The coming canard: ‘Constructive unilateralism’

Into the Fray: Does Aussie philanthropist Frank Lowy realize he is helping promote a South Lebanon-like reality on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv?

Palestinian activists erect tents in E1 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian activists erect tents in E1 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.
– George Santayana
I realize some might find the tone of this article overly acerbic – even abrasive.
But I make little apology for this.
I was compelled to write it by a profound sense of exasperation.
It articulates a feeling of deep despair, and reflects a sentiment of disbelief, disillusionment and disappointment at the conduct of prominent public figures, which is difficult to characterize, without recourse to epithets such as “moronic” and “myopic” – while less charitable souls might venture the use of “maniacal” or “malevolent.”Curiouser and curiouser
It is becoming increasing difficult to avoid recognition of the fact that any prospect of a negotiated two-state-solution (TSS) is receding into oblivion.
However, as reluctant realization of the increasingly undeniable and inevitable failure of their favored, but fundamentally flawed, formula begins to dawn on even the most hitherto- enthusiastic two-staters, their responses wax evermore hysterical, harebrained and hallucinatory.
Unchastened by the misery and mayhem wrought by attempts to promote TSS-initiatives, desperate advocates of political appeasement and territorial retreat, which comprise the doctrinal underpinnings of such initiatives, are energetically promoting their latest – and loopiest – “initiative.”
True, it seems that the bitter realization has set in that there is no Palestinian negotiating partner with the desire and/or the ability to deliver a durable peace accord. As prominent and persistent two-stater Ami Ayalon (former commander of the navy and the Shin Bet) conceded in an interview with Charlie Rose (August 8, 2012): “We have to accept [something which] if you had asked me two years ago I would not [have] accepted... there is no Palestinians partner...”
Yet, despite the acknowledged disproof of the major tenet buttressing their political thesis, obsessive two-staters have begun to conjure up a notion – one that could have come straight from the make-believe world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This is the concept of “Peace without partners.” No kidding You can almost hear Alice’s sigh of exasperation: “It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change.”
But wait, things get curiouser and curiouser.Plumbing new depths of absurdity?
One of the first symptoms of this disturbing intellectual malaise appeared in the international media a year ago, in the form of a New York Times opinion piece titled – yes, you guessed it – “Peace without partners.”
Written by a trio of well-known Israelis – Ayalon, Orni Petruschka, a successful hi-tech entrepreneur) and Gilead Sher (formerly prime minister Ehud Barak’s chief of staff) – and almost immediately endorsed by Tom Friedman (itself a reason for concern), the article plumbed, new depths of absurdity.
Sound excessively harsh? Judge for yourself.
The authors (all founders of an organization known as Blue and White Future (B&WF), whose stated objectives include endeavoring to “resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a ‘two states for two peoples’ solution”), acknowledge: “We recognize that a comprehensive peace agreement is unattainable right now... It now seems highly unlikely that the two sides will return to negotiations...”
Yet, undaunted by recalcitrant realities, the intrepid trio nevertheless urges: “Israel can and must take constructive [unilateral] steps to advance the reality of two states based on the 1967 borders...
regardless of whether Palestinian leaders have agreed to accept it.”
In response, I wrote a column, titled “Stupidity on steroids” (May 24, 2012), remarking: “...the very oxymoronic nature of the title, “Peace without Partners,” testifies to the nonsensical nature of its content, which not only resurrects the failed formula of unilateral retreat but suggests a new one of “unilateral peace,” whatever that might mean...”
Land for nada
As we shall soon see, the notion of unilateralism, misleadingly designated “constructive,” comprises a radical departure from – and from Israel’s point of view, degradation of – the rationale underpinning the familiar formula of “land-for-peace.”
In the past, when they still clung to the illusion that “there was someone to talk to,” the logic driving the TSS paradigm was that in exchange for transferring territory to Palestinians, Israel would receive some sort of negotiated quid pro quo from the Palestinians in the form of a mutual peace – or at least, non-belligerency – accord.
This principle has now been entirely jettisoned.
The concept being seriously proposed and aggressively promoted is no longer one of “land-for-peace” but in effect “land-for-nothing” – naught, nada, zilch, zero...
In the light of the consequences of previous experience with unilateral initiatives, it is difficult to overstate the gravity of this initiative, were it to gather sufficient momentum to impact Israeli policy-makers.
In fairness to its endorsers, they do attempt to argue that these initiatives are qualitatively different from those undertaken in the past. However, it requires little analytical ability to demonstrate that, if anything, this makes the proposal even more preposterous and perilous.
It is essential to expose just how reckless and ridiculous it is, before any such regrettable outcomes materialize – especially in view of the energetic efforts being made of late to mobilize support for it.
Elements of “constructive unilateralism”
This notion of “constructive unilateralism” is being bandied about with increasing frequency in the mainstream press both in Israel and abroad. In recent months it has been the topic of discussion in both the electronic and printed media – in radio and TV interviews, in opinion columns and in letters to the editor, including in the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy and The Washington Post to name but a few.
As will soon become clear, the cross-organizational affiliation of many of the authors/interviewees is both intriguing and significant.
The elements of this proposed “constructive unilateralism” appear repeatedly in several of the previously mentioned media items, but arguably the most concise articulation thereof is to be found in a Foreign Policy article (March 18), headlined “Unilateral Peace: It’s time for Israel to move toward a two-state solution, alone if necessary,” authored by Maj.- Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin and Gilead Sher.
