With all the money that has been invested in the problem of [the] Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries – Andrei Sakharov, human rights activist and 1975 Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Allow me to begin with an announcement. The decision to discontinue this column has been reversed. I should like to thank my readers for their robust support and The Jerusalem Post for its consumer-conscious response. Now to the business at hand.

This article is relevant reading only for those who share the belief that Israel should survive permanently as the nation-state of the Jewish people. For those who hold dissenting views, much of what is expressed here will be neither pertinent nor persuasive.

But for those who share my point of departure, what follows has the inexorable inevitability of deductive mathematical logic, making the conclusions that emerge from it commensurately inescapable. The fact that they may be unpalatable to some will do nothing to make them any less true.

The Right’s intellectual surrender

There have been many unfortunate developments in the evolution of the discourse conducted over the last quarter-century on the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, and the Israeli-Palestinian component of it in particular. Arguably the most regrettable of these has been the “intellectual surrender” on the part of many on the so-called Right to the tyranny of their political adversaries on the so-called Left.

True, numerous spokesmen of the Right have repeatedly provided cogent and convincing critiques of the Left’s dysfunctional doctrine and it flagship dogma, the two-state-solution (TSS). However, their most palpable and pernicious failure has been their inability/unwillingness to follow through on the logic of these critiques and draw the conclusions their rationale necessarily implies.

They have been markedly remiss in not proposing a convincing and comprehensive alternative for the conduct of the affairs of the nation which if adopted, would result in a sustainable outcome that ensures the long-term survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Devastating defeat

The result has been a devastating defeat for the political credo of the Israeli Right.

This has been most dramatically reflected by the erosion of the core-ideals of the ruling Likud Party – the party of government for most of the three-and-a-half decades since it first came to power in 1977 on a platform of Greater Israel and the resolute rejection of territorial withdrawal in general and the TSS in particular.

Despite its longstanding and vocal opposition to the TSS, it has never articulated a clear idea of how it envisions the permanent-status arrangement. As a result, the Likud found itself unable to respond effectively to the pointed and very pertinent question from its TSS-adherent adversaries: “So what’s your alternative?”

With no comprehensive countervailing paradigmatic position to promote or defend, it found itself gradually forced to give way under the weight of this onerous question, and to increasingly adopt elements of the TSS-paradigm which it had not only previously opposed, but was proved totally vindicated in doing so.

It is impossible to understate the damage this corrosive process has caused.

The situation that confronts us today defies belief: The Likud is urging (some might say, beseeching) the Palestinians to enter into negotiations over an arrangement (the TSS) which it, itself, vehemently rejected several years ago as unacceptably dangerous. Incredibly, this is occurring despite the fact that all the dangers warned of did in fact materialize!

It is difficult to imagine a greater – and more uncalled for – intellectual capitulation and a more devastating and unmerited ideological defeat.

Imperative to recognize imperatives

To survive as the permanent nation-state of the Jewish people Israel must address two fundamental imperatives:

• The geographic imperative

• The demographic imperative

It is self-evident that if either of these is inadequately addressed, Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people will be gravely jeopardized, eventually becoming unsustainable.

The mainstream discourse invariably – and deceptively – presents Israel’s only choice as being between accepting the TSS – which would make Israel untenable geographically, or the OSS (one-state solution) – which would make it untenable demographically.

Neither comprises an acceptable policy-paradigm for anyone whose point of departure is the continued existence of Israel as the permanent nation-state of the Jews.

This, as we will see, compels us to the inexorable conclusion that between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea there can – and eventually will – prevail either exclusive Jewish or exclusive Arab sovereignty.

Untenable geographic reality

Why the TSS entails an unacceptable geographic reality, except under wildly unrealistic – hence irresponsible – “best-case scenario” assumptions has been spelled out in considerable detail on numerous occasions by numerous authoritative experts.

Indeed, for any moderately well-informed person with a modicum of common sense and intellectual integrity, it is a conclusion that is manifestly unavoidable.

I will therefore refrain from repeating these details, which I have set out in several previous columns, and suffice with the following observation: In the absence of any compelling contrary evidence, Israel’s working assumption must be that there is no reason to believe that a TSS-compliant evacuation of the West Bank (or large tracts thereof) by the IDF will produce results essentially dissimilar to those precipitated by similar withdrawals elsewhere.

Accordingly, there is no reason to expect that TSS-implementation will not culminate in Israel’s urban metropolis – from Haifa to Ashdod, where up to 80 percent of its civilian population resides, a similar proportion of its economic activities is conducted, and much of its vital infrastructure is located – being subjected to realities similar to those to which Sderot and its environs are subjected.

Clearly, such realities (or even the tangible threat thereof) would – at negligible cost to Israel’s adversaries – make any socioeconomic routine impossible to maintain.

