If you will it, it is no dream – Theodor Herzl
In this two-part sequel to my columns analyzing “What’s wrong with the Right,” I set out the components of a comprehensive approach to what is usually termed the “Palestinian problem.”
This will include not only the measures that should be undertaken to dissipate – rather than resolve – the problem per se, but those that must be undertaken to render them feasible.
To recap briefly
Over the past two weeks, I took the Right to task for its poorly thought through proposals for alternative policy paradigms to the two-state-solution (TSS) proposal, which even if implemented would, in all likelihood, eliminate few of the threats to Israel’s security, and exacerbate many.
I criticized what I saw as the intellectual surrender by the Right in failing to acknowledge, or, at least, failing to clearly articulate acknowledgement of the inevitable conclusion that, to sustain itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel must address two imperatives:
a. The geographic imperative, which implies it cannot make any significant territorial concessions in Judea and Samaria; and
b. The demographic imperative, which implies it cannot incorporate large segments of the Palestinian Arabs, resident in this area, as enfranchised citizens within its sovereign territory.
This leads to the inescapable deduction that if Israel is to be secured as the permanent Jewish nation-state, the only non-coercive option is the relocation of the Palestinian Arabs, induced primarily by generous economic incentives.
Effective policy invariably requires one to acknowledge existing realities. But acknowledging reality does not mean accepting it. Indeed, to successfully change reality, one has first to recognize it.
In this regard, it must be admitted that – mainly due to decades of dereliction of diplomatic duty – Israel has allowed the international discourse on the Mideast conflict in general, and the Palestinian component of it in particular, to gel very disadvantageously for it. It has permitted the TSS-concept to become deeply engrained in the international psyche as the only option available to Israel that will allow it to exist as a Jewish democracy and prevent it from becoming either an undemocratic Jewish ethnocracy – imposing minority Judeo-centric rule on an Arab majority – or a non-Jewish state-of-allits- citizens.
In other words, the currently entrenched (mis)perceptions are that Israel must choose between the risk of becoming geographically unviable, or the certainty of becoming demographically unviable. Intellectual allegiance to this misplaced dichotomy between a TSScompliant Jewish democracy on the one hand, and non-democratic/non-Jewish alternatives on the other, has come to dominate not only the content of the international debate, but the cultural codex of its conduct.
To challenge its validity – no matter what the substantive basis for such dissent – is to risk being marginalized professionally and ostracized socially, at least as far as mainstream institutions are concerned.
It will not be easy to shatter this political reality, which due to a noxious mix of neglect, naïveté and nefariousness has, over more than two decades, hardened into the “received wisdom” on the Judeo-Arabic conflict in the Middle East.
However, within the constraints of the faux framework of artificially imposed dictates that comprises current conventional wisdom, there is no viable policy-paradigm that can sustain Israel, in the long run, as the nation-state of the Jews.
Accordingly, despite the daunting difficulties, prising loose the debilitating stranglehold it has in defining the conceptual space of the discourse is an essential precondition for the promotion – and eventual implementation – of any Zionist-compliant TSS-alternative.
Unless this is grasped – and perceived as both possible and imperative – pursuit of such alternatives is futile.
Radical revision required
To accomplish this objective requires a radical revision of how the nation relates to diplomacy – particularly public diplomacy (a.k.a. hasbara) – as a crucial element in the design of the strategic arsenal required to sustain Jewish sovereignty in the modern era.
This is a need that apparently has not been evident to the Israeli leadership for decades, including the leadership of the Israeli Right, which for the greater portion of almost four decades since it came to power in 1977, has dominated the ruling coalitions.
Diplomacy has been hopelessly starved of resources, with the total budget for Israeli public diplomacy reportedly less than a medium-to-large corporation spends on promoting fast foods and snacks.
But it has been rendered ineffectual not only because of the paucity of resources, but because of the perception of the role it should play, and the predilections of the personnel charged with its conduct.
Diplomacy as air power
Conceptually, the function of diplomacy should be perceived as essentially similar to that of the classic role of the air force. For just as the latter was traditionally tasked with creating freedom of action for ground forces to achieve their objectives, so should diplomacy been seen as charged with facilitating freedom of action for the nation’s strategic decision- makers, to allow them to achieve the objectives of strategies they formulate.
However, in Israel over recent decades, this has been completely inverted. Instead of national objectives dictating the conduct of diplomacy, diplomatic pressures have dictated the objectives of national policy! Instead of diplomacy being seen as an instrument of policy, diplomatic difficulties have become a determinant of policy. Instead of being seen as a means for producing political realities, diplomacy has become a product of political realities.
The penchant for the passive over the proactive is largely a reflection of personal and professional preferences of many in the country’s diplomatic corps, drawn from social echelons in Israel’s civil society that often seem more sympathetic to the Palestinian narrative than committed to the Zionist one. They thus have little motivation to robustly confront and counter the manifestly mendacious myths that sustain this narrative and provide much of the rationale for the TSS.
Misconduct of diplomacy
So, underfunded, misdirected and largely unmotivated, it is hardly surprising that those charged with the conduct of Israel’s diplomacy have performed inadequately, and that the country’s diplomatic endeavor is ineffective and frequently counter-productive.
Clearly then, the misperceptions of realities that have been precipitated/facilitated by this appalling diplomatic debacle cannot be taken as engraved in stone.
