However beautiful the
strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. – Sir Winston Churchill
As readers of this – soon to be discontinued – column are well aware, I have
been a resolute opponent of the two-state solution (TSS), for a variety of
reasons, including its logical inconsistency, moral bankruptcy and proven
impracticality. Accordingly, I have argued that continued attempts to pursue it
will inevitably result in tragedy and trauma for both Arab and
Sadly, however, those who rightly – no pun
intended – oppose the TSS have been less than comprehensive and far-sighted in
formulating the well-intentioned alternatives they proffer in its stead. Indeed,
if implemented, some of these alternatives may well precipitate situations just
as perilous at TSS – in some cases perhaps more so.
alternatives can be broadly bracketed into four major groupings:
(a) Those that
advocate stabilizing the status quo, putting the emphasis on managing the
conflict rather than resolving it, and condition any further accommodation of
Palestinians’ demands on them “getting their act together” – i.e. by
demonstrating more peace-conducive behavior.
(b) Those that are
“Jordan-centric,” and involve giving Jordan a crucial role in the envisioned
end-state solution – either as the planned abode of the Palestinian Arabs in the
“West Bank” and/or in giving Amman the function of running the lives of the
Palestinian Arabs in the “West Bank,” subject to overarching Israeli
(c) Those that advocate Israel’s partial annexation of Judea
and Samaria, typically of the dominantly Jewish-populated Area C.
Those that advocate annexation of the entire “West Bank,” offering Israeli
citizenship to its Arab residents, typically together with changes in the
electoral system to marginalize the potential impact of their
Although these proposals may well obviate some of the deadly
dangers entailed in the TSS and a consequent IDF evacuation of Judea/Samaria,
they ignore – indeed may even augment – some of the grave threats to Israel’s
survival that exist today. This is true both in terms of the diplomatic assault
on the country’s legitimacy and the physical assault on its national security
and the safety of its citizens.
What follows is a brutally compressed and
far from comprehensive critique of these alternatives, which reflect an
unwillingness on the part of many on the Israel Right to face harsh realities
unflinchingly and to pursue their essentially valid point of departure to its
logical but perhaps unpalatable conclusion.
Kicking the can down the road
While the first set of solutions (stabilization/ conflict management) is based
on the ostensibly sensible approach of “not making things worse,” it is really
nothing more than kicking the can down the road.
This approach may appear
to have a measure of merit, but it seriously underestimates the urgency and
intensity of the issues at hand, and the need to sketch, at least in general
terms, some prescription for a preferred end-state arrangement. At best, these
proposals are a temporary tactic rather than a serious strategy, providing no
hint of how any long-term resolution is to be to be approached, much less
For whatever one’s position might be regarding Palestinian
claims for political independence – whether one rejects them as a huge hoax
designed to undermine Jewish sovereignty, or an authentic aspiration for
national freedom – there seems little practical purpose, or moral justification,
in proposing perpetuation of an unresolved state of open-ended limbo and
indefinite suspended political animation.
Indeed, such delays are liable
to make Israel’s plight even more dire. And to what end? Advocates of this
approach usually prescribe stabilization/management of the status quo until
there is perceptible positive change in the conduct of the Palestinians that
will facilitate progress toward some “final status” outcome.
But this position is both futile and illogical.
It is illogical
because one either recognizes the Palestinians’ right to nationhood as
legitimate and authentic, or one does not.
If one does recognize such a
right, its exercise cannot be made contingent on the judgment/approval of their
behavior/ governance by some extraneous entity, particularly an adversarial one
Why should Palestinian independence be conditioned on good
governance and democracy and not that of Algeria or Afghanistan? Why should
Palestinians be held to a higher standard than, say, Somalis or
Why should implementation of their “legitimate rights” be
conditioned on reaching peaceable relations with any, or all, of their
neighbors, when this was never the case for other claimants of national
self-determination – including Israelis? What justification could there be for
expecting Palestinians to accept Israel (with or without US accompaniment) as an
adjudicator, not only of their behavior being “proper” enough to warrant
statehood, but of the criteria by which it is to be so judged?
On the other
hand, if one rejects the authenticity and legitimacy of the Palestinians’ claim
to nationhood, what is the point in “stabilizing the status quo” and prolonging
the state of “suspended political animation” until they prove themselves
“deserving.” Surely logic would dictate endeavors to transform – rather than
stabilize – the status quo and to strive for the establishment of a sustainable
finalstatus arrangement that would not include a Palestinian state?
If one refutes the legitimacy/authenticity of the Palestinian
claims, prolonging the status quo is not only illogical, it is
counterproductive. It will only entrench realities that make achieving such a
sustainable final-status arrangement – sans a Palestinian state – that much more
difficult to achieve.
Moreover, suggesting that the status quo should be
stabilized in the hope of “improved” (i.e. peace–conducive/Israel-compliant)
Palestinian behavior in the future is futile. Those who hope/believe that the
Palestinians might one day “get their act together” lack one crucial element for
making their case credible: a persuasive argument why this should ever
After the better part of a quarter-century, since the giddy
euphoria of Oslo, and the consequent flood of disaster and disappointment, it is
time to recognize that with the Palestinians “what you see is what you’ll get.”
In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, responsibility requires
us to conclude that they do not have another “act” – and to begin formulating
policy that proactively addresses – rather than evades – this unfortunate
Historically true, politically implausible
The next group of
TSS-resistant proposals is the Jordan-centric one based on, or linked to, the
notion that “Jordan is Palestine.”
