Into the Fray: What’s wrong with the Right — Part I

As demented and disastrous as the two state “solution” is, most alternatives proffered by the Right would be no less calamitous.

Letters (photo credit: Avi Katz)
(photo credit: Avi Katz)
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. – Sir Winston Churchill
As readers of this – soon to be discontinued – column are well aware, I have been a resolute opponent of the two-state solution (TSS), for a variety of reasons, including its logical inconsistency, moral bankruptcy and proven impracticality. Accordingly, I have argued that continued attempts to pursue it will inevitably result in tragedy and trauma for both Arab and Jew.
Perilous proposals
Sadly, however, those who rightly – no pun intended – oppose the TSS have been less than comprehensive and far-sighted in formulating the well-intentioned alternatives they proffer in its stead. Indeed, if implemented, some of these alternatives may well precipitate situations just as perilous at TSS – in some cases perhaps more so.
These TSS-resistant alternatives can be broadly bracketed into four major groupings:
(a) Those that advocate stabilizing the status quo, putting the emphasis on managing the conflict rather than resolving it, and condition any further accommodation of Palestinians’ demands on them “getting their act together” – i.e. by demonstrating more peace-conducive behavior.
(b) Those that are “Jordan-centric,” and involve giving Jordan a crucial role in the envisioned end-state solution – either as the planned abode of the Palestinian Arabs in the “West Bank” and/or in giving Amman the function of running the lives of the Palestinian Arabs in the “West Bank,” subject to overarching Israeli sovereignty.
(c) Those that advocate Israel’s partial annexation of Judea and Samaria, typically of the dominantly Jewish-populated Area C.
(d) Those that advocate annexation of the entire “West Bank,” offering Israeli citizenship to its Arab residents, typically together with changes in the electoral system to marginalize the potential impact of their vote.
Although these proposals may well obviate some of the deadly dangers entailed in the TSS and a consequent IDF evacuation of Judea/Samaria, they ignore – indeed may even augment – some of the grave threats to Israel’s survival that exist today. This is true both in terms of the diplomatic assault on the country’s legitimacy and the physical assault on its national security and the safety of its citizens.
What follows is a brutally compressed and far from comprehensive critique of these alternatives, which reflect an unwillingness on the part of many on the Israel Right to face harsh realities unflinchingly and to pursue their essentially valid point of departure to its logical but perhaps unpalatable conclusion.
Kicking the can down the road
While the first set of solutions (stabilization/ conflict management) is based on the ostensibly sensible approach of “not making things worse,” it is really nothing more than kicking the can down the road.
This approach may appear to have a measure of merit, but it seriously underestimates the urgency and intensity of the issues at hand, and the need to sketch, at least in general terms, some prescription for a preferred end-state arrangement. At best, these proposals are a temporary tactic rather than a serious strategy, providing no hint of how any long-term resolution is to be to be approached, much less achieved.
For whatever one’s position might be regarding Palestinian claims for political independence – whether one rejects them as a huge hoax designed to undermine Jewish sovereignty, or an authentic aspiration for national freedom – there seems little practical purpose, or moral justification, in proposing perpetuation of an unresolved state of open-ended limbo and indefinite suspended political animation.
Indeed, such delays are liable to make Israel’s plight even more dire. And to what end? Advocates of this approach usually prescribe stabilization/management of the status quo until there is perceptible positive change in the conduct of the Palestinians that will facilitate progress toward some “final status” outcome.
Futile and illogical
But this position is both futile and illogical.
It is illogical because one either recognizes the Palestinians’ right to nationhood as legitimate and authentic, or one does not.
If one does recognize such a right, its exercise cannot be made contingent on the judgment/approval of their behavior/ governance by some extraneous entity, particularly an adversarial one like Israel.
Why should Palestinian independence be conditioned on good governance and democracy and not that of Algeria or Afghanistan? Why should Palestinians be held to a higher standard than, say, Somalis or Sudanese.
Why should implementation of their “legitimate rights” be conditioned on reaching peaceable relations with any, or all, of their neighbors, when this was never the case for other claimants of national self-determination – including Israelis? What justification could there be for expecting Palestinians to accept Israel (with or without US accompaniment) as an adjudicator, not only of their behavior being “proper” enough to warrant statehood, but of the criteria by which it is to be so judged?
On the other hand, if one rejects the authenticity and legitimacy of the Palestinians’ claim to nationhood, what is the point in “stabilizing the status quo” and prolonging the state of “suspended political animation” until they prove themselves “deserving.” Surely logic would dictate endeavors to transform – rather than stabilize – the status quo and to strive for the establishment of a sustainable finalstatus arrangement that would not include a Palestinian state?
Futile and illogical (cont.)
If one refutes the legitimacy/authenticity of the Palestinian claims, prolonging the status quo is not only illogical, it is counterproductive. It will only entrench realities that make achieving such a sustainable final-status arrangement – sans a Palestinian state – that much more difficult to achieve.
Moreover, suggesting that the status quo should be stabilized in the hope of “improved” (i.e. peace–conducive/Israel-compliant) Palestinian behavior in the future is futile. Those who hope/believe that the Palestinians might one day “get their act together” lack one crucial element for making their case credible: a persuasive argument why this should ever occur.
After the better part of a quarter-century, since the giddy euphoria of Oslo, and the consequent flood of disaster and disappointment, it is time to recognize that with the Palestinians “what you see is what you’ll get.” In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, responsibility requires us to conclude that they do not have another “act” – and to begin formulating policy that proactively addresses – rather than evades – this unfortunate reality.
Historically true, politically implausible
The next group of TSS-resistant proposals is the Jordan-centric one based on, or linked to, the notion that “Jordan is Palestine.”
