The Ruinous Results of “Conflict Management”

“Conflict management has not countered successful Palestinian efforts…to change crucial strategic facts on the ground with deleterious long-term implications on Israel’s security”.

Israel’s present conflict management approach, which has succeeded in reducing Palestinian terrorism to manageable proportions, is an insufficient response to the dangers of Palestinian territorial expansionism…[M]anaging the conflict alone has also resulted in considerable costs not directly linked to acts of terrorism… Prof Hillel Frisch – of the newly established Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, October 31, 2017

For many the notion of “managing the conflict” has long been a seductive illusion and one I have warned repeatedly against submitting to – see for example: here;  here;  here; here & here.

Conflict management as (allegedly) the “least worst option”

Thus, in “Conflict management’: The collapse of a concept” I wrote: For several years now I have been warning against clear and present dangers inherent in conflict management—cautioning that it is little more than ‘kicking the can down the road’ into a even more risk-fraught future.  I expressed growing concern that by adopting a policy of avoiding confrontations, which Israel could win, the government  may well back the nation  into a confrontation so severe that it may not—or only do so at devastating cost.”

For several years, the staunchest support for the conflict management paradigm came from Bar Ilan Universty’s BESA Center for Strategic Studies. Indeed, just over a year ago, David Weinberg, the BESA director of public affairs published a synopsis of months of discussions that took place in the center’s seminar rooms and on its website regarding what Israel’s “West Bank” policy should be.

The essence of the consensus that emerged from these deliberations was succinctly conveyed in the sub-heading of Weinberg’s piece: “Conflict management is currently the least-worst option”. Weinberg sums up the rationale of the conflict management school of thought as: “It is wiser for Israel to defer action than to take steps that threaten to make a bad situation worse”.

Conflict management as kicking the can down the road

However, deferring action can, in itself, be a formula for making a bad situation worse—and indeed it has, on virtually every front.
Arguably, one of the most outspoken advocates for the idea of conflict management is Prof. Efraim Inbar, formerly BESA’s longstanding director, and currently the President of the newly established Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies (JISS).

According to Inbar: “Israel’s recent governments are left, willy-nilly, with a de facto conflict-management approach, without foreclosing any options.”

Although he conceded that: “there are costs to this wait-and- see approach”, he observed reassuringly “…this was the approach favored by David Ben-Gurion. He believed in buying time to build a stronger state and in hanging on until opponents yield their radical goals …” Elsewhere, in a 2014-paper, which he coauthored with another BESA scholar, Dr. Eitan Shamir, he set out the essence of this conflict management approach as it pertained to Hamas in Gaza: “…Israel is acting to severely punish Hamas for its aggressive behavior, and degrading its military capabilities…The use of force…is not intended to attain impossible political goals, but rather is a long-term strategy of attrition designed primarily to debilitate the enemy capabilities”.

Conflict management as a failed policy prescription

Clearly, this prescription has failed dismally both with regard to Gaza and the northern border. After all, neither Hamas nor Hezbollah, have had their capabilities “debilitated”, nor have they forgone their “radical goals”. Indeed, if anything, quite the opposite is true.

Now, a recently published paper, significantly from a declared supporter of the conflict management approach, Prof. Hillel Frisch, casts doubt on the efficacy of conflict management regarding the “West Bank” as well.

Frisch, formerly a senior BESA research associate, and now with the nascent JISS, claims that while “Israel’s present conflict management approach, has succeeded in reducing Palestinian terrorism to manageable proportions” he admits that it “is an insufficient response to the dangers of Palestinian territorial expansionism…”

He goes on to recount the dismaying significance of “Palestinian territorial expansion”.

While Israel has been busy “managing the conflict” and eschewing the attainment of “impossible political goals”, the Palestinians, with EU complicity, have been feverishly working to implant facts on the ground—by establishing sprawling Arab settlements both within the Jerusalem municipal borders (ostensibly under Israeli sovereignty) and within Area C (ostensibly under full Israeli civilian and military control).

Similar EU-supported illicit initiatives are ongoing along the Jerusalem-Jericho highway and in the southern Hebron Hills, on the approaches to the city of Beer Sheva.

Strategic impact of illicit Palestinian construction

According to Frisch, the Palestinian Authority (PA) “…(with the help of the European Union), has succeeded in housing 120,000 Palestinians in a space no larger than nine square kilometers [adjacent to Jerusalem]”.

Ominously, he points out: “This number is triple the number of inhabitants of Maaleh Adumim and the other Israeli localities in the area extending to Jericho…[W]hereas, it took Israel over thirty years to settle 40,000 inhabitants, the PA with European support, have managed to settle triple that number in the course of one decade alone”.

Frisch goes on to describe both the appalling conditions in these illicit, EU-abetted settlements and the strategic threat they comprise for Israel.   

In the “urban nightmare” that has sprung up in the environs of Jerusalem, access for emergency vehicles (such as fire-engines and ambulances) in case of disaster are impossible because of the congested, unplanned construction; while the burning of untreated garbage creates “devastating health effects on the inhabitants, and probably on the inhabitants of French Hill”, a nearby Jewish residential suburb of Jerusalem.

The unauthorized make-shift squatter sites along the Jerusalem-Jericho highway and in the Hebron Hills are bereft of sewage systems and organized garbage disposal”.

But beyond the inevitable human “time-bomb” these untenable conditions comprise, and to which the EU seems callously indifferent in its obsessive fervor to undermine Israeli authority, there are far-reaching and sinister strategic implications.

Strategic impact (cont.)

Thus, Frisch warns that the eastward expansion of ongoing Palestinian urban development adjacent to Jerusalem will soon render the settlement of E1 (the area that would create continuous Jewish settlement from Maaleh Adumim to Jerusalem) impossible. Likewise, the unlawful building thrust towards the east and the south will choke the development of Maaleh Adumim—not only threatening its continuity with Jerusalem, but leaving its over 35,000 Jewish residents stranded in an isolated enclave, surrounded by an inimical Arab population.

In the Hebron Hills, he alerts that, “Israel is caving in to EU-sponsored Palestinian building that is severing strategically placed settlements in the area from the Beersheba hinterland”, while the illegal encampments are encroaching dangerously close to the Jerusalem-Jericho-Jordan Valley highway, potentially threatening the security of any traffic moving along it.

Accordingly, there can be little doubt as to the validity—and gravity—of Frisch’s critical assessment of the “conflict management” endeavor, which he asserts “has not countered successful Palestinian efforts…to change crucial strategic facts on the ground with deleterious long-term implications on Israel’s security”.

However, as apt as his diagnosis of the failings of the conflict management paradigm is, his remedial prescription still falls regrettably short of being an adequate corrective.

“Strategic building”: A chimera and red herring combined

According to Frisch: “The answer to the PA’s expansive building in strategic areas, its onslaught on Israel abroad, the inflammatory and inciting messages in the media sites and school system [it]controls, clearly lies in the renewal of Israeli strategic building of settlements.”  However, he limits this call for “strategic building” to “building in E1, the greater Jerusalem area, in the settlement blocs and in other areas in area C”.

As a remedy to the revealed lack of effectiveness of the conflict management approach, this prescription is flawed on several levels—both in principle and in practice.

At root, the underlying problem in his proposal can be traced to Frisch’s enduring affinity for the seminal tenet of conflict resolution—despite his awareness of its inadequacy – i.e. the need to hold fast and contain the conflict until a sufficiently amenable and authoritative Palestinian-Arab interlocutor emerges with whom some acceptable and enduring peace accord can be concluded.  This is, of course, a misleading chimera and red herring rolled into one.

After all, there is not a shred of evidence that the Palestinian-Arabs will morph into anything that they have not been for over a hundred years, nor that they are likely to do so within any foreseeable time horizon. Indeed as time progresses, such an outcome seems increasingly remote.

Accordingly, any policy paradigm based on the assumption that, somehow, they can be coaxed or coerced into doing just that, is just as fanciful and fraught with perils as any that it was designed to replace.

 “Strategic building” on its own is a fast lane to disaster

For while the call to bolster Jewish presence in disputed areas (i.e. strategic building) is in itself commendable, on its own it is unlikely to be effectual—and indeed, it is merely likely to exacerbate tensions. For without rolling back—i.e. by removing or radically reducing—the illegal Arab presence in these areas, this is only likely to increase the friction—and hence strife—between Jew and Arab.

In this regard “strategic building”, without a range of complementary measures to reduce existing Arab presence, is likely to be a fast lane to disaster.

Moreover, increased Jewish settlement should not be portrayed, as it is by Frisch, as a punitive measure in response to Palestinian malfeasance. For if this is so, what is to be their fate if and when such malfeasance is redressed?  

Instead, enhanced Jewish construction should be presented—in its own right—as a strategic imperative, a historic duty and a moral right.

Furthermore, as Areas A and B are made up of an array of disconnected enclaves and corridors, they clearly could never sustain a viable self-governing Palestinian-entity. It is, thus, inconceivable that any Palestinian leadership would consent to having the Palestinian entity limited to said enclaves and corridors.  

Consequently, even if such “strategic building” is confined to Area C, it can only be given any semblance of permanence if Israel intends to extend its sovereignty over the entire area of Judea-Samaria—since no alternative administration is likely to be found for Areas A and B.

Which of course leads us to the thorny question of what is to be the fate of the Arab residents of Judea-Samaria…

“Strategic building”: One bladed scissors

In many ways, Frisch’s “strategic building” program is similar to a one-bladed scissors –for it focuses solely on bolstering the Jewish presence in contested strategic areas (albeit only in response to Palestinian misbehavior)—but not on the already massive Arab presence in them.

True, he does attempt to portray his strategy as “twofold” by prescribingmore forceful… demolishing [of] illegal construction in area C around Jerusalem, next to important highways such as the roads from Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley, and in area C [and]   preventing the building of Palestinian infrastructure installations…near Israeli settlements”. However, this does nothing to address the issue of the Arab population within Judea-Samaria.

So one is left to ponder what outcome Frisch envisages that his “strategic building” paradigm would lead to while waiting for some yet-to-be-identified pliant peace-partner to emerge—or even more to the point, if no such partner emerges at all.  

Indeed, it is difficult to know what yet has to happen until the nation’s political and intellectual leadership rallies the courage and integrity to acknowledge that in order to endure as the nation-state of the Jewish people Israel must address two imperatives simultaneously: The Geographic and Demographic Imperatives. The former mandates Israeli sovereign control over all the territory from the River to the Sea; the latter mandates the drastic reduction of the Arab presence within the Jewish state’s sovereign territory.

“Strategic building”: Far too little far too late

The only manner in which this can be achieved without resort to large-scale violence is via a comprehensive system of material inducements comprising highly attractive incentives for leaving and equally daunting disincentives for staying – accompanied by a well-funded strategic public diplomacy offensive to convey why this is the most humane policy if it succeeds – and least inhumane if it does not.

Anything else is both pointless and perilous.

In this regard, Frisch’s “strategic building” proposal is far too little far too late.

Liberman’s new home demolition initiative: The point and the pointlessness

For its long term survival and security Israel needs strategic coherence, not haphazard tactical machoism.  

There is no difference between an attack that ends in murder and an attack that ends with serious injury. In both cases the homes of the terrorists must be destroyedDefense Minister Avidgor Liberman, Oct 29, 2007.

Earlier this week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman instructed the Defense Ministry’s legal team to explore avenues that would extend the ability of the IDF to destroy not only the homes of terrorists who have murdered Israelis, but also of terrorists who have severely wounded them. Currently home demolitions are restricted to cases of terror attacks that result in the death of Israelis.

