[We need] to create a continuous stretch of new settlements; to bolster Jerusalem and the surrounding hills, from the north, east, south and west, by means of the establishment of townships, suburbs and villages – Ma’aleh Adumin, Ofra, Gilo, Bet El, Givon – to ensure that the capital and its flanks are secured, and underpinned by urban and rural settlements. These settlements will be connected to the Coastal Plain and Jordan Valley by new lateral axis roads; the settlements along the Jordan River are intended to establish the Jordan River as [Israel’s] de facto security border; however it is the settlements on the western slopes of the hills of Samaria and Judea which will deliver us from the curse of Israel’s “narrow waist.” – Shimon Peres, Tomorrow is Now, 1977.I wish you all, the parents and the entire tribe of settlers...restorers of the Jewish settlement in Hebron... great blessing and joy in raising your son. Bringing your son into the covenant of the Patriarch Abraham, in the city of Abraham after 40 years separation from it, has special symbolic significance.It bears testimony to our continuous connection to this place, to which we have returned never to leave. – Yigal Allon, January 29, 1969.A person who, with intent that any area be removed from the sovereignty of the state or placed under the sovereignty of a foreign state, commits an act calculated to bring this about, is liable to life imprisonment or the death penalty. – Section 97(b) of the current Penal Code in Israel – under “Treason.”There are ever-increasing signs that something infuriating, insidious and immoral is beginning to surface in the political debate in Israel – particularly in regard to policy on “settlements” and “settlers.” Accordingly, I would ask you to keep these excerpts in mind while reading the rest of this column. Their full significance will become clear in its final section.Orwellian conversion of vice into virtue With gathering momentum a new approach – one that is egregious and evil – is emerging as the latest endeavor to breathe life into the rapidly expiring feasibility of the so-called “two-state solution.” It involves a macabre attempt to transform vice into virtue, and virtue into vice.It not only grotesquely distorts the founding ethos of Zionism, but totally inverts its essence and reverses the thrust of its fundamental principles. It is an approach – or rather a syndrome – that elevates surrender of homeland and abandonment of kin as the loftiest of enlightened values, while denigrating any sign of assertive expression of Jewish identity and solidarity as ethnocratic racism.Its operational prescriptions are so manifestly Kafkaesque that its proponents are compelled to resort to language strongly reminiscent of Orwellian Newspeak and slogans virtually indistinguishable from the 1984-dystopian “War is Peace” and “Freedom is Slavery.”They thus portray capitulation as “victory” and designate proposals that entail widespread destruction as “constructive.” But more on these linguistic abominations later.Incompetent Right vs delusional Left What is most disconcerting is that these dangerous delusions are being promoted with increasing frequency, not by marginal fringe elements in Israeli society but from within the very heart of the Israeli civil society establishment.Ranged against this delirium of the Left is a hopelessly incompetent, inarticulate, inept Right, seemingly unable to grasp the peril or to formulate effective countermeasures to deal with it. Mired in outdated modes of thought, it flounders artlessly in futile attempts to preserve and promote its essentially valid principles and positions with obsolete tactics and antiquated stratagems.The misplaced complacency in the ranks of the Right is based on two assumptions, both essentially correct; both totally irrelevant. The first is that no agreement will be reached in the negotiations with the Palestinians.True, any such agreement is highly improbable.The second is that there can be no coercive evacuation of settlers from Judea-Samaria as there was in the 2005 Gaza disengagement, because they are simply too many of them for this to be feasible – either physically or politically. This assumption too is probably correct.The chances of a large-scale coercive eviction of Jewish residents are slim. But this should be cold comfort to the Israeli Right – since the new “approach” I referred to above makes both the lack of agreement with the Palestinians, and the inability to forcibly remove significant numbers of Jews from their homes, largely irrelevant to a future Israeli decision to withdraw from much – if not all – of Judea-Samaria.Perverse, pernicious proposals Desperate two-state advocates, fearful that their long-championed idea may have been overtaken by events and is descending into oblivion, are trying to revive it by forgoing the need to address the two major obstacles that have prevented its implementation to date: (a) the need to reach a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians; and (b) the need to relocate the Jewish population in areas to be transferred to Palestinian control.With growing frequency, two new, deeply disconcerting notions are being raised. The first is that of unilateral Israeli withdrawal, irrespective of the results of any negotiations on a peace settlement; the second is the abandonment of Jewish communities across the pre-1967 Green Line.True, these two egregious elements have not yet coalesced into a coherent, comprehensive doctrine.However, a rapidly evolving process in this direction is already under way – and unless effective and assertive action is taken to nip it in the bud, there is little doubt that it will soon be aggressively advanced in the political discourse as a “strategic imperative” for the nation.Almost incredibly, these pernicious proposals are being seriously promoted by mainstream establishment institutions as practical policy prescriptions – despite the fact that they fly in the face of reason and experience. Not only do they comprise a grave departure from the spirit of Zionist endeavor, but they will – with demonstrably deterministic certainty – portend catastrophe on a grand scale, human and political.A mega-south Lebanon or mega-Gaza? In the forefront of this new “approach” is the well-funded Institute of National Security