By MARTIN SHERMAN
Preamble: The somewhat misleading headline
This week (May 17-23) provided a particularly rich array of fresh newsworthy topics on which to focus: The opening of PM Netanyahu’s unashamedly choreographed trial, the disruptive cyber-attack on the southern Iranian port, Shahid Rajaee, widely attributed to Israel; the formation of the outsized and grotesquely hybridized government that the Israeli electorate imposed upon itself, to name but a few.
However, as compelling as these and other matters might be, I had decided instead to set them aside and focus instead on two issues, with which I have dealt in some detail in the past. I did so because I believe they entail, perhaps, the farthest-reaching potential impact on the country in the long-run—the one in terms of its security, and the other, in terms of the resilience of its domestic fabric.
The former is the continuing burst of fragments of shrapnel still flying around the Israel-related political arena in the wake of the uproar that exploded with Daniel Pipe’s May 7th New York Times opinion piece opposing Israeli annexation of any territory in Judea-Samaria.
The latter was the profoundly perturbing conviction in the 2015 Duma arson case, which at least from a layman’s perspective, appears to fly in the face of all eye-witness accounts and the undeniable existence of reasonable doubt. Sadly however, once I began writing, I realized that I cannot do justice to both in a single Op-Ed—even a rather lengthy one. Accordingly, I will restrict this week’s discussion to the former and—subject to breaking news—leave for next week the analysis of the latter case, in which Israel’s legal establishment has once again shown that there is nothing so destructive to its own credibility than it itself.
But as I did not want to totally disregard the Duma episode, Ileft the headline in its original “double-barreled” twofer form—hence the reference to “somewhat misleading”.
(a) The imperative to annex—immediately.
American Jews have an obligation to speak out against imposing a solution on the Palestinians as a matter not only of intellectual consistency, but also because to do so protects Israel’s long-term interests as well. A unilateral West Bank land grab would imperil Israel – Alan P. Solow, Former Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in A unilateral West Bank land grab would imperil Israel, The Times of Israel, May 19, 2020.
Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation and stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace –Democratic Party’s presumptive 2020 candidate for US President, former Vice President, Senator Joe Biden, Biden says he opposes Israel annexing territory, The Hill, May19, 2020.
And what does annexation actually achieve? It is a symbolic move, a gesture…a self-indulgence that buoys the anti-Zionist cause and renders a resolution of the conflict more distant.”— Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum, and initiator of the Israel Victory Project, in “I believe in compromise… ”, The Times of Israel, May 12, 2020, (Telephonic interview). Also see here
I have no qualms in broaching this subject again, despite having just completed writing an extensive analysis of it barely a week ago. For, as the foregoing excerpts indicate, it has continued to simmer and bubble well after the publication of the original “offending” article, even making headlines late this week.
Entrapped in an Oslowian time-warp?
Thus, Alan Solow (see above) produced an article, written as if he was entrapped in an anachronistic Oslowian time-warp, where optimistic naivete still dominates the discourse and Palestinian-Arabs were still mistakenly viewed as prospective peace partners rather than implacable enemies.
As if oblivious to three decades of post-Oslowian Judeocidal rejectionism by the Palestinian-Arabs—despite gut-wrenching Israeli concessions—he pontificates: “No solution should be imposed on anyone or by anyone in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. [T]his sentiment has stood for decades as the one universally accepted principle undergirding the quest for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – that it must be reached through bilateral negotiations between the parties.”
Of course, while he may well be right that, overall, this was for decades, “the one universally accepted principle undergirding the quest for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, it was also one that proved universally false—one, whose attempted application brought only trauma and tragedy; death and destruction, not just to thousands of Israeli Jews, but to countless more Palestinian-Arabs.
So, persisting with this fatally flawed and failed formula is Solow’s panacea-like prescription? Really??
With almost breathtaking impudence (or perhaps, ignorance) Solow cautions menacingly: “Standing by while Israel uses its military and political power to declare ownership over whatever it wants is a dangerous precedent”. Indeed, it would be intriguing to know what parallel universe Solow inhabits.
You can’t make this stuff up
After all, you really couldn’t make this stuff up!
“Israel using its military and political power for taking over what it wants??
Yeah, right! Like when it withdrew from all of Sinai, which it took over in a preemptive strike to foil a genocidal Egyptian onslaught? Or, when it unilaterally evacuated Gaza, only to see it metamorphize into a bastion of Islamist terror, with martial prowess unimaginable prior to evacuation? Or, when it “use[d]its military and political power” to ignominiously abandon South Lebanon to Hezbollah, allowing a terrorist nuisance to burgeon into a grave strategic threat to virtually every major Israeli population center? Or, by allowing armed militias to deploy within mortar range of the nation’s parliament?
This from the former Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who with almost child-like naivety asks: “…what if the Palestinians and their allies gain the upper hand and are in a position to undertake their own annexation of Israeli territory?” I kid you not! You have to read to believe!
Could it be that Solow has missed the news for the last decade or so—regarding the events in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Cairo’s Tahrir Square? If not, he would surely know that “if the Palestinians and their allies gain the upper hand”, annexation would probably not be the first thing on Israelis’ minds. For them, figuring out how to prevent their heads being severed from their shoulders might be a matter of more immediate concern.