Is incompetence reason for clemency?

In justifying his proposal, Liberman claimed that Israel’s policy of home demolitions has proven itself an effective deterrent against terrorism, and there is no reason to distinguish between the different types of attacks whose purposeful intent was the slaughter of Israelis.

Prima facie, this contention has a sound ring of logic to it. After all, why should the murderous intent of one terrorist be treated less harshly simply because the harm inflicted was—despite that intent—less “successful” than those of another nefarious perpetrator?

After all, if home demolitions are, as Liberman claims, an effective measure in reducing the mortal danger to Israelis, why not apply it to any terror attempt—whether successful or not? Indeed, one might well ask, why should the efficiency of Israel’s counterterror operations be a mitigating factor in dealing with any thwarted would-be Judeocidal butcher?

But perhaps even more to the point is this: If home demolitions are in fact an effective terror deterrent, then perhaps even more than the actual perpetrators, who murder or maim their victims, this measure should be applied to those who plan, finance or incite such atrocities.   

Indeed, given that frequently, the perpetrators themselves are willing to sacrifice their lives in the commission of their brutal acts, it could well be that the threat of having one’s residence razed might have greater deterrent effect on those responsible for planning, funding and inciting such acts—and who do not seem to share such a manifest death-wish as their more dispensable kinsfolk.

Correctly conceptualizing the conflict

Critics of home demolitions, in general and certainly of any expansion of its application such as advanced by Liberman, in particular, allege that, as it entails inflicting punishment on the families of the perpetrator for acts they did not commit, it is inherently unfair. Accordingly, its use should be prohibited or at least severely curtailed.

While this characterization might be factually true, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it is operationally (and ethically) irrelevant.

It should be almost self-evident that to arrive at some kind of durable resolution of the conflict and the lasting cessation of violence, the conflict must be correctly conceptualized. This is not a prescription for abstract theorizing detached from the harsh and harrowing realities of day-to-day experience. Quite the opposite. Unless the conflict is correctly conceptualized, no effective policy can be devised to contend with it –and certainly not to end it. Indeed, just as a disease cannot be properly treated if incorrectly diagnosed, so a conflict cannot be correctly addressed if it is incorrectly conceptualized.  

Little analytical acumen is required to draw the conclusion that the conflict between Arab and Jew over control of the Holy Land is a clash between two collectives: A Jewish collective and an Arab collective—for which the Palestinian collective is its operational spearhead.

In this regard, during a November 2015 address, then-defense minister, Moshe “Bogey” Yaalon, aptly characterized the conflict as a clash of collectives, describing it as: “…predominantly a war of wills, of two societies with conflicting wills.”

Accordingly, the conflict, as one between collectives, cannot be individualized. One collective must prevail, the other be prevailed upon. Only then, after such a decisive outcome, can the issue of personal misfortune or injustice within the collectives be addressed.

Collective punishments for collective conflicts

If the clash is essentially one between collectives with conflicting societal wills, then clearly, for one collective to prevail over the other requires breaking the will of the rival collective.

Consequently, any wrongdoings perpetrated in the name of the Palestinian collective must carry a price, for which the collective pays – for if not, it will have no incentive to curb them.

In this regard, it must be kept in mind that the Palestinian population is not, as some might suggest, a hapless victim of the terror groups, rendering it blameless for the atrocities committed in its name. To the contrary, it is the very crucible from which such groups have emerged. By its own hand, by its own deeds and declarations, it has made it clear that it will not—except on some temporary, tactical basis–brook any manifestation of Jewish political independence or national sovereignty “between the River and the Sea”.

Indeed, a July 2017 survey by Palestinian Center of Policy and Survey Research, found that within the Palestinian collective, there is virtually unanimous endorsement of the acts of terror perpetrated against the Jewish collective and similar sympathy and support for perpetrators. According to its findings, “an almost total consensus rejects pressure on the PA to terminate payments to Palestinian security prisoners [i.e. jailed terrorists- MS]” and “91% are opposed to the suspension of PA payments to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails; only 7% support such measure.  

Putting home demolitions in perspective

Accordingly, in the context of a clash between conflicted collectives, the issue of the “collective nature” of punitive measures should not be considered grounds for their preclusion.

After all, this was never a consideration in, say, Serbia, where markets, hospitals, buses, bridges and old age facilities, to name but a few civilian targets hit in high altitude bombing sorties in the US-led NATO attacks in the Balkans War of the 1990s.

Moreover, as polls repeatedly show, terror attacks against Israelis are not something foisted on a reluctant peace-seeking Palestinian population, but are in fact, widely embraced by it—reflecting nothing more (or less) than vox populi.  

Seen in this light, home demolitions and the extension of their imposition on perpetrators of non-lethal terror attacks (or even planners and facilitators of such attacks) are entirely appropriate if they:

– militate towards diminishing dangers to which members of the Jewish collective are exposed; and

– diminish the will of the Palestinians-Arabs, as a collective, to carry out assaults against Jews (as a collective).

However, unless integrated into a wider conceptually coherent strategic policy, home demolitions, like any other operational tactics, such as targeted killing, are unlikely to be effective in any meaningful way. This is particularly true if the affected family members are allowed to receive aid to quickly rebuild an alternative abode and financial compensation for their kinsman’s commission of the act for which their home was demolished.

Lack of strategy stymies tactics

Indeed, while it might be possible to present data showing that harsh punitive and/or preventative measures—whether house demolitions, administrative detention or targeted killings—may have reduced the frequency of terror attacks, even their most fervent proponents will be forced to admit that they have not been able  to terminate such attacks. And certainly they have been unable to break the terrorists’ will to undertake them.  

Nor will they ever be able to do so, if they remain detached from a wider strategic blueprint, which draws on the awareness that in the ongoing clash between two collectives with irreconcilable core aspirations, only one can prevail.

This calls for Israel to cease relating to the Palestinian-Arab collective as a prospective peace partner, and to begin relating to it as it relates to itself—as an implacable enemy.  Only then can a coherent, comprehensive and logically consistent strategy be fashioned in which Israel ceases to sustain an inimical collective by gradually ceasing to supply it with goods and services it needs for its existence. In applying such a strategy, a clear distinction should be made between the belligerent Palestinian-Arab collective and non-belligerent Palestinian-Arab individuals.

The former must be unequivocally and unmercifully vanquished and dismantled. The latter must be provided with the means to seek a better, more secure life elsewhere in third party countries, outside the “circle of violence” and free from the clutches of the cruel corrupt cliques who, for decades, have wrought nothing but disaster and devastation upon them.    

Strategic coherence not haphazard tactical machoism

Only once such a strategic approach is adopted, can various operational tactics –such as an enhanced demolitions policy—be effectively incorporated into it as tools to achieve strategic goals. Until that happens, until Israel foreswears any aspirations of reaching some consensual arrangement with the Palestinians, harsh tactical measures will always, to some degree or other,  be at cross purposes with ostensibly more benign strategic objectives. Until that happens, Israeli policy will be plagued by internal contradictions that hamstring its implementation and the effectiveness of its operational tactics, making it appear disingenuous and devious—and an easy target for international acrimony and opprobrium.

Surely it is high time for the national leadership to grasp these almost self-evident truths and demonstrate an awareness that for its long term survival and security, Israel needs strategic coherence, not haphazard tactical machoism.  

Decertifying Iran- A moral imperative. But now what?

As the experience of 2003 shows, Iran will only abandon its nuclear program if confronted by what it perceives to be a tangible military threat

In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and domestic distractions, is another. Any report of a violation is likely to prompt debate over its significance—or even calls for new talks with Tehran to explore the issue – Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2015.

…in 2015, Congress passed the Iran nuclear agreement review act to ensure that Congress’s voice would be heard on the deal. Among other conditions the law requires the president of his designee to certify that the suspension of sanction under the deal is appropriate and proportionate to…measures taken by Iran to terminate its illicit nuclear program. Based on the factual record…I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification we will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout – President Donald Trump, October 13, 2017.

Last Friday, the US president, Donald Trump, refused to certify the July 2015 nuclear Iran “deal” concluded in Vienna on July 14, 2015 between Iran, and the P5+1(the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), and the EU on the other.

Dubbed with the wildly inappropriate misnomer the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA) the “deal” is—as we shall see—anything but “comprehensive”. Moreover, it could hardly be designated a “plan of action” when a far more fitting characterization of it would appear to be a “plan of inaction”.  

Decertification: The moral imperative

In effect, by decertifying the JCPOA, Trump was merely fulfilling his legal obligations under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA).

Passed immediately following the signature of JCPOA, the INARA bill mandates (among other things):

The President shall, at least every 90 days, determine whether the President is able to certify that:

– Iran is fully implementing the agreement,

– Iran has not committed a material breach of the agreement,

– Iran has not taken any action that could significantly advance its nuclear weapons program, and

– Suspension of sanctions against Iran is appropriate and proportionate to measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program and vital to U.S. national security interests.

In light of the record of Iran’s gross misconduct, it is patently clear—or at least, it should be—that no US president could, in good faith, certify that Iran was in compliance with its JCPOA commitments or that continued US adherence to the JCPOA—particularly the suspension of sanctions against Iran—was “vital to US national security interests”.

After all, how can anyone certify that Iran is in compliance with its pledges to not “advance its nuclear weapons program” or is not in “material breach of the agreement”, when this is impossible to verify, given the fact that Tehran has barred inspection of its military sites—the very sites in which one might suspect militarized Iranian endeavor is taking place.

Moral imperative (cont.)

But perhaps even more astonishing and disconcerting is the revelation that “secret side deals” exist between Iran and third parties, to which the US is neither privy, nor party to—and hence has not the foggiest notion as to how these may impact or impair the implementation of, or the adherence to the terms of the JCPOA. Typically, these involve “deals” between Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the body charged with the inspection of Iranian nuclear sites. Incredibly, in some cases, these deals allow Iran to conduct its own inspection of its facilities. Moreover, the IAEA is obliged to keep much of the information gathered confidential and not share it with other parties—including the US.

You couldn’t make this stuff up!

No less crippling to effective inspection—and hence to the ability of the US president to certify that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA—is the fact that if suspicion arises that illicit activity is being conducted, Iran must be given weeks of advance warning, providing it ample opportunity to conceal or dispose of any incriminating evidence. Worse, the Iranians must also be provided with adequate reasons for the suspicion of untoward conduct on their part, thus   risking exposure of intelligence sources that provided the relevant information!

Indeed, these very absurdities of the JCPOA were crisply and caustically conveyed by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in a Knesset address on the day immediately after it was reached: “It’s like giving a criminal organization that deals drugs a 24-day warning before inspecting its drug lab…The agreement also requires the world powers to… show Iran the very intelligence for which they want to conduct the inspections in the first place.”

Incomprehensive plan of inaction

To be honest Donald Trump has never really been my “cup-of-tea”. Indeed, without wishing to be too disparaging, to my mind, his incontestable advantage is that he is…not Hilary Clinton.

That said, the decertification speech was undeniably impressive. He provided an effective tour d’horizon of Iranian malfeasance: Tehran’s violation of agreed production quotas of heavy water and operation of advanced centrifuges; its intimidation of inspectors from carrying out their work effectively; its flouting of international resolutions regarding the development of ballistic missile technology; its fomenting turmoil “throughout the Middle East and beyond”; and last but not least, its sponsorship of terror across the globe.

In this, Trump demonstrated compellingly that Iran had not only violated the spirit, but also the letter, of the JCPOA. But beyond that, he not only exposed how appallingly incomprehensive this purportedly “comprehensive” blueprint is, but also the grave perils of inaction the alleged “plan of action” necessarily entails.