It is indisputable that this claim has
much to support it, historically, geographically and demographically. After all,
historically, Jordan did indeed comprise most of Mandatory Palestine,
geographically covering almost 80 percent of its territory, while
demographically, a clear majority of its current population are ethnically
Palestinians. Moreover, until summarily, and arguably, illegally, stripped of
their citizenship by King Hussein in 1988, all the Arab residents of the “West
Bank” were Jordanian citizens.
Yet despite the compelling evidence that
can be produced to support the claim that “Jordan is Palestine,” there are even
more compelling ones to consider policy proposals based on it impractical – even
imprudent – politically. (This is not to say that if such proposals were
successful, the outcomes would not be desirable, but only that such success is
unlikely, and even more unlikely to be sustainable, and that their likely
failure would have dangerous repercussions.)
The Jordan-centric proposals
typically advocate applying Israeli sovereignty over Judea/Samaria, and
declaring that portion of Mandatory Palestine east of the Jordan River (the
present-day Hashemite kingdom) the Palestinian state.
envisage the resettlement of the Arab residents of these areas in trans-Jordan;
more “benign” variants envisage Amman reinstating their Jordanian citizenship
and undertaking the role of running the civilian aspects of their lives in the
“West Bank,” under overarching Israeli sovereignty.
The major problem
with Jordan-centric proposals is that Israel controls none of the decision
variables crucial, not only for their success, but for their
By definition, they confer veto power on Amman, which
could render the entire plan inoperable by refusing to accede to an idea it has
very little incentive to accept.
Providing veto power to Amman
current regime has little upside in shouldering responsibility for a large
additional population with little sentiments of loyalty to the monarchy, and
daunting disincentives, both political and economic, for doing so.
winds of wrath that have swept through the region since December 2010 – a.k.a.
the “Arab Spring” – have made the Jordan-centric prescriptions even more
precarious for a myriad of reasons too numerous to enumerate here.
prudent working assumption for Israeli strategic planners must be that the
Islamic inputs of the “Spring” will, sooner or later, impact Jordan, either
bringing an overtly Islamist regime to power, or an interim puppet-regime, in
which the king is stripped of his power but retained as a figurehead by Islamist
masters, to preclude the claim that “Jordan is Palestine” (see my “From
potentate to puppet?” February 3, 2012).
This clearly makes any proposal
for giving Jordan civilian jurisdiction –including for law enforcement – over
the Palestinian Arabs in Judea/Samaria (as Jordanian citizens), very unwise.
Neither the populace, nor the Jordanian authorities appointed to manage its
civilian affairs, would any longer owe allegiance to an ostensibly moderate
pro-Western monarchy, but – in all likelihood – to a vehemently Judeophobic
Islamocracy, with a far greater stake in fomenting violence than in keeping the
Action by the IDF to address this situation would inevitably be
construed as a casus belli, and give the regime in Amman excellent grounds for
rallying Arab assistance in protecting its citizens from “Zionist
Crazy patchwork of enclaves
The third group of TSS-resistant
proposals advocate annexation of portions of Judea/Samaria – typically Area C
where the population is predominately Jewish.
Prima facie, the extension
of Israeli sovereignty over additional territory is a positive idea. However, in
the specific context of this group of proposals, it is likely to generate more
problems than it will solve.
If a country deems certain territory to be
under its sovereignty, it must demarcate the frontiers of that territory and be
ready to secure them against infiltration or attack.
A brief glance at
the map will immediately reveal how impractical such partial annexation would be
for Israel. Area C is a crazy quilted patchwork of enclaves and axis roads, with
an outer contour of hundreds of kilometers – possibly well over a thousand. Is
this meant to designate Israel’s final sovereign frontiers?
If so, how is it to
be secured, and at what cost operationally, financially and diplomatically? If
not, how are these frontiers to be determined?
No less important, how is the
status of the residual territory and its inhabitants to be established? For the
remaining Areas A and B (less than 40 percent) are scattered helter-skelter in
disconnected patches across the “West Bank,” clearly incapable of being forged
into any sustainable collective entity, making the accusations of ethnically
delineated and discriminatory Bantustans (or rather Arabstans) far more
difficult to repudiate...
Impossible socioeconomic burden
This brings us
to the final group of TSSresistant proposals, which advocate applying Israeli
sovereignty to all of Judea/Samaria, together with an offer of Israeli
citizenship to the Arab residents.
This type of proposal is typically
accompanied by “alternative” (albeit well-substantiated) demographic assessments
and blue prints for changes in the electoral system – usually the institution of
a regional ballot rather than the current nationwide one – designed to minimize
the impact of the newly enfranchised Palestinian Arabs.
theoretical logic, this is a prescription fraught with immense danger for the
Zionist enterprise and Israel’s status as the Jewish nation-state.
if one believes that, despite the inevitable legal challenges, the boundaries of
the voting constituencies could be gerrymandered to marginalize the Palestinian
Arab vote, and even if the most optimistic demographic estimates prove correct,
this will not obviate the perils.
For the socioeconomic burden entailed
in the inclusion of such a large, culturally discordant population, many of whom
have been infused with anti-Israel hatred for decades, will cripple the country
and catapult it back into developing-nation status, certainly disqualifying it
from its newly acquired membership in the OECD...
What to do?
none of this means that the TSS should be reinstated as the only viable option
available to Israel. It clearly should not.
What is does mean is that the
shortcomings of the alternatives analyzed above need to be dealt with in a more
comprehensive and integrative manner, and that the issues at hand and the
obstacles need to be addressed with greater foresight and broader
In next week’s column – the penultimate one in this “Into
the Fray” series – I will trace the outline of how this might be