It is indisputable that this claim has much to support it, historically, geographically and demographically. After all, historically, Jordan did indeed comprise most of Mandatory Palestine, geographically covering almost 80 percent of its territory, while demographically, a clear majority of its current population are ethnically Palestinians. Moreover, until summarily, and arguably, illegally, stripped of their citizenship by King Hussein in 1988, all the Arab residents of the “West Bank” were Jordanian citizens.
Yet despite the compelling evidence that can be produced to support the claim that “Jordan is Palestine,” there are even more compelling ones to consider policy proposals based on it impractical – even imprudent – politically. (This is not to say that if such proposals were successful, the outcomes would not be desirable, but only that such success is unlikely, and even more unlikely to be sustainable, and that their likely failure would have dangerous repercussions.)
The Jordan-centric proposals typically advocate applying Israeli sovereignty over Judea/Samaria, and declaring that portion of Mandatory Palestine east of the Jordan River (the present-day Hashemite kingdom) the Palestinian state.
“Harsher” variants envisage the resettlement of the Arab residents of these areas in trans-Jordan; more “benign” variants envisage Amman reinstating their Jordanian citizenship and undertaking the role of running the civilian aspects of their lives in the “West Bank,” under overarching Israeli sovereignty.
The major problem with Jordan-centric proposals is that Israel controls none of the decision variables crucial, not only for their success, but for their implementation.
By definition, they confer veto power on Amman, which could render the entire plan inoperable by refusing to accede to an idea it has very little incentive to accept.
Providing veto power to Amman
The current regime has little upside in shouldering responsibility for a large additional population with little sentiments of loyalty to the monarchy, and daunting disincentives, both political and economic, for doing so.
The winds of wrath that have swept through the region since December 2010 – a.k.a. the “Arab Spring” – have made the Jordan-centric prescriptions even more precarious for a myriad of reasons too numerous to enumerate here.
The prudent working assumption for Israeli strategic planners must be that the Islamic inputs of the “Spring” will, sooner or later, impact Jordan, either bringing an overtly Islamist regime to power, or an interim puppet-regime, in which the king is stripped of his power but retained as a figurehead by Islamist masters, to preclude the claim that “Jordan is Palestine” (see my “From potentate to puppet?” February 3, 2012).
This clearly makes any proposal for giving Jordan civilian jurisdiction –including for law enforcement – over the Palestinian Arabs in Judea/Samaria (as Jordanian citizens), very unwise. Neither the populace, nor the Jordanian authorities appointed to manage its civilian affairs, would any longer owe allegiance to an ostensibly moderate pro-Western monarchy, but – in all likelihood – to a vehemently Judeophobic Islamocracy, with a far greater stake in fomenting violence than in keeping the peace.
Action by the IDF to address this situation would inevitably be construed as a casus belli, and give the regime in Amman excellent grounds for rallying Arab assistance in protecting its citizens from “Zionist aggression.”
Crazy patchwork of enclaves
The third group of TSS-resistant proposals advocate annexation of portions of Judea/Samaria – typically Area C where the population is predominately Jewish.
Prima facie, the extension of Israeli sovereignty over additional territory is a positive idea. However, in the specific context of this group of proposals, it is likely to generate more problems than it will solve.
If a country deems certain territory to be under its sovereignty, it must demarcate the frontiers of that territory and be ready to secure them against infiltration or attack.
A brief glance at the map will immediately reveal how impractical such partial annexation would be for Israel. Area C is a crazy quilted patchwork of enclaves and axis roads, with an outer contour of hundreds of kilometers – possibly well over a thousand. Is this meant to designate Israel’s final sovereign frontiers?
If so, how is it to be secured, and at what cost operationally, financially and diplomatically? If not, how are these frontiers to be determined?
No less important, how is the status of the residual territory and its inhabitants to be established? For the remaining Areas A and B (less than 40 percent) are scattered helter-skelter in disconnected patches across the “West Bank,” clearly incapable of being forged into any sustainable collective entity, making the accusations of ethnically delineated and discriminatory Bantustans (or rather Arabstans) far more difficult to repudiate...
Impossible socioeconomic burden
This brings us to the final group of TSSresistant proposals, which advocate applying Israeli sovereignty to all of Judea/Samaria, together with an offer of Israeli citizenship to the Arab residents.
This type of proposal is typically accompanied by “alternative” (albeit well-substantiated) demographic assessments and blue prints for changes in the electoral system – usually the institution of a regional ballot rather than the current nationwide one – designed to minimize the impact of the newly enfranchised Palestinian Arabs.
Despite its theoretical logic, this is a prescription fraught with immense danger for the Zionist enterprise and Israel’s status as the Jewish nation-state.
Even if one believes that, despite the inevitable legal challenges, the boundaries of the voting constituencies could be gerrymandered to marginalize the Palestinian Arab vote, and even if the most optimistic demographic estimates prove correct, this will not obviate the perils.
For the socioeconomic burden entailed in the inclusion of such a large, culturally discordant population, many of whom have been infused with anti-Israel hatred for decades, will cripple the country and catapult it back into developing-nation status, certainly disqualifying it from its newly acquired membership in the OECD...
What to do?
Of course, none of this means that the TSS should be reinstated as the only viable option available to Israel. It clearly should not.
What is does mean is that the shortcomings of the alternatives analyzed above need to be dealt with in a more comprehensive and integrative manner, and that the issues at hand and the obstacles need to be addressed with greater foresight and broader perspective.
In next week’s column – the penultimate one in this “Into the Fray” series – I will trace the outline of how this might be accomplished.