INTO THE FRAY: The Smotrich Plan – A step in the right direction, but…

Several flaws in MK Smotrich’s otherwise bold proposal will prevent it from achieving its long-term strategic goal: Sustainable Jewish sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel

By MARTIN SHERMAN

… I am not talking here about cruel expulsion or the flooding of countries with penniless refugees. The emigration we are talking about is planned, willing, and based on a desire for a better life, by people with appropriate skills for their new country of absorption and the economic ability to make the change. This is not migration on rickety boats, but the very modern phenomenon of organized relocation to countries which provide an opportunity for a better future…

MK Bezalel Smotrich, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, “Israel’s Decisive Plan”, Sept. 7, 2017.

Over the last week or so, the idea of funded emigration as a means of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict got a considerable fillip.

Boosting funded emigration in media

The impetus for this media flurry was a 30 page essay in the relatively new journal of political philosophy and policy, “Hashiolach”, written by MK Bezalel Smotrich, of the National Union faction in the Jewish Home party—which has three senior ministers in the ruling coalition: Education, Justice, and Agriculture.

In principle, Smotrich’s plan calls for abandoning the two-state endeavor, dismantling the Palestinian Authority and extending Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea-Samaria.

As for the Arab population in this area, Smotrich distinguishes between those who are willing “to forgo their national aspirations” and to reconcile themselves to living under Israeli sovereignty—and those who are not.

With regard to the latter category, Smotrich again distinguishes between two groups—those who will continue to fight against Israeli sovereignty, and those who will not. With regard to the former, he calls for harsh coercive action—far harsher than employed today—to quash any recalcitrant resistance.  With regard to the latter—i.e. “those who choose not to let go of their national ambitions” but eschew active resistance against Israel—will “receive aid to emigrate to one of the many countries where Arabs realize their national ambitions, or to any other destination in the world”.

Funded emigration: Breaking the taboo?

The essay drew considerable media attention and was widely reported in both the Hebrew and the English press.

On Tuesday, a conference convened by the National Union faction, reportedly attended by “hundreds” (up to 800 by one account), unanimously approved the proposal. While the short-term political significance of this is unclear, one thing does appear to emerge. The debate on financially incentivized emigration of the Palestinian-Arabs is edging inexorably into the mainstream discourse as a legitimate topic for discussion.

Indeed, underscoring this emerging legitimization was the fact that despite it being known that funded emigration would be the central topic at the conference, Prime Minister Netanyahu sent a message congratulating the participants on “dedicating the discussions at this conference to the future of the Land of Israel? and assuring them—pointedly—that “We are building the land and we are settling it. In the mountains, in the valleys, in the Galilee, in the Negev, and yes, in Judea and Samaria as well”.

Very much in the spirit of the sentiments expressed in Smotrich’s essay, he added: “Because this is our land. The homeland of the Jewish people. The only land promised to our forefathers. We were given the right to settle here.

While it would be imprudent to read too much into this, it would not be entirely implausible to conclude that some of the taboo attached to raising the issue of funded emigration of the Palestinian-Arabs in “polite company” may finally be beginning to dissipate.

Step in the right direction, but…

Of course, there is little new in the idea of funded emigration. Indeed, I have been urging its adoption as the center piece of Israeli policy for well over a decade.  Likewise, so has former deputy Knesset speaker, Moshe Feiglin.

Accordingly, any enterprise fostering public debate on the principle, especially as an alternative to the pernicious prescription for “two-states”, is a positive development.  In this regard, Smotrich’s initiative is to be applauded as a welcome step in the right (pardon the pun) direction.

Indeed, as I have pointed out, almost ad nauseum, there is no other policy paradigm that can enable Israel to adequately contend with the twin imperatives—the geographic and demographic—which it needs to deal with to ensure its long-term viability as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The need to effectively address these imperatives should be virtually self–evident for if they are not, Israel, as the nation state of the Jews, will become untenable—either geographically or demographically. Or both!

Clearly, there is no other non-coercive—or at least non-kinetic (i.e. involving large-scale-violence)—that can produce an outcome in which   Israel retains (a) control of the  strategically vital territory, abutting and overlooking virtually all its major population centers and vital infrastructure systems; and (b) a sufficiently dominant  Jewish population in the territory under its control, so as to preserve the Jewish character of the state.

