... in our founding statement [we announced] that we would be artisans and partisans of the two-state solution. We adamantly refuse to drift with those who through a failure of nerve, a lack of political seriousness or a sectarian maximalist agenda are exiting the paradigm of two states for two peoples. – The editors, Spring 2016 edition of Fathom magazine, published by BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Center)
…I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning. – Jibril Rajoub, deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, to Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV channel, April 30, 2013.
Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim – George Santayana, Life of Reason, 1905
As readers will recall, last week I took issue with the editor of Fathom magazine, Alan Johnson, who decided to withdraw an invitation for me to submit an essay because of my position on how Israel should deal with the predicament it faces regarding the Palestinian-Arabs – i.e. by providing the non-belligerent population the chance of building a better life elsewhere out of harm’s way in third countries, by means of generous relocations/rehabilitation grants.
Political prudence & moral merit
To be more precise, what Johnson took umbrage at was the harsh response he inferred I would prescribe, should, for some reason, the generous relocation grants offered the Palestinian- Arabs be rejected. True, if the initial package of incentives for leaving/ disincentive for staying is not effective, then measures may well have to be taken to make the former more tempting and the latter more daunting. This admission seemingly horrified Johnson’s delicate sensibilities, deeming my policy proposal a blueprint for “starving the Palestinians out of the West Bank.”
However, as I pointed out last week, Johnson, and two-staters in general, while challenging proponents of alternative paradigms to provide and justify an acceptable “Plan B,” should their original intentions not be fulfilled, feel little obligation to do the same themselves.
This is of course entirely inappropriate.
After all, given the inherent uncertainty of the political decision-making environment, when assessing the practical prudence and/ or moral merit of any course of action, apart from the desired outcomes the policy is designed to attain, two additional factors should be appraised: the chances of success and the cost of failure.
No matter how enticing the projected outcomes a given policy might be, if the chances of attaining them are remote and/or the cost of failing to do so is exorbitant, political prudence and moral merit may well dictate abandoning it, and compel a search for more plausible and less hazardous alternatives.
Exasperating pigheadedness; infuriating arrogance
Yet this is a calculus that two-staters never seem to undertake – nor feel any need to. As I have emphasized several times in the past, despite the fact that the two-state dogma has been regularly and repeatedly disproven, somehow it has never been discarded or even significantly discredited. Impervious to reason and reality, two-staters cling, with exasperating pigheadedness and infuriating arrogance, to a political credo that has wrought untold tragedy to Jew and Arab alike.
The obdurate refusal of two-staters to admit any possibility of error, or even to concede that such possibility exists, reveals more than a hint of ideological fanaticism and intellectual dishonesty.
After all, if Johnson and other two-staters were compelled to consider the realities that foisting statehood on the Palestinian-Arabs might precipitate, they would rapidly realize that these would be far more cataclysmic than those that would result from an initial rejection of relocation grants, and the responses called for to contend with them, far more drastic.
As I suggested last week – and promised to elaborate on this week – “my proposed Humanitarian Paradigm for the resolution of the Palestinian predicament will be the most humane of all currently debated options if it succeeds, and result in the least inhumane realities, if it does not.”
But more than that, for many Palestinians it would provide a solution for precisely the predicament the ill-fated two-state endeavor has created for them.
The ravages of two-statism
After all, for many, the ravages of two-statism are no longer a matter of speculation, but of empirical fact. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the place where the ill-conceived enterprise began almost a quarter-century ago: Gaza, the scene of tumultuous jubilation at the triumphant arrival of Yasser Arafat in the summer of 1994.
Compare and contrast the giddy euphoria of then with the dismal despair of now. It is despair that is, demonstrably and indisputably, the direct consequence of the attempt to establish Palestinian self-determination in the Gaza Strip – despite massive international financial aid and political support.
Ironically, for many Gazans, beset by devastating unemployment, awash in flows of raw sewage and under the yoke of theocratic tyranny, the most immediate desire is to leave.
If we are to believe the ever-more frequent reports from Arab and left-leaning sources, generous grants to facilitate their emigration would be no less than a blessed fulfillment of their most fervent dreams.
This is not difficult to understand, since more than a decade after Israel evacuated Gaza, it has become an unsustainable entity, with over 45 percent of the workforce unemployed and 80% of the population dependent on foreign aid.
Gaza ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020?
Even the most doctrinaire advocates of two-statism such as Gershon Baskin was recently forced to confess: “The internal conflict between Gaza and the West Bank is not close to resolution. Gaza remains in ruins with nearly two million people living in total poverty. A majority of Gazans would leave if they had any place to go. (Jerusalem Post, March 2) This assessment echoes those of numerous other sources.
For example, a report published (September 2015) by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development warned that Gaza could become uninhabitable by the end of the decade. Al Monitor (September 24, 2015) in a post headlined “Gazans consider the Strip ‘uninhabitable’ now,” cited the predicament of a mother of five from Beit Hanun in the north of the Gaza Strip, who admitted, “I always think about emigrating, and I am constantly looking for a safe place for my family and myself.”
In similar vein, Electronic Intifada (October 2014), not normally my preferred source of information, in a scathing, dismissive critique of the reconstruction efforts, lamented: “Young Palestinians in Gaza, facing unemployment rates as high as 60%, have lost hope and are putting their lives in the hands of smugglers in a bid to reach Europe and a future.”
