Right of Reply: Americans for Peace Now: A case of misleading dogma

The proponents of a two-state solution behave as if they have a monopoly on the moral high ground.

peace now demo 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
peace now demo 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The recent article, "Obama means what he says" on July 22 by CEO of Americans for Peace Now (APN) Debra DeLee, was a breathtaking display of misplaced arrogance and misleading dogma. One can only marvel at how, after well over a decade and a half of support for a disastrously failed policy, the proponents of a two-state solution still behave as if they have not only a monopoly on the moral high ground, but also the inside track to enlightened political wisdom. Indeed, one can only wonder how much more tragedy has to befall both Jews and Arabs before these smug, self-satisfied proponents of a Palestinian state muster the intellectual integrity to admit they were wrong. In the heady days of Oslowian-Optimism (Oh-Oh?), a case might have conceivably been made for placing the burden of proof on the opponents of a two-state concept to provide a convincing case that this was a policy whose chances of success were negligible and the cost of failure unacceptable. But today the onus has shifted. Today - after 16 years of disaster, death and destruction - a more sober approach is called for. Today, the burden of proof must be on the proponents of the two-state solution to show that their preferred policy not only has (a) an reasonable probability of success, but (b) the risk it entails is tolerable. Given the post-Oslo experience, it is not immediately evident how they would go about this - on either count. FOR WHAT are the security risks implicit in a two-state solution? Consider the following list of strategically significant items: major airfields in the country (civilian and military) including the only international airport; major sea ports and naval bases; vital infrastructure installations; the sweet water system; main land transportation axes (road and rail); principal power plants; the nation's parliament; crucial centers of government and military command; and 80 percent of the civilian population and of the commercial activity in the country. If a Palestinian state were established atop the limestone hills east of the 1967 frontier, in any territorial configuration even remotely acceptable to the Palestinians, all of these would be in range of weapons being used today from territory transferred to Palestinian rule (misrule?). This is not a statement that reflects any political proclivity. It is a statement of verifiable fact that is a consequence of topographical elevation and geographical distance. It reflects a reality, the prospect of which can no longer be dismissed as "right-wing scaremongering," but merely one that reflects past empirical precedents. So before Ms. DeLee and her like-minded comrades urge Israel to expose itself to such imminent dangers, one might expect that the exigencies of intellectual honesty would induce them into first proffering a plan for how Israel would address the situation should it face the same reality on its eastern frontier as its northern frontier in the summer of 2006 and its southern one in the winter of 2008. For merely hoping that dangers will not materialize - which is all that DeLee seems to be suggesting - is not a responsible approach to risk management. Especially when experience suggests there is little hope they will not. BUT RISK aside, the continuing advocacy for the two-state solution by those professing support for Israel and genuine concern for its future is being made to look increasingly ludicrous by the frequent statements of allegedly "moderate" Palestinians who repeatedly and resolutely refuse to acknowledge Israel as the nation-state of the Jews. Such obdurate rejectionism includes the current head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who has frequently and unequivocally declared that he will not accept Israel as Jewish state. Ms. DeLee should know that Palestinian persistence on this point is not mere tactical posturing but strategic positioning. Indeed, as Al-Arabiya pointed out in an April 27 article, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state "would amount to an effective renunciation of the right of return of refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war." As "return" would undoubtedly result in the Jewish population being swamped by a massive Palestinian influx, continued insistence on it is totally inconsistent with any genuine desire for a solution based on the principle of "two states for two peoples." So what precisely do the Palestinians have in mind when they feign agreement to this principle? Which "two peoples" do they mean? For if the one is the Palestinians, and they refuse to acknowledge the right of Jews to a state of their own, who are the "other" people? Perhaps DeLee should clarify this point before committing. But Delee is meticulous in not putting any onus of the Palestinians. For while she perfunctorily concedes that the "Palestinians should take steps to show that they are serious about peace negotiations and Arab governments should do their part to support peace efforts," she goes make the staggeringly absurd statement: "But what the Arabs do or not do doesn't change what Israel should do." Could anything be more detrimental to Israel's interests - and obstructive to the attainment of a stable peace - than a position of open-ended tolerance of Arab intransigence, coupled with a stern demand for unreciprocated and unconditioned Israeli concessions? Nevertheless, DeLee is, in all likelihood, right on two counts: Firstly she is probably right that Barack Obama does indeed mean what he says regarding his intention to implement a two-state solution - at least for the present. Secondly, she is definitely right that the Israeli government should now stop "seeking 'shticks and tricks' to evade a settlement freeze." Rather it should confront the US administration head-on the settlement issue, conveying to it with polite, straightforward firmness that such demands are unacceptable. The Israeli government should point out that Washington cannot on the one hand pay lip service to a commitment to Israel's security, while on the other attempting to impose on it a policy which - as the US Joint Chiefs of Staff itself has indicated - would make the country's security untenable. In short, the time has come to convey a simple clarion-clear message to President Obama: No! You can't. The time has also come to urge the well-meaning, but misguided, members of DeLee's APN to wake up and smell the coffee - before it's too late. The writer is academic director of the Jerusalem Summit and lectures in security studies at Tel Aviv University.