Into the Fray: Deciphering delegitimization

For a secure Israel to regain legitimacy, the idea of a Palestinian state must be discredited as a possible means of resolving conflict.

Iron Dome battery 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Iron Dome battery 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
How is it that after all the wrenching concessions it has made, Israel is far more reviled today than during the rigid “rejectionism” of Yitzhak Shamir? I believe we have to talk to each other and to listen to each other. I think bilateral engagement... is the only way. But confidence, trust, is not existing. – Jibril Rajoub, Fatah Central Committee, at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, April 23.
We the Palestinians are the enemies of Israel. There is no going back to negotiations. Listen. We as yet don’t have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning. – Jibril Rajoub, on the Lebanese-based TV station Al Mayadeen, April 30
I have been sitting in front of my computer screen with waves of despair and disbelief flowing over me, unable to write a sentence for hours. As I meander through cyberspace, each proposal I encounter for resolving the Palestinian issue seems more detached from reality, more devoid of reason, more desperate, more delusional and more depressing than the one before.
Repeatedly disproven, never discarded
It would be one thing if these outlandish schemes were being promoted solely by Israel’s external adversaries. But what I find bewildering and debilitating is that these demonstrably unworkable proposals are being energetically pursued and promoted by influential Israelis themselves. Almost inconceivably, policy prescriptions that not many years ago would have been condemned as almost treasonous, are being enthusiastically embraced and ardently advanced by individuals and organizations, deep within the mainstream Israeli establishment. Time after time, we see one public figure after another succumb to the pernicious pressures of political correctness and endorse political paradigms they had previously denounced as too dangerous to be adopted. Failure, no matter how dramatic, disastrous or devastating, seems to have little effect. Regardless of results, reality or reason, they cling stubbornly to evermore radical variants of the same concept of political appeasement and territorial abandonment, which although repeatedly disproven, is somehow never discredited, and certainly, never discarded. When negotiated withdrawal failed to bring peace, unilateral withdrawal was adopted. When that failed to bring the desired results, unrequited unilateral withdrawal – i.e. withdrawal for withdrawal’s sake – is now being touted as an objective in itself. No matter how heinous... It seems that no matter how heinous the deeds, or obnoxious the declarations, on the Palestinian side, this will never disqualify anyone to be welcomed as an honored interlocutor in the discourse on Israeli concessions. The only criterion for invitation seems to be that there should be someone else who has perpetrated deeds more heinous, or made declarations more obnoxious. Thus for example, less than a year ago, Jibril Rajoub, who also heads the Palestine Olympic Committee, commended the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, for not permitting a minute of silence at the 2012 London Olympics to commemorate the murder of Israeli sportsmen at the 1972 Munich Games (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 25, 2012). The fact that Rajoub declared that such commemoration of the cold-blooded killing of Jewish sportsmen, solely because they were Jewish, would be an act of “racism” apparently was not considered an impediment to including him in the high-profile program of the INSS to discuss “creative ideas” to deal with the Palestinian problem. Barely a week later, the affable Rajoub gave full vent to his “creativity” on the recently established Al-Mayadeen TV channel, when he indicated that his preferred solution to the conflict would be the nuclear annihilation of the Jewish state. And just to eliminate any doubt that this might have been a slip of the tongue, two days later, Jibril posted the interview on his Facebook page – indicating that he felt little regret at the judeocidal views he had articulated. Quite the opposite. It seems that in his assessment, they might boost his popularity with the Palestinian public. One cannot help wondering whether his INSS hosts felt a ting of sheepish embarrassment on learning of the public proclamation of the pungent predilections of the man to whom they had provided their prestigious podium. After all, it is virtually inconceivable that any “right-wing” Israeli, expressing views even remotely as acrimonious as those of Rajoub, would be invited to grace their conference. Perhaps they would do well to heed Rajoub’s recommendation that “we have to listen to each other.” So open-minded their brains fell out...?
But what has all this got to do with the title of this essay, “Deciphering delegitimization”? In a word, everything – or almost everything.

