Into The Fray: David Harris’s ‘stunning shortsightedness’

It is becoming increasingly difficult to respond with any degree of courteous civility to the advocates of the so-called “two-state-solution” (TSS).

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August 29, 2013 21:43
Binyamin Netanyahu, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat

Binyamin Netanyahu, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Minister Naftali Bennett’s remarks, rejecting outright the vision of two states for two peoples, are stunningly shortsighted

David Harris, American Jewish Committee executive director, June 17, 2013

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Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish a sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel

– Yasser Arafat, Jordanian TV, September 13, 1993 (the day he signed the Oslo Accords on the White House Lawn)

The idea of a two-state solution should be dead, today, because unfortunately a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would bring about Israel’s demise

– Yuval Steinitz, The Jerusalem Post, September 14, 2008

It is becoming increasingly difficult to respond with any degree of courteous civility to the advocates of the socalled “two-state-solution” (TSS). Maintaining the shabby pretense is simply proving too perilous. The time has come to dispense with the false façade of social decorum and to call a spade, a spade, to deem the moronic, “moronic” and the myopic, “myopic.”



Dangerous, delusional dogma

This applies equally to longstanding supporters of this dangerous delusion, who resolutely refuse to acknowledge error – despite the manifest misery and mayhem its misguided pursuit has wrought; and to recent neophytes, who have inexplicably, and inexcusably, embraced this patently preposterous policy proposal – despite their past opposition to it being unequivocally vindicated.

Likewise, it applies to senior Israeli policy-makers, who have shown neither the necessary intellectual depth nor daring to formulate a cogent counterparadigm, and thus have been coerced into endorsing this disproven dogma; and to leaders of allegedly pro-Zionist organizations in the Diaspora – principally the US – who, whether for reasons of political naiveté, or social nicety, have perversely embraced the establishment of an illiberal Muslim tyranny as the litmus test of refined liberalism.

Belief in the inevitable implementation of the TSS-paradigm as the format for resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict has acquired the status of a quasi-religious article of faith, whose validity is self-evident, requiring no proof.

Any expressions of doubt as to its practical feasibility, or conceptual soundness, can be dismissed as misguided – even malicious – heresy, no matter how convincing the empirical evidence or compelling the analytical rationale on which they draw.

Similarly, any person expounding such “heretical doubts” must be belittled, berated and besmirched, no matter how powerful and persuasive the arguments for his/her case may be.

As evidence continues to accumulate, showing how implausible the pursuit of Palestinian statehood is almost certain to prove as a measure for attaining a peaceable resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the reaction of TSSadherents waxes evermore harsh and hysterical.

Shortsighted or starry-eyed?

Recently, a typical example of such reprehensible behavior was provided by David Harris, the executive director of the influential AJC.

Responding to a remark by Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett regarding Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to relaunch negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Harris castigated him for dubbing endeavors to establish a Palestinian state as futile and having reached a dead-end.

Harris bristled at Bennett’s outright rejection of “the vision of two states for two peoples,” warning that it was “stunningly shortsighted” and “offers only the prospect of a dead-end strategy of endless conflict and growing isolation for Israel.”

Of course, quite the opposite is true. For over the past two post-Oslo decades, ever since Israel has accepted the notion of two states for two peoples, the conflict with the Palestinians has escalated and Israel’s isolation has increased – far beyond levels that existed when such an idea was considered a perfidious anathema.

Accordingly, it would be much closer to the truth to assert that anyone who still clings to the vision (read “nightmare”) of two states for two peoples is, at best, hopelessly – and hazardously – starry- eyed.

Complete claptrap

After all, given the physical devastation and the political delegitimization the pursuit of the TSS-“vision” has left in its wake, together with the high probability and horrendous cost of failure in the future, it would seem that it is its proponents – rather than its opponents – who are afflicted by shortsightedness, if not total sightlessness.

Even a cursory glance at the pre- and post-Oslo facts will expose Harris’s suggestion that the adoption of the TSS- “vision” will in any way act to reduce either conflict or international isolation as complete claptrap. With time, we tend to forget the woes this “noble” vision wrought on the nation.

So a brief reminder is appropriate.

With regard to the level of conflict, based on data from the Foreign Ministry, during the 12 years following the Oslo Agreement (1994-2005) the number of terror-related fatalities was almost six(!) times those incurred in the 12 years prior to it (1981-1992); and significantly higher than ALL terror-related fatalities in the 44 years following the War of Independence until the dawn of the Oslo-era (1949- 1992).

With regard to international isolation, contrary to prevailing urban legend, one would be hard pressed to find any state of substantial international standing that set up diplomatic relations with Israel after the conclusion of the Oslo Accords in September 1993.

For example, China, India and Russia, which together comprise almost 40 percent of humanity, and had long avoided diplomatic ties with Israel, opened embassies in the country almost two years previously – under the recalcitrant, rejectionist government of Yitzhak Shamir.

By contrast, a glance at the Foreign Ministry website will reveal that the vast majority of nations that established official contacts with Israel in the wake of the Oslo initiative were hardly of crucial importance to its international stature – with all due respect to exotic locations such as Andorra, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Burundi, Cape Verde, Croatia, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Montenegro, Namibia, Nauru, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome & Principe, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe – which make up the overwhelming bulk of the post- Oslo additions to countries maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel.

