Gaza: A Port Is No Panacea For Poverty

Hamas are not burrowing tunnels because Gaza has no port. They are burrowing them despite the fact it does not have one.

(Originally published on Times of Israel)

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.  — attributed to Albert Einstein

Just when you thought that you could not possibly hear anything more preposterous on how to help resolve the conflict with the Palestinian-Arabs, somehow someone always manages to prove you wrong — and comes out with a policy proposal so glaringly absurd that it transcends what you mistakenly believed was the pinnacle of imbecility.

Harebrained and hazardous

Disturbingly, precisely such a hopelessly harebrained scheme is now being repeatedly bandied about by Israelis in positions of influence.

This is the idea of providing Gaza with what, in effect, will be a detachable civilian port under Israeli supervision , built on an off-shore artificial island, connected to the mainland by a bridge more than 4 kilometers long, which can, according to its proponents, easily be disconnected should the Gazans “misbehave”.

Actually, this nonsensical notion has been around for quite some time. Indeed as early as 2011 the British daily, The Guardian, reported that Yisrael Katz, Israel’s minister for transport, was pursuing the idea, which he estimated would cost $10 billion and take about a decade to complete.

Lately, however, it has been raised with increasing frequency in the media, and publicly endorsed by both government ministers and senior IDF brass.

Thus, earlier this year, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant, currently Construction Minister, formerly head of Southern Command expressed his support for the idea in an interview with Bloomberg (March 1).

Just prior to that, Haaretz (February 24) reported that “Senior Israel Defense Forces officers are in favor in principle of a port for the Gaza Strip”, and just last week the Jerusalem Post (May 21) wrote: “High up within the defense establishment, some believe that the time has come for Israel to set up a civilian seaport for the Gaza Strip”.

Detachable port? Detached from reality!

Indeed, at a conference held this weekend in New York, Yisrael Katz, who now, in addition to his former transport portfolio, holds the newly created post of intelligence minister, reiterated his previous support for the construction of a port of Gaza on an artificial off-shore island,: “The off-shore project could provide Gaza with an economic and humanitarian gateway to the world without endangering Israeli security.”

This, of course, is demonstrably detached from reality — but more on that a little later.

I confess that the first time I heard of this appallingly absurd idea was in a private conversation several months ago with someone (whom I shall leave nameless) recently designated as a serious contender for the position of head of the Mossad, to replace previous director, Tamir Pardo.

I remember at the time being taken aback by an idea, so clearly ill-conceived and  ill-fated, being promoted by someone so senior — but took (false) comfort in the belief that it was so wildly outlandish that it would never be given serious consideration by those in authority.

As it turns out, I was sadly mistaken — as this perilous proposal continues to enjoy sustained attention in the discourse.

Soldiers turned sociologists?

Perhaps most disturbing are the reports of the support the idea received from senior IDF officers – both past and present — and the rationale that this support appears based on.  For typically, it has nothing to do with any military considerations or operational advantage Israel might gain from the provision of such port facilities to the terrorist-controlled enclave — but rather on a (highly questionable) assessment of socio-economic trends in Gaza, the ramifications this may have for the Gazan public, and how a port might allegedly address it.

Thus, one well-informed correspondent on military affairs describes reasons that underpin that “rationale” for want of a better word: “Hamas, the argument goes, would be hard pressed to careen down the slope of a new war with Israel, even if it wanted to, if the Gazan economy were to begin to take off, enjoying imports and exports, allowing for jobs and income, and giving the civilian population something to lose. While there is no doubt that Hamas is responsible for Gaza’s dire economic state by insisting on jihad with Israel rather than investing in its people’s welfare, Israeli defense officials still feel that they can and should assist the Gazan people attain a better life.”

While some may find this professed concern for the welfare of enemy civilians both noble and a reflection of “enlightened self-interest,” in truth it portends ominous outcomes for Israel and Israelis.

