My JNF address (Part II): The ‘peace process’ – failure foretold

By Martin Sherman, JPOST

As I mentioned in my previous column, following my participation in The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York last month, I received an invitation from Russell Robinson, the CEO of the Jewish National Fund, to make a telephonic address to major donors across the United States, assessing the status of the “peace process.”

My column last week was devoted to the first part of that address, delivered on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day. In this week’s column, I share with Jerusalem Post’s readers the remaining topics I raised – with some minor modifications and editorial “tweaks” – which as before, have been made to accommodate the transition from oral to written form.

To recap briefly

As readers will recall, in Part I of my address, aided by a citation from Shakespeare’s Richard II, I argued that the entire peace process, from its inception, was founded on the self-delusion of its architects, and their denial of the harsh realities of the region.

I pointed out that there is a growing awareness of the futility of endeavors to reach a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. This has resulted in an alarming erosion, over recent decades, of Israeli positions, which I illustrated by excerpts from public proclamations of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. The spreading sense of futility has led to increasingly desperate proposals for dealing with the situation – some of which I shall elaborate on this week.

I argued that for Israel to survive over time as the nation-state of the Jewish people, it needs to address a twin imperative: geographic and demographic, and that the two-state paradigm does not contend adequately with the geographic imperative while the one-state paradigm does not contend adequately with the demographic imperative.

I concluded by elaborating on why the withdrawals necessary for the implementation of the two-state paradigm would leave Israel’s principle population centers and strategic installations hopelessly exposed to attack. All these would be in range of weapons being used today from territory relinquished by Israel, creating a situation in which it would be impossible to preserve the nation’s socioeconomic routine that could be disrupted at will by regular forces or irregular renegades, deployed in the areas transferred to Palestinian control. Today, this nightmare scenario can no longer be dismissed as “right-wing scaremongering,” as it is no more than a plausible extrapolation of the precedents.

Now I turn to the remaining issues I raised in my address.

Arab Spring as threat multiplier 

The dangers entailed in the creation of a Palestinian state are greatly magnified by the ongoing events in Israel’s immediate geo-political environment. Once the “lid” of dictatorship was removed, all the horrific realities that permeate – some would say, characterize – the societies in the Arab world, were graphically exposed.

Clearly then, if a Palestinian state were created, the full weight of the horrors of the Arab world would almost certainly come pressing down on Israel, from indefensible borders, infinitesimal distances from major population centers – raising the already unacceptable risks involved in such a measure to even more intolerable levels.

As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted in last week’s Remembrance Day speech, referring to Syria: “A few kilometers north of Jerusalem a massacre is occurring that has killed tens of thousands who do not have the power to defend themselves. Who would doubt that that would be our fate…”

The two-state concept would advance all that barbaric turmoil from outside the “garden fence” onto the “front porch” – if not the “living room.”

The land-for-peace formula has failed every time it has been applied in an attempt to appease tyranny. One can only shudder to think of the consequences, had it been applied to the Golan and that vital territory had been ceded to the brutal Assad regime, which many of the land-for- peace adherents saw as a “credible peace partner”… 

The irrelevance of assumed Palestinian ‘sincerity’ 

The turmoil across the Arab world demonstrates, vividly, how irrelevant the alleged sincerity of any Palestinian “peace partner” is. For whatever deal is struck with him, its durability cannot be assured.

Even in the unlikely event of some Palestinian with the requisite authority and sincerity to conclude a binding deal with Israel did emerge, he clearly could be removed from power – by ballot or bullet – as the Gaza precedent clearly demonstrates. All the perilous concessions made to him, on the assumption of his sincerity, would then accrue to a far more inimical successor, whose political credo is based on reneging on commitments made to the “heinous Zionist entity.”

The fickleness of Palestinian commitment to “peaceful coexistence” was dramatically underscored recently by the rapprochement between the allegedly “moderate” Fatah, and the admittedly “extremist” Hamas. Perhaps the best way to convey the chilling effect this development is likely to have on any “peace process” can be gauged by the usually antagonistic BBC’s report, quoting the usually biased US State Department’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki, as saying “Washington was ‘disappointed’ by the announcement.” Psaki warned it could seriously complicate peace efforts, adding: “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.”

Now imagine that Israel had made far-reaching and risk-fraught concessions prior to the rapprochement… 

One-state canard 

The increasingly acknowledged futility of the two-state paradigm has prompted a growing number of alternative proposals for a one-state approach. In essence, the various versions of this idea suggest that, to avoid the dangers inherent in a critically dangerous withdrawal entailed in the two-state paradigm, Israel should annex territories across the Green Line and offer their Arab inhabitants permanent residency and/or the possibility of acquiring Israeli citizenship.

Such one-state proposals, once exclusively the province of the radical anti-Zionist Left, are being embraced by individuals identified with the “hard” Zionist Right.

Typically, their prescriptions are based on optimistic demographic statistics, according to which even after such an annexation Israel will maintain a clear Jewish majority.

The increasing currency of these proposed policy paradigms should be a cause of grave concern.

Even if the demographic prognoses prove accurate, such policies will critically undermine the ability of Israel to maintain its Jewish character and identity as the nation-state of the Jewish people. For the question goes well beyond the simple – indeed, simplistic – arithmetic of electoral calculations. It impinges on far deeper issues of the socioeconomic fabric of the country that would prevail in the wake of their implementation.

Precursor to Muslim tyranny 

It would be hopelessly naïve to believe that with a Muslim minority of between 35 percent and 40%, especially one which to a large degree has been nurtured on implacable rejection of Jewish national sovereignty, that Israel could maintain Judeo-centric dominance in its conduct of public life.