Such a situation would be extremely difficult to redress, other than by the coercive dismantling of a sovereign state, something virtually unthinkable in today’s international milieu.

Untenable demographic reality

The OSS, on the other hand, along with other hybrid/interim proposals that envisage a large Arab population being included, as enfranchised citizens, within Israel’s sovereign territory, would create an unacceptable demographic reality for anyone wishing to preserve it as the permanent nation-state of the Jews.

True, recent “counter-establishment” demographic studies, headed by people such as the indefatigable Yoram Ettinger, have provided persuasive, well-researched evidence that the demographic threat is far less acute – or at least, less urgent – than usually portrayed, both in terms of its present scale and its future trends.

However, even if these estimates are correct (as they appear to be), this does not imply that there is no longer a grave demographic problem, but only that we have more time to deal with it in a more measured, less pressured manner.

For any proposal involving the permanent inclusion of a large, enfranchised socio-culturally discordant population within the frontiers of Israel will precipitate a unbearable societal burden, “balkanizing” the country, making it impossible to govern.

No matter how ingenious the schemes devised to dilute the political power of the additional Arab population might be, this would not alleviate the gravity of the threat, even if they could overcome the daunting array of judicial and legislative challenges they would inevitably encounter. For the problem is not merely a numerical one of how to produce – or prevent – parliamentary majorities, but one of the relative weights of inherently adversarial socio-cultural sectors that would make up the weave of Israel’s societal fabric.

Brutally simple dilemma

While addressing the geographic imperative requires Israel to maintain control of all Judea and Samaria (or at least of sufficiently large segments to make the TSS unviable), addressing the demographic imperative means that the Arab population of these areas cannot be permanently incorporated into the population of Israel.

To adopt a policy based on any contrary – and highly implausible – assumptions would be an unconscionable gamble of historic proportions, gravely imperiling the Jewish state.

We are left to confront a brutally simple choice: Either forgo the Jewish nation-state or address the need to significantly diminish the scale of the Palestinian-Arab population.

Whether one relates to this stark dilemma with a sense of moral outrage or equanimity will not affect the inexorable logic that led to its deduction, or the necessity to acknowledge its inevitability. Trying to evade the bleak nature of this inescapable choice by reformulating it in less forbidding terms would be no more than an exercise in hypocrisy or self-delusion.

Half-baked, poorly thought-through alternatives that would leave Israel with impossibly torturous and lengthy borders, and disconnected or quasi-connected enclaves, accessible only by narrow, indefensible corridors would – even if they could be implemented – solve few problems and acerbate many.

So, for those who find the prospect of forgoing the Jewish nation-state unacceptable, the grim decision is whether to address the problem of diminishing the Palestinian-Arab population by coercive or by non-coercive means.

Discounting the coercive

Coercive displacement of populations is hardly a rare phenomenon in today’s world and – depending on the classification and the source – its luckless victims number up to 30 million. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the Palestinians have publicly proclaimed that, had the fortunes of war been reversed and the Arabs been victorious, they would have had no compunction in expelling any surviving Jews from “Palestine.” Even today it would be hopelessly naïve to assume that given the opportunity they would not embrace such measures.

Yet despite all this – and in the absence of large-scale military conflict – moral, political and practical considerations preclude physical coercion as an instrument of Israeli policy to achieve demographic goals.

That leaves non-coercive measures, such as generous economic inducements, to address Israel’s demographic imperative.

It would be a grave error to dismiss this rigorously derived conclusion as an unrealistic rant or an unachievable, extremist goal.

It is not rooted in any messianic dogma of divine dictates (I would probably be deemed a scandalously sinful secularist by many); or in some fanatical fascist fundamentalism (I often find myself closer to the Center-Left than to the radical Right on a host of socioeconomic issues); or in a ethnocentric desire for tribal purity (I, too, appreciate the merits of social diversity and am susceptible to the lure of multiculturalism, although I do balk at the moral relativism that often springs from it).

Indeed, it is a conclusion that reflects sentiments articulated by some of the most prominent human rights activists in modern history (as the example in the opening excerpt illustrates).

Questions to be addressed

But the conceptual validity of an analytical conclusion – however compelling –does not ensure its practical applicability.

To assess the chances of its implementation, numerous operational questions need to be addressed:

• How are these proposed non-coercive inducements to be structured? What would be their scope, scale and sources?

• What is its feasibility given the prevailing opinions in both the Israeli and Palestinian publics?

• What diplomatic objectives need to be achieved internationally to prepare for its implementation?

• How does Israeli diplomacy – both official and public (particularly the latter) – need to be restructured to meet these challenges?

• How do pro-Zionist civil society elites – in Israel and abroad – need to be mobilized to prime public opinion?

It is to these and other questions of operational practicality that I will devote next week’s column.

Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

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