Indeed, without wishing to push historical parallels too far, some portions of Trump’s speech were distinctly reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s stern caveat in his epic account of World War II, ‘The Gathering Storm,’ in which he cautioned: “…. if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival”.

Expressing strikingly similar sentiments, Trump warned: “History has shown that the longer we ignore a threat, the more dangerous that threat becomes…We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout”.

Incomprehensive inaction (cont.)

Trump detailed Iran’s transgression as justification for his decision to desist from certifying the JCPOA: “Our policy is based on a clear-eyed assessment of the Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world…Based on the factual record I have put forward, I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification.”

Of course, this catalogue of Iranian misconduct underscores just how hopelessly ineffectual the entire JCPOA edifice is. For by limiting its relevance to Iran’s nuclear program (and even then inadequately), it, in effect, allows the Islamist theocracy license to wreak mayhem in any other sphere, wherever and whenever it chooses—without incurring any of the penalties in the unverifiable nuclear deal.

To convey just how ludicrous the JCPOA arrangement is, just imagine reaching an agreement with a belligerent neighbor down the road that he will refrain from attacking you and your family with firearms but is free to stab you with knives, batter you with clubs, impale you on spears and target you with arrows. Worse, not only is he free to do this without retribution, but you actually agree to help him finance  his stockpile of said knives, clubs, spears and arrows.

Ridiculous as this might seem, this is in principle precisely what Trump was called on to certify last Friday—and is being vilified by allies and adversaries for not doing so.

Go figure.

The futility of “fixing”, the necessity of “nixing”

While decertification of the JCPOA is both inevitable and imperative, it is not in itself an alternative strategy. Indeed, even the Trump administration itself has been at pains to clarify that, in and of itself, the decertification does not automatically imply that—with all the withering criticism it has of the agreement—the US will not necessarily opt out of it.

This is a risky position to adopt and, like a man with one foot on the pier and the other in the boat, it is one that cannot be maintained for long. Indeed, the US has now created a clear choice for itself if it is not to retreat humiliatingly from the robust stance it has taken: Either to endeavor to fix the defective JCPOA, or to nix it.

Any remotely realistic analysis will swiftly lead to the conclusion that any endeavor to fix the JCPOA (i.e. introduce far more intrusive inspection procedures and impose far more extensive and intensive punitive measures for delinquent Iranian behavior) are futile.

Clearly, it would require large doses of unfounded and unbounded optimism to believe that Iran could be induced by diplomatic pressure to submit itself to a harsher regime of inspections/sanctions than that currently stipulated in the JCPOA. After all, if the P5+1 countries backed away from sterner coercive measures when confronting a weaker, poorer Iran, what reason is there to believe (and more importantly, for Tehran to believe) they would stand up to a now much richer and stronger Iran??

This bleak prospect leaves us with only one other option – the necessity to nix the JCPOA in its entirety – which might just happen anyway. For as Brookings Institution’s Suzanne Maloney predicts: “Decertification corrodes the legitimacy of the deal…[It]will slowly collapse.”

Decertification- what now?

So how is the US (and Israel( to deal with a post-JCPOA reality? What strategies are available to prevent a good initiative from making the situation worse?

According to its adherents, the JCPOA was the best possible agreement. This is clearly an untenable contention—unless the underlying assumption is that the only feasible alternatives are those Iran deigns to accept.

However, if the rationale is not to accommodate the ayatollahs, but to coerce them or replace them, the alternatives are clear:

The first of these options is to enhance US sanctions, backed by a credible threat of military action aimed at destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and their attendant infrastructure.


Skeptics as to the efficacy of such a harsh alternative should be reminded of the events of 2003, when Iran, in effect, curtailed its nuclear program after the US-led invasion of Iraq created a tangible threat which US-military presence projected in the eyes of the Islamic Republic. As a result “Iran agree[d] to suspend its uranium–enrichment activities and ratify an additional protocol requiring Iran to provide an expanded declaration of its nuclear activities and granting the IAEA broader rights of access to sites in the country.


Significantly, once the threat perception receded, Tehran annulled this agreement and reverted to accelerating its nuclear program.


What now? (cont.)


The only effective alternative to coercing the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear program is to replace them –i.e. induce regime change. Sadly, just as it has greatly reduced the possibility (or at least, greatly increased the cost) of coercing them to forgo nuclear weapons capability, so it has dimmed the prospects for regime change. In the words of one well-known Iranian expatriate: “The Vienna [i.e JCPOA] deal bears a very grave danger for Iran’s civil society. Not only won’t we see their economic situation improve, but the regime will also have an incentive to abuse human rights more severely. A flood of cash is going into the pockets of this leadership. It will be used to tighten their grip [on power] and to further imprison, torture and kill innocent Iranians.”

So over  two years after it was agreed upon, all the JCPOA has really achieved is to empower the Iranian tyranny militarily, enrich it economically and entrench it politically—for nothing more than a dubious delaying of its acquisition of weaponized nuclear capability.

Which, of course, is why decertifying it was no more than a moral imperative.

The “Jordan-is-Palestine” Conference-Why I agreed to participate

Of all the “Right-wing” alternatives for the two-state formula, the “Jordan-is-Palestine” concept is the only one not inconsistent with the underlying principles of the “Humanitarian Paradigm”

Palestine and Transjordan are one, for Palestine is the coastline and Transjordan is the hinterland of the same countryKing Abdullah, Cairo, April 12, 1948.

Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people -Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the PLO Political Department, Newsweek, March 14, 1977.

Palestine is Jordan and Jordan is Palestine…Prince Hassan, Jordanian National Assembly, February 2, 1970.

The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan -King Hussein of Jordan, Amman, 1981.

Let us not forget the East Bank of the Jordan [River] where seventy percent of the inhabitants belong to the Palestinian nation.  George Habash, leader of the PFLP of the PLO, February 1970.

Next Tuesday (Oct 17), a well-publicized conference on the “Jordan-is-Palestine”  idea, as the preferred resolution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, will be held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center  in Jerusalem, organized by Ted Belman, editor, the well-known news blog, Israpundit  and  Mudar Zahran, Secretary-General of the Jordan Opposition Coalition.

Unfortunate and uncalled-for acrimony

In many ways, this is a welcome initiative—for, clearly, the future of the country on Israel’s eastern (and longest) border is a matter of vital strategic interest, especially in the current era of turmoil and tumult. Accordingly, debate on prospective scenarios for change in the prevailing conditions in Jordan is undeniably imperative.

Regrettably, however, for reasons not entirely clear to me, the conference generated some inappropriate and uncalled-for ad hominem acrimony between its organizers/initiators and other opponents of the two-state paradigm—which a good number of potential “Jordan-is-Palestine” supporters found both distasteful and perplexing, and which did little to bestow credit on the event itself.  

Indeed, I should like to distance myself from this lamentable and largely internecine “dustup” and urge opponents of two-statism to focus their energies on discrediting this perilous and pernicious prescription, and/or on the substantive defects they may identify in some of the alternatives proffered to replace it.

It is true that, in the past, I have myself expressed severe criticisms of some of the alternatives formulated by several “Right-wing” pundits.  However, I have tried—and, hopefully, succeeded—in confining my censure to what I considered to be material flaws in their proposed policy recommendations, rather than personally denigrating their proponents.  If my past critiques have been otherwise interpreted, this was never my intention.  

Several raised eyebrows

Several followers of my work have raised a surprised eyebrow on learning of my participation in the “Jordan-is-Palestine” conference.

Their surprise is understandable. After all, I have never been a strident advocate of the “Jordan-is-Palestine” doctrine, on the one hand; on the other, I have advanced—rigorously, regularly and resolutely—an ostensibly different policy prescription, which I have designated the “Humanitarian Paradigm”, entailing generously funded relocation and resettlement of the Palestinian-Arabs in third party countries.

My adoption of the Humanitarian Paradigm is not motivated by a flare of ideological fervor. Rather it is the necessary culmination of a rigorously deductive—indeed, almost mathematical— analytical process.   

The point of departure for this deductive analysis is the realization that for Israel to endure as the nation-state of the Jewish people, it must contend effectively with the twin imperatives of geography and demography. Indeed, this is virtually a self-evident truth, for as I have repeatedly noted, if Israel fails to address either its Geographic or Demographic Imperatives adequately, it will become untenable as the Jewish nation-state—either geographically or demographically…or both.

Moreover—as I have argued frequently in the past—to effectively address the Geographic Imperative, Israel must retain sovereignty over all the territories across the pre-1967 lines (or at least, over a sufficiently large portion of them to make any prospect of a Palestinian state unfeasible).  

Likewise, to address the Demographic Imperative, Israel must drastically reduce the non-Jewish presence within the territory under its sovereign rule. This is true even if the optimistic demographic estimates are correct and were Israel to annex all the territories of Judea-Samaria, there would still be—initially—a Jewish majority of 60-65% (and conversely, a Muslim minority of 35-40%).

Raised eyebrows (continued)  

In this regard—i.e. in addressing Israel’s twin imperatives—the “Jordan-is-Palestine” option is qualitatively different from virtually all other policy blueprints advanced by “Right-wing” opponents of “two-statism”.

For if the “Jordan-is-Palestine” option advocates: (a) the relocation/rehabilitation of the Arab residents of Judea-Samaria in territory that currently comprises the Hashemite monarchy; and (b) Israeli sovereign control of all the territory west of the Jordan; then this is merely a special case of the Humanitarian Paradigm.

After all, if the general principle underlying the Humanitarian Paradigm is that the Arab residents should be relocated/rehabilitated in third party countries, leaving the choice of destination to the recipients of the relocation/rehabilitation funds, there is nothing that precludes Jordan from being such a potential destination.  

Accordingly, at the conceptual level, there is no substantive contradiction between the geographic and demographic outcomes that the Humanitarian Paradigm prescribes, and those that the “Jordan-is-Palestine” option is designed to produce.

This clearly cannot be said of the other alternative “Right-wing” proposals for the two-state formula, which, without exception, do not propose any measures for diminishing the Arab presence west of the Jordan River. Indeed, if anything, they all prescribe mechanisms for perpetuating a growing permanent Arab population—either under direct Israel sovereignty or in emaciated and disconnected enclaves, with limited self-rule for little more than municipal activities.

Other options ominous

So, setting aside the matter of practical feasibility, I would not, in principle, oppose the implementation of the “Jordan-is-Palestine” option, entailing the relocation/rehabilitation of the Arab residents of Judea-Samaria in present day Jordan.

This, however, is not the case for other proffered alternatives formulated by leading “Right-wing” figures—to whose implementation I would be vigorously opposed—both in principle and in practice.

This is true for proposals such as those of Caroline Glick, which call for annexation of all of Judea-Samaria and the incorporation of its Arab residents into the permanent population of Israel, with a possible path to full citizenship. It is also true for proposals such as Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s partial annexation of Judea-Samaria and Dr. Mordechai Kedar’s semi-autonomous city-state idea. It is likewise true for the proposal advanced by former Tourism Minister, the late Benny Elon, which envisions giving the current Jordanian regime authority for administering municipal affairs and maintaining law and order for the Arab population in Judea-Samaria.  

I have set out elsewhere the  detailed arguments for my rejection of these proposals, which in many ways, I see as being more dangerous and detrimental than the two-state proposition itself, that they were designed to replace—see for example To my colleague Caroline, a caveat ; Sovereignty? Yes, but look before you leap;  Islamizing Israel – When the radical Left and hard Right concur ; Annexing Area C: An open letter to Naftali Bennett;  Sovereignty? Yes, But beware of annexing Area C.

