Into the fray: Israel’s only option

The Jewish state must respond to Palestinian unilateralism with unilateralism of its own.

An Israeli soldier aims his weapon during clashes with activists and Palestinian protesters following a demonstration near Ramallah (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israeli soldier aims his weapon during clashes with activists and Palestinian protesters following a demonstration near Ramallah
(photo credit: REUTERS)
À la guerre comme à la guerre (In war, as in war) – A French maxim
The dispute between the Arabs and Jews is an “agrarian dispute,” over the question of who puts who in the ground first
– Attributed to Yisrael Galili (1911-1986), head of National Staff of the Hagana, and an iconic figure in the Labor Party
Over the last two decades, Israel has inexorably painted itself into a perilous corner. By blunder after debacle, it has allowed itself to be corralled into a political cul-de-sac that threatens to undermine its very ability to survive as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Arrogance and indolence
With a lethal blend of arrogance and indolence, it has surrendered card after crucial card in the deadly high-stakes Middle East poker game. It has maneuvered itself into a situation where, seemingly, its only strategic initiative is capitulation.
Predictably, years of neglect of (even, disdain for) public diplomacy, and an enduring refusal (even, inability) on the part of successive governments to acknowledge the critical strategic function it has in the defense of the nation, have precipitated inevitable diplomatic disaster.
And indeed, recent weeks have produced dire political outcomes for Israel.
It has watched, helplessly, as one European parliament after another, disdainfully spurning Israel’s concerns, endorsed Palestinian demands for statehood, “based on the [indefensible] 1967 borders.”
It is now faced with the emerging specter of majority support for the upcoming Palestinian motion, submitted to the UN Security Council, calling for a Palestinian state and Israeli withdrawal to those indefensible frontiers, within two years – and the tangible prospect of a US veto being withheld by a hostile White House.
There is an increasingly ominous sense that Israel is powerless to contend with the threat of Palestinian unilateralism, and at a loss as to how to counter Palestinian diplomatic offensives – or rebuff the maelstrom of international censure should it dare to do so.
Unwarranted despair?
However, despite the undisputed gravity of the situation, despair need not be warranted – if the Israeli leadership can find the necessary intellectual integrity, moral courage and political foresight.
For if Israel is to break out of its beleaguerment, and devise policy options that can extricate it from its increasingly perilous predicament, these three ingredients are essential.
Only if the Israeli leadership is willing and able to strip off the layers of distorting political correctness that have accumulated over the last quarter-century, and clearly identify the true nature both of the prevailing realities and the Palestinian adversary, will there be any chance of halting the descent into catastrophe.
The first imperative is to recognize that in the prevailing Mideast realities, willingness to accept compromise and offer concessions is counter-productive. It is not perceived as a pragmatic desire to reach a reasonable accommodation with the other side, but as an admission of error, or at least as a lack of conviction in the validity and justice of one’s case. Thus, by offering compromise and concession, one will not satiate the opponents’ demands, but only whet their appetite for more.
Identifying the enemy
The second imperative is to avoid the temptation that the entire Israeli Left, and growing portions of the Right, have succumbed to: The illusion that at some stage the Palestinians will become credible “peace partners”; or alternatively, loyal – or, at least, not overtly disloyal – permanent residents or even enfranchised citizens of a Jewish Israel.
In previous columns I have been at pains to demonstrate how any policy based on either of these assumptions will inevitably create conditions incompatible with preservation of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The indispensable point of departure of any policy that can offer Israel any hope of steering the country to long-term security is one that recognizes the Palestinian-Arab collective for what it indisputably is, and for what it undeniably defines itself: An implacable enemy whose enmity toward the Jews is not rooted in what the Jews do, but in what they are.
Such recognition will have two strategic consequences.
First, it will underscore the futility of compromise and concessions, since no offer other than ceasing to be what one is – i.e. ceasing to exist – will satisfy such an enemy.
Second, it will underscore that Israel has neither moral obligation nor practical interest in sustaining the security or the welfare of such an enemy entity.
Quite the opposite. Israel has an ethical duty and a vested interest in its speedy demise. No amount of professed – even proven – goodwill will sway it from its Judeopohic bent or its Judeocidal intent.
Not a suicide pact
Once this mindset is established and its ramifications are grasped, the parameters of the appropriate response to recent Palestinian diplomatic offensives are almost self-evident.
Instead of trying to cajole an unrepresentative Palestinian leadership, with promises of ever-increasing pliancy, to reengage in futile negotiations, Israel must declare that all previous offers are off the table, all previous agreements null and void.
It must announce that since consensual resolution of the conflict has proved unattainable, Israel will seek alternatives – now unavoidably unilateral – to ensure its security and survival as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people.
The Israeli leadership would do well to be guided by what should be the self-evident, but apparently oft-forgotten, realization that commitment to the principle of democratic governance is not a suicide pact. The overriding obligation inherent in the social contract between an elected government and the people who elected it, is to provide its own population – not that of an enemy collective – with good governance and protection.
The Israeli government has no obligation – democratic or moral – to sustain the Palestinian enemy’s economy or social order. An overwhelming case can be made – on both ethical and practical grounds – that it should let them collapse.
Responding to unilateralism with unilateralism
The operational implications of this are manifestly apparent. Israel must respond to Palestinian unilateralism with unilateralism of its own.
