PostScript: A win-lose situation

Annexationists and unilateralists have become the new political divide in the country, both alternatives short-sighted about the long-term implications of what they are proposing.

July 27, 2012 07:39
Israel border police stand guard in Hebron

Israel border police stand guard in Hebron_370. (photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

There are situations – the best – called win-win, where both sides get something they want out of a deal. Then there is the win-lose situation where you think you have won, but in fact are destined to pay a heavy price, sort of like winning second prize in a lottery that sends you a resort in Albania for a month.

In recent weeks, and in some way thanks to my own unwitting contribution, those in favor of continuing Israel’s hold over the territories have been in a state of jubilation: We have won, they proclaim.

Dani Dayan, the gentlemanly, soft-spoken, chairman of the Yesha settlers’ council, had an op-ed piece in The New York Times this week saying the clock can’t be turned back, that Israeli settlement in the West Bank is an established, irreversible fact and that a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem is an exercise in futility.

And in a letter to this paper, Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover, the vocal and uncompromising co-chairwomen of Women in Green, crowed that the Land of Israel supporters have won, citing no less an authority than myself and a column I wrote (“OK, you’ve won; now what?” Post- Script, July 13) in which I naively thought I had dealt with the problems of annexing the West Bank, not ceding it.

“Hirsh Goodman is right,” proclaims their opening sentence, something I never thought I would live to see from any right-winger, let alone the co-chairs of the Women in Green (which I initially took for a Muslim organization) generally considered to be on the far-right fringe of things.

These are folks who usually roast me for my cowardly, defeatist and neo-post-Zionist views, whatever that may mean, in talkbacks and blogs.

Unfortunately, it works out, I am “right” for all the wrong reasons, and as is so usual in these things, the ladies in green only read that part of the piece that suited them, the first part of the title, and not the question that follows: “Now what?”

And in his argument in the Times, Dayan does exactly the same, claiming that a two-state solution is futile, but failing to deal with the implications of what this means for the future of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state.

Somehow, the more strident these people are about annexation, the more obtuse they are about the consequences, just like finding the one sentence out of 300 that supports their view while ignoring the rest, something very convenient, but dangerous as well.

Democracy for the Arabs in the West Bank is the absolute last thing on the minds of annexationists and only a hypocrite would claim otherwise. It would make things so much clearer if they had the guts to say “we’ve won” for Eretz Yisrael, but we may have “lost” for Israel as a truly democratic country and understand the consequences, instead of stating half the argument and quoting out of context to “prove” a point.

To continue to call for the annexation of the territories without dealing with the consequences is worse than disingenuous: It’s cowardly. Face up to the consequences of your beliefs.

Smart and honest annexationists, instead of hiding, could openly say, with some plausibility, that just as Israel imposed martial law on parts of the Arab Galilee after the 1948 war as a “temporary” measure, so now West Bank Arabs will have to live under a very benign Israeli military occupation as a “temporary measure” until things get worked, whenever that may be.

In the meantime, “real” democracy will flourish in Israel, which means using the weaknesses of the system to continue stacking the Supreme Court, Knesset and military leadership with “our” type of folks, accelerate the expansion of settlements and fight any attempt to remove even the most remote and unnecessary of outposts, as if they were Israel’s last stand.

Then, while democracy in Israel takes its course, and military rule continues for the Palestinians in the West Bank, as the Jews multiply and the Arabs leave, miracles may happen and we will all live happily ever after, even if it means a war or two along the way. After all, it is all in God’s hands as we well know.

Annexationists and unilateralists have become the new political divide in the country, both alternatives short-sighted about the long-term implications of what they are proposing. The unilateralists want to move Israel’s future out of God’s hands and into the hands of Israelis themselves to decide their own future without Divine intervention. They want a Jewish, democratic Israel and are prepared to unilaterally give up territory for this.

They don’t say peace is dead, but don’t believe it can happen right now. They see unilateralism, an Israel essentially west of the security barrier and a military presence on the Jordan River, as answering Israel’s security and democratic needs, shedding the Palestinians from the national budget and removing the contentious land issue from the Israeli political debate. When peace knocks on consolidated Israel’s door, they say, they’ll be happy to answer. In the meantime the occupation which is eating Israel from within has to end.

How refreshing it would be if politicians would just say what they mean, those who believe in democracy with borders and those who now propagate borders without peace. How refreshing it would be to hear something constructive and positive from the annexationists, instead of them attacking everyone else in the world as anti- Semites or post-Zionists and pounding on relentlessly how Barack Obama is bad for the Jews.

As for the unilateralists, all one can say is that one knows where these begin, but not where they end. Throw a pebble in a pond, as it is said, and not even a thousand geniuses can stop the ripples. Who gets to draw Israel’s unilateral borders? Another committee that creates camels instead of horses? Israel’s situation with the Palestinians can only be resolved through negotiation.

Any other way either destroys democratic Israel from within, or makes this into a society living by the gun behind circled wagons.

Both prospects are pretty miserable and a little too easy. What a pity they seem to be the only two alternatives Israeli voters will be offered when elections finally come this time round and then, who knows, maybe a miracle will happen and finally the country will get a leader.

The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Related Content

eu flag (european union)
September 21, 2019
Peace needs international law and political will