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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
difficult to imagine a greater – and more uncalled for – intellectual
capitulation and a more devastating and unmerited ideological
Imperative to recognize imperatives
To survive as the permanent
nation-state of the Jewish people Israel must address two fundamental
• The geographic imperative
• The demographic imperative
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
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.
comprises an acceptable policy-paradigm for anyone whose point of departure is
the continued existence of Israel as the permanent nation-state of the
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
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
Indeed, for any moderately well-informed person with a modicum of
common sense and intellectual integrity, it is a conclusion that is manifestly
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
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.
a situation would be extremely difficult to redress, other than by the coercive
dismantling of a sovereign state, something virtually unthinkable in today’s
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.
“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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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
Questions to be addressed
But the conceptual validity of an
analytical conclusion – however compelling –does not ensure its practical
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
• 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
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and
executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.