Yadlin was credited as former chief of Israeli Military Intelligence and director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, and Sher as co-chairman of B&WF, a senior research fellow at the INSS.
In the article, Yadlin and Sher set out the elements comprising “constructive unilateralism”: “We suggest a new series of unilateral steps towards disengagement that have a better chance of succeeding [than the 2005 Gaza disengagement].
“First, Israel should renounce its sovereignty claims over areas east of the security fence... Second, it should end all settlement construction east of the fence.
And third, Israel should enact a voluntary settlement evacuation and compensation law.”Elements (cont.)
They continue: “Israel should coordinate these moves – particularly those related to security – with the United States, the international community and the PA...
The Jordan Valley and possibly other strategic locations should provisionally remain in Israeli hands to prevent the smuggling of weapons... and assure Israel’s security,” leaving the reader to puzzle over what the meaning of “coordinated unilateralism” is and what to do if others decline such “coordination.”
On this issue Sher, in an earlier op-ed, “Time has come for 2 states,” (January 29) is a little more assertive, if no less fanciful: “The IDF will remain in the territory until the security responsibility will be handed over to an element that is acceptable to us (we learned this lesson in the aftermath of the Gaza disengagement of 2005).” This position which closely parallels views set out in the previously cited Ayalon et al. New York Times piece: “...
the Israeli Army would remain in the West Bank until the conflict was officially resolved with a final-status agreement.”
So there you have it – the elements of the new TSS-paradigm driven by “constructive unilateralism”:
• A voluntary forgoing of Israeli claims to sovereignty over virtually all of Judea and Samaria while maintaining the deployment of the IDF – thus instantly transforming “disputed” territories into unequivocally “occupied” ones.
• An initiative to remove all Jewish presence east of the security barrier, either by financial inducement, economic deprivation or eventual physical abandonment.A mega-South Lebanon
Clearly, under these conditions any hope that “the conflict [will] be officially resolved with a final-status agreement” is detached from reality. For why should the Palestinians offer any quid pro quo to negotiate the withdrawal of the IDF when Israel has a priori conceded sovereignty to them and ceased all construction of the settlements, condemning them to inevitable decay and disintegration? Indeed, what would be the justification for any further IDF deployment in the sovereign territory of others – especially as that deployment itself is likely to be cited as the major grievance precipitating the belligerency between the sides? Little imagination is required to comprehend the catastrophic consequences should such a policy fail in inducing/coercing the Jewish residents to evacuate. For by voluntarily voiding its claims to any affinity with the land, Israel will have deemed itself indelibly an “occupier” and all settlements “illegal,” since it would have no power to legalize their existence.
But even if it were to succeed, the prospects are scarcely more palatable. It is difficult to know how to characterize the political-legal structure that would prevail in an area whose only residents are non-Israelis and over which Israel makes no sovereign claims, yet maintains the deployment of its military – unless you think of pre-2000 South Lebanon. And we all know how that ended – in ignominious unilateral flight of the IDF.
Significantly, Yadlin and Sher seem to view this favorably, claiming: “The decision to withdraw... was correct...
unilateral action legitimized Israel’s border in the north...”
Could this reflect their real intentions? And if not, how do they propose preventing repetition of such undignified and unreciprocated “unilateral action to legitimize Israel’s eastern border” – and the subsequent stockpiling of formidable armaments on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.
Seamless symbiosis
Formally, this concept of “constructive unilateralism” is being promoted by the previously mentioned B&WF, which describes itself as “a non-partisan political movement...
funded by private donors in Israel, the United States and elsewhere.”
However, even a cursory glance at the identities of the individuals involved, the vehicles of publication and the cross-organizational affiliations will reveal an almost seamless symbiosis between B&WF and the INSS, chaired and largely funded by Australian billionaire philanthropist Frank Lowy.
Thus although the two are organizationally separate, there is a striking overlap between the figures who endorse the “constructive unilateralism” idea and their attributed affiliation with the INSS – from the director of the institute, through prominent senior research associates to junior interns. Indeed, the concept has been touted in the INSS’s quarterly publication Strategic Assessment and a plausible case could be made for the claim that the institute provides the intellectual bona fides for B&WF’s public activism.
Does Frank Lowy realize?
It would take a volume to enumerate/expose the gamut of logical flaws, glaring non sequiturs and dangerous defects that riddle the intellectual edifice and operational rationale of “constructive unilateralism,” but the limits of space dictate that I desist.
However, one can only wonder whether the devoted Zionist billionaire Lowy is aware that the institute that he funds is vigorously promoting a policy which, rather than preclude an apartheid-like reality, would create a South Lebanon-like one on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.
True, it is a policy proposal with an impressive array of supporters, including the former heads of the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence. But with all the esteem I (genuinely) have for their achievements, past seniority is no guarantee of current infallibility.
That said, the proposal does contain elements that Israel should adopt.
As I have urged in numerous columns, Israel should embark on unilateral initiatives – not those geared to relinquishing territory but to retain it. It should embark on a large-scale and vigorous program of evacuation- compensation – not for Israeli Jews, but for Palestinian Arabs.
Perhaps the generous billionaire might consider alternative causes to support. After all, if there is no moral defect in funding the voluntary evacuation of Jews from their homes in Judea-Samaria to facilitate the establishment of what, in all likelihood, would become a failed mini-micro-state and a base for radical Islamist terror, what possible moral objection could there be to funding the voluntary evacuation of Arabs from their homes to prevent the establishment of such a base for Islamic terror? Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.