I will, therefore, refrain from repeating them here and move on to discuss other aspects of the “Jordan-is-Palestine” proposal – including caveats and reservations as to practical feasibility and tactical desirability.

A contrived construct

Of course, one does not have to be a “radical Right-wing extremist” to embrace the “Jordan-is-Palestine” concept.

To the contrary, as the introductory excerpts clearly show, it has been embraced for decades by leading political figures—both Jordanian and Palestinian. Indeed, both admit that a separate “Palestinian national identity” is no more than a contrived construct to undermine Jewish claims to sovereignty over the Land of Israel.

Thus, in 1987, while still claiming all of Judea-Samaria as part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, King Hussein declared “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.” Clearly, this necessarily implies that, had there been no Jewish national claims, no Palestinian national claims would have been raised. Accordingly, we are compelled to conclude that the “Palestinian national personality” is devoid of any independent existence, and merely a fictional derivative, fabricated to counteract Jewish territorial claims.

Significantly, precisely this position was expressed ten years earlier by PLO executive council member, Zuhir Muhsein, in an oft-cited, but never rebuffed, 1977 interview: “[It is] just for political reasons [that]we carefully underwrite our Palestinian identity. Because it is of national interest for the Arabs to advocate the existence of Palestinians to balance Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons. The establishment of a Palestinian state is a new tool to continue the fight against Israel and for Arab unity.”

Jordan is indeed Palestine

Indeed, even in their “National Covenant” the Palestinian-Arabs not only affirm that their national demands are bogus, but that they are merely a temporary instrumental ruse to further a wider pan-Arab cause.

In it (Article 12), they declare: “The Palestinian people are a part of the Arab Nation… [H]owever, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity...”

So again, we are compelled to ask: What other nation declares that its national identity is merely a temporary ploy to be “safeguarded” and “developed” for the “present stage” alone? Does any other nation view their national identity as so ephemeral and instrumental? The Italians? The Brazilians? The Turks? The Greeks? The Japanese? Of course none of them do.

But apart from the manifestly fictitious nature of the claims for a separate Palestinian national identity, the claim that “Jordan is Palestine” has much to support it, historically, geographically and demographically.

After all, historically, Jordan did in fact comprise the greater portion of Mandatory Palestine, geographically covering almost 80% of its territory, while demographically, a clear majority of its current population are ethnically Palestinian-Arabs. Moreover, until summarily, and arguably, illegally, stripped of their citizenship by King Hussein in 1988, all the Arab residents of the “West Bank” were Jordanian citizens.

Indeed, this abrupt measure was tersely described by Anis Kassim, a prominent Palestinian legal expert, as follows: “… more than 1.5 million Palestinians went to bed on 31 July 1988 as Jordanian citizens, and woke up on 1 August 1988 as stateless persons.”

Not much room for ambiguity there.

“Jordan is Palestine”: The Feasibility, desirability & inevitability?

However, although a strong case can be made for the claim that, in principle, Jordan is (or at least, should be) Palestine, serious questions can be raised as to the practical feasibility of the idea as a realistic and desirable policy prescription—which brings me back to the upcoming conference and my decision to participate.

With regard to Jordan, one thing ought to be beyond dispute: The working assumption of Israel’s long-term national strategic policy-makers should—indeed, must—be that the current Hashemite regime does not have an indefinite “shelf-life”. In fact, prudence dictates that it should be assumed to be shorter rather than longer—for reasons which are largely beyond Israel’s control. Accordingly, Israel must prepare for the tangible prospect of regime-change.

In this respect, the conference organizers urge a proactive approach, seeking to persuade the US administration that the current regime should be induced to fall and be replaced by a regime led by Zahran, which would represent the Palestinian majority, purportedly be secular (or at least, non-Islamist) and favorably disposed towards Israel.

I have no way to evaluate Zahran’s credentials or political clout, should a successor to the current regime become a tangible prospect. Consequently, my participation should not be construed as an endorsement of his “candidacy” for such a role, although I have little doubt that he would be far more palatable to Israel than some Muslim Brotherhood affiliate at the helm of a new regime. That said however, I am not sure I would wager on his victory should a clash for power arise between his faction and rival Islamist antagonists.

Feasibility, desirability & inevitability (cont.)  

The other question to be asked is: Should Israel and/or the US endeavor to underpin, or to overthrow the ruling Hashemite dynasty? Indeed, whether they should try to extend the rule of the “devil we know” or risk the advent of a “the devil we don’t” is a legitimate debate.

However, as recent events in the Mid-East have shown, regime-change in the Arab world is typically unexpected and often independent of what outside powers do—or don’t do. Accordingly, by forcing debate on such a contingency in Jordan, the conference is providing a valuable service.

This—together with the fact that the “Jordan-is-Palestine” prescription does not substantively contradict my preferred “Humanitarian Paradigm”—comprises the reasons that I agreed to participate.

Oslo at twenty-four – Failing the “crystal ball” test

If Rabin had a crystal ball that allowed him to foresee the terrible trauma and tragedy the Oslo Agreements would cause, there is little doubt that he would have never agreed to its signature.

We have come to try and put an end to the hostilities, so that our children, our children’s children, will no longer experience the painful cost of war, violence and terror. We have come to secure their lives and to ease the sorrow and the painful memories of the past to hope and pray for peace.  – Yitzhak Rabin at the signing ceremony of the Oslo I Accords, Washington, D.C. September 13, 1993.

This September marked the passing of 24 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords. Although little is left of the heady—the less charitable might say, “irresponsible”—optimism that accompanied the signing ceremony on the White House lawns on that fateful day in September 1993, the “two-states-for-two-peoples” format it forged, still – inexplicably—dominates the discourse as the sole principle upon which a resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict can be based.

Puzzling and Perturbing

Future historians will doubtless find this both puzzling and perturbing—for although the two-state formula has been regularly disproven, for some unfathomable reason, it has never been discredited—and certainly never discarded.

In many ways, the continued “durability” of the Oslowian “recipe” is astonishing.

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what else should happen, what further disaster should befall both Jew and Arab, for it to be abandoned as the abject failure it has incontrovertibly proved to be.  

After all, when the Oslo process was first instituted there were proponents and opponents –with the former promising sweeping benefits (such as peace, prosperity and a thriving harmonious Mid-East stretching from Casablanca to Kuwait), while the latter warned of dire dangers (such as spiraling terror and pervasive turmoil).

Now, almost a quarter-century later, one might have been forgiven for thinking that “the jury was no longer out”. For one thing is indisputable.  None of the benefits promised by proponents have materialized, while virtually all the dangers warned of by the opponents have befallen the strife-torn region and its unfortunate inhabitants.

Yet stubbornly—indeed, obsessively—two-staters cling to the tenets of their political dogma—no matter what the human cost; no matter how much evidence of their tragic error continues to inexorably accumulate…

Hardly a revolutionary revelation

Sadly, this is hardly a revolutionary revelation. To the contrary, it has long been starkly apparent to anyone with a smidgeon of intellectual integrity.

Indeed, seventeen years ago, just weeks after the Palestinian-Arabs launched their gory wave of violence (a.k.a. the Second Intifada), an article of mine appeared on Israel’s most trafficked Hebrew-language site, YNet.  It was entitled “The Crystal Ball”. The sub-headline read:   “The Oslo process and its basic assumptions have failed the test of reality”.

In it, I wrote: “Up until a few weeks ago, there might have been room for a debate on whether the Oslo process was a success or a failure. Up until a few weeks ago it might have been possible—albeit with great difficulty—to understand those whose faith in the “process” had not yet faded. But now [i.e. November, 2000], the debate is over! Now it is quite clear that the “political process: has totally failed.

When,” I asked “should one conclude that one’s chosen path is mistaken?”; and in response, suggested that:  “As a general rule, one should admit that one’s chosen policy has failed if one would not have chosen it, had the consequences of that choice been known beforehand”.

Failing the test of reality

I then proposed: “… let us imagine that on that fateful day in September 1993, on which the Oslo agreements were signed, the people of Israel and their leaders had at their disposal a crystal ball by means of which they could foresee the future consequences of those agreements. Let us imagine that the architects of those accords, who…promised the nation the dawn of a new era…of ‘days without worry and nights without fear’, could foretell the fate of the country almost eight years after the pomp and ceremony of the occasion of their signature”.

I continued: “Let’s suppose that they would have known that almost a decade after the sweeping concessions that Israel was called on to make…the country would be plagued by fire, hatred and death, and that the guns, handed to the Palestinians, despite repeated warnings not to do so, would be turned against our soldiers, our women and our children. Let’s suppose that they would have known that despite our far-reaching willingness to accommodate our adversaries, our political situation in the world would be at its lowest ebb…”

I therefore, ventured to postulate: “I have no doubt that had the architects of these accords known that events would turn out as they have, they would not have signed them.  I have no doubt that had the public foreseen what has come about it would not have given its support to the process or to its initiators. Accordingly, we can categorically declare that the Oslo process, and the world view on which it was based, have utterly failed the ‘crystal ball test’ i.e. failed the test of reality.

Despite expectations…

In light of all this, I expressed what appeared to be a reasonable expectation: “…that, given the appalling consequences the political processes had precipitated, there would have been a wholesale abandonment of it by its [hitherto] supporters.

“However,” I lamented, “this was not the case. Despite the fact that not even a miniscule trace of any residual success could be found, a significant number of people…still refuse to acknowledge failure or error.  ‘There is still no other alternative’ they recite with dogmatic obstinacy.”

Of course, as I pointed out “, there is in fact no claim more baseless than the claim that there is ‘No alterative’”  Indeed,  as I underscored–“the burden of proof is now on the proponents of the Oslo process rather than on its opponents  to prove that they have a viable alternative…”

Moreover, had the imaginary 1993 crystal ball been able to look further into the future, what it would have revealed to the prospective signatories  of the ill-fated accords would have hardly been more encouraging.  Indeed, if anything quite the opposite is true!

Thus, for the five years after the publication of  the “Crystal Ball” article,  the carnage of the “Second Intifada” raged across the country,  with thousands of Israeli civilians being murdered and maimed—in shopping malls, on buses,  in street cafes and crowded restaurants.

What the crystal ball would have revealed…

Indeed, it was the bloody Passover massacre in March 2002 at the Park Hotel in the seaside resort of Netanya that led to Operation “Defensive Shield”, the first of a series of punitive military campaigns launched by the IDF when Palestinian-Arab terror reached unacceptably murderous levels, which the Israeli military was compelled to quell.

The ensuing decade was replete with recurring bloodshed. Thus, as the savage violence of the Second Intifada petered out in 2005, the very next year, 2006, heralded the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War.

Admittedly, the Second Lebanon War was not directly connected to the conflict with the Palestinian-Arabs. However, its roots can definitely be traced to the Oslowian land-for-peace mindset, when in June 2000,  Ehud Barak, capitulated to pressures from left-wing activists and surrendered South Lebanon to the Hezbollah by ordering an ignominious unilateral evacuation of the IDF.

Indeed, this unbecoming retreat has been widely identified as one of the major causes for the Second Intifada three months later (see for example here and here).  Thus, in the words of one punditthe message of weakness transmitted by the retreat from Lebanon encouraged the Palestinians to return to using violent methods.”

Barak’s abandonment of South Lebanon led to Hezbollah’s massive military buildup in the vacated territory, eventually culminating in the costly 2006 Second Lebanon War, whose mismanagement by the Olmert government allowed South Lebanon to become a fearsome arsenal—with over a 100,000 rockets and missiles, trained on Israel’s major civilian population centers and vital infrastructure installations, as well as the additional threat of trans-border attack tunnels.  