Of course, in the prevailing politically correct perception, what has led to the accelerating deterioration of the country’s international image – which last week gathered reinforced momentum with the decision of the world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking to boycott Nobel Peace laureate and Oslo-cum-New-Middle-East visionary, Shimon Peres – is the alleged Israeli intransigence in denying Palestinians statehood. In reality, quite the reverse is true. By desperately adhering to a paradigm that is inherently unworkable, the two-state advocates have not only made Israel appear insincere and conniving, but have sown the seeds for the very delegitimization the two state approach was supposed to obviate. By endorsing a seemingly unending succession of concessions, by displaying seemingly unlimited tolerance for the unmasked malevolence and mendacity of the Palestinians, they have undermined, rather than underpinned, Israel’s international credibility. For it is difficult – if not impossible – for the average individual to grasp the seemingly unbounded benevolent lenience toward an openly obdurate adversary, if one believed that there was any validity or moral merit to one’s own case. Tenacious two-staters would do well to take to heart G.K. Chesterton acerbic counsel: “Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” Lessons of the Hawking-Peres fiasco So what lessons can – and must – be learned from the perverse Hawking-Peres fiasco? It illustrates that continued pursuit of the two-state approach is either obsessive or obtuse. Neither precedent nor plausibility auger well for its prospects of success. As policy, it flies in the face of both empirical fact and political prudence. Its advocates must be forced to confront the trenchant question: How is it that after all the wrenching concessions Israel has made over the last two decades, it is far more reviled today than during the rigid “rejectionism” of Yitzhak Shamir? This is not a question that should be flippantly dismissed as irrelevant. For experience has shown that continual concessions have proved disastrously counterproductive, while escalating Palestinian intransigence has paid handsome dividends. Worse, by embracing the two-state approach, Israel has, in effect, made a mockery of its own diplomatic endeavor. After all, how can one be expected to be taken seriously when what was once resolutely rejected as an unacceptable risk to national security is now being portrayed as the sine qua non for national survival? An unassailable political algorithm Clearly, within the context of conventional wisdom and the discourse it generates, the contention that Israel’s acceptance of the legitimacy of Palestinian national claims has laid the foundations for the international assault on its own legitimacy seems, at best, counter-intuitive. However, the logic behind it is unassailable and the conclusion to be drawn from it inexorable: Once the legitimacy of a Palestinian state is conceded, the delegitimization of Israel is inevitable. The chain of reasoning is clear and compelling – almost algorithmic: • If the Palestinian narrative which portrays the Palestinians as an authentic national entity is acknowledged as legitimate, then all the aspirations, such as achieving Palestinian statehood, that arise from that narrative are legitimate. Accordingly, any policy that precludes the achievement of those aspirations will be perceived as illegitimate. • So, if the legitimacy of a Palestinian state is accepted, then any measures incompatible with its viability are illegitimate. However – in the absence of wildly optimistic, and hence irresponsibly unrealistic, “best-case” assumptions – any policy that is designed to secure Israel’s minimal security requirements, will preclude the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. • Consequently, any endeavor to realistically provide Israel with minimal security will be perceived as illegitimate. Accordingly, by accepting the admissibility of a Palestinian state, one necessarily admits the inadmissibility of measures required to ensure Israeli security. • Conversely, measures required to ensure Israeli security necessarily negate the viability of a Palestinian state. • The inevitable conclusion must therefore be that for Israel to secure conditions that adequately address its minimal security requirements, the Palestinian narrative, and the aspirations that flow from it, must be delegitimized. Delegitimizing defensible borders

I have little doubt that committed two-staters will dismiss this reasoned argument with haughty derision.
However, I would urge them to follow Jibril Rajoub’s advice and to listen to what the Palestinians are saying. In particular, I would refer them to “The Myth of Defensible Borders” by Omar Dajani and Ezzedine Fishere, which appeared in the January 2011 edition of Foreign Affairs.
The authors – an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team and an adviser to the-then Egyptian foreign minister, respectively, write, not without significant justification: “A policy of defensible borders would... perpetuate the current sources of Palestinian insecurity, further delegitimizing an agreement in the public’s eyes. Israel would retain the discretion to impose arbitrary and crippling constraints on the movement of people and goods....For these reasons, Palestinians are likely to regard defensible borders as little more than occupation by another name.”
See what I mean about “defensible borders...delegitimizing an agreement” on a Palestinian state?

Moreover, recent post-Oslowian events in the Mideast – a triumphant Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, an ever-ascendant Islamist influence in Jordan, and the specter of a jihadist Syria – are hardly likely to reduce Israeli threat-perception. In turn, this is likely to increase the incompatibility between a viable Palestinian state and minimal requirements for a secure Israel, thus widening even more the perceived “legitimacy” gap. Two states or two stages? Future historians will surely be baffled as to why such a manifestly disastrous, disproven concept came to be embraced by so many prominent, allegedly well-informed pundits, politicians, and policy-makers. They will be particularly perplexed as to why the two-state solution was so enthusiastically endorsed not only by those who had a vested interest in feigning support for it, but by those who had a vested interest in exposing it as the duplicitous subterfuge it is. They will be mystified as to why – despite the fact that it proved devastating for both Arabs and Jews – it became the hallmark of progressive enlightenment. For by pursuing the “vision” (read “fantasy”) of two states, allegedly pro-Israel twostaters will not only fail to reap the intended benefits this policy is purported to yield, but will precipitate outcomes highly deleterious to Israel – indeed, the very outcomes the two-state policy was supposed to prevent. One is left to wonder what more has to occur until realization dawns that the “two-state” notion is merely a facilitating link in the “two-stage” strategy. Imperative for a political ‘Iron-Dome’ For the notion of a secure Israel to regain legitimacy, the notion of a Palestinian state must be discredited and removed from the discourse as a possible means of resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict. This, of course, is easier said than done. Rolling back the decades of distortion, deception and delusion that have become entrenched in the collective international consciousness will be a Herculean task. But the immensity of the task cannot diminish the imperative of its implementation. It will require the effort – both intellectual and financial – at least comparable to that invested in the “Iron Dome” project. For without wishing to belittle the threat of Palestinian rockets, who can deny that the threat of international delegitimization of Israel is a far greater strategic menace than primitive projectiles that carry barely 20 kg. of explosives. One can only hope that the nation will produce leaders equal to the task – with the necessary political will, intellectual depth and ideological commitment, hitherto undisplayed by recent incumbents, both past and present.

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