 

Regrettably, however, as it is formulated, Smotrich’s proposal is marred by several flaws that not only impair its logical consistency and political acceptability, but will prevent it from achieving its long-term strategic goal: Sustainable Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

 

Good intentions, fatal flaws

 

To his credit, Smotrich gets many things right in his proposal. He is certainly correct in his withering criticism of the two-state approach and in perceptively diagnosing that, by its formal endorsement of this approach, Israel necessarily makes itself appear disingenuous—since it cannot take  the actions required to implement its declared intentions without putting its citizens at unacceptable risk.

 

However, the only litmus test Smotrich seems to apply for permitting the Arab residents of Judea-Samaria to continue to live under Jewish sovereignty is a professed readiness “to forgo their national aspirations”.

 

He writes: “Those who wish to forgo their national aspirations can stay here and live as individuals in the Jewish State; they will of course enjoy all the benefits that the Jewish State has brought and is bringing to the Land of Israel.”

 

Sadly, this is sufficient to guarantee the eventual and inevitable failure of his plan—especially when this is coupled with his declared intention to permanently—or at least indefinitely—disenfranchise these Arabs. Thus, although he would grant them “the right to vote in municipal administrations which control their daily lives”, Smotrich writes “… the Arabs of Judea and Samaria will be able to conduct their daily life in freedom and peace, but not to vote for the Israeli Knesset”.

 

By this, Smotrich, in effect relegates his alleged innovative blueprint to a regurgitated version of the failed autonomy plan of the late 1970s—with the addendum of possible  funded emigration for those  unwilling “to forgo their national aspirations” but unwilling to take up arms to achieve them.

 

Long-term irrelevance of initial “electoral arithmetic”

 

Smotrich endeavors to justify the rationale for this suggestion by contending that: “This will preserve the Jewish majority in decision making in the State of Israel”. While this claim might be numerically true – it is politically irrelevant, even detrimental.

 

Indeed, even setting aside the clear possibility of purposeful subterfuge on the part of those Arabs professing “to forgo their national aspirations” Smotrich’s proposed measures comprised an unvarnished formula for institutionalized disenfranchisement of ostensibly non-belligerent residents, based on nothing more than ethnic affiliation—i.e. apartheid—making it a manifestly untenable political doctrine.

 

Moreover, by allowing Arab residents the prospect of “enjoy[ing] all the benefits that the Jewish State has brought and is bringing to the Land of Israel” in exchange for formally forswearing national aspirations, Smotrich, greatly undercuts the potential efficacy of his funded emigration option. Indeed, he severely limits the likelihood that anyone other than those showing a commendable, but arguably rare, combination of intellectual honesty, ideological fervor and a commitment to non-violence, will avail themselves of it!

 

But more important—as I have frequently been at pains to point out—the initial electoral arithmetic, while in itself a factor of significance, is not the only crucial issue in ensuring the overall Jewish nature of Israel over time. No less important, arguably more so, is the impact the permanent presence a large Muslim population (even if not a majority)  will have on the socio-cultural fabric of the nation—irrespective of who wins the elections.

 

Irrelevance of initial electoral arithmetic (cont.)

 

Accordingly, unless draconian restrictions are imposed on the disenfranchised Arab residents of sovereign Israel, on their freedom of movement and/or choice of abode, their presence will impact every walk of life in the country—in the shopping malls, on the beaches, on gender equality, on sexual preferences, on the consumption of alcohol, on the forms of public leisure activities…to name but a few.  For anyone who would doubt  the ominous nature of this prospect, or  attempt to dismiss it as baseless racially motivated scaremongering,  may I suggest a  brief—but sobering—look at what has befallen societies in Western Europe and Scandinavia, who have, in good faith, tried to incorporate far smaller Muslim populations—enfranchised or not—into their  domestic  socio-cultural milieu…

 

Moreover, as the Israeli government will be largely responsible for the newly acquired permanent, but disenfranchised, Arab population, huge budgetary resources will have to be diverted from current uses to closing the yawning socio-economic gaps that exist between the two sides of the pre-1967 Green Line—inevitably dramatically degrading the level of services currently provided in health, education, and transport as well as in the maintenance and development of national infrastructures.