Fleeing despair and desperation
Thus, well before the current wave of Muslim migrants engulfed Europe, the lengths some Gazans are prepared to go to extricate themselves from the fruits of the unfortunate two-state experiment are vividly conveyed in several media outlets.
Thus, Haaretz quoted one Gaza resident as declaring: “It’s better to die at sea than to die of despair and frustration in Gaza.”
An Al Jazeera article, headlined, “Palestinian Migrants Fleeing Gaza Strip Drown in Mediterranean Sea,” described how Gazans increasingly turn to smugglers to escape economic privation and deadly conflict. The New York Times wrote of Gazans “Fleeing Gaza, only to face treachery and disaster at sea,” and Ynet reported that “Scores of Gazans die at sea in attempt to flee...”
Now, imagine that an orderly mechanism had been established to help nonbelligerent Gazans extricate themselves from the clutches of the cruel, corrupt cliques that have (mis) led them, time and time again, into penury and disaster, and provide them the resources to build a better life for themselves and their families elsewhere, not as penniless refugees but as relatively affluent immigrants? Surely that is a far more humane approach than insisting they remain tethered to tyranny, in the forlorn hope that a formula that has failed so dismally before, will suddenly magically succeed.
Slim chance of success
Of course, there is little reason to believe that if the IDF were to evacuate Judea-Samaria (as was the case in Gaza) and all trace of Jewish presence were obliterated (as was the case in Gaza), that the same fate would not befall the Arab population that resides there.
Those who might invoke quarantines, security barriers and recurring military campaigns to account for the Palestinians’ socioeconomic plight, should be brusquely reminded that all of these are products of the post-Oslowian two-statism. They are the consequence of post-Oslowian Arab terrorism, not the cause of it.
Indeed, after decades of bloodshed and broken pledges, it seems that the entire “rationale” for continuing to cling to the two-state creed is the quasi-messianic belief that somehow the Palestinians, as a collective, will not only change, but miraculously morph into something, not only different from what they have been for decades, but into the antithetical opposite.
But furthermore, for the two-state construct to be not only momentarily feasible, but sustainably durable, this envisaged metamorphosis cannot be limited to any one particular pliant Palestinian interlocutor, who, whether by ballot or bullet, may be removed by a more radical successor (as was the case in Gaza), eager to repudiate all the perfidious pledges of peace made to the hated Zionist entity.
Slim chance (cont.)
Of course, such hope for a benign sea change in the collective Palestinian-Arab psyche has always been wildly fanciful, but at least in the heady days immediately following the signature of the Oslo Accords there may have been a reason, however flimsy, to succumb to the allure of naïve optimism.
But a gory two-and-a-half decades later, there can be no such excuse – particularly in the post Arab Spring ascendancy of jihadism, sweeping across the Mideast, menacing the Jordanian monarchy and challenging Egypt’s control of Sinai.
It seems inconceivable that under such conditions, and given our experiences, anyone with a modicum of concern for the future of the Jewish state could still adhere to such a patently perilous and implausible paradigm.
Sadly, it seems that obsessive two-staters have failed to internalize the lesson of the Golan Heights, which many land-for-peace adherents urged be handed over to Bashar Assad, then a reputedly moderate, Western- educated reformer. Imagine the dread that would prevail today if affiliates of al-Qaida and ISIS were deployed on the heights overlooking the Galilee and the city of Tiberias.
Now imagine forces of a similar ilk deployed – whether with compliance, or in defiance, of some Palestinian-Arab regime in Judea-Samaria – on the heights overlooking Israel’s coastal megalopolis, within mortar range from its only international airport and tunnel reach of its Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6).
Then, draw your own conclusions as to the prudence and morality of the harebrained two-state scheme.
Grim cost of failure
However, suppose for a moment that a Palestinian state were established on the strategic heights commanding Israel’s most populous and prosperous region – the narrow Coastal Plain.
Suppose, if, as is far from implausible, and irrespective of the purported goodwill of any initial Palestinian regime, control is taken over by a more inimical successor, which began to carry out terrorist attacks along the 500-km.
front and from the commanding topographic territory, adjacent to Israeli population centers and infrastructure installations, whether overhead rocket salvos, underground tunnel attacks, or small arms ambushes on transport arteries.
Clearly, the consequences for the civilian populations on both sides of the new frontier would be severe. Israel, faced with recurring disruption of its socioeconomic routine and attrition of its population, would have little option but to retaliate harshly – far more so than in the previous Gaza operations, on a far wider front, with far greater topographical inferiority and far greater exposure of its urban hinterland. Extensive collateral damage among Palestinian-Arab civilians – and commensurate international censure of Israel – would be inevitable...
Moreover, if the regime in Amman were to veer Islamist, the IDF could well find itself embroiled in battle against Jordanian regular military forces, with the consequences unclear but certainly dire...
I could go on, but I think the issue of the grim cost is reasonably clear.
Given the starkly slim chances of success and the gruesomely grim cost of failure, the refusal of two-staters such as the folks at Fathom to foster discussion on competing alternatives, likely to produce more humane outcomes, if they succeed, and less inhumane ones, if they fail, is, to say the least, disappointing.
Could it be that two-staters are no longer able to defend their position by rational debate and therefore need to fall back on avoiding debate?
More unforgiving souls might consider such avoidance nothing less than intellectual cowardice.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org).