Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
– attributed to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, (1808 –1890, editor of Le Figaro). Translated “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”
Truth be told, the post-Paris imperatives for the survival of the Jewish state are, for all intents and purposes, identical to the pre-Paris ones. The only difference is that now they just might be more starkly evident.
Two fundamental imperatives: Geographic & demographic
After the Paris terrorist strikes over the weekend, just as before them, if Israel is to survive as the nation-state of the Jewish people, it will have to contend adequately with two fundamental imperatives: the geographic imperative and the demographic imperative.
Contending effectively with the former entails avoiding territorial concessions that will make any semblance of socioeconomic routine in the heart of Israel’s urban megalopolis, impossible to maintain. The latter entails avoiding the inclusion of large potentially fractious non-Jewish ethnic groups into the permanent population of the state, making its dominant Jewish character impossible to maintain.
The geographic imperative rules out the two-state solution , founded on the principle of “land-for-peace,” which would leave the nation’s parliament and only international airport within mortar range and much of the trans-Israel Highway 6 within tunnel reach.
The second rules out the one-state solution, based on the concept of annexing the territory across the pre- 1967 armistice lines, together with the Arab population resident in them, which, depending on which version is referred to, will result in either the Lebanonization or the Balkanization of Israel.
While these imperatives were always valid, even in the pre-Paris era, the carnage in the French capital has thrown – or, at least, hopefully, should have thrown – them in indelibly sharper relief.
Has ISIS concentrated minds?
The crucial question now is whether the Paris massacres have in fact concentrated minds of both the policy- makers and the public at large.
Indeed, the jury is still largely out on that question. Disturbingly, a number of maddeningly moronic insinuations by several EU politicians, including the Swedish foreign minister, that Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is to be blamed for everything – from the shrinking polar ice caps to the spread of AIDS in Africa, provide ample reason for avoiding premature optimism.
Yet despite these lamentable lapses, there can be little doubt that hearts and minds have been primed, at least potentially, for a positive change of sentiment in understanding Israel’s predicament and the nature of the enemy it faces.
After all, the brutal developments in the Arab/Muslim world, particularly in the last half-decade, and culminating in the indiscriminate slaughter last Friday, have radiated through, and resonated with, large segments of the Muslim population in the region and beyond. Indeed, there are disconcerting signs that they have had a perceptible impact on the Palestinians – on both sides of the pre-1967 Green Line. Accordingly, whether or not these regrettable circumstances are formally acknowledged, two things should be crystal clear to anyone not suffering from advanced intellectual rigor mortis.
The highly likely & the no less unlikely
The first is that it is highly likely, indeed virtually certain, that any land surrendered by Israel to any Arab interlocutor will fall, probably sooner than later, to extremist Islamist forces of one variant or another – as happened in Gaza and southern Lebanon, the former to Hamas, now being harassed by even more radical Jihadi elements, the latter to Hezbollah, a proxy for Tehran’s theocratic tyranny.
The second is that it is no less unlikely, indeed virtually impossible, that Palestinian-Arab residents across the 1967-line could be incorporated into the permanent population of Israel, without creating an explosive potential of a society riven by unbridgeable interethnic schisms and irreconcilable national animosities.
To call on Israel to adopt either of these formats, in effect, is to gravely jeopardize its continued long-term survival, as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The former will make Israel geographically untenable, with a mega Gaza-like entity, with an almost 500 km. front abutting Israel’s most populous urban areas, and dominating virtually all its strategic infrastructure installations – from which recalcitrant renegade terrorists could disrupt, even cripple, at will, the routine of daily life – armed with no more than the primitive weapons currently deployed in ostensibly “demilitarized” Gaza.
The second will make Israel demographically untenable – even if the optimistic demographers are right and Israel would still retain a Jewish majority of around 60 percent. For there is little chance that the country could maintain even a semblance of social stability without drastically diminishing/diluting its Jewish character if it included a Muslim minority of up to 40% of its population, who not only do not identify with, but vehemently reject its flag, symbols, anthem – even its very source of sovereignty as the Jewish people.
Myth of ‘managing the conflict’
Accordingly, both the territorial concessions implicit in the land-forpeace– two-state paradigm and the incompatible national allegiances implicit in the one-state-of-all-its citizens are inimical to the Zionist ideal of Jewish self-determination.
Thus, any policy proposal compliant with the preservation of the Zionist ideal and an enduring Jewish nation-state, must address both of these imperatives of national survival: defensible geographic contours and a sustainable demographic composition.
Trying to achieve one at the expense of the other will be just as disastrous as its equally perilous converse.
For anyone believing that the conflict can be “managed” or the status quo “maintained” by repeatedly “mowing the lawn,” a cursory glance at the late Yitzhak Rabin’s last Knesset address should suffice to dispel any such illusions. Indeed, were the much-reviled Benjamin Netanyahu to embrace – verbatim – the last publicly articulated vision of the much-lauded Rabin for a permanent resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians, he would be excoriated as an unrealistic and unreasonable extremist.
This illustrates dramatically just how severely Israeli positions have been eroded by trying to “manage the conflict” and “sustain the status quo” – aka “kicking the can down the road.”
Accordingly, the pressing – indeed existential – Zionist challenge is to devise a paradigm that offers a clear proactive path capable of adequately addressing the twin imperative of retaining the indispensable geography/ topography while maintaining a population with a minimally coherent and manageably compatible demographic composition.