 

Clearly, none of this is likely to make Israel a more inviting abode for Jews abroad, nor an attractive location for retaining significant segments of the Jewish population currently resident here.  Indeed, it is likely to have a chilling effect on Jewish immigration (Aliyah) and a stimulating one on Jewish emigration (Yeridah), potentially upsetting any optimistic demographic assessments.

 

Accordingly, without some clear mechanism as to how such indeterminate disenfranchisement is to be addressed and eliminated, Israel is likely to face an unenviable position of a growing segment of the population, stripped indefinitely of political rights and largely alienated—perhaps even latently hostile—to the defining Jewish nature of the state in which they reside.  Hardly a formula that bodes well for the future!

 

Forgoing national aspirations: The danger of shifting sentiments

 

But perhaps one of the gravest problems with Smotrich’s criterion for offering the Palestinian-Arabs permanent residency under extended Israeli sovereignty—i.e. professed forgoing of national aspirations—is the implied assumption that this will be not only be  sincere, but long-lasting.  This is clearly—to be charitable—a tenuous supposition to base such a far-reaching strategic measure.  For even if one accepts that such aspirations are initially forsworn in good faith, there is—and cannot be—any assurance that this will not change for a myriad of reasons—from changes in personal circumstances, through outside incitement, to derision from one’s children. Indeed, even if such willingness to forgo national aspiration proves durable with the current generation—how can it be guaranteed that similar compliance will be undertaken by the younger generation?

 

Accordingly, Smotrich’s formula is more likely than not to have two detrimental results.

 

Firstly, relatively few Palestinian-Arabs are likely to avail themselves of the funded emigration option—because of his invitation for them “enjoy all the benefits that the Jewish State has brought and is bringing to the Land of Israel.”  Then at a later stage, Israel might find itself with a permanent Palestinian-Arab population, no longer willing to forgo their national aspirations, greatly empowered having enjoyed “all the benefits the Jewish State brought them”…and  now “chafing at the bit” to take it over.

 

What must be done…

 

Funded emigration is an essential policy tool for Israel, but for it to be effectively wielded it must be incorporated into a strategy that correctly conceptualizes the conflict between Jew and Arab as a conflict between irreconcilable collectives, from which only one can emerge victorious.

 

Its goal must be a drastic reduction of the Arab presence in sovereign Israel, not as Smotrich suggests, a conditioned maintenance thereof. It must comprise a system of enticing incentives to leave and punishing disincentives for staying   —not, as Smotrich suggests, incentivizing benefits for those remaining in the Jewish state.

 

Finally, while it must differentiate between a belligerent enemy collective and non-belligerent individuals who may be members of it,  the only binding proof of such non-belligerency must be acceptance of the funding for irreversible relocation.

 

Only then will the concept of funded emigration be able to fulfill its required role i.e. safeguarding the existence of the Jewish nation-state…and enhancing the future of non-belligerent Palestinian-Arabs.

 

Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

September 15, 2017 | 16 Comments » | 458 views

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16 Comments / 16 Comments

  1. It seems to me- and I have noticed this before, that Sherman first takes the time to read all the readers’ posts about the subject on hand, and THEN writes his vastly enlarged essay on the same subject. In other words he takes about 20 times the space to say almost exactly what can be culled from the remarks already made by posters.

    He would indignantly deny plagiarism or anything like that, but readers of this article will see that some of the points he makes have already been made by others and some by the reader himself.

    At least, that’s my opinion, based on my recollection of what I myself posted and from reading the posts of others.

    I’d prefer to hear what flaws he has to find in the Mudar Zahran Plan, which, in my opinion has the best “legs” of the lot. but definitely relying on American support and pressure. The fact that (according to Zahran) he has a shadow government in waiting, mostly already in Jordan is very helpful…if true.. And we cannot at this point tell where the facts begin and the romancing ends, because i assume there is a quantity of both.

  2. @ Edgar G.:
    If the Jordan option becomes viable this does not preclude the need for dealing with terrorists and solving problems within Israel including East Jerusalem, Judea/Samaria. The Jordan option only solves the political problem of were Arabs who wanted to leave could go to plus they would be sovereign in Jordan.