From “Cast Lead” to “Protective Edge”

It is of course an open question whether the Second Lebanon War in 2006 was due, at least in part, to another  unilateral  withdrawal—the  so-called “Disengagement” from Gaza in 2005.  There can however be little doubt that the Disengagement did lead to the Islamist takeover of Gaza in 2007, when in the wake of the power vacuum created by the IDF’s departure, the fundamentalist Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave, violently ejecting Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction.

In the wake of Hamas’s ascendance, there was a massive increase in attacks against Israel, with thousands of rockets, missiles and mortar shells being fired at civilian targets.  As a result, Israel was compelled to take action to restore stability and security for its citizens—which resulted in the first of three (and counting) post-Oslo IDF campaigns against Gaza, Operation Cast Lead in December 2008.  As a result of its military response to the ongoing terror attacks Israel was vilified in the international arena, particularly by the notorious Goldstone report , manufactured by a UN “fact finding” mission, which accused Israel of deliberately targeting Palestinian-Arab civilians, used by Hamas as human shields.

Continual escalation of terror attacks drew Israel in to two further military campaigns.  

Less than four years after the end of Operation “Cast Lead”, Israel was forced undertake Operation “Pillar of Defense” in November 2012, following an intensification of rocket fire aimed at Israeli population centers.  Then, barely eighteen months later, with the brutal kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths, and indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli civilian targets, Israel was again obliged to use the military to restore calm – this time in Operation “Protective Edge” during which the alarming extent of the terror attack tunnels, excavated by Hamas, was exposed…

On the Palestinian side…

On the Palestinian side, our crystal ball would have swiftly dispelled the rosy predictions of a peaceful, prosperous EU-like Middle East stretching from the Sahara Desert to the Persian Gulf, that the Oslo Accords were supposed usher in.

Setting aside the rape, arson, slaughter and misery that raged across the post-Oslo Middle East as the chill winds of the Arab Spring swept through country after country, the Oslo accords brought scant benefits to the Palestinian-Arabs.

Indeed for the average man in the Palestinian street, Oslo wrought penury, not prosperity; despotism not democracy. After almost a quarter century since the ceremony and fanfare on the White House lawns, all the Palestinian-Arabs have to show is a an untenable    and strife-riven entity, with a dysfunctional polity and a collapsing economy – with a minuscule private sector and a bloated public one, wracked by corruption, and crippled by cronyism, manifestly unsustainable without massive infusions of foreign funds and the largesse of its alleged “oppressor”, Israel. 

In Gaza, where the experiment of Palestinian self-government was first instituted, the situation is particularly dire, with the specter of “humanitarian disaster” hovering over the general population. Awash in untreated sewage flows, with well over 90% of the water supply unfit for drinking, electrical power available for only a few hours a day and unemployment rates soaring to anything between 40-60%, Gazans, too, have good reason to rue the day the Oslo agreements were signed.

If Rabin had a crystal ball…

So if Yitzhak Rabin had had a crystal ball in September 1993,the depressing chain of events that would have unfolded before his eyes as he peered into the milky surface of the glass orb would be this:

A quarter century of spiraling terror  in city streets, buses, and cafes;  thousands of his countrymen maimed or murdered, four (arguably, five) military campaigns with hundreds of casualties, the dramatic enhancement of the quality and quantity of the weaponry of the terror organizations ranged against Israel; the huge cost of the barrier being constructed, high above and deep below, ground, to secure Israeli civilians from terrorist infiltration and tunnels…

So if indeed, Rabin could have foreseen that all this would be Israel’s lot in exchange for the gut-wrenching and perilous concessions the agreements called on it to make, who could doubt that he would never have affixed his signature to them…

Surely then, this—the Crystal Ball Test—is the ultimate indictment of the Oslo Agreements. Surely, it is time, after a quarter-century,  for them—and all that they stand for—to be branded what they indisputably turned out to be –a colossal and tragic blunder  of historic proportions—and to be treated as such.

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

… 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.

“Conflict management”: The Collapse of a Concept

While Israel has been “managing the conflict”, its non-state adversaries have been enhancing their capabilities so dramatically that they now a grave strategic threat

…to remain at peace when you should be going to war may be often very dangerous. ..–Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, 431 BCE

This week, Israel conducted its largest military exercise for almost two decades code named “Or Hadagan” (“the Light of the Grain”), reportedly in honor of the late Meir Dagan, former director of Mossad.

Far reaching shift in threat perception

The drill, which took place in the north of the country, and involved tens of thousands of troops from all branches of the IDF, was intended to prepare the Israeli military for a possible future confrontation with Hezbollah.

This, in itself, reflects far-reaching changes in the realities on the ground and the resultant shift in Israeli threat perception and hence in the armed forces’ operational focus and strategic outlook  that have taken place since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Thus, while the Syrian army has been almost totally eroded by six-and-a-half years of civil war; Israel now considers Hezbollah as the primary and most immediate threat, and the Lebanese front, the one of most pressing concern.

In many ways, the recognition of the ascendant threat from Hezbollah comprises a grave indictment of the conduct of the 2006 War—and an admission (at least implicitly) of its gross mismanagement.

This is significant, because the calm that has generally prevailed in the North since 2006 has —despite wide acknowledgment of the disappointing IDF performance in that engagement—led numerous pundits to applaud the deterrent effect that the massive damage inflicted on Lebanon at the time, allegedly produced.  In some cases, this prompted suggestions that a more favorable retrospective assessment of the war and its execution might be called for.

Sadly, there is little to support this benign attitude—and emerging realities serve only to underscore the long term detrimental impact, which  that indecisive encounter—and its subsequent political and strategic ramifications—have had (and are still likely to have) on Israel’s security.

“To defeat, not deter…”

But changing threat perception was not the only major shift in military thinking associated with the drill.  For the reported definition of its objectives seem to indicate an emerging awareness that the approach adopted over the last few decades has been both dysfunctional and detrimental.

Thus, in a recent opinion piece in Haaretz, entitled Israel Dare Not Allow Hezbollah to Strike First veteran commentator Israel Harel wrote: “For many years, including (or especially) the Second Lebanon War, the IDF did not truly aspire, as an army going to war must aspire, to defeat the enemy once and for all, in other words to neutralize its capacity to further endanger the lives of Israel’s citizens, soldiers and infrastructure.”

This time” he noted “the military commentators wrote and broadcast, the “intention” is clear: to finish (the word expressly used by the exercise’s commander) the enemy.”

Articulating the  move towards this new (or rather renewed) aspiration to defeat, rather than deter, the enemy was a report by Haaretz’s military correspondent, Amos Harel (not to be confused with previously-mentioned Israel Harel) in which the sub-headline declared: “Military says it will no longer settle for deterring Hezbollah, which replaced Syria as No. 1 threat on Israel’s borders.” Referring to the professed goal of the “Or Hadagan” drill, Harel wrote“ The objective is to defeat Hezbollah. This time the talk is not of inflicting significant harm to Hezbollah, to deter it, or to quash its desire to fight until the next round of violence.”

Conflict management: A concept discredited

The conceptual paradigm that forms the basis of the IDF’s aversion to victory-oriented strategies is the idea of “conflict management”. One of the prime proponents of this approach has been the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.

A synopsis  of “months of debate in BESA seminar rooms”  published about a year ago, reported that a consensus  had emerged among the  center’s experts that “Conflict management is currently the least-worst option”, and that it  “is wiser for Israel to defer action than to take steps that threaten to make a bad situation worse”.

Arguably, one of the most explicit advocates for the idea of conflict management is Prof. Efraim Inbar, formerly BESA’s longstanding director, who declared: “Israel’s recent governments are left, willy- nilly, with a de facto conflict-management approach, without foreclosing any options.” He conceded that: “there are costs to this wait and- see approach”, but counselled “…this was the approach favored by David Ben-Gurion. He believed in buying time to build a stronger state and in hanging on until opponents yield their radical goals …

In a 2014 policy paper entitled Mowing the Grass in Gaza and coauthored with Eitan Shamir, he set out the essence of this conflict management approach as it pertained to Hamas in Gaza:  “Israel is acting in accordance with a “mowing the grass” strategy. After a period of military restraint, Israel is acting to severely punish Hamas for its aggressive behavior, and degrading its military capabilities…The use of force… is not intended to attain impossible political goals, but rather is a long-term strategy of attrition designed primarily to debilitate the enemy capabilities”.

Clearly, this prescription has failed dismally both with regard to  Hamas and Hezbollah, neither of whom have had their capabilities “debilitated”, nor have forgone their “radical goals.

Conflict management discredited (cont.)

After all, not only is there any sign of either of these organizations moderating their radical rejectionist approach towards Israel, but the periods of inter-bellum calm have been consistently used by both to dramatically upgrade their capabilities.

Thus, when Israel left Gaza (2005), the range of the Palestinian rockets was barely 5 km., and the explosive charge they carried about 5 kg. Now their missiles have a range of over 100 km. and warheads of around 100 kg.

When Israel left Gaza, only the sparse population in its immediate proximity was threatened by missiles. Now well over 5 million Israelis, well beyond Tel Aviv, are menaced by them. To this alarming tally, add the massive array of attack tunnels that Hamas was able to develop since the evacuation while Israel was “mowing the lawn”, making any suggestion that its capabilities have been “debilitated” utterly ludicrous.

This is even more so  in the case of Hezbollah, who, since 2006, has reportedly increased its then-already formidable arsenal in South Lebanon, abandoned to them, courtesy of the hasty 2000 unilateral IDF withdrawal mandated by Ehud Barak, tenfold—to anywhere between 100,000 to 150,000!

Moreover, the improvement has not only been in the quantity of the missiles trained on Israel’s population centers, as well other civilian and military targets, but in the accuracy and the explosive charges of the war-heads. Likewise, the ranks of its fighters has more than doubled, and their operational capabilities greatly enhanced, among other things, due to the combat experience acquired through their participation in the Syrian Civil War.

Mistaking “regrouping” for “deterrence”

In light of all these daunting developments, it is clear that successive bouts of limited fighting have done little to deter either Hamas or Hezbollah in the sense of breaking their will to engage in battle. Rather, after every round, they have been forced to regroup, redeploy and rearm—only to  re-emerge spoiling for a fight, ever bolder, with ever-greater (indeed, once inconceivable) capabilities.

In this regard, a far from implausible claim could be made that it was not the consequences of the 2006 war that dissuaded Hezbollah from entering the fighting in 2014 to support Hamas against the IDF during Operation Protective Edge. Rather the fact that the organization was bogged down in the Syrian civil war, propping up their patron Bashar Assad—a fortuitous outcome that cannot really be ascribed to the efficacy of Israeli deterrence policy.

Accordingly, it is difficult to refute the recent cocky taunts of Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that “Every time an Israeli official refers to Hezbollah’s growing power, he admits Israeli defeat in the summer of 2006”.  Well, at least if not defeat, denial of victory.

Indeed, just how appallingly the Second Lebanon War was conducted can be judged by the fact that, according to Israeli estimates, the number of missiles liable to rain down on Israel in any future confrontation with Hezbollah is somewhere between 1000 to 1500 a day—ten times that which fell in the previous war, and which kept millions of Israelis huddling in shelters for weeks on end.  Now imagine an assault ten-fold larger, factoring in the greater accuracy and greater explosive power of the missiles today—coupled with a possible auxiliary attack from Gaza…  

These are the bitter fruits that conflict management has produced.

There but for the grace of God…

Against this grim backdrop in Lebanon, the developing realities in Syria must be taken into consideration: The deployment of Russian forces and the growing dominance of the Iranian presence in the country.