Woefully myopic or willfully blind?

Conversely – and perversely? – delegitimization of Israel appears to have intensified in the post-Oslo period.

For example, the infamous “Durban” series of conferences took place after Israel had adopted a TSS-compliant policy.

The 2001-Durban conference (Durban I) was held only a few months after Ehud Barak’s far-reaching peace offer to Arafat, and provided a high-profile platform for a myriad of anti-Israel NGOs to peddle their noxious wares.

The subsequent “Durban II” (Geneva, 2009) and “Durban III” (New York, 2011) conferences comprised the “Durban process” which one prominent authority characterized as follows: “The objective of the Durban process is to use human rights and international law terminology to isolate, demonize and delegitimize Israel... this process manifests itself in various ways: the academic boycott campaigns in the UK; a variety of boycotts in Scandinavian countries; divestment in churches and in Norway; ‘lawfare’ cases brought against Israelis in various European countries. All these take their mandate from the 2001 NGO Forum at the Durban Conference and... work toward reinforcing its resolutions.”

The egregious Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is acquiring disturbing momentum of late, is a post-Oslo initiative, launched in mid-2005, just weeks prior to the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and over a year after the hyperhawk Ariel Sharon declared that “we are willing to proceed toward its implementation: two states – Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in tranquility, security and peace.”

How has Harris failed to see how counter-productive TSS-compliant policies have been? Is it woeful myopia? Or willful blindness?

Asinine arguments

Harris followed his anti-Bennett tirade with two opinion pieces, urging that we “Give the Peace Process a Chance,” which were (how should I put this?) stunningly shortsighted.

Although I did touch on the more glaring defects in Harris’s articles in my last column, his approach is so arch-typical of the asinine argumentation adopted by TSS-advocates that I feel it is essential to revisit them.

According to Harris, “Israel owe[s] itself the obligation to leave no stone unturned in seeing if a partner, absent yesterday, might somehow show up today. And if, miracle of miracles, the Palestinian leadership actually turns out to be a credible partner this time, then, of course, all the more reason to try.”

Wrong – and stunningly shortsighted! The supposed sincerity of the Palestine negotiating partner’s peaceable intentions is completely – or at least, largely-irrelevant to whether or not negotiations should be undertaken. What is far more pertinent is his ability – and that of any prospective successor – to honor them. Or does Harris feel comfortable with Israel making perilous concessions, if, as in Gaza, they could fall to radical extremists? Has he any way to ensure they will not? And if he can’t, isn’t he being wildly shortsighted in urging taking such risks?

Forlorn hope as strategy?

And should the talks fail, Harris would have us believe that “if the Palestinians once again prove they are unwilling partners, as they did in 2000-1 and again in 2008, let the world see who torpedoed a potential deal.”

Really? It is difficult to resist asking: “Myopic and amnesic?” Has Harris forgotten the wrenching concessions Israel has made over the past decades – the unrequited unilateral 10-month freeze on construction in the “settlements”; withdrawal from major populations centers in Judea-Samaria; unilateral evacuation of Gaza, and erasure of every vestige of Jewish presence there; the unearthing of its dead from their graves; the demolition of settlements in northern Samaria; permitting armed militias to deploy adjacent to its capital, within mortar range of its parliament?

To all these the Palestinians responded with Judeocidal terror and Judeophobic incitement.

Surely, if after all this, the penny still hasn’t dropped, what possible reason is there for any farsighted person to believe the offer of further concessions will do the trick? Or is Harris suggesting forlorn hope as a national strategy?

Negotiating Strategy vs social pandering


According to Harris, “Israel must never hesitate to show up at any serious negotiating table.”

It is of course questionable whether the current coerced talks, with an unrepresentative and aging PA president, in office now for almost nine years of his elected four-year term and whose continued incumbency is far from certain, comprises a “serious negotiating table.”

However, putting that thorny issue aside, it is difficult to imagine any worse a negotiating strategy than declaring almost unconditional willingness to negotiate – especially in the Middle East.

Nothing could better induce one’s counterparts to harden their position, escalate their intransigence and make wildly unreasonable demands, like releasing over 100 convicted killers as a precondition to deign to participate in talks.

Hardly a formula for success – unless of course what is really important is social acceptability in bon-ton liberal circles rather than the actual results of the negotiations.

Surely all but the shortsighted can grasp this?

Sound political science

I could go on rebutting nearly every sentence in Harris’s shallow articles, and virtually every shortsighted idea he raises in them, but constraints of time and space are upon me, and I must desist.

So let me conclude with the following categorical declaration: Given the infinitesimal geographical distances from major Israeli population centers and the topographical dominance over vital Israeli infrastructure any Palestinian state would have, Harris’s prescription for “the need for extraordinarily careful attention to security arrangements in any two-state deal” is little more than lip service, designed to fob off profound concerns which in reality can never be satisfied.

Indeed, I would challenge him to produce the outlines of anything remotely approaching a workable – and durable – formula for such “carefully attended security arrangements.”

I am sure he will find that none exists.

In the final analysis, between the River and the Sea there will exist either exclusive Jewish sovereignty or exclusive Arab sovereignty. The side that will prevail is the side whose national will is the stronger and whose political vision is the sharper.

This is not right-wing extremism or religious fanaticism.

It is merely sound political science – and farsighted prudence.

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

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