Al-Aksa [Mosque on the Temple Mount] is ours... they [the Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to
– Mahmoud Abbas, on official PA television, September 16, 2015
The 70th session of the UN General Assembly has come and gone. The problems it was supposed to address remain – undiminished.
The toxic tirade of Mahmoud Abbas, brimming with bile; the abject apologetics of Obama peppered with platitudes, the reproachful rebukes of Putin saturated with scorn and the rousing rhetoric of Netanyahu with all its elevating eloquence, all echoes of the past, offer little in terms of solutions on the ground.
Crumbling columns of conventional wisdom
But that does not mean that the events leading up to the General Assembly, what happened during its deliberations and what took place in the days immediately following them, were totally without value – at least for Israel.
Indeed, for Israel, these events, prior to, during and subsequent to the General Assembly session, should have made its strategic options and strategic imperatives crystal clear, throwing into razor-sharp relief what it can, what it can’t and what it must do.
Even for die-hard adherents to political correctness it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that crucial pillars of conventional wisdom are severely fractured and in imminent danger of disintegration.
The first – and arguably most significant of these – is that the US is the only superpower in the world. For while it may possess the physical, economic and military resources to assume that role, it has, over the last half-decade, proven that it has nothing remotely approaching the political resolve to do so. Under the stewardship of Barack Obama it has shown itself time and time again to be a paper tiger, with a pronounced propensity for appeasing adversaries and alienating allies. Thus, humiliated by Iran, humbled in Ukraine, embarrassed in Syria, with its foreign policy unraveling across the globe from Kunduz, through Saana to Benghazi, the Obama administration has, whether by unintended debacle or intended design, shredded US stature across the globe, proving that friends cannot trust it and foes need not fear it.
Conventional wisdom: Other canards
The next element (read “canard”) of conventional wisdom that has been definitively exposed as a fabrication is the centrality of the Palestinian issue for wider Mideast stability. An indication of emerging recognition of its irrelevance was the fact that, for the first time since taking office in 2009, President Obama failed to mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his annual General Assembly address, an omission for which he was severely censured by a miffed PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat (Jerusalem Post, September 28 & 29).
Indeed, this sense of growing marginalization of the “Palestinian problem” appears to be increasingly apparent to the Palestinian-Arabs themselves. According to a poll conducted mid-September by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 80 percent of Palestinians polled stated that “the Arab world is too preoccupied with its own concerns, internal conflicts, and the conflict with Iran and that Palestine is no longer the Arab’s principal or primary issue or cause.”
Another emerging irrelevancy, hitherto deemed by conventional wisdom as crucial to any successful political initiative, is Mahmoud Abbas (aka. Abu Mazen). True, it has often been pointed out by “heretical” dissenters from consensual conventional wisdom that Abbas, now in his 11th year of his four-year elected term as president, has neither the moral authority nor the political clout to enter into binding and durable agreements of any significance. But now irrefutable corroboration of this “inconvenient” prognosis is provided by the previously cited PSR survey, according to which almost 2/3 of the Palestinian public (65%) “want president Abbas to resign” while less than a third (31%) “want him to remain in office.” Significantly the figures do not differ greatly in Gaza, where 67% demand his resignation, and the “West Bank,” where the figure is 63%.
Curtains for a Palestinian state?
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would use obsessive two-state votary, Gershon Baskin, as a corroborating reference. But wonders never cease. Indeed, I could hardly agree more with his assessment of Abu Mazen, as set out in the beginning of his latest Jerusalem Post article (October 7): “Mahmoud Abbas is not popular among his own people. He is way down in the polls and if elections were held now, he would not win. In the eyes of his own people he has lost his legitimacy.”
That, however, is more or less where the agreement between us ends. For astonishingly, although he concedes that even though Abbas has little standing with his public, Israel should still negotiate perilous concessions with him.
It is precisely this kind of torturous illogic of its proponents that has helped expedite the demise of the two-state paradigm.
Earlier this week, former defense and foreign minister Moshe Arens wrote in Haaretz (October 4) that the curtain has fallen on the Palestinian state.
For those who always understood how delusional and dangerous the notion of establishing a homophobic, misogynistic Muslim majority micro-mini tyranny was, this is no more than a welcome recognition of the inevitable.
However, recent events cannot but have made this indelibly obvious to all but the most irrationally fanatic two-staters.
Irrelevant and unacceptable
For not only does the accumulating evidence show that Abbas is irrelevant as a peace partner, but his Judeophobic invective on the official Palestinian media makes him unacceptable as one. His undisguised enmity and unmasked abhorrence toward Jews, as Jews, clearly disqualify him as someone with whom fateful negotiations on the future of the Jewish state can be held.
One can only imagine the storm of outraged protest that would have erupted had, say, Netanyahu expressed anything remotely as derogatory of Arabs/Muslims as Abbas’s blatantly racist remark regarding the very presence of “dirty Jews” defiling Muslim sites. Indeed, one remembers the hullabaloo that followed Netanyahu’s call to his supporters to come to the polls to offset the monolithic vote against him by the Arab electorate – which related to their anti-Zionist political proclivities rather than any disparaging inference regarding their ethnic identity – see my “It’s Arab enmity – not Arab ethnicity,” March 26.
