There is no alternative but to enter into a diplomatic process with the Palestinians, here and now, despite the anxieties and the numerous risks.
– Yuval Diskin, The Jerusalem Post, July 13
I confess to a bias in favor of people who have devoted many years of their lives to the defense of Israel, and particularly for those who served in the covert branches of the security establishment, the Mossad and the Shin Bet.
Perhaps that is why I find myself particularly perturbed – even pained – by the patently preposterous political proclamations that have been made recently by several former high-ranking intelligence officials.
The latest of these came last weekend in the form of a more-than 3,000-word monologue in The Jerusalem Post
by former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, ominously headlined “Israel nears point of no return,” which was rerun in the online Tablet Magazine a few days later under the title “Tomorrow There Will Be No More Two-State Solution – and Then What?” In it, Diskin warns that time for reaching a two-state solution with the Palestinian Arabs is running out, and soon the only option will be a one-state solution in which the Jewish majority will soon be lost. Accordingly, he berates all and sundry on the Israeli side for not being more proactive (read “pliant”) in promoting the “peace process” with the Palestinians – the prime minister (too hesitant), the government (too populistic), the opposition (too anemic) and the Israeli public (too apathetic).
The diatribe did little to enhance Diskin’s public stature. At least, it seems not to have resonated well with much of the Post
Hardly any of the almost 400 talk backs it generated expressed even remotely supportive sentiments, while the tone of the vast majority ranged from the caustically critical to the downright derogatory.
This censure, although not always eloquent or refined, was well-merited.
Even superficial inspection of Diskin’s harangue will reveal it to be an unpersuasive mélange of self-contradictions, non sequiturs and biased banalities, with his conclusions- cum-admonitions rooted in his personal political prejudices, rather than in any compelling fact-based analysis.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that past achievement – however illustrious – is no guarantee against subsequent imbecility...or iniquity.
"Everyone knows what a settlement will entail…"
Diskin expresses perplexed frustration at the delay in reaching an agreed solution. For him, things should be “quite simple.”
According to him, “Everyone knows what the parameters of a settlement will inevitably entail: The establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state along the 1967 lines with territorial swaps that will allow Israel to keep large settlement blocs; a symbolic right of return for refugees, with financial compensation being paid to Palestinians in the diaspora; dismantling of settlements that are beyond the agreed-upon borders and compensation to those who will be evicted from them; a political partition of Jerusalem which would be in line with our interest to avoid ruling over a large Palestinian population; a creative solution regarding sovereignty over the holy sites in the Old City (internationalization, perhaps?); a resolution of the future status of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall; and a diplomatic solution over the contours of Israel’s eastern border and the Jordan Valley.”
Merely declaring something “inevitable” or “simple” does not make it so. Unless one is committed to Jewish capitulation to Arab demands, there is nothing inevitable in any of the items on Diskin’s “laundry list” of Israeli concessions. And there is certainly nothing “simple” about them.
It is difficult to know what is more disturbing – whether Diskin believes this delusional drivel, or whether he is propagating it despite the fact that he doesn’t.
Patently preposterous or purposefully pernicious?
Every proposed “parameter” in this allegedly “inevitable settlement” can be shown to be – at the risk of repeating myself – patently preposterous. Or worse, purposefully pernicious.
Take, for example, the “demilitarization” canard.
As I have pointed out repeatedly, a Palestinian state established on the hills overlooking the pre-1967 frontier, in any configuration remotely approaching Diskin’s prescription, would command virtually all the nation’s vital infrastructure systems, installations and major populations centers.
Demilitarization of this area would mean little, since even without modern artillery, armor and airpower, renegade elements, armed only with light short-range weapons of the kind that abound in Gaza, could totally disrupt the socioeconomic routine and cripple the commercial hub of the country.
For example, an occasional volley of rockets, however primitive, even if they cause no damage or casualties, but land several meters from the main runway at Israel’s only international airport, Ben-Gurion, would be enough to seriously – perhaps totally – disrupt Israel’s air connections with the world, and preclude – or at least greatly complicate – obtaining insurance for commercial planes landing in the country.
Given the precedents in which territory ceded to Arab regimes have invariably become launching pads to attack Israel, the assumption must be that, if further territory is handed over to them, such a scenario is highly probable.A public challenge to Diskin
With the ongoing events in the Arab world, the instability and the blood-curdling brutality, it seems inconceivable that any allegedly loyal Israeli would advocate such a hazardous course, without being able to provide iron-clad assurances that what has happened in the past will not happen in the future.
I challenge Diskin to provide such assurances – not merely wistful hopes – before energetically advocating the establishment of a mega-Gaza, immediately adjacent to, and with total topographical command of, Israel’s metropolis, along a 400-km. front.
If he cannot, I call on him to desist from such advocacy.