Studies, which for some time has been touting the destructive notion of “constructive unilateralism” that would almost inevitably lead to the obliteration of virtually all Jewish endeavor and enterprise across the Green Line. INSS has embraced the “idea” (for want of a better word) of calling on Israel to a priori renounce any sovereign claims to virtually all the territory in Judea-Samaria, irrespective of any progress toward a mutually agreed resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians.I was at pains earlier this year to underscore the dangerous defects this ill-conceived concept entails and the calamitous consequences any attempt to implement it will precipitate – see “The coming canard: Constructive unilateralism” (April 19) and “Stupendously stupid or surreptitiously sinister,” (April 25).I will therefore spare readers the details of previously elaborated criticism and merely point out that it would result in one of two intolerable scenarios: (a) if the IDF remains in territory over which Israel makes no sovereign claims – as unilateralist proponents suggest – it would transform Judea-Samaria into a giant pre-2000 south Lebanon on the fringes of Israel’s urban metropolis; or (b) if the IDF is forced to evacuate, as it inevitably will be – despite the delusions of unilateralist proponents – it would convert Judea-Samaria into a giant post-2005 Gaza.Unilateral withdrawal and unilateral abandonment Ominously, this willingness for unilateral withdrawal has now been coupled with the equally sinister specter of unilateral abandonment.In an INSS paper titled “Jewish Enclaves in a Palestinian State” (April 8), by Gideon Biger and Gilead Sher, we find the following admission: “… the evacuation of tens of thousands from their homes and their settlements, including forcible evacuation of those who refuse to leave at the behest of the government, is a difficult task for the country, and could potentially result in bloodshed and civil war.” Accordingly, we are told: “… there is a need to examine other, less conventional ideas that could reduce the number of Israelis… who will need to be evacuated.”What are these “less conventional ideas”? Well, depending on the size of the Jewish community, they will be left in place, surrounded by, or within, sovereign Palestinian territory. The Jewish residents will, again depending on the size of their community, either be part of an autonomous enclave or receive Palestinian citizenship and “be under the full sovereignty of the Palestinian state.”Astonishingly (or perhaps not), very little is said about how the physical safety of Jewish residents is to be secured, and one might be excused for imputing cynical malevolence to the following excerpt: “Over time, some and perhaps most of this population will choose to return to the borders of the State of Israel of their own volition…” Of course, if the alternative is being lynched, they may well “choose to return… of their own volition.”Reinstating the ghetto True, this possibility of creating “enclaves” (read “ghettos”) and a new Jewish Diaspora under threat, is envisioned as occurring under “conditions of a permanent- status solution.”Originally, Israeli withdrawal and the demarcation of borders was supposed to be determined by mutual agreement. But as no such agreement was forthcoming, that has given way to willingness for unreciprocated Israeli concessions. There is little reason to believe – or even, hope – that precisely the same willingness will not emerge regarding the willingness for the creation (read “abandonment”) of Jewish “enclaves” left to the tender mercies of some future Palestinian regime.Support for this grim foreboding was provided this week by the Hartman Institute, in an article written by Prof. Alex Yakobson titled “How to deflate the settlements as an issue” (Jerusalem Post, December 12) that features prominently on the homepage of the institute’s website. In words eerily reminiscent of the previously cited INSS paper, Yakobson asks: “Let us assume that they [the settlers] are now too numerous to be removed; does this fact also give them the right to determine forever the political status of the areas where they live?” His answer is unequivocal. Some imagined future agreement “should recognize the right of those Jews who will find themselves on the Palestinian side of the border to continue living there – not under some extraterritorial regime, but as a minority under Palestinian sovereignty…” Magnanimously, he proposes, “Nobody will have to be dragged from their homes,” but warns menacingly “nobody will be able to prevent the IDF from withdrawing to Israel’s recognized boundaries.” Feigning dispassionate detachment, he remarks: “Many of the people in question will, no doubt, choose to move to Israel – but this will be their choice.”Some choice.Emaciating Zionism I do not want to leave myself open to charges of misrepresenting the views expressed in the INSS and Hartman papers. So subject to breaking news, I will devote next week’s column to a detailed analysis of the true significance of these harebrained – and hair-raising – proposals.As I close, kindly glance again at the opening excerpts, for they will help one to grasp how greatly this new “approach” emaciates the spirit of Zionist endeavor.The real sponsor of the settlement project was not some wild-eyed, bearded rabbi or shrill settler extremist, but central figures in the Labor Party such as Shimon Peres and the iconic moderate Yigal Allon.Zionism was always a territorial enterprise, devoted to acquiring a secure homeland for the Jewish people.Indeed, shorn of legal machinations and minutiae, even today the Israeli legal system accords paramount importance to maintaining land under Israeli sovereignty and deems attempts to extricate it from such sovereignty treasonous, liable for the most severe punishment.Yet this is precisely what the “new approach” endorses.The epitome of Zionism has always been to bring Jews living under alien sovereignty to live under Jewish sovereignty, not to abandon Jews living under Jewish sovereignty to live under alien sovereignty. Yet this is precisely what the “new approach” endorses.Has “If you will it, it is no dream” really become “If THEY will it, it is no dream”?
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.(www.strategic-israel.org)