unilateral peace” whatever that might mean.

For Israelis, the article should be a matter of grave concern, especially in view of the prominent positions held by some of the authors. Ayalon served as commander of Israel’s navy and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), while Sher was chief of staff to prime minister Ehud Barak.

It is thus difficult to know what is more disturbing: Whether people who held such senior positions of responsibility actually believe in the viability of their preposterous proposals, or whether they don’t, but found it appropriate to publish them anyway.

The kernel of their “ingenious” initiative is the notion of preemptive surrender by means of staged, slow-motion submission to maximalist (at least in the interim) Palestinian demands.

Get this: “Israel should first declare that it is willing to return to negotiations anytime… that it has no claims of sovereignty on areas east of the existing security barrier. It should then end all settlement construction east of the security barrier and in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.”

Leaving aside for the moment the question of with whom such negotiations should be conducted, an unelected president whose term expired more than three years ago, or his likely Judeophobic Islamist successor, the question is: What would be left to negotiate once Israel has rescinded any demands to virtually the entire area of Judea and Samaria –apart from unconditional evacuation of the IDF and the unconditional removal of all the settlements – including the large settlement blocs?

‘Disputed’ territories become ‘occupied’

In a single stroke, Israel would have conceded that it no longer considers these “disputed” territories but indeed “occupied.” The significance of this distinction should not be underestimated.

For by voluntarily voiding its claims to any affinity with the land, Israel will have deemed itself indelibly an “occupier” and all settlements “illegal,” since it would have no power to legalize their existence. Now, while this is an outcome that might not be overly disagreeable to the authors, it does create some considerable difficulty for their next proposal.

While ostensibly acknowledging that some lesson might be learned from the disengagement experience, they sally forth with a suggestion that reveals just how flat their learning curve really is. To read is to be amazed.

“Under our proposal, the Israeli Army would remain in the West Bank until the conflict was officially resolved with a final-status agreement. And Israel would not physically force its citizens to leave until an agreement was reached.”

But why should the Palestinians offer any quid pro quo to negotiate the withdrawal of the IDF when Israel has apriori acceded sovereignty to them and ceased all construction of the settlements, condemning them to inevitable decay and eventual disintegration? Indeed, what would be the justification for any further IDF deployment in the sovereign territory of others – especially as that deployment itself is likely to be cited as the major grievance precipitating the belligerency between the sides.

A giant ‘South Lebanon’

Thus, unless one ascribes copious quantities of altruism to the Palestinians – hitherto a trait largely conspicuous by its absence – this is an irresistibly tempting invitation for them to draw out the resolution of the conflict endlessly. After all, in the situation created, time would be unequivocally on their side – with zero incentive to make any concession.

In effect, Judea and Samaria would be transformed into a giant “South Lebanon” with the added burden of a resident Israeli civilian population.

With prolonged Israeli military presence indefensible internationally, and prolonged Israeli civilian presence untenable physically, what possible reason would there be for the Palestinians to negotiate? In such circumstances, the most compelling policy choice for them would be to do nothing and wait for time to take its course, for inexorable international pressure on the IDF to withdraw from their sovereign territory and for the strangled settlements to be depopulated and fall apart.

True, the authors do suggest that some preparatory measures should be undertaken. Thus they propose that Israel “should create a plan to help 100,000 settlers who live east of the barrier to relocate within Israel’s recognized borders.”

Conveniently – but predictably – the authors offer no information not only as to how this multi-billion-dollar plan – involving about 10 times more people than in the disengagement – is to be financed; nor as to where this envisioned relocation is to be implemented, the impact it will inevitably have on the cost of housing (and thus on “social justice”), on the labor market, the environment, among a host of other factors that would be significantly, and even dramatically influenced by relocating even this small percentage of the “settlers who live east of the barrier” to areas west of it.

Palestinian attitudes

The Ayalon et al. piece is riddled with additional defects, non-sequiturs and fallacies – which constraints of time and space compel me to refrain from responding to. Perhaps the best way to convey just how detached from reality this harebrained scheme is, is to confront its proposals and prognoses with the positions of senior Palestinian Authority officials (i.e. from the allegedly “moderate” Fatah rather than the overtly radical Hamas).

For example, the article claims that “Palestinian statehood would undermine the Palestinians’ argument for implementing a right of return for Palestinian refugees, since the refugees would have a state of their own to return to.” Really? Compare this with the position articulated by Abdullah Abdullah, Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon during last year’s debate on the Palestinians’ unilateral bid for statehood – which Ayalon et al. warmly endorse.

In a September 2010 interview with the Lebanese Daily Star, Abdullah asserted that statehood “will never affect the right of return for Palestinian refugees” and that even refugees in the Palestinian territories “will not be considered citizens.”

He went on to declare: “When we have a state accepted as a member of the United Nations, this is not the end of the conflict. This is not a solution to the conflict. This is only a new framework that will change the rules of the game.”

Abdullah was not the only senior Palestinian official to express this view. Take for example Saeb Erekat. While still functioning as the head of the Palestinian Steering Committee, he wrote in the Guardian (December 10, 2010): “Today, Palestinian refugees constitute more than 7 million people worldwide – 70 percent of the entire Palestinian population. Disregarding their legitimate legal rights enshrined in international law… to return to their homeland, would certainly make any peace deal signed with Israel completely untenable.”

So if you were a betting man, who would you put your money on for having a firmer grasp of Palestinian perspectives: senior Palestinian officials or Ayalon et al.?

Palestinian attitudes (continued)

Many Palestinians may well enthusiastically embrace the call made by “Peace Without Partners” (Did they really call it that?). One of them might well be Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah’s central committee, who in a May 7, 2009 interview on ANB TV let the cat out of the bag, when he declared: “With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward.”

Of course he is right. And everyone – deep in their gut – knows it. Even the two-staters.

The only ray of light?

Perhaps the only ray of light in the whole preposterous proposition of unilateral peace is that it does in fact specify measures that should be implemented – only in reverse! Instead of withdrawing claims of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, Israel should impose it.

Instead of giving financial inducements to Jews to leave Judea and Samaria, they should give Palestinians them to do so, as I have argued on previous occasions. Well, at least we have established the principle that financing population movements is acceptable – and that could be a big step forward. Now all we have to do now is decide which population and in which direction.

www.martinsherman.net

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