    This plan by Smotrich is a strong step in the right direction. No plan will be without imperfections as solving a 100 plus year conflict is highly complex. He needs a two page synopsis so more people will read it.

    So there is still a need for Israelis to act within their border and do not leave the problems of Israel to be solved dependent on foreigners no matter how well meaning. If the Jordan option happens great.

  3. @ Edgar G.:
    If the Jordanian Opposition ever took over Jordan what will happen within the next month or two? Jordan will forever be a liberal democracry? Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood will try and take over? What if the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas takeover?

    Israel now has a hostile long border and still has lots of Arabs within the borders of Israel. So my conclusion is that Israel needs its own plan that is not dependent on foreigners no matter how well meaning.

  4. @ Bear Klein:
    Well, you are speculating, but with a lot of sense, and it’s possible that these things wouldeventuate, at least attempt to eventuate.But we have to expect a lot off teething pains, and with the United Srates fiormly backing the Plan, and -we prsume- the Jordanian Armed Forces under govt. cotrol, they will handle the matter THE ARAB WAY, without the need for goignthrough counts and appeals etc. They will declare martial law and ruthlessly exterminate any opponition. I believe this would be the case, and the Muslim Brotherhood and etc would be cut off at the neck, because Mudar and Co. would be expecting them, and may already have infiltrated their councils. It’s all grand strategy and we can only wait to see how it’ll work out. Don’t forget the US, who could introduce firepower which would make them all dizzy.

  5. @ Bear Klein:
    Well, you are speculating, but with a lot of sense, and it’s possible that these things would eventuate, at least attempt to arise..But we have to expect a lot off teething pains, and with the United Srates firmly backing the Plan, and -we presume- the Jordanian Armed Forces under govt. control, they will handle the matter THE ARAB WAY, without the need for going through counts and appeals etc. They will declare martial law and ruthlessly exterminate any opposition. I believe this would be the case, and the Muslim Brotherhood and etc would be cut off at the neck, because Mudar and Co. would be expecting them, and may already have infiltrated their councils. It’s all grand strategy and we can only wait to see how it’ll work out. Don’t forget the US, who could introduce firepower which would make them all dizzy.

  6. @ Bear Klein:

    It is a gift from Heaven that and Israel -Arab problem can be handed over to Arabs to deal with…And they know how to deal with them, quick and lethal. That is, if YESHA Arabs move to Jordan to cause trouble. If they don’\t want to move , they can be legitimately forced to because they will be repatriated to their own country from when ce they originally came just a few miles awat and a couple of generations ago to get the UNWEA goodies. At the same time, perhaps UNWRA itself may be, as a result of the goings on, become defunct within a foreseeable time. , and NO international body could object to this, although of course, they will attempt to. Nothing will be clean-cut, but it can and should work with the will to do so, and a lot of sweat. It’s well worth it to Israel to pour in money to aid this wonderful prospect…..properly vetted and examined of course. .

    As for the Israel Arabs, some, maybe even many, would be happy to throw off the veil of sullen subservience that many of them must feel. As a group regardless of polls, they are not pro Israel and are becoming increasingly radicalised, giving tacit aid and succour to the terrorists.. Arabs always lie anyway, we must begin with that as a basic fact, so when they say they support Israel I say ….hmmmm???

  7. Could not expect Smotrich to be so naive. Only forcible population transfer will work. It worked with India and Pakistan, etc. The thing is who will take Palestinians. Jordan won’t.

  8. I think that Smotrich is trying to broaden the base of support for his plan by kissing up to the people who worry about the “poor” Palestinians. First get the plan acepted by Knesset, then in implementing it, the true colors will be seen.

  9. @ Bear Klein:
    I have invited Feiglin to talk at the conference on the subject “If Mudar comes to power, Israel should…”. The Feiglin/Smotrich Plan can and will be implemented in our favour sooner with Mudar in power.

  10. @ Ted Belman:
    Ted I am not against Mudar running a democratic Jordan and having a Pal State East of the Jordan that is truly friendly to Israel in all aspects of co-existence.
    So I hope that succeeds as Trump would say BiGTime.