Consider the following: The blue and white Star of David on the national flag; the menorah as the state emblem; the national anthem referring to a Jewish soul yearning for Zion; the calendar, celebrating/commemorating Jewish holidays and events relating to Zionist heritage; Hebrew as the dominant lingua in commerce, law and academia; the designation of Saturday as the day of rest, Judeo-centric legislation, such as Law of Return… All of these are essential elements that make up the fabric of life in a Jewish state.

In the absence of discriminatory repression, how would it be possible to persist in their use if up to 40% of the population is not only unable to identify with them, but harbors fierce hostility toward them? As I have argued in detail elsewhere, if implemented the one-state approach will almost inevitably result in the “Lebanonizaton” of Israel and precipitate the kind of ethnic strife that has become the societal hallmark of its troubled northern neighbor.

The consequences are not hard to foresee.

On the Arab side, because of the initial promise of enhanced economic conditions, emigration will fall and immigration will rise. On the Jewish side, because of the specter of societal degradation, immigration will plunge and emigration will soar – destroying the neat demographic equation previously invoked – and the advance toward a Muslim-majority tyranny will have begun.

Mirror images of despair 

The proposals for annexation-cum-enfranchisement from the so-called “Right” – whose notable advocates include my esteemed colleague, Jerusalem Post contributing editor Caroline Glick, and Netanyahu’s former bureau chief, Uri Elitzur – are the mirror image of the equally misguided proposals for unilateral withdrawal. The latter, which call for evacuation of large swathes of Judea-Samaria, irrespective of any agreement with the Palestinians, are endorsed by influential figures such as former head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin and former ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

Both these approaches are reflections of despair and of abandoning the quest for a formula capable of addressing both components of Israel’s imperative – geographic and demographic. The former focuses exclusively on geographic considerations, while sacrificing the demographic ones; the latter exclusively on demographic consideration while disregarding geographic ones.

The one will make Israel untenable demographically, the other, untenable geographically. Both spell doom for the Zionist dream of a sovereign state for the People of Israel in the Land of Israel.

To prevent the advent of such an appalling outcome, Israel and its supporters must seek an approach that addresses both imperatives. (It is the keen awareness of this existential requirement for national survival that has prompted me to vigorously promote my “Humanitarian Paradigm,” which, to the best of my belief, is the only noncoercive approach to achieve this vital goal – M.S.) 

What Netanyahu is liable to do 

Despite the glaring defects and grave dangers entailed in it, there are disturbing indications that Netanyahu is becoming increasingly susceptible to the idea of unilateral withdrawal from large portions of Judea-Samaria, irrespective of the outcome of any negotiations with the Palestinians.

There is a growing sense that he is finding it difficult to justify the continued existence – never mind expansion – of the settlement project across the Green Line, and that he is coming to the (erroneous) conclusion that much of it will have to be sacrificed.

In this regard, the position of the Israeli “Right” is based on two assumptions which are entirely correct – and equally irrelevant.

The first is that no agreement will be achieved with the Palestinians – which is probably true. The second is there are simply too many Jewish residents/communities across the Green line for coercive evacuation to be feasible – politically or practically. This, too, in all likelihood, is correct. However, neither of these assumptions, even if proven to be accurate, will prevent large-scale withdrawal from Judea-Samaria.

The scenario that the Israeli Right must gear for is the following: In the wake of intensified brandishing of the specter of economic sanctions and a vicious campaign of delegitimization of Jewish inhabitants across the pre-1967 lines, the IDF is likely to be given an order to withdraw to a line roughly coinciding with the security barrier. Jews, living within the areas designated for evacuation, will be given a grim option: Either accept modest compensation for relocation somewhere within pre-1967 Israel, or remain in place to live under whichever regime will take over in the wake of withdrawal.

Accordingly, there is likely be to no mass evacuation – only mass abandonment.

What Netanyahu ought to do 

Netanyahu would do well to refer back to a book he himself wrote, A Place Among the Nations, where he distinguishes two kinds of peace: “Peace of Deterrence” and “Peace of Mutual Harmony” – the salient point being the need to determine under which circumstance which kind of peace is feasible.

A durable “Peace of Mutual Harmony” prevails almost exclusively between open and democratic societies. A “Peace of deterrence,” i.e., the avoidance of violence by dissuading potential aggressors through the perceived cost of attack, is the most appropriate for conditions that prevail in the Mideast, where tyranny is the rule, rather than the exception.

The perilous concessions entailed in the “peace process” and the establishment of a Palestinian state will expose Israel to unsustainable vulnerability, once characterized by Shimon Peres as “comprising almost compulsive temptation to attack Israel from all sides.”

Such vulnerability will make attacking Israel a more inviting prospect, thus raising, rather than reducing, the potential for violence. Indeed, whenever the land-for-peace formula has been implemented, it has amplified, not attenuated, threats to Israel’s security.

What Netanyahu ought to do, then, is reinstate his previous incisive insights into the nature of the peace that is feasible given the realities of the Mideast. Rather than strive for an unobtainable “Peace of Mutual Harmony,” he ought to promote (as he once did) a “Peace of Deterrence,” a peace that hazardous withdrawals required by the “peace process” would gravely undermine.

Sound political science, not right-wing extremism 

As promised I will end this week’s column with the same words with which I ended last week: In the final analysis, between the River and the Sea there will exist either exclusive Jewish sovereignty or exclusive Arab sovereignty. The side that will prevail is the side whose national will is the stronger, and whose political vision is the sharper.

This is not right-wing extremism or religious fanaticism.

It is merely sound political science.

To disregard or deny this is not to be enlightened, merely evasive.

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

May 16, 2014 | 1 Comment »

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