For it is a position that is so diametrically at odds with past experience, and flies so directly in the face of the facts of recent decades that it is difficult to know what is more disturbing: Whether the supporters of the proposal really believe what they are saying; or whether they are saying it despite the fact that they don’t.

Reinforcing the rationale for terror

Of no less concern is that this position echoes the sentiments expressed by both Ministers Katz and Galant  that “The biggest danger to Israel is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza…If Gaza had the ability to bring ships, and goods, without posing a security problem, that is in everybody’s interest.”

For it is a message that strongly reinforces the rationale justifying terror, implying that it is largely economic privation that is the primary cause of the Judeocidal terror emanating from Gaza, and if the residents of that ill-fated strip were afforded greater prosperity, this would operate to stifle the motivation to perpetrate acts of terror.

This is a thesis that is wrong on virtually every level. Firstly, it is risible to believe that Hamas, that has deliberately put its own civilians in harm’s way, gives a hoot about their economic well-being. After all, if it has scant regard for their lives, why should their livelihood be of greater concern?

Indeed, it is far more likely that if the general economic situation were to improve, Hamas would coercively appropriate much of this new found wealth for its own belligerent needs — with prosperity thus making it more potent — not more pacific.

Perversely, perhaps a more effective, but heretically politically-incorrect, suggestion for removing Hamas would be to allow socioeconomic conditions to deteriorate so drastically that the general populace would rise up against it, depose it and ensconce a hopefully more amenable regime, with greater sensitivity for its needs.

But I digress.

To suggest that by alleviating economic hardship, Israel could alleviate terror is, in effect, not only inverting the causal relationship between the two, but it also implies that the victim of terror is to blame for his attackers’ aggression against him. Little could be more counterproductive — and misleading for Israel.

Port no panacea for poverty

Of course, as I have demonstrated at length elsewhere, the allegedly dire situation in Gaza is not the cause of the terror that emanates from it. It is the consequence of that terror. The onerous measures that Israel is compelled to undertake to ensure the safety of its citizens is not the reason for, but the result of that terror. If the latter were eliminated, there would be no need for the former — and far more rational solutions than a multi-billion dollar artificial island could be found to facilitate the flow of goods and people to and from Gaza.

Indeed, no great analytical acumen should be required to swiftly bring us to the conclusion that a port in Gaza will never be a panacea for the poverty of the population.

Hamas, and its other terrorist cohorts, are not burrowing tunnels because Gaza has no port. They are burrowing them despite the fact it does not have one.

After all, Gaza does have a modern port, under Israeli supervision, at its disposal barely 35 km. north of it, in Ashdod.

Under conditions of peace (or even credible non-belligerency), Ashdod can supply all Gaza’s supervised civilian needs, without squandering billions on a fanciful floating island port.

However, under conditions of on-going belligerency, even under the strictest Israeli supervision, there is no way — short of taking control of Gaza—to ensure that dual purpose material such as cement, fertilizer and steel will not be used for belligerent objectives

“Hamas stealing 95% of civilian cement…”

The intensity of this problem — and the futility of a Gaza port as a means of solving ,or even alleviating it, was vividly highlighted  by a recent report in the International Business Times (May 26).

It cited the director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Dr. Dore Gold, who speaking at the UN World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, revealed that Hamas has been siphoning off 95% of the cement transferred into the Gaza Strip intended to rebuild homes, so that it can use it for military purposes and tunnel construction. Gold told the conference: “From our own investigations we found that out of every 100 sacks of cement that come into the Gaza strip … only five or six are transferred to civilians.”

So, even if the island port were under tight inspection, how could Israel ensure that the building materials that went to construct the recently discovered tunnels would be used for more benign purposes? How could it ensure that steel was not being used to fabricate missiles and the means to launch them? Or fertilizers being diverted for the manufacture of explosives?