But even if we disregard experience and refrain from prudent, plausible projection as to the future, and make the wildly improbable assumption that a verifiable, enforceable and durable demilitarization of the Palestinian state could be achieved, I would still urge Diskin to clarify his position on another unavoidable aspect of his proposal.
This relates to the question of who would be responsible for the external security of his envisaged Palestinian state. After all, if he endorses establishing a sovereign Palestinian entity, he should be obligated to prescribe how that sovereignty is to be protected – unless of course he is proposing that Palestinians forgo the right accorded all other nations.
This difficulty was broached three decades ago by Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, former education minister for the far-left Meretz party, and 2006 Israel Prize laureate for Law, and has yet to be adequately addressed by proponents of a demilitarized Palestinian state.Challenge (cont.)
In an article titled “The Pitfall of a Third State,” (Haaretz
, August 8, 1976), Rubinstein makes the following insightful observation: “Of all the nations at the UN the Palestinian state would be the only one which has limits imposed on its sovereignty, the only one without an army or an air force. It would be the only one in the whole world that would be classified as second-class state; it would resemble the black protectorates in South Africa. Such inferiority... would mean a deepening of Palestinian humiliation and an intensification of the enmity towards Israel and the perpetuation of the Arab-Jewish conflict. This is the real pitfall in the proposal to establish a separate [demilitarized] Palestinian state between us and the desert.”
Here’s the challenge: I call on Diskin to clarify whether or not he is suggesting that the Palestinian state forgo the right that every other state has to defend its sovereignty.
If he is, what basis does he have for believing this would be acceptable not only to the cosignatories of any agreement with Israel, but to regimes that might succeed it? If it is acceptable, who does he envisage being responsible for the external security of such a state? Is he suggesting it should be defenseless? Or would it be allowed to sign defense pacts with third countries to help it cope with real or imagined outside threats? Would Israel be the final arbiter of who could be party to such pacts? Is he suggesting the deployment of international troops as a permanent solution for the protection of the Palestinian national entity? How would deployment of such forces constrict Israel’s freedom of action to deal with hostile renegade forces operating from inside the frontiers of the Palestinian state and which the demilitarized regime has neither the resolve nor the resources to deal with? Alternatively, is he suggesting that Israel commit the IDF to the defense of “Palestine,” and that its troops be called on to risk life and limb to preserve Palestinian sovereignty? Will Diskin elaborate?
As we have seen, Diskin blithely proposes: “territorial swaps that will allow Israel to keep large settlement blocs; a symbolic right of return for refugees, with financial compensation being paid to Palestinians in the diaspora; dismantling of settlements that are beyond the agreed-upon borders and compensation to those who will be evicted from them.”
Leaving aside for the moment the fact that a Palestinian leader of any stature who agrees to ceding large settlement blocs to Israel has yet to be found, and that commensurate agreed territorial swaps have yet to delineated, let us focus on the financial aspects of Diskin’s proposal.
These establish two important tenets with far-reaching ethical and political implications: the moral validity of the evacuation/compensation principle and the permanence of a Palestinian Arab diaspora outside the territory of the proposed Palestinian state.
Clearly, he sees no moral defect in funding the evacuation of Jews from their homes to facilitate the establishment of what in all likelihood will become – if precedent is any indication – a failed mini-microstate and a haven for radical Islamist terror groups. Surely then, there should be no ethical blemish in funding the evacuation of Palestinian Arabs to preclude the establishment of such an entity.
This question is especially pertinent as Diskin seems to acknowledge the admissibility of a permanent Palestinian diaspora in third countries, presumably mainly in Arab countries. Acceptance of this principle of permanence also provides a source of funding for the compensation Diskin seems to believe this diaspora deserves: By defunding UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and redirecting the resources to help Palestinian Arabs be absorbed as citizens in their countries of residence rather than perpetuating their situation of dependency as stateless refugees.What’s Plan B?
With the honed instincts of a veteran civil servant, Diskin is at pains to “cover his posterior,” acknowledging, “I, too, believe that the risks are considerable,” and admitting that “success is not guaranteed because this is a very deep conflict.”
Almost incredibly, he seems to suggest that the Palestinians have a vested interest in foiling any two-state agreement: “I believe that in the long term they [the Palestinian Arabs] will not lose from the disintegration of the two-state option and the shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality – “one state for two nations.”
In such a case, the “real loser” will be “the Jewish, democratic State of Israel.”
What greater incentive could there be for the Palestinians not to agree? Even more to the point, given this admitted incentive to avoid reaching any agreement, Diskin gives no indication what his back-up plan is.
Surely given his operational experience he must appreciate the imperative of a plausible “Plan B?” So if all the far-reaching concession that he suggests are to no avail, what does he propose? Total capitulation?
In this analysis, I have barely scratched the surface in exposing the logical defects and practical impediments to Diskin’s deeply flawed and detrimental policy prescription.
But rest assured, given the tenor of the public discourse in the country, I will have ample opportunity to deal with what has been left unaddressed.Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategicisrael.org)