If the ominous developments in Lebanon can, in large measure, be ascribed to the flaccid policies of the Olmert government; in Syria, they are due  to those of the Obama administration.

The former,  shackled to its political doctrine of territorial concession and compromise, could not take the necessary and timely action to bring Hezbollah to its knees in a humiliating defeat—and end the fighting with a white flag of surrender over the Hezbollah positions and Hezbollah combatants being led into Israeli captivity.

The latter, unshackled from a traditional view of American national interest, created a vacuum into which Russia and Iran inserted themselves. Of course, the Iranian activity in Syria (and elsewhere) has been greatly facilitated by the appallingly naïve (or is that nefarious?) agreement orchestrated by the Obama administration in July 2015 over Tehran’s nuclear program, which greatly empowered the Iranian theocracy, enriched it economically and entrenched it politically.

One of the many menacing aspects of this is that the strong Iranian presence in Syria will allow the deployment of its proxies—including Hezbollah—along the border in the Golan, effectively increasing the length of the front along which Israel will have to confront such forces in any future military encounter.

All this should cause us to shudder with dread at the thought that, had the “enlightened” voices of moderation, reason and understanding of the “Other”, carried the day, and Israel had withdrawn from the Golan, all these perils would be perched on the heights overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the city of Tiberias and much of northern Israel.

There but for the grace of God…

Backing away vs. backing into confrontations

For several years now I have been warning against clear and present dangers inherent in conflict management—cautioning that it is little more than “kicking the can down the road” into a risk fraught future.  I expressed growing concern that by adopting a policy of avoiding confrontations. which Israel could win, the government  may well back the nation  into a confrontation so severe that it may not—or only do so at devastating cost.

Now, faced with a prospect of thousands of rockets (many accurate and high explosive) being launched daily against Israel  along two possible fronts – an extended one in the north and one in the south; faced with the threat of an array of yet to be discovered terror tunnels—both in the north and the south; with these forces operating under the auspices of near-by Iranian troops and with the possibly inhibiting presence of Russia in the region,  we can only hope that such a crucial confrontation is not upon us.

But  should such a conflict erupt, our fervent wish must  be that the  IDF is not tempted to attempt to “manage” it, but be true to the declared aims of the “Or Hadagan” drill–and strive for unequivocal victory in it…


The Taylor Force Act – Putting “Palestine” in perspective

The Palestinian population is not some hapless victim of the terror groups, but the very crucible from which they emerged

Congress is finally considering legislation to stop the Palestinian Authority from incentivizing violence…This has to stop, and the Taylor Force Act…attempts to do that. As it currently stands, the act would cut U.S. foreign assistance to the West Bank and Gaza in its entirety if the “payments for acts of terrorism against United States and Israeli citizens …do not stop…. There should definitely be no ‘pay to slay’, but…[b]eing smart counts for more than being right. And the smart approach is one that also recognizes that innocent Palestinians…should not be forced to pay for the mistakes of a government they cannot control. – David Makovsky et al“The Smart Way to End ‘Pay to Slay’”, Foreign Policy, August 2, 2017.

Lesley Stahl, on CBS’s 60 Minutes on the effects of US led sanctions against Iraq (May 12, 1996): We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

Madelaine Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations , subsequently President Clinton’s Secretary of State: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.

Recently, three members of the well-known think-tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, posted an article on the new legislative initiative, named the Taylor Force Act after the West Point graduate and veteran, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Israel last year.

Appropriate and imperative

The proposed bill, which was recently passed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support, is designed to stop American financial aid to the Palestinian Authority [PA] until it ceases its generous payments to individuals who commit acts of terrorism and to the families of deceased terrorists.

Perversely, under the prevailing conditions, the more gruesome the act of terror and the longer the sentence imposed on the perpetrator, the greater the remuneration!

Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal points out, under existing circumstances, “U.S. aid becomes a transfer payment for terrorists”.

This is clearly an unconscionable situation and hence legislation to contend with it, and correct it, was not only appropriate, but imperative.

The need for a punitive response to the egregious “pay for slay” custom of the PA was conceded by the previously mentioned Washington Institute article, entitled “The Smart Way to End ‘Pay to Slay’”.  

Penned by David Makovsky,  distinguished fellow  and director of the project on the Middle East Peace Process, veteran diplomat Dennis Ross, distinguished fellow and counsellor on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Relationship, and Lia Weiner, a research assistant, it clearly proclaims “There should definitely be no ‘pay to slay’… This has to stop.”

“…the ‘mistakes’ of a government they cannot control.

However, it cautions against an across-the-board cessation of US funds to the PA, calling for a more nuanced (read “watered-down”) application of the punitive cuts: “Threats of sweeping cuts to Palestinian aid may hurt the cause more than they help.” They warn that “To entirely defund U.S. aid to the West Bank and Gaza is…to halt economic and social progress there”, proposing instead an approach thatrecognizes that innocent Palestinians…should not be forced to pay for the mistakes of a government they cannot control”.

But making the innocent members of the population pay for the nefarious deeds of governments they “cannot control” has been the hall mark of American policy across the globe for years—even when those governments have been far more tyrannical than the PA.

Indeed, why should “innocent Palestinians” merit greater consideration than “innocents”   in a range of despotic regimes against which the US has imposed punishing, at times crippling, economic penalties—such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea?

For example the US-led UN sanctions against Saddam Hussein-controlled Iraq inflicted wide-spread suffering (see introductory excerpt) on innocent Iraqis—including women, infants and the elderly—who, arguably, had much less chance of influencing the actions of their government than do the “innocent Palestinians” with regard to Abbas’s PA.


A government reflecting popular preferences

Indeed, while it is true that they “have not been able to vote in an election for more than a decade”, and to a large measure cannot “control” the current PA government, they certainly did empower it.  In fact, it is in many ways, a government of their making—and theirs alone.

After all, in the last elections held in 2006, the Islamist terror organization Hamas and PA president Abbas’s Fatah won just over 90% of the vote—with the former winning 74 and the later 45 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Interestingly, the third largest party was a faction representing the radical hardline Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist group founded by the infamous George Habash and headed today by Ahmed Saadat, currently in an Israeli prison for his part in planning the 2001 assassination of Israeli minister, Rehavam Zeevi .

Moreover, parties focusing on socio-economic reforms and human rights fared extremely poorly. Thus, the “Third Way” headed by former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad and a former PA Minister, the well-known Hanan Ashrawi, won a paltry 2 seats, while the National Coalition for Justice and Democracy,  headed by prominent physician and human rights activist  Eyad El-Sarraj won, well…none


“Palestine”: What the polls predict

However, not only did the last elections show a vast endorsement of rejectionist views (both Fatah and Hamas –and the PFLP–vehemently reject any recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews), but recent public opinion polls provide little cause for optimism that this is likely to change.

Indeed, should Abbas leave his post, the most popular candidates are Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti, currently serving multiple life sentences in Israel for a myriad of lethal acts of terror, and Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh.

Moreover, findings for legislatives elections show that almost 70% would vote for either Fatah or Hamas, 10% for all other parties, with over 20% being undecided.

Thus, there is little reason to believe that—were new elections to be held—they would produce a sea-change for the better in the composition of the PA, or its policy.  In fact, there is considerable room for concern that the very opposite might well be true.

But perhaps most damaging to Makovsky, Ross and Weiner’s contention that “innocent Palestinians…should not be forced to pay for the mistakes of a government they cannot control” is the finding that there is near unanimous public endorsement  for the very financial support that the Taylor Force Act is intended to terminate.  


Pay to Slay” & Vox Populi

Stunningly (or not), a July 2017 survey by Palestinian Center of Policy and Survey Research, headed by the well-known Palestinian pollster, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, found thatan almost total consensus rejects pressure on the PA to terminate payments to Palestinian security prisoners” and   91% are opposed to the suspension of PA payments to Palestinian security prisoners [i.e. jailed terrorists- MS] in Israeli jails; only 7% support such measure”.  

This is precisely the reality mirrored in an article that appeared in Tablet Magazine this week by Alex Kane, according to whichthe prisoner payment program is one of the most popular PA programs, and it would be political suicide for the PA to halt it.

So, in stark contradiction to the impression conveyed by Makovsky, Ross and Weiner, the “pay to slay” policy is not something foisted on a reluctant peace-seeking  “innocent” Palestinian population , but is, in fact enthusiastically embraced by it—reflecting nothing more (or less) than vox populi.  

Indeed, it is more than a little disturbing to see such “luminaries” as Makovsky and Ross propagating views demonstrably detached from reality, in what appears to be  a misplaced endeavor to create the false impression that, overall, the Palestinians,  share their  worldview—when, in fact,  they clearly seem to have a very different one…


Self-contradictory, self-obstructive “rationale”

But beyond the fact that their contentions sit uneasily with the empirical evidence, they appear to have additional disconcerting implications. Thus, they endorse the view that “although a tough message [should be] sent to the PA about the consequences of incentivizing violence”, they recommend that measures undertaken should “prevent any deterioration in the quality of life for Palestinians lest that lead to greater radicalization”.

This appears to reflect a curious rationale which suggests that if one is punished for bad behavior, then one’s behavior will become…worse???

This never was a consideration in, say, Serbia, where markets, hospitals, buses, bridges and old age facilities—to name but a few civilian targets that were hit in high altitude bombing sorties in the US-led NATO attacks in the Balkans War of the 1990s.

Indeed, the claim that harsh punitive measures against an authoritarian regime will only make the regime –or the population under its control—more recalcitrant flies in the face of the most basic elements of deterrence theory. After all, if the threat of harsh measures cannot coerce the regime to modify its behavior, why should measures less harsh do the trick?

Moreover, if the collective is not forced to feel the consequences of actions carried out in its name- there is clearly no reason for these actions to cease.  This is particularly true in the case of the “pay to slay” practice, which, while it may be implemented by an authoritarian regime, is widely endorsed by the general public. In this context, the rationale advanced by Makovsky, Ross et al appears to be at once both self-contradictory and self-obstructive.


Clash of collectives

It is of course somewhat discomforting to see such well-placed and well-connected pundits misread the lay-of-the-land so profoundly. For such gross misperception can only help perpetuate the conflict and its attendant suffering.

Firstly, these misperceptions nourish the false premise that privation drives radicalization, which is clearly disproven by the radicalization of many seemingly well-integrated Muslim youth in Europe, and the fact that in several Arab countries the greatest animosity towards Israel is harbored by the professional, well-to-do echelons of society.   

Secondly, they obscure the real nature of the Israel-Arab conflict and hence, hamper the efforts to bring it to an end—diverting efforts toward bogus “causes”.

In this regard, then-defense minister Moshe-“Bogey” Yaalon, in a November 2015 address, correctly diagnosed the conflict as a clash of collectives i.e.  “…predominantly a war of wills, of two societies with conflicting wills”.

But, if the clash is essentially one between collectives, surely victory will require one collective breaking the will of the rival collective. Accordingly, ensuring that said rival can maintain its daily routine hardly seems the most promising stratagem to adopt in an effort to break its will and achieve victory.

Indeed, if anything, it would seem the exigencies for a collective victory over an adversarial collective would dictate the diametrically opposite endeavor – disrupt the daily routine of the adversary. After all, misdeeds perpetrated in the name of the Palestinian collective must carry a price, which the collective pays – for if not, it will have no incentive to curb them.