Biden butts in
The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President, Senator Joe Biden, has also recently offered his opposition to annexation, stating in a recent interview: “I do not support annexation”. He added: “The fact is, I will reverse Trump’s undercutting of peace,” referring the Trump Peace to Prosperity plan, which earmarks certain tracts of territory in Judea-Samaria for annexation by Israel—irrespective of Palestinian-Arab consent.
Biden, whose continued viability as a political player is due perhaps only to the appalling lethargy and impotence of the Republicans, warned: “Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation and stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace.”
It is, of course, difficult to know whether to scoff or to scowl at a statement so wildly detached from reality as this.
After all, “threats” of annexation have only been politically pertinent in the last year. Prior to that, the absence of such threats was spectacularly ineffective in breathing life into “any hope of peace”.
In Gaza, the reverse is true. Not only did Israel not annex the Strip, but it evacuated it. Not only did it not persist in “settlement activity”, but it laid waste to every remnant of Jewish presence—without that providing any artificial respiration for “any hope of peace”.
So surely the key to understanding what is “choking the hope for peace” must be sought elsewhere.
Breaking the enemies’ will …by complying with it?
Lamentably, it is difficult not to discern strands of thought reminiscent of this perspective in Pipes’s NYT article, as well as in his replies to the criticism it ignited—strands that run curiously counter to the prima facie rationale of the Israel Victory Project.
Thus, in his May 10 rejoinder, he writes: “Israel must assert itself against the Palestinians; but any moves must align with the larger campaign to compel Palestinians to give up their goal of eliminating the Jewish state.” To do this, he urges Israel to: “consider…what steps will most advance the goal of breaking the Palestinian will to eliminate Israel” But then, he incongruously suggests: “Annexing the West Bank… has the opposite result,” warning that: “It buoys the anti-Zionist cause and hinders a resolution of the conflict.”
Of course, common sense militates towards precisely the converse conclusion.
After all, annexation is something the Palestinian-Arabs oppose. So, if they and their allies can impose their will on Israel by compelling it to eschew annexation (a move widely supported in Israeli society), that hardly appears compatible with the spirit, which Pipes espouses. After all, it is not at all clear how one might break one’s antagonists’ will by complying with their will!!
Indeed, annexation (or “extension of sovereignty”, as semantic purists prefer) would, for all intents and purposes, make a tenable self-governing Palestinian-Arab entity (aka a Palestinian State) unattainable. It is difficult to conceive of any other measure that could do more than to bring home to the Palestinians that their hostile endeavor is futile.
Feigning defeat for fruits of victory
In his May 12 Times of Israel interview, Pipes proclaims: “I believe in compromise. But I also believe in convincing the Palestinians they’ve lost. I want to go for the jugular. I want to go for the kill.” This, of course, is a staggeringly self-contradictory expression of intent. After all, one can only puzzle over how one is to bring one’s adversaries to their knees by offering him a compromise acceptable them. But even assuming that such an arrangement is possible, there is another pitfall regarding the offer of compromise within the intellectual context that Pipes proposes.
After all, nothing is more liable to make feigning defeat to attain the fruits of victory as tantalizingly tempting than signaling the willingness for compromise.
After all, what is to prevent a duplicitous foe from faking surrender, accepting the rewards of the proffered compromise and then resuming hostilities, from greatly improved positions?
But, even assuming that Pipes believes that defeat will somehow bring about a yet-to-be specified compromise that the Palestinian-Arabs are willing to accept, and that Israel is willing to permit, how is this to be achieved? For despite his warning that annexation would “inflame the Palestinians”, he has in the past suggested the use of what are, arguably, far harsher, and no less internationally unacceptable measures, including a prescription to “ dismantle the PA’s security infrastructure…reduce and then shut off the water and electricity that Israel supplies.”
Clearly, if this is the stuff he is prepared to inflict on the Palestinians, it is difficult not to feel that his concern regarding international ire over annexation is strangely misplaced.
Inappropriate historical analogies
Indeed, in the past, Pipes wrote:“If [the] Germans and Japanese, no less fanatical and far more powerful, could be defeated in World War II and then turned into normal citizens, why not the Palestinians now?”
While this is factually true, these analogies are unlikely to be instructive for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, at least as far as post-victory policy design is concerned.
After all, it should be recalled that in these cases, the vanquished powers were not surrounded by, or adjacent to, countries with large populations of ethnic kin, or co-religionists, who could sustain resistance and incite unrest within their borders.
Thus, Germany was not surrounded by a swathe of Teutonic nations, nor Japan by a swathe of Nipponese nations, which could provide a constant stream of insurgents and armaments to undermine any arrangement or undercut any resolution the victorious powers wished to implement.
This, however, would definitely be the case in the Israeli/Palestinian situation, as was the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, where neighboring Islamic states constituted a virtually unending source of instability and incitement after initial victory.
Clearly, this is an element that has dramatic implications for post-victory policy—especially with regard to the prospect of relinquishing Israeli control over any territory to Palestinian rule—even after a crushing defeat has been inflicted. This is particularly true given the critical strategic importance of the territory, ear-marked for Palestinian self-rule in virtually any future configuration.
