I am opposed to an independent Palestinian state, because in my own judgment and in the judgment of many leaders in the Middle East, including Arab leaders, this would be a destabilizing factor... and would certainly not serve the United States interests.
- Jimmy Carter, February 25, 1980
The only way for Israel to endure... as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.
–Barack Obama, March 21, 2013
We oppose the creation of an independent Palestinian state.... Nothing will deflect us from these fundamental... commitments.
– Jimmy Carter, March 23, 1980
We continue to believe in the two-state solution on the 1967 borders.
– Barack Obama, March 21, 2013
Being a proverbial – and some would say, perennial – “prophet of doom” is neither easy nor fashionable in Israel today. After all, there is so much evidence of burgeoning power and prosperity that pessimism seems positively perverse: Surging GDP per capita, amazing advances in science and technology, massive gas finds and the prospect of soon-to-be-attained energy independence...
Unless you happen to be warning about the starkly incontrovertible dangers, immanent in Iranian nuclear ambitions, you tend to be dismissed as a paranoid “Chicken- Licken,” mongering irrational fears as to the imminent fall of the firmament.
This is particularly true for anyone who keeps harping on the perils entailed in what is misleadingly dubbed “the peace process,” and in the doctrine of political appeasement/territorial retreat on which it is based. But these perils can be just as pernicious – indeed, perhaps even more so – than distinctly discernible dangers, however daunting, such as those emanating from Tehran.
It is precisely because the mechanism by which they inflict damage is surreptitious, incremental and gradual that the accumulated level of menace grows almost imperceptibly, until it reaches potentially devastating levels. At any given point, it is easy to misperceive them as innocuous, and denigrate calls for caution as alarmist.
“The death of a frog” revisited
Several years ago I published an article, titled “The death of frog” (November 29, 2010), in which I cited an excerpt from Daniel Quinn’s novel The Story of B, describing how if a frog is placed “in a pot of tepid water..., it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor...
and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”
I warned that this was eerily reminiscent of the unfolding political realities in Israel: “Given the ongoing attrition in Israeli position... its continual acquiescence to expose itself to ever-escalating risks, and the accumulating string of concessions agreed to, the trenchant question that must be raised is: When will the lethal boiling point be reached?”
Should anyone feel that this is overstating matters, the staggering transformation in the US positions regarding Israel and the Palestinian issue –from Carter’s total rejection of Palestinian statehood and a return to the 1967 Green Line, to Obama’s total endorsement thereof – should suffice to persuade them of the disturbing dimensions of the phenomenon.
Looked at over time, the transformation of attitudes adopted on the Palestinian question reveals a deeply disconcerting picture of Israeli retreat and capitulation. Potential scenarios that were once rightly deemed dire threats to Israel’s survival are not only treated with sublime indifference – but have now miraculously metamorphosed into preconditions for that survival.
This is true not only for the sea-change in US positions that Israel has to face, but also for the massive mutations in its own positions on this issue.
Amphibians in hot water?
Thus, just prior to the Carter presidency, Amnon Rubinstein wrote an article in Haaretz titled “The pitfall of a third state,” in which he rejected the establishment of a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, warning that it would be “an arrow-head directed at the very heart of Israel with all the force of the Arab world behind it.”
Rubinstein later become a Knesset member for the far-left Meretz faction, whose principal political banner was precisely the establishment of such a state.
For at least two decades, these views dominated the political mainstream in Israel.
Thus, Yitzhak Rabin in his last address to the Knesset (October 5, 1995), seeking the ratification of the Oslo II agreements, for which he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In laying out his vision for a permanent settlement, he resolutely resisted any return to the Green Line; endorsed retention of a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty as the nation’s capital; stipulated that the Jordan Valley would remain Israel’s security border; called for the inclusion of numerous “settlements” in the “West Bank” within Israel’s future final frontiers and even urged setting up new settlements “like those in Gush Katif” – later razed by Ariel Sharon in the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.
Israel has long abandoned most – if not all – these tenets set out in the ultimate articulation of Rabin’s heritage. Today, if Israel were to adhere to Nobel Peace laureate Rabin’s prescription, this would be summarily dismissed and denigrated as unreasonable, unrealistic extremism.
How then can this not invoke our parable of the luckless amphibian that relaxed when the waters were tepid, adapted when they became hotter, and died when they began to boil?
What would Sun Tzu say? Oy vey?
As I have alluded elsewhere (Intellectual warriors, not slicker diplomats, February 14), David Horowitz correctly identified that in the post-modern era, Carl von Clausewitz’s famous dictum that “war is a continuation of politics by other means” has been inverted, and nowadays, “Politics is war conducted by other means.”
In a seminal manual, titled “Warfighting,” which sets out the US Marine Corps’ basic philosophy of warfare, the underlying rationale of war is defined as follows: “... the object of war is to impose our will on [the] enemy.”
This has been an enduring principle of military doctrine. Two and half millennia ago, Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategist, wrote in his classic treatise The Art of War: “... the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.”