Implacable enemy not prospective peace partner

The Palestinian population is thus not some hapless victim of the terror groups, as some might suggest but the very crucible from which such groups have emerged. It has by its own hand, by its deeds and declarations, made it clear that it will not—except on some temporary, tactical basis –brook any manifestation of Jewish political independence/national sovereignty) “between the River and the Sea”.

At the end of the day, the clash between Jew and Arab over the Holy Land is a clash between two collectives. For the Jewish collective, the Palestinian collective is—and must be treated as it sees itself: An implacable enemy, not a prospective peace partner.

Accordingly, the conflict, as one between collectives cannot be individualized .One collective must emerge victorious, the other vanquished. Only then, after victory/defeat, can the issue of personal misfortune be addressed.

This, then, is the perspective in which Palestinian society must be placed—and the perspective from which the formulation of the Taylor Force Act be addressed.  

Touting Jewish ghettos – Moronic or malevolent?

Given the resistance to removing hundreds of thousands of Jews from their ancient homeland in Judea-Samaria, an egregious idea is emerging: Instead of evacuation, abandonment


The settlements would remain Israeli enclaves inside a Palestinian state. This will enable the establishment of an independent Palestinian state without dismantling Israeli settlements and evacuating their residents…The idea is to prevent the need to evacuate about 100,000 Jewish settlers who will remain beyond the settlement blocs which will be transferred to Israel in exchange for Israeli territories which will be given to the Palestinian state… free access to these enclaves through the territory of the independent Palestinian state will be guaranteed. – Gideon Biger, “Israeli Enclaves in Palestine…”, Jerusalem Post August 15, 2017


The notion of abandoning Jews anywhere to the mercies of hostile regimes strikes me as frankly immoral. The idea that Jews living (with the full approval, I might add, of successive Israeli governments) in Judea and Samaria, should be somehow consigned to the whims of a Palestinian state, suffused with anti-Jewish racism, strikes me as frankly obscene.- Geoffrey Alderman,  “Plan for settlers that’s naive and dumb”, The Jewish Chronicle, January 3, 2014.


Just when you thought the political debate in Israel could not get any crazier—it does.


A cavalcade of craziness


The last two and a half decades, have seen the emergence of several wildly delusional proposals for dealing with the “Palestinian problem”—from both sides of the political spectrum.


Thus, for example, on the Left, the dominant paradigm has been support for the antithesis of all the values the Left professes to ascribe to i.e. the endorsement of a giant Gaza-like entity  on the eastern approaches of  Tel Aviv,  (mis)governed by a misogynistic, homophobic, Islamist tyranny—a.k.a. the two-state principle.


On the Right, proposals range from formulas for the Lebanonization of Israel (via annexation of all of Judea-Samaria, without any clear idea of how to contend with the Arab population resident there), to those for the Balkanization of Israel (via annexation of parts Judea-Samaria, leaving the recalcitrant Arab population largely encapsulated in scattered, disconnected enclaves).


Lately, these calamitous prescriptions have been embellished by similarly unhinged appendages—such as the suggestion to provide the terror-regime in Gaza with a port, despite the fact that, in times of non-belligerence, the modern port of Ashdod, barely 20 miles to the north, can supply all of Gaza’s needs—and in times of  belligerence, Israel has a keen interest in denying Gaza any port services!


In my column last week, I discussed the harebrained scheme to convert Judea-Samaria into a mega-South Lebanon by unilaterally removing the Jewish civilian presence there, but leaving the IDF deployed in a territory over which Israel eschews any claims to sovereignty—thereby, in effect, replicating the conditions that prevailed in the “security zone’ in South Lebanon, which precipitated the 2000 IDF unilateral withdrawal—with undignified haste.  


A real doozy


This of course is not an exhaustive list of all the inane initiatives that have been inserted into the political debate in Israel.


Only last week, an additional idea surfaced—or rather, resurfaced.  


It was a real doozy.


It  was the suggestion that, sometime somehow in the future,  it would be not only  possible politically, but acceptable morally, to leave (read “abandon”) Jewish communities across the  pre-1967 Green Line as enclaves, within  some future  Palestinian state, with no territorial contiguity with “mainland” Israel.


To the best of my knowledge, the proposal first emerged several years ago. It was articulated in an article published by the well-endowed Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), entitled Jewish Enclaves in a Palestinian State.  It was authored by Gideon Biger, professor emeritus in Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geography and Human Environment and Gilead Sher, a senior research fellow at INSS and head of its Center for Applied Negotiations, who formerly served as Head of Bureau and Policy Coordinator for Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Chief negotiator in talks with the Palestinians (1999-2001).


In it, they acknowledge: “…the evacuation of tens of thousands from their homes and their settlements, including forcible evacuation of those who refuse to leave at the behest of the government, is a difficult task for the country, and could potentially result in bloodshed and civil war.


Accordingly they suggest: Thus there is a need to examine other, less conventional ideas that could reduce the number of Israelis living beyond the final borders of the State of Israel who will need to be evacuated, including the idea of retaining Jewish settlements as enclaves within the borders of a Palestinian state”.


Doozy (cont.)


An article, published several months later by Prof. Alexander Yakobson, a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, entitled “How to deflate the settlements as an issue” expressed similarly egregious sentiments.


In it Yakobson writes: “…the number of settlers there is far higher than on previous occasions when Israel evacuated settlements in Sinai and in Gaza. Many believe that we are fast approaching – if we have not already passed – the point of no return, when the two-state solution becomes infeasible…”


Yakobson stoutly rebuffs any such pessimism regarding the prospects of two-statism.  According to his vision: “…if we are talking about real peace, why can’t there be a Jewish minority in a Palestinian state? The future peace …should recognize the right of those Jews who will find themselves on the Palestinian side of the border to continue living there … as a minority under Palestinian sovereignty”.


This is a question that is both callous and cynical—and one for which Yakobson himself provided the answer, admitting: “…It is true that precedents for Jews living under Arab sovereignty, in the decades since Israel’s independence, are not encouraging: No Jewish community has been able to survive anywhere in the Arab world.”


This somber assessment of the ramifications of leaving Jews in a Palestinian state is shared by Biger et Sher, who, perversely, raise the prospect of precisely such a policy: “…there is a decided possibility of friction and clashes between the enclaves and their Palestinian surroundings, which could develop into a state of high intensity open conflict. Many experts believe that from political, security, and practical aspects, the idea is not at all feasible, even in a state of full peace.”


Reckless endangerment or depraved indifference?


In past columns, I have harshly criticized both Biger et Sher (see Infuriating, Insidious, Immoral) and Yakobson (see Mainstreaming Treason?)


Indeed, given the fact that they all seem entirely aware of the probable gory consequences of their proposal, it is difficult to repudiate the charge that it reflects features very reminiscent of the offences of “reckless endangerment” and/or “depraved indifference.


Without engaging in scholarly debate regarding the legalistic differences between the two concepts, it would, in informed layman’s terms, be true to say, that the defining characteristic common to both these terms is that they each entail conduct exhibiting a clear disregard for the foreseeable consequences of the act involved—wfhich creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to others. Significantly, the focus in these offenses is on the risk created by such conduct, not the actual injuries resulting.

So clearly, whatever the sentiments in the hearts of the enclave-enthusiasts, their proposal to abandon Jews living across the pre-1967 Green Line to Palestinian jurisdiction, in effect, comprises a call for conduct that displays stark disregard for foreseeable consequences of the measures involved, thus creating a substantial risk of serious injury to others.

So, reckless endangerment or depraved indifference?


As this is so glaringly apparent, one might have expected such proposals—or any like-minded derivatives—would have been long removed from the public discourse—once and for all.  


Sadly, however, as we shall see, this is not the case.


Inverting Zionism?


Clearly, the proposal to abandon Jews to alien sovereignty comprises a grotesque inversion of the Zionist ethos, which always strove to achieve the opposite – bringing Jews to live under Jewish sovereignty.


Perhaps it was the uneasy recognition of this that has led to a recent revision of this pernicious and perilous proposal.


In an opinion piece last week, Biger once again referred to the idea, claiming that Netanyahu had raised the possibility with the Trump administration, stipulating that any Jewish communities left behind would—even if territorially detached—remain under Israeli sovereignty.


He notes: “A similar proposal has been raised in the past in discussions with the Obama administration. Later Netanyahu abolished the idea knowing that it would face right-wing opposition.”  


Biger’s contention is corroborated by a Haaretz report, according to which Netanyahu did indeed discuss the “enclave option”. The report claims: “…Netanyahu brought up with U.S. officials the ‘Belgian-Dutch model,’ in which settlements that won’t be annexed will remain as Israeli enclaves”.  


Astonishingly, Haaretz sees this willingness to abandon Jews as a “hardening” of Israeli positions, stating: “This is a harsher position than the one he [Netanyahu] presented Obama, when he suggested that settlers who wished to stay in their homes would do so under Palestinian jurisdiction”.


Reinstate ghettos-win a Nobel prize?


Despite all its fatal flaws, Biger still seems to cling to it with enthusiasm, claiming that it will obviate “the need to evacuate about 100,000 Jewish settlers” in the event of any agreement with the Palestinians.


In an attempt to establish the plausibility of this macabre proposal, Biger, who is credited with being, “an expert in international borders”, rattles off a list of locations on the globe where such enclave arrangements exist—each example conspicuous by its irrelevance to the Arab-Israeli conflict, in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular.


Indeed, it is difficult to grasp how Biger—or any other enclave-enthusiast—envisages how such isolated entities could be sustained over time—much less develop and prosper.


Clearly, any infrastructure systems serving them—such as power and water conveyance—would have to pass through Palestinian territory, leaving them hopelessly exposed to repeated disruption by the myriad of hostile elements among the local population.  

Moreover given the fierce and unequivocal rejection by the Palestinian leadership of any notion of residual Jewish settlers remaining within the confines of some future Palestinian state, Biger’s prognosis that such enclaves “will remain under Israeli sovereignty and their residents will remain Israeli citizens in all respects….free access to these enclaves through the territory of the independent Palestinian state will be guaranteed”, seems wildly detached from any foreseeable reality.


No less risible is Biger’s whimsical question with which he concludes his article: “Will Netanyahu’s proposal to Trump be fulfilled and give Netanyahu and Trump the Nobel Peace Prize.  But on second thoughts, given the identities (and deeds) of several previous laureates, who knows…


Unsustainable sovereignty: Blueprint for bloodshed


Little analytical acumen is required to foresee the gruesome consequences that will evolve should this iniquitous idea be implemented. It is almost inevitable that the envisaged enclaves will be unwelcome in their hostile surroundings—and soon become a focus of friction.


There is no doubt that huge resources will have to be devoted to sustain such Jewish enclaves, preserve their security and the safety of the inhabitants.  It is unlikely that they will be afforded sufficient areas to sustain much local employment, not to mention future development and expansion. Residents will require constant and heavy military escort whenever they wish to avail themselves of the promised “free access”, to and from the enclaves. Every social outing or trip to work will become a perilous adventure.


Soon, calls within “Israel proper” will begin to clamor to curtail the expenditure on such futile entities and divert resources to other goals. The government will come under relentless and growing pressure to cut back on outlays devoted to the preservation of these enclaves, which will be left to wither and expire. Their inhabitants will be left to fend for themselves, literally risking being torn limb from limb—or to return, destitute, to “Israel proper”…


Abandonment- not evacuation

The emerging threat to the Jewish communities today is less government-coerced evacuation and more government-initiated abandonment.


So, although the device of “enclaves” is presented as a measure to preserve Jewish presence in Judea-Samaria, in reality it is little more than a pretext to dismantle it, in stages, and circumvent the inevitable resistance to proactive evacuation, and the national trauma that will entail.