Bitter crucible of defeat?
Just over two years ago, Pipes asserted: “Palestinians will have to pass through the bitter crucible of defeat, with all its deprivation, destruction, and despair as they repudiate the filthy legacy of Amin al-Husseini and acknowledge their century-long error…there is no shortcut.”
While I might agree with that, it is difficult to conceive of what Pipes has in his mind’s eye as comprising that “[b]itter crucible of defeat–with all its deprivation, destruction, and despair”.
Indeed, reverting to his Japanese/German analogy, is he condoning future carpet bombing of Gaza or Ramallah as in Berlin and Dresden? Is he open to submitting Palestinian-Arab population centers to what the Allies subjected Japanese population centers? If not, what is the point of referring to them. If he is, does he feel that world opinion would be more open to this scope of causalities than to annexation?
Would this displease the US administration less, infuriate the Democrats and the Europeans less, alienate Arab leaders less, inflame the Palestinians less, radicalize the Israeli left less, than annexation?
Of course, one, hardly expects that Pipes would endorse such horrendous carnage, as his preferred policy prescription. But this obviously raises the inexorable question of how to inflict the “bitter crucible of defeat” and what form it might plausibly take.
As a somber reminder—and a very rough yardstick—in the 1948 War of Independence, Israel suffered over 6,000 fatalities and 15,000 wounded— around 1% and 2.5% respectively of the then-total Jewish population— without bringing about any thoughts of unconditional surrender.
Assuming that Israelis, then, were not less sensitive to loss of human lives than are the Palestinian-Arabs today, could Israel cause a commensurate number of Palestinian-Arab casualties—between 30,000-40,000 fatalities and over 100,000 wounded, depending on which demographic estimate one accepts—without incurring international censure and sanctions? Could Israel inflict such death and devastation without precipitating massive popular clamor for international—even military—intervention, across the Arab world and in other Islamic countries such as Turkey, Pakistan and Iran?
And if not, what kind of mythical and miraculous metamorphosis does Pipes (or Solow or Biden) envisage that will somehow convert Palestinian-Arabs—many, if not most, of whom been subjected to decades of Judeophobic indoctrination and Judeocidal incitement—into docile, peace-loving versions of their former selves?
Interestingly Pipes—perhaps inadvertently—hints at an approach by which to address this thorny conundrum—via the demographic perspective.
Diagnosing demographic danger
In his Times of Israel interview, Pipes expresses justified concern over Israel having to grant citizenship to thousands of Palestinian-Arabss living in the areas slated for annexation. “This is essentially a population that does not want to be part of the Jewish state.”
In his reply to his critics, he writes (correctly, in my view): “Annexation would likely make more Palestinians eligible to become citizens of Israel. That would be a profound mistake, since its Arab citizens constitute what I believe is the ultimate enemy of Israel’s status as a Jewish state.”
Some two decades ago, Pipes wrote, with incisive insight: “Israel is apparently faced with just two stark and awful alternatives-annexing the West Bank and Gaza or handing them over to the PLO. And each of these is worse than it first appears, for annexation leads either to a demographic crisis in Israel or forceful transfer of population; and empowering the PLO means enthroning a widely hostile state hard on Israel’s borders. The first spells disaster for Israel’s internal life; the second poses a wholly new external threat. Understandably, the majority of Israelis deem both these routes unacceptable”
This was true then –and it is true today.
- “One-State” type of solutions will inevitably result in the Lebanonization of Israeli society ?and—eventually—the Islamization of the country.
- “Two-State” type of solutions will inevitably generate a mega-Gaza on the fringes Tel Aviv, overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport and abutting the Trans-Israel highway.
- The various versions of “hybrid” solutions, involving partial annexation, will result unavoidably in a tortuously long and contorted frontier up to a 1000 km in length (possibly even more), which would be impossible to demarcate or secure, making any concept of sovereignty ?meaningless.
Clear conclusion & call for cooperation
The conclusion then is clear.
History has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the Palestinian-Arabs will not be swayed from their aggressive intent by any display of Israeli goodwill, generosity or concessions—however far-reaching.
If the calamitous casualties, necessary to convince the Palestinian-Arabs of final and durable defeat, are unacceptable and impracticable in the current international climate, the only “non-kinetic” policy paradigm that can effectively address Israel’s demographic and geographic imperatives, is a large-scale initiative for the incentivized emigration (evacuation-compensation) of the Palestinian-Arabs in Judea-Samaria (and eventually Gaza).
Here is not the place to discuss the political acceptability, the economic feasibility and the moral merits of the paradigm (which, however, can be shown to be distinctly more plausible than any competing alternative), but for Israel, it is essentially “Hobson’s Choice”—if it wishes to endure as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The proposed annexation measures are an essential first step—and necessary pre-condition—in this direction.
I therefore, renew my call to Pipes for cooperation between his organization and mine, and to invest his considerable acumen and energy into helping to take the notion of “Incentivized Arab Emigration” from the realm of theoretical discussion to that of practical policy.
Before it is too late!