The “righteous” outcry then contrasts jarringly with the stony silence which Abbas’s scandalous rhetoric has elicited – not to mention the risibly transparent fabrications invoked by some (like Baskin) to explain it away, claiming that the allusion to Jews defiling with their filthy feet was actually referring to “the boots of the soldiers and police who entered the holy mosque without taking off their shoes, as required by Islam.”
No one to talk to; nothing to talk about
With Abbas clearly no longer a viable interlocutor, Israel is left without the vaguest semblance of a peace partner.
Opponents of the two-state paradigm have been claiming this for years, even decades. But now even naively optimistic supporters of the idea should have their rosy-tinted shutters brusquely removed and be confronted with the stark impracticality of their preferred policy prescription.
But it is not only the manifest absence of some suitably authoritative negotiating partner, who is both willing and able to ensure and enforce a verifiable and durable two-state compliant agreement with Israel, that makes land-for-peace formula unfeasible today.
For in light of the developments in the Mideast, even if there was such a partner, this policy would be unacceptably perilous for Israel.
The Golan Heights provide a salutary lesson for anyone willing to heed it. Had the land-for-peace formula been implemented there, as many in Israel, including senior security experts, urged it to do, claiming that the Western- educated Bashar Assad was a reliable partner who could be trusted, the country would be in a dire – perhaps desperate – position indeed, with affiliates of al-Qaida and ISIS perched on the cliff tops overlooking the Kinneret and the city of Tiberias, and commanding much of the Galilee.
Eyes wide shut?
As the precedent of the Hamas take-over of Gaza, clearly shows, territory relinquished to one party does not guarantee that it would remain under his control for long.
More pointedly in the case of Gaza, territory was abandoned to none other than Abbas himself, who, without having to make a single concession, was given everything he could have demanded in negotiations: Full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, razing of settlements and removal of any vestige of Jewish existence, including Jewish graves.
Yet despite this, he was unable to hold onto any of it, being unceremoniously ousted within a matter of days by his brutal Islamist rivals.
Since it is virtually inconceivable that any Israeli government in any foreseeable configuration could offer Abbas more in Judea-Samaria, what possible reason is there to believe that, if he were given less that his full demands, he would be able to resist his rivals any more robustly? Clearly, apart from wishful thinking, obdurate disregard for facts and fanatical adherence to a failed concept, there are none.
Thus, just as if we had withdrawn from the Golan, the most brutal forces on the face of the planet would now be deployed on it, if Israel had given up the highlands of Judea-Samaria, there is no reason to believe similar forces would not be deployed there, overlooking the high-rises of Greater Tel Aviv, the runways of Ben-Gurion and all the vital infrastructure installations (military and civilian) in the Coastal Plain, where 80% of the civilian population reside and 80% of the nation’s commerce is conducted.
Useless fiction; detrimental charade
It should be crystal clear to anyone genuinely concerned with the fate of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, and with the physical safety of the Jews who reside in it, that the only way to prevent radical Islamist extremists from seizing control of Judea-Samaria, as they have whenever Israel has evacuated land – in Gaza, south Lebanon and much of Sinai – is for Israel to maintain control over it.
This should also be clear to the allegedly “moderate” states in the region – the assorted array of nepotistic, despotic monarchies and military dictatorships – to which advocates of a “regional solution” now ascribe “shared interests” with Israel in confronting the radicals ascendant today. For surely the last thing such “moderates” would wish is to give their radical foes is a bastion from which to operate, destabilize regimes like Jordan and draw off resources Israel might have for helping them fight their “joint enemy” – which is precisely what a Palestinian state would do.
Accordingly, persisting with its declared willingness to establish a Palestinian state while being unable to make the perilous concessions such establishment calls for makes Israel look disingenuous and devious. It creates a situation in which a commitment to minimal security for the country, and minimal safety for its citizens, precludes genuine commitment to its declared policies on the Palestinian issue.
Over almost a quarter-century since Oslo, despite overwhelming international political endorsement and munificent international aid, the Palestinian-Arabs have shown themselves unable/unwilling to establish anything remotely resembling a stable, productive self-governing entity.
Accordingly, the useless fiction of Palestinian statehood must be discarded and the detrimental charade of casting Abbas as an amenable partner, terminated.
Decades of dereliction with regard to Israel’s public diplomacy have left it severely restricted in regard to it strategic options. Now, while this is a matter that requires urgent redress, this cannot obscure the need to address Israel’s immediate strategic imperatives.
First among these imperatives is jettisoning any notion of Palestinian statehood and of relinquishing sovereignty over any territory between the River and the Sea. The next would be to declare the Palestinian-Arabs what they themselves declare themselves to be – our enemy – and behave accordingly.
In numerous previous columns, I have written extensively of what such behavior would entail, and what is required to generate the diplomatic conditions to facilitate it.
In coming columns I shall revisit those policy prescriptions and demonstrate why their adoption is crucial for the survival of the Jewish nation-state.
Post-script: ‘Rewarding bad behavior’
Sadly, recent government actions bode ill for success in this regard. In his impressive General Assembly speech Netanyahu admonished the international community on Iran for “rewarding bad behavior,” which he rightly claimed “only gets worse when rewarded.” This is also true for the Palestinian issue – yet this is precisely what Netanyahu has done by capitulating to Muslim demands regarding the Temple Mount. Surely he must know that rewarding bad behavior here will only make it worse in the future? Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategicisrael.org).
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