Accordingly, it must be exposed for what it really is—and nipped in the bud before it can gather any significant momentum.  

Neo-unilateralism – Futile, fatal folly

New calls for unilateral withdrawal are both pernicious—because of the calamitous consequences it will precipitate—and puerile—because of the naïve hope that it will not


I can even pin dates on it. In 2007 or 2008 we will have another major disengagement in the West Bank. And within a decade, we will unilaterally repartition Jerusalem along lines we will unilaterally select … What Israelis have understood – and this is the underlying feature of the disengagement – is that we need to leave Gaza and Nablus, not because it will bring peace, but because there will be perpetual terror…

Dan Schueftan, then one of the principle advocates for the 2005 unilateral evacuation from Gaza, predicting it would be only a first step in a “wider historical process” of further unilateral Israeli withdrawals, The Jerusalem Report, September 2005.


…it [unilateral withdrawal] promises no solution, no peace, no regional or international legitimacy, no alleviation of hostility, no end to terrorism, not even a respite [and] threatens to tear political and social systems apart…-Dan Schueftan, today director of the National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, on the impact of unilateral withdrawal from Judea-Samaria, which he urges Israel to adopt(!), in Tablet Magazine, August 8, 2017


The proposal for (re)adoption of unilateral withdrawal—this time from Judea-Samaria—began to emerge in the public discourse over four years ago.


Foreseeable fatal flaws

Since then, I have warned, insistently and incessantly, of the glaring defects in the rationale of this resurgent  recipe for  foretold failure– see:  The coming canard: ‘Constructive unilateralism’Stupendously stupid or surreptitiously sinister; Infuriating, insidious, immoral; Imbecility squared – Part 1;  Imbecility squared- Part 2;  Generals, gimmicks and gobbledygook.


Yet despite its clearly discernible flaws, which virtually ensure disaster if it were to be (re)adopted, this  ill-conceived idea not only remains stubbornly on the national agenda, but—almost inconceivably—is gaining increasing support from an alarming number of well-funded organizations and influential individuals.


It is, in many ways, the flagship project of the well-endowed Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). It is also championed by what is effectively INSS’s public advocacy arm, Blue and White Future. Likewise, it is endorsed by  Commanders for Israel Security (CIS) an organization reportedly comprising over 200   former high-ranking officers in the IDF, intelligence services and police. 


Not ad hominem attack


The most recent call for “unilateral disengagement from the overwhelming majority of the West Bankand massive rooting-out of Jewish populations” comes from none other than the Director of the National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, Dr. Dan Schueftan.


In a rambling essay, over 3000 words long, in Tablet Magazine, replete with internal contradictions and riddled with non-sequiturs, Schueftan sets out his “rationale” (for want of a better word) for Israel to adopt a policy, which, in his own words, “promises no solution, no peace, no regional or international legitimacy, no alleviation of hostility, no end to terrorism, not even a respite[and]threatens to tear political and social systems apart…”


Although I shall have decidedly harsh criticism of Schueftan’s policy prescriptions, I should like to make it clear: This is not an ad hominem attack on the author, but a resolute repudiation of his ideas.


I have been acquainted with Schueftan for years, and have found him to be a very affable individual, a learned scholar and a gifted—albeit not always the most genteel—orator. However, as someone who holds a prestigious position in academe and is responsible for molding the strategic perspective of a large number of students, the doctrines he expounds cannot go un-scrutinized, and, if found defective, unchallenged.  


The fact that he may genuinely believe that what he is proposing is in the national interest should not shield him from censure if it can be plausibly demonstrated that it will precipitate precisely the opposite.


Pernicious puerile prescription


All the proposals of the various proponents of renewed unilateral withdrawal embrace the same principle–with only shades of nuance differentiating between them.


This involves Israel’s forswearing all sovereign claims to any territory beyond a line that approximates the route of the current security barrier and acting to remove Israeli civilian presence from this territory. In light of the disastrous results similar measures produced in Gaza, “neo-unilateralists” attempt to assuage public concern by stipulating that the IDF will remain deployed in the areas over which Israel eschews sovereignty.


Thus, CIS proposes that IDF deployment will continue until the emergence of “a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians [which] ushers in alternative concrete, sustainable security arrangements.” Closely mirroring this idea, Schueftan, peppering his concessionary prescription with machoistic rhetoric, suggests: “…the mainstream majority can be expected to consider a unilateral move positively if they know that the IDF will remain in overall charge of security, unless a dependable Arab army replaces it, if and when Israel sees fit”.


This of course is a prescription that is, at once, pernicious—because of the predictably calamitous consequences it will precipitate—and puerile—because of the naïve hope that it will not…


Entrapping the IDF in open-ended occupation


Inevitably, the proposal for ongoing deployment of the Israeli military in territory over which Israel makes no sovereign claims would, in a stroke, convert Judea-Samaria from “disputed territory” to “occupied territory” and the IDF from a “defense force” to an “occupying force”. Worse, it would do so by explicit admission from Israel itself!


Moreover, by conditioning the end of IDF deployment on the emergence of “alternative concrete, sustainable security arrangements” or in Schueftan’s words, leaving the IDF in overall charge of security, unless a dependable Arab army replaces it, if and when Israel sees fit”, the neo-unilateralists are, in fact, promoting a formula for open-ended occupation, whose duration is totally dependent on the Palestinian-Arabs.


After all, if the IDF is to remain deployed in the “West Bank” until some “dependable” Palestinian counterpart appears, sufficiently pliant to satisfy Israel’s demands, but sufficiently robust to resist more radical domestic rivals that oppose those demands, what happens if such a counterpart fails to emerge?


Clearly then, all the Palestinian-Arabs need to do to ensnare the IDF in what will inevitably become an increasingly unpopular “occupation”, making  it an easy target for guerilla attacks by a recalcitrant population, backed by armed Palestinian internal security services, is…well, nothing. 


All they need to do is wait until mounting IDF casualties in a “foreign land” create increasing domestic pressure to “bring our boys back home”, and mounting international  impatience with unending “occupation” create growing external pressure, which will make continued IDF deployment untenable. Withdrawal will then become  inevitable, without any “permanent settlement” or “sustainable security arrangements”.


Unsustainable strategy


Schueftan is caustically critical of Palestinian society in Judea-Samaria, characterizing it as “a profoundly irresponsible society [with] elites who are unwilling to engage in constructive nation-building [who] prefer to glorify and finance terrorists and perpetuate narratives of unlimited grievance vis-à-vis the Jewish state”.


So even in the unlikely event that some Palestinian-Arab partner could be located, who would, in good faith, agree to conclude a permanent status agreement and implement acceptable security arrangements allowing the IDF to evacuate Judea-Samaria, how could Israel ensure this agreement will be honored and these arrangements maintained over time?


Clearly it could not!  

Once the IDF withdraws, Israel has no way of preventing its Palestinian co-signatories from reneging on their commitments—whether of their own volition, due to a change of heart, or under duress from extremist adversaries.


Even more to the point, barring intimate involvement in intra-Palestinian politics, Israel has no way to ensure that their pliant partner will not be replaced—whether by bullet or ballot—by far more inimical successors, probably  generously supported by foreign regimes, who repudiate their predecessors’ pledges. Indeed, it is more than likely that it would be precisely the “perfidious” deal struck with the “nefarious Zionist entity” that would be invoked as justification for the regime-change.  


Certainly,  given Schueftan’s own uncomplimentary description of Palestinian society such an outcome can hardly be dismissed as implausible


What is the neo-unilateralist’s “Plan B”?


Accordingly, no matter which of these outcomes—a change of heart or a change of regime—emerges in practice, Israel is likely to be confronted with a situation where it no longer has security control in Judea-Samaria and a hostile regime perched on the hills dominating the coastal megalopolis—overlooking its only international airport, adjacent to its major population centers and abutting principal transportation axes.


It would be intriguing to learn what neo-unilateralists, such as Schueftan, propose as their “Plan B”, should the realities precipitated in the South  following unilateral withdrawal, emerge along  Israel’s eastern border.  Clearly anything approaching those realities on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv would make the maintenance of any socio-economic routine impossible—since it could be disrupted at will by hostile forces, renegade or regular, deployed on the commanding highlands evacuated by the IDF.


So how would Schueftan and his fellow neo-unilateralists recommend responding? A massive punitive attack along a 500 km front, with difficult terrain and inevitable   “collateral damage”, likely to dwarf anything incurred in previous campaigns such as “Protective Edge”? And to what end? To withdraw once again behind the security barrier? Or to withdraw and repeat the same “experiment”, hoping for more fortuitous results next time? Or the time after that?


Touting a giant South Lebanon on fringes of Tel Aviv


Of course, the basic elements of the new unilateralism— forswearing of claims to sovereignty over Judea-Samaria, on the one hand; and continued deployment of the IDF in that territory, on the other—replicate precisely the same conditions that prevailed in South Lebanon until the IDF’s hasty retreat in 2000.


Clearly, under these conditions, any hope that the conflict can be officially resolved with some negotiated final-status agreement is hopelessly detached from reality. After all, why should the Palestinians offer any quid pro quo to negotiate the withdrawal of the IDF when Israel has a-priori conceded sovereignty to them and ceased all civilian construction, condemning the settlements to inevitable decay and disintegration?


Moreover, what would be the justification for continued IDF deployment in the sovereign territory of others—especially as that deployment itself is likely to be cited as the major grievance sustaining the belligerency between the sides?


Accordingly, proposals for deploying the IDF for an indeterminate period, in territory over which it lays no sovereign claim—and hence, by implication, acknowledges that others have such claims to it—will create an unsustainable political configuration, which, sooner or later, will generate irresistible pressure on Israel to withdraw—just as it did in Lebanon—leaving the country exposed to the very dangers the IDF deployment was intended to obviate.   


Futile folly


As mentioned, Schueftan concedes that his prescribed unilateralism “promises no solution, no peace, no regional or international legitimacy, no alleviation of hostility, no end to terrorism… Accordingly, he asks: “why embark on an extremely painful process” which, by his own admission will traumatize “hundreds of thousands of Israelis…and threaten to tear…Israeli society apart.”


His answer, in a nutshell , is that it will, allegedly, free Israel from the burden of “dominating and caring for them [the Palestinian-Arabs] for over half a century” which is precisely what we were told about unilateral disengagement from Gaza –which is still, a decade later, critically dependent on Israel for a wide range of goods and services.


Of course, to believe that Schueftan’s prescription will achieve such freedom is a futile and forlorn hope. Indeed, the very fact that the IDF is to remain deployed in Judea-Samaria with overriding authority for security, will impose very similar burdens and responsibilities to those it bears today.  It will need to exert authority over local law enforcement organizations, and perhaps countermand any decisions they make if considered detrimental to Israel’s security. It will have to regulate and inspect a wide range of civilian activities, such as the management of dangerous industrial pollutants, sewage flows into Israel, and the inspection of usage of dual purpose material like steel, fertilizers and cement to ensure that are not diverted to manufacture weapons or tunnels…


And I have only begun to scratch the surface…




In February 2004, prior to the Gaza Disengagement, Schueftan, gave an interview to “New York Magazine”, where he was billed as “the highly regarded Israeli analyst and academic whose concept of unilateral disengagement now dominates debate in Israel”. In it  he proclaimed: The Israeli public wants to be completely cut off from the Palestinians, and as a result nobody can be prime minister without going in this direction. It’s not even an option if they want to stay in power.”


Of course, since then, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have disregarded Schueftan counsel–only to become the longest serving prime minister in decades…which might be a good indicator of merit with which Schueftan’s prognoses/prescriptions should be credited…