Neither can prevailing public opinion, derived from these misperceptions, be taken as inflexible constraints on Israel’s strategic options, or as determining the inevitable point of departure or end point of that strategy.
It is crucial to understand that the TSS was until the onset of the 1990s vehemently rejected by the entire Zionist establishment, except for marginal left-wing splinters. It has since has attained its position of dominance largely due to Israeli impotence – even capitulation – on the diplomatic front.
Failing to redress this inexplicable but ruinous fiasco has been one of the greatest sins of successive Likud-led governments, with the current one in the ludicrous position of being forced to adopt – even advocate – TSS-compliant positions it once vigorously denounced.
Not a cop-out
At this juncture, two points must be made: First, identifying the need for radical restructuring/ reinvigoration of Israeli diplomacy as a vital precondition for the implementation of a comprehensive and sustainable TSSalternative is not an evasive cop out. It is a hard-nosed appraisal of the obstacles and of what must, and can, be done to overcome them.
After all, one cannot win a diplomatic war without the wherewithal to do so – and the endeavor to formulate, promote and implement a sustainable alternative to the TSS is indeed a diplomatic war. To win it, Israel requires an appropriate diplomatic apparatus.
What it has in place today is clearly inadequate for the challenge. Indeed, it would hardly be an exaggeration to assert that it is one of the principal obstacles to attaining this goal.
Accordingly, without such an induced metamorphosis, there is little reason to believe that Israeli decision-making will not remain hopelessly mired in the syndrome of crippling, self-destructive defeatism.
Second, the impetus for such a metamorphosis will not come from within Israeli officialdom, neither the current bureaucracy nor the elected political incumbents. It will only be sparked by resolute, committed civil society elites who have the resolve and the resources to impose it on the political echelon.
This is precisely how the conditions for promoting the TSS were created! Those of us “mature” enough to have been politically aware in the late 1980s will recall that association with any TSS-compliant policy was considered politically toxic. Even Shimon Peres objected strenuously to any mention that Labor might be amenable to the idea in its 1988 party platform, for fear of negative electoral repercussions.
Yet despite widespread resistance, in a remarkably short time of no more than a few years, left-wing civil society activists imposed the TSS-centric Oslo agenda on a largely reluctant political system.
Given the catastrophic consequences of this, there is little reason to believe that methods that sparked the ascent of the failed TSS-compliant doctrine could not be emulated to induce – in an equally rapid manner – its descent into well-deserved ignominy, paving the way for the acceptance of saner, less calamitous alternatives.
Strategic vs tactical
A brief methodological digression: While the “tactical” approach focuses on prevailing realities and ways of contending with them, the “strategic” approach involves defining a desired reality and devising methods of attaining it.
As noted before, this does not mean that current realities can, or should, be ignored.
Quite the opposite. It is essential they be recognized, lest they result in the formulation of defective methods designed to attain the desired reality. What it does mean, however, is that they should be considered obstacles to overcome, rather than constraints to be conformed to.
This distinction is not merely theoretical. It is an indispensable operational guide for the design of TSS-alternative paradigms. The point of departure for any strategic prescription for a durable TSS-alternative must be the desired conditions, and not the difficulties in attaining them. Once such conditions are defined, methods for neutralizing/circumventing such difficulties can be devised.
The practical importance of this differentiation cannot be overstated. For if the alternative approach is adopted, and current realities are taken as largely immutable, and the most that prescribed alternatives aspire to is to attenuate their pernicious components, eventual failure is almost certainly assured, even if some short-term amelioration might be secured.
As I have argued in my two preceding columns, such a desired (indeed necessary) strategic future requires that Israel adequately address its geographic imperative and its demographic imperative by maintaining control over all of Judea and Samaria without permanently incorporating the resident Palestinian Arab population into its society.
The strategic challenge is therefore to devise methods – one hopes non-coercive ones – to achieve this.
Resources and resourcefulness
Although for some this preparatory discussion might appear disappointingly detached from practicalities, it is an essential preamble to the elaboration of operational components of any TSS-alternative paradigm.
Unless one approaches this task with a mindset that prevailing diplomatic realities are malleable rather than immutable, and that they can be rendered malleable by assertive, intelligent diplomatic initiatives, there is little hope for success. Similarly, unless one recognizes that the role played by Israel’s diplomacy should be considered similar to that of its air force – in generating freedom of action to achieve strategic objectives – and is allotted the resources commensurate with the importance of that role, it is unlikely that those objectives will be achieved.
Finally, unless one realizes that the initiative for the required changes will not come from within Israeli officialdom or incumbent politicians, but from determined and devoted civil society elites, they will never materialize.
True, eventually the funding required will be too large to come solely from private benefactors and will have to come from government sources. But it would be futile to look to, or wait for, any government initiative to establish the necessary enterprise.
Without recognition of these three points, the quest for a sustainable TSS-alternative will be futile.
The only remaining question is whether right-wing elites can muster the required resolve, resources and resourcefulness – just as the Left did – to allow it to initiate a far-reaching paradigmatic shift just as the Left did.
‘Nothing so practical as a good theory’
For those who were expecting a little more “red meat” this week, let me try to mollify you with a quote from the founder of social psychology, Kurt Lewin, who wisely remarked that “there is nothing so practical as a good theory.”
Next week I hope to substantiate his insight.