The most pressing measure is to make it clear to the Palestinians – and to their supporters – that if it is independence they demand, then independent they will have to be.
Thus, Israel must convey unequivocally that it will cease, forthwith, to provide every service and all merchandise that it provides them today. In other words, no water, electricity, fuel, postal services, communications, port facilities, tax collection or remittances will be supplied by Israel.
This will vividly expose the futility of the Palestinians’ endeavor for statehood, which almost two decades after the Oslo accords and massive investment has not produced anything but an untenable, divided entity crippled by corruption and cronyism, with a dysfunctional polity, an illegitimate president, an unelected prime minister, and a feeble economy that, with its minuscule private sector and bloated public one, is unsustainable without the largesse of its alleged “oppressor.”
Humanitarian response to ‘humanitarian crisis’
There is little doubt that such a unilateral initiative by Israel would inflict considerable hardship on large sectors of the Palestinian population – engendering inevitable accusations that it is precipitating a “humanitarian crisis.”
To counter these charges Israel must provide a “humanitarian response” and offer individual nonbelligerent Palestinian breadwinners generous relocation grants to help them build a better life for themselves and their families elsewhere, free of the incompetence and corruption of the cruel cliques that have led them astray for decades.
Last week, a courageously frank op-ed in The New York Times provided a revealing glimpse into the plight of ordinary Palestinians under the yoke of the Abbas regime. In her piece “Ramallah’s Mean Streets,” Mariam Barghouti, a Bir Zeit University student, points an accusatory finger at the Palestinian leadership, painting a grim picture of life for the average Palestinian even in the relatively affluent city, Ramallah, which “acts as a capital for the would-be Palestinian state [and]...
as a magnet for migrants from neighboring towns and villages.”
She laments: “for most, the struggle to make ends meet has become more and more arduous...
There are no laws to protect workers’ rights and wages are pitifully low.”
Humanitarian (cont.)
The problem is not a lack of money.
Barghouti cites cabdriver Abu Jamal, a father of seven, whose fate she sees as typical of many. He bitterly bewails the rampant corruption and graft: “You think there is no money? There is money. The PA has money.”
Indeed, it has – much of it (foolishly) provided courtesy of the Israeli government.
Shaking his head, Abu Jamal cautions: “Look around you, it’s everywhere: the fancy cars they drive to the villas they build. It’s going to explode, we’re all going to explode.”
But it is not only the economic plight that Barghouti bemoans, but also the sense of insecurity and fear of the regime. She writes of a widespread sense of “loathing of the Palestinian Authority [which] spends 27 percent of its budget on its security forces, turning the territories into a virtual police state.” Referring to the PA’s security forces “parad[ing] with their guns,” she remarks gloomily: “Instead of feeling safe, people in Ramallah resent them.”
Given the dismal conditions, and the tangible prospect of their drastic deterioration, it is difficult to find fault – ethical or practical – in the proposed offer of funding humanitarian relocation of nonbelligerent Palestinians and an opportunity for a better life elsewhere.
After all, numerous policy proposals suggest, that there is no moral defect in, or practical impediment to, funding the removal of Jews from their homes to allow the establishment of a micro-mini entity that, in all likelihood, will become a bastion of Islamist terrorism on the fringes of Europe. Why then would there be any moral defect/practical impediment in funding the removal of Arabs to prevent the establishment of such an entity?
The moral imperative
That is the question that Israel should be forcing into the public discourse. It is no less than a moral imperative. For once the Palestinians are designated an enemy entity, what possible claim could be invoked to coerce one sovereign entity to provide for another allegedly sovereign entity – and an adversarial one, overtly committed to its annihilation at that? After all, when Israel declared its independence, no Arab country rushed to help it develop and prosper. Quite the opposite: The Arab world imposed embargoes and boycotts on it – and on anyone with the temerity to conduct commerce with it.
There should, therefore, be no doubt as to the justice and the justification of the proposed unilateral measure. Nor should there be any doubt as to Israel’s resolve to implement its stated intent – or as to the repercussions thereof: The Palestinians will have to find alternative sources for their utility requirements and day-to-day needs.
It must be indelibly underscored that this burden will fall to those nations that endorsed the unilateral measure – should they care to shoulder such an onerous and expensive responsibility.
It may be surprising how rapidly international appetite for Palestinian statehood wanes if its sponsors realize that they will have to bear the financial consequences not only of its creation but of its sustenance.
World opinion: An excuse, not a reason
Of course many will object that world opinion will not brook Israel’s unilateral abandonment of the Palestinian Authority, and will respond with harsh measures of censure – even sanctions. This of course opens up an entirely different – albeit crucial – question for debate.
However, suffice it to say at this juncture that in fact Israel does not give a hoot about world opinion.
For if it did it would not be assigning the pitifully small funds it does in trying to influence it. Indeed, the miserable amount of resources that the government allots for presenting its case to the world, in explaining its policy constraints and security imperatives, testify eloquently to the fact that world opinion is very low on its list of priorities.
World opinion is not a reason for avoiding more resolute and assertive Israeli policy. It is merely an excuse used by the advocates of appeasement who control the diplomatic decision process for doing so.
Israel is far from helpless in facing the Palestinians diplomatic assault. Much can be done to defuse it. True, it requires political will, moral resolve and the appropriate “anatomical appendages” on the part of Israel’s leadership.
So the only question is, will it rise to the occasion... or (once again) be found wanting?
Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies