By MARTIN SHERMAN, JPOST
“The maximum any Israeli government can offer is less than the minimum any Palestinian leader can accept. The real gap between both sides is much greater than perceived, and that gap is growing” – Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, 2009
The land-for-peace idea has now collapsed. We have to find another way, and a new concept is urgently needed – Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, former head of the National Security Council, 2007
“It is time to have a clear-headed, hard look at reality: The two state solution is dead. Where do we go from here?” – Prof. Carlo Strenger, columnist for Haaretz, 2011
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Even if one strongly disagrees with his ideological predilections, Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin was nonetheless correct in assessing the magnitude and urgency of the emerging danger when he recently stated, “We have a very short period of time remaining before we come to the conclusion that there is no longer any resolution to this conflict that enables us to have a Jewish nationstate in the Land of Israel. If this happens, it will be the end of the Zionist dream that so many have worked so hard for so long to create and sustain.”
The Jewish people is rapidly approaching a crucial juncture. It will soon have to decide whether or not it is willing to maintain its nation-state; whether it is willing to forgo over a century of unparalleled sacrifice, effort and achievement to satisfy the cynical and hypocritical dictates of political correctness; whether it is prepared to surrender substance for form; to forsake real national freedoms for the artificial facade of feigned individual equality.
As the infeasibility of the two-state paradigm becomes increasingly apparent, even to the staunchest of its erstwhile supporters, the need to formulate a cogent alternative that will preserve the Jewish nation-state is becoming increasingly pressing.
It is not only the disillusioned among the Israeli Left who are expressing ever-more despair at the prospect of implementing the two-state solution. It is increasingly being dismissed as a realistic – or even desirable – aspiration by Palestinians, and not only radical Islamists who reject it because it entails recognizing a Jewish state. Thus for example, in his recent book, What is a Palestinian State Worth?, even Sari Nusseibeh, a show-case “moderate,” expresses “heretical” doubts as to whether the struggle for statehood merits the effort.
This should be seen against the shift in the general Palestinian attitude toward the two-state principle, reflected in a strangely under-reported and grossly misreported poll conducted recently for The Israel Project by Stanley Greenberg together with Palestinian Center for Public Opinion.
According to the poll, there was a “huge drop in acceptance of a two-state solution.” Fifty-two percent said they would not accept such a solution – up from 36% less than a year previously – while two-thirds rejected the principle that one of the states should be a Jewish homeland.
A similar proportion said, “The real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state,” and 84% said that “Over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.”
Only the grossly undiscerning will fail to notice the tangible change in official Palestinian negotiating strategy in recent years. The pursuit of a two-state solution has become a leisurely distraction rather than a seriously sought after end-of-conflict arrangement. Far-reaching concessions – difficult for Israel to accept even as part of a final agreement – are being presented as conditions for merely resuming negotiations, delaying them for extended periods – hardly a rational tactic for a people eager to extricate themselves from onerous “occupation.”
Facing the inevitable
In view of accumulating evidence, it would be imprudent for Israel to continue deluding itself that Palestinians entertain any serious intentions as to the two-state solution – other than in the two-stage sense. Indeed, the accelerating erosion of support for the idea makes the formulation of operational alternatives a pressing imperative.
The alternatives that have been discussed most often fall into two categories. Those which entail:
(a) conferring Israel citizenship on the Palestinians – i.e. various versions of the one-state approach; and
(b) transferring civilian rule over the Palestinians to some non-Palestinian Authority Arab administration – such as Jordan or prominent local clan-leaders traditionally well-disposed to Israel, who would preside over scattered enclaves.
For a variety of reasons, neither of these offers a stable long-term formula. As a detailed critique of these alternatives is beyond the scope of this article, I will restrict myself to the following observations.
Regarding the first category, the inclusion of the Palestinian Arab population across the 1967 Green Line into Israel as fully fledged citizens would create an unbearable socioeconomic burden on the country that would not only jeopardize its character as a Jewish state but as an advanced Western democracy as well – a problem many EU countries are beginning to experience, even with proportionately far smaller “discordant” populations.
It is a measure that would create difficulties far more complex and profound than could be dealt with – as some naively hope – by adopting a regional electoral system and gerrymandering the boundaries of the constituencies to minimize the impact of non- Jewish voters. Quite apart from the legal challenges – before an inherently amenable Supreme Court – as to the equity of such an arrangement, and possible mass relocation of voters to other constituencies, the cultural and economic disparities would tear society apart.
Regarding the second category, it is wishful thinking – especially in the wake of the Arab Spring – to hope that any “traditional” regime would consent to be seen as “pulling the Zionists’ chestnuts out of the fire.”
It is more than doubtful that any Arab ruler – whether a clan leader or the Jordanian monarch – would be willing, or indeed able, to function for any length of time as what would certainly be perceived as a perfidious “prison warder.”
Moreover, in light of the instability in the region, it would irresponsible to adopt a long-term policy based on the assumption that the regime in Amman would not be replaced or at least dominated by elements inimical to any cooperation with Israel.
In both cases, the consequences of these alternatives are liable to be worse than those they are designed to avoid.
The humanitarian paradigm
These factors – the eroding relevance of the two-state paradigm, the ominous emergence of the one-state paradigm and the inadequacy of proffered alternatives – led to the proposal in my two preceding columns of the humanitarian paradigm, which addressed the fate of the Palestinian Arabs in a comprehensive, non-coercive manner. Operationally it comprised three constituent elements.
• Ending discriminatory treatment of the Palestinian refugees by abolishing/transforming UNRWA.
• Ending discrimination against Palestinians in the Arab world and the prohibition on their acquiring citizenship of countries in which they have been resident for decades.
• Providing generous relocation finance directly to individual Palestinian breadwinners to allow them to build better futures for themselves in third countries of their choice.
Unsurprisingly, numerous reservations were raised as to the feasibility of the proposal. These will now be addressed – at least in part.
The feasibility factor – I
The proponents of the Oslowian two-state principle are the last who can invoke feasibility as a precondition for the admissibility of an operational proposal –at least as an item on the agenda of public debate.
After all, this is a formula that has been tried for almost two decades, and despite massive international endorsement and financial support, has wrought nothing but death, destruction and despair. Surely a proposal that has proved so disastrous should by any rational yardstick be branded unworkable and hence unfeasible.
And if the demonstrable infeasibility/ futility/failure of the two-state paradigm has not disqualified it as meriting serious consideration, why should a conceptually consistent, untried humanitarian paradigm not be accorded the same opportunity – at least as a legitimate topic for debate.
The feasibility factor – II
Inevitably, any radical departure from long-established conventional wisdom will be met with stiff resistance. However, the existing configuration of public opinion should not be considered immutable.
Indeed, imagine how hopeless the notion of a Palestinian state was in the late 1960s in the wake of Israel’s sweeping Six Day War victory. Even in the late 1980s the idea was dismissed as unrealistic, unreasonable radicalism by all but a minuscule albeit determined minority on the far Left.
However, it was a minority that managed to enlist the resolve, resources and resourcefulness to transform the marginal into mainstream in remarkably short order.
Given the paltry funding and the puny efforts that have characterized Israel’s public diplomacy in the past two decades, the current public perception can hardly be taken as persuasive gauge of what might be achieved with adequate financing and appropriate focus. Today the entire public diplomacy budget is reportedly of the order of magnitude of what a medium-to-large Israeli corporation spends on promoting fast-food or snacks. If one does not invest in winning hearts and minds, it is no wonder that they are not won.
The feasibility factor – III
According to the IMF, Israel’s GDP is approaching a quarter trillion dollars. If it were to allot less than one half of 1% of GDP to public diplomacy, that would be over $1 billion – enough to swamp anything the George Soroses of the world devote to Israel’s delegitimization.
Given the nation’s achievements in nearly every other field of human endeavor, one can only surmise what impact a determined assault on the authenticity and legitimacy of the Palestinian narrative, financed by an annual $1b. budget over two decades – the length of the post- Oslowian era – might have on the acceptability of a humanitarian rehabilitation of Palestinian Arabs, cruelly misled by their leaders for decades.
Indeed, important elements of the humanitarian paradigm are already gaining international legitimacy. The anomalous and detrimental role of UNRWA – a pivotal element in the proposal – has been recognized by countries such as Canada and the Netherlands which have either curtailed their funding to the organization or are considering doing so. It is distinctly plausible that the US could be convinced – especially in these days of austerity – to terminate its funding for this wasteful and counter-productive body which perpetuates the Palestinians’ dependency and statelessness.
Likewise, the brutal discrimination against Palestinians in Arab states, allegedly to “help preserve their identity,” is also the subject of increasing international attention and censure. Pressure should – and could – be brought to bear on Arab regimes to end this unacceptable practice, even if it means temporarily channeling budgets formerly allotted to UNRWA to facilitate their integration as citizens of the countries of their longstanding residence.
These elements cannot be detached from the overall thrust of the humanitarian paradigm, which is to focus on ameliorating the situation of the individual Palestinian rather than promoting the nefarious goals of an invented national entity.
The estimated cost of implementation is strongly dependent on the level of compensation and the size of the Palestinian population in the “territories,” which is the subject of intense debate.
A few years ago, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted a survey on the level of compensation Palestinian refugees considered fair to forgo the “right of return.” If we take more than double the minimum amount specified by most pollees as fair compensation for relocation/rehabilitation, and if we adopt a high-end estimate of the Palestinian population, the total cost would be around $150b. for the West Bank Palestinians (and $250b. if Gaza is included). This is a fraction of the US expenditure on its decade-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have produced results that are less than a resounding success.
Spread over a period equivalent to the current post-Oslo era, this sum would comprise a yearly outlay of no more than a few percentage points of current GDP – something Israel could well afford on its own.
If additional OECD countries were to contribute, the total relocation/rehabilitation of the Palestinian Arabs could be achieved with an almost imperceptible economic burden.
From Hamlet to Herzl
I began this column on the humanitarian paradigm with a short excerpt from Hamlet – to convey why it is needed.
It is perhaps appropriate that I end it with one from Herzl – to convey why it is feasible: If you will it, it is no fantasy.