    However, Israel needs to make Israeli plans that are within the control of Israel to deal with asserting our rights in Judea/Samaria, and all of Jerusalem and deal with current and future security needs, whether or not the Jordanian option becomes a reality.

  11. @ Edgar G.:
    @ Edgar G.:

    You write:
    It seems to me- and I have noticed this before, that Sherman first takes the time to read all the readers’ posts about the subject on hand, and THEN writes his vastly enlarged essay on the same subject. In other words he takes about 20 times the space to say almost exactly what can be culled from the remarks already made by posters…He would indignantly deny plagiarism or anything like that, but readers of this article will see that some of the points he makes have already been made by others and some by the reader himself.

    I would be more than intrigued to learn what you are referring to

    Actually, I have been advocating incentivized emigration for almost a decade and a half

    See:
    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3022571,00.html

    Also see booklet I compiled in 2004

    In English
    http://www.jerusalemsummit.org/eng/brochure_hs_short_eng.pdf

    And Hebrew
    http://www.jerusalemsummit.org/eng/brochure_hs_short.pdf

    So one might wonder who is plagiarizing whom…

  12. You write:

    It seems to me- and I have noticed this before, that Sherman first takes the time to read all the readers’ posts about the subject on hand, and THEN writes his vastly enlarged essay on the same subject. In other words he takes about 20 times the space to say almost exactly what can be culled from the remarks already made by posters…He would indignantly deny plagiarism or anything like that, but readers of this article will see that some of the points he makes have already been made by others and some by the reader himself.

    I would be more than intrigued to learn what you are referring to

    Actually, I have been advocating incentivized emigration for almost a decade and a half

    See:
    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3022571,00.html

    Also see booklet I compiled in 2004

    In English
    http://www.jerusalemsummit.org/eng/brochure_hs_short_eng.pdf

    And Hebrew
    http://www.jerusalemsummit.org/eng/brochure_hs_short.pdf

    So one might wonder who is plagiarizing whom…

  13. The problem with Dr. Sherman’s plan, MK Smtrich’s plan and all similar “transfer” plans is that there is no possibility of its being implemented. The entire “international community” is adamant in opposing any “transfer” of Arabs out of Palestine. Almost all 190 UN members, including the five permanent members of the security council, are determined that the Palestinians should stay where they are and have their own state. Indeed, the “State of Palestine” has already been recognized as a “non-member state” by the United Nations, and has been permitted to sign many international traties and join many international organizations. As a result, any attempt by Israel t defy this collective international will would call down fierce wrath from the international community, including a total trade embargo, a complete arms embargo, and quite possibly military intervention against Israel by some or all of the great powers/ I therefore propose that the national camp drop this pointless transfer talk , at least for the time being, and concentrate on other projects that may be achievable in the forseeable future. I do think that a time will come when the international community will give the population transfer idea a fair hearing. But that time will be a long time coming, and in the meantime Israel, especially the “national camp” must concentrateon more doable projects.

  14. @ adamdalgliesh:
    When Israel declared a state many people told Ben Gurion not to declare a state because so many foreign countries were opposed. He did so anyway and obtained a vote of the Israeli pre State government to do so. He also has a famous quote it matters what the Jews do and not what the goyim say.

    Israel needs to work on its own paradigm which should get rid of the terrorists and supporters (one way or the other) also reduce the amount of Arabs who do not wish to be loyal to state of Israel. Yes implementation of such a plan may take a while but should be done when Israelis agree to implement it and not be subservient to foreign capitals.

  15. @ ms:

    Yes, you may have been advocating incentivized emigration for 15 years, I didn’t keep count, but the fact is that the concept of pushing out even by force, the Arabs from Palestine has been advocated since at least WW1. And over the years, there are many plans with often similar content.

    I did NOT accuse you of plagiarism; I said that you would deny it. I made no judgement on it, This particular problem has been examined, dissected, sewn together again in a variety of positions so much and so often, that one cannot help but mention something already previously talked about, but why so long and tedious.

    I am voicing my right to criticize. (maybe a little hyperbolic). Preaching to the converted means little, and comments that WE see come only from our readers. .

    On another item, but on the topic, does the plan call for population transfer in the sense that it would outrage the International Community. I don’t believe it does. An incentive to emigrate is not, in my opinion a prohibited population transfer. .

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