Intellectual integrity for only Zionist-compliant alternative
If this challenge of meeting Israel’s geographic and demographic imperatives is indeed the point of departure for securing its long-term future as the nation-state of the Jewish people, then it follows, almost as an inescapable deduction, with virtually mathematical logic, that – since the geography/topography are largely – immutable, it is the demographic variable that must be addressed.
Consequently, all Zionist energies must be focused on reducing the Arab presence west of the Jordan River.
The only non-coercive – or at least, non-kinetic – method of achieving this is through economic inducements – by dramatically increasing the incentives for leaving, enhancing the economic rewards for doing so; and by commensurately increasing the disincentives for staying, intensifying – equally dramatically – the material penalties for doing so.
This would require the intellectual integrity not only to identify the Palestinians as what they really are – and what they themselves declare they are: an implacable enemy, but also to undertake a policy that reflects this underlying and undeniable truth.
And as an implacable enemy, Israel has no moral obligation or practical interest in sustaining its economy or social order. On the contrary, an overwhelming case can be made – on both ethical and pragmatic grounds – that it should let them collapse by refraining from providing it with any of the goods or services it – perversely – provides it today: water, electricity, fuel, tax collection and port services to name but a few.
In order to extricate themselves from the inevitable crisis such measures will entail, non-belligerent individuals should be given generous relocation grants to allow them, and their dependents, the opportunity to seek prosperous and secure lives elsewhere.
Recalcitrant belligerents must be dealt with coercively – and, if need be, “kinetically.”
Who has the moral high ground?
It is perhaps understandable that, initially, some might feel a sense of discomfort – even aversion – to such a radical departure from conventional wisdom that has dominated the debate hitherto. However, I would urge anyone prone to such reaction to distinguish between initial reflexive distaste for the unfamiliar on the one hand, and considered and substantive dissent with the unpalatable but unavoidable on the other.
Indeed, to dislike an unpleasant remedy does not mean that one should – or can – disagree with it, or dispute the necessity for its application to effect a much needed cure or preserve a highly desired objective.
But beyond the question of initial adverse reaction, the crucial question must be forced into the debate: Who in fact has the moral high ground? Those who promote the establishment of (yet another) Muslim-majority tyranny, which will, in all likelihood, comprise the diametric and utter negation of the very values its advocates invoke for its establishment – gender discrimination, gay persecution, religious intolerance, oppression of political dissidents? Or those who advocate providing non-belligerent Palestinian individuals with the opportunity of building a better life for themselves elsewhere, out of harm’s way, free from the recurring cycles of death, destruction and destitution that have been brought down on them by the cruel, corrupt cliques that have controlled their lives and led them astray for decades? Moreover, dissenting opponents must be forced to explain a glaring moral anomaly. After all, why is paying Jews to evacuate their homes to facilitate the establishment of said homophobic misogynistic tyranny, which, almost certainly, will become a bastion for Islamist terror, considered morally acceptable – even commendable; while the notion of paying Arabs to evacuate their homes to prevent the establishment of such an entity, considered morally reprehensible?
Depraved indifference of conventional wisdom
The received wisdom that has hijacked the agenda of the public discourse is clearly and irrefutably at odds with prevailing realities. Political correctness has eclipsed political truth and obscured factual correctness.
For anyone not willfully blinded by deceptive allure of its falsehoods, or intimidated by the brutal intolerance of its mind-control diktats, it should be painfully clear– particularly in light of the emerging realities regarding trends in Arab/Muslim society – that both territorial withdrawal, and territorial annexation, are fraught with grave – and eminently foreseeable perils: Either long bloody and recurring wars of attrition along torturous, and topographically inferior frontiers, or long bloody interethnic strife among irreconcilably inimical segments of the population.
The undeniable plausibility of these uninviting scenarios, and the very limited ability to prevent their occurrence, makes continued insistence on their implementation nothing short of “depraved indifference” – i.e. the wanton disregard for the harmful consequences of a clearly apparent risk.
For unless two-staters can provide a persuasive “Plan B” of how to deal with the clear and present danger of the territory allotted for a Palestinian state falling to an Islamic State-like affiliate; unless one-staters can provide an equally persuasive “Plan B” of how to respond to rebellion by irredentist segments of the Palestinian population, who refuse to resign themselves to permanent submission to Jewish sovereignty, such proposals are no more than irresponsible and perilous pipe-dreams.
Overriding intellectual imperative: A countervailing ‘New Israel Fund’
It is of course highly improbable that this radical abandonment of accepted molds of thinking will be initiated from within the current body-politic, which, sadly seems to possess neither the required intellectual depth nor the intellectual daring to contemplate, never mind, make, such a conceptual leap.
Accordingly, what is called for is the establishment, within civil society, of influential (read “well-endowed”) centers of intellectual endeavor that can lay down a new intellectual architecture for the discourse on the Arab-Israel conflict, in general, and the Israel-Palestinian one, in particular; infuse new perspectives on the possibilities and the constraints for policy into the debate; and impose a new agenda on the elected politicians – just as the “Left” did with the “New Israel Fund,” its affiliates, off-shoots and ideological fellow travelers...
For this to materialize, what is called for is a bold and imaginative private benefactor(s) to come forward, pick up the gauntlet and provide the wherewithal to spark a brave new wave of intellectual rebellion and national resurrection.
Given the urgency, we can only hope this does not take too long…
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategic- israel.org).