Bearing this in mind, the political portrait that emerges from a survey of recent decades is one of ongoing erosion of Israeli positions and adoption of Arab ones – i.e.
continual success of the Arabs to impose their will on their Israeli enemy – and on its US ally.
So if politics is the extension of war and the objective of war is to impose one’s will on the enemy, can there be any doubt that if a 21st-century Sun Tzu were to review the constant Israeli submission to the will of its foes, his only comment would be an appalled: Oy vey – or whatever the Chinese version of that is?
From sinister subtext to breaking headlines
Last week, I warned that despite the euphoric feel-good sensation that the smiles and embraces that characterized Obama’s visit engendered, it was premature to celebrate a substantive and durable pro-Israel shift in the US administration’s sentiments. I cautioned that notwithstanding the more amicable appearance, there were clear signs of a sinister subtext and ominous undertones that accompanied what took place during the presidential trip to the region.
It did not take long for that subtext to surface and become breaking-news headlines.
In the context of the preceding discussion, it is likely that, with the benefit of hindsight, Obama’s visit will be perceived as a point of inflection, marking disconcerting acceleration in the degradation of long-held Israeli positions, once considered linchpins holding the fabric of the nation together.
For once the fanfare fades, three deeply disturbing elements will remain to define the memory – and significance – of the Obama visit, all of which reinforce the propensity of Jewish submission to Muslim demands:
(a) The humiliating Israeli apology to Turkey and the consequent damage to Israel’s stature and credibility on the one hand, and the boosting of its enemies’ morale and resolve on the other;
(b) An apparent softening on the settlement- freeze issue as a sine qua non for resumption of negotiations, and its replacement with an even more onerous condition – an emerging demand for Israel to produce a map delineating the borders of a future Palestinian state; and
(c) Stark reaffirmation that the point of departure for the delineation of those borders should be the indefensible pre-1967 Green Line – with minor modifications involving wildly implausible “agreed land swaps.”
Subtext to headlines (cont.)
The impact of these elements soon became headline news.
The Turks immediately began to swagger around the globe, boasting that they had coerced Israel to bend to its will, refusing to drop trumped-up legal proceedings against IDF personnel, and proclaiming that any improvement of relations with Israel will depend on whether Ankara approves of its future behavior.
The message was not lost on Israel’s enemies.
The Iranian reaction was inevitable as it was instructive. Tehran’s ambassador to Ankara commented that “in the past three years, Turkey, with its constant resistance, showed us we can take what we want...
from Israel,” indicating that Israel’s abject behavior is hardly likely to induce greater pliancy in Iran’s position on its nuclear program.
No less disturbing were the prominent media reports that Secretary of State Kerry was pushing for Turkey to act as mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, including Hamas.
Turkey? The country, whose prime minister recently branded the expression Jewish national sovereignty, Zionism, as a “crime against humanity” and whose foreign minister chided Syria for not taking military action against Israel? Hardly the epitome of a credible honest broker! Was this curious initiative the result of ignorance or naiveté – or a disturbing illustration of the sinister subtext expressing itself in the headlines.
There was much jubilation at Obama’s downplaying the centrality he had formerly placed on the settlements issue. As Shmuel Rosner points out in his “Please... draw me a state” (New York Times, April 3), this is very likely to be “a Pyrrhic victory.”
As Ronsner astutely points out: “Obama’s ‘major calibration’ creates more problems for the Israeli government than it solves, he replaced the contentious issue of settlements with an even more contentious matter: boundaries.”
This change of emphasis was followed, right on cue (April 3) by the incredibly imbecilic, impudent and iniquitous missive from 100 sycophantic North American Jewish Obamaphiles, calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to show readiness for “painful territorial sacrifices” (read “withdraw to the Green Line and redivide Jerusalem”).
The Palestinians response was almost immediate. Within two days Mahmoud Abbas demanded a map for a future Palestinian state before the resumption of any peace talks. Palestinian news agency Ma’an quoted an Abbas aide as saying “Any return to negotiations requires Netanyahu to agree on 1967 borders.”
It is difficult to overstate the gravity of this development. As Rosner points out: “For Israel, drawing a map without first solving other core issues – the status of Jerusalem, the future of Palestinian refugees – is like using your last bargaining chip halfway through making a deal.”
Descent into delusion?
Perhaps the only thing more distressing than this ongoing process of deconstruction of the Jewish state’s foundations is the wildly delusional response from those who should be charged with arresting it – the Israeli Right.
Thus, when asked about his proposal for an alternative, Naftali Bennett, leader of the Bayit Yehudi party, outlined his “Plan B, whose principal elements reportedly are to “dramatically improve the Palestinians’ economic situation” and enhance their freedom of movement by “remov[ing] checkpoints on West Bank roads, [and] to reintegrate the Palestinians into the Israeli workforce.”
So that’s the Israeli Right’s grand strategic vision for the future? More affluent and mobile (and presumably, stateless) Palestinians? Really? One can almost envisage a dismayed Sun Tzu shaking his head in disbelief, muttering “Oy vey” – in Chinese, of course.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.