Moreover, one might also ask how, as opposed to the case of Ashdod port,  is Israeli supervision to be maintained, and the safety of the Israeli personnel be ensured in the isolated off-shore port, should they–as is far from implausible–be set upon by a bloodthirsty local mob?

Humanitarian solution for humanitarian crisis

The grave economic situation that plagues Gaza will not be alleviated by giving Gaza access to port facilities, which it, in principle, already has available to it.

As noted earlier, Israeli restrictions on the flow of goods are not the cause of Arab enmity, but the consequence thereof. The crippling unemployment, reportedly above 40%, will not be alleviated by transferring Israeli supervision from Ashdod and the Gaza border crossings to an off-shore islet.

There is soaring unemployment because any creative energies that might exist, are not channeled by those who rule Gaza toward productive/constructive goals, but into fomenting violence against the hated “Zionist entity.” A port will not change those realities.

Indeed, it is likely to exacerbate them.

The penury of the enclave is not due to lack of resources, but to the preferences and priorities of the brigands who govern it, and as events have shown, the only way Israel can determine who governs Gaza — and who does not — is by governing it itself.

Katz, Galant and IDF senior brass are , of course, right that Israel should defuse the brewing humanitarian crisis in Gaza — which is demonstrably the consequence of the ill-conceived two-state approach and misguided attempts to foist statehood on the Palestinian-Arabs.

But it is a humanitarian crisis that requires a genuine humanitarian solution: Generously funded humanitarian relocation of the non-belligerent Arab population elsewhere, out of harm’s way, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region.

“Perhaps now would be a good time…

Indeed, there is no other approach –whether with a port or without it — that can:

• Provide a durable solution to the problem of Gaza;

• Eliminate the threat to Israel continually issuing from Gaza; and

• Preclude the need for Israel to “rule over another people.”

Indeed, as one appraisal of the port proposal in the Jewish Press (March 24)  concluded its critique “Perhaps now would be a good time to put into action one of those programs that advocate paying local Arabs to [e]migrate to better places..”

Indeed, perhaps it is.

Peace: A Deceptive, Dictatorial Word

After a long absence, “peace” is back in the headlines, due in large measure to this week’s visit to Israel by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who came to try to promote a new French initiative that somehow, by as yet unspecified means, would resuscitate the moribund “peace process.”

Perversely planned to take place without either Israel or the Palestinians, the principal protagonists, the conference has now fortuitously been delayed to accommodate the schedule of U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, who apparently had better things to do than take part in yet another doomed charade to forge “peace” in the Middle East.

However, despite its ill-conceived rationale and dauntingly dim prospects, the planned summit can and should serve one constructive purpose: to focus attention not only on what the quest for the elusive condition of “peace” really entails, but on the even more fundamental question of what is actually meant, and what can realistically be expected, when we talk of “peace” as a desired goal, particularly in the context of the Middle East and particularly from an Israeli perspective.

Indeed, the need for such clarification becomes even more vital and pressing because of recent reports of possible Egyptian involvement in attempts to initiate “peace” negotiations with Arab regimes teetering on the brink of extinction and involving a perilous Israeli withdrawal to indefensible borders. All this in exchange for grudging recognition as a non-Jewish state by a partially no longer existent, partially disintegrating, Arab world.

A dictatorial word

It takes little reflection to discover that, in fact, “peace” is a word that is both dictatorial and deceptive.

It is dictatorial because it brooks no opposition. Just as no one can openly pronounce opposition to a dictator without risking severe repercussions, so too no one can be openly branded as opposing peace without suffering grave consequences to personal and professional stature.

Life can be harsh for anyone with the temerity to challenge the tyrannical dictates of the politically correct liberal perspectives. As British columnist Melanie Phillips remarked several years ago in an interview on Israel’s Channel 1: “Believe me, it [failing to abide by political correctness] has a very chilling effect on people, because you can lose your professional livelihood, your chances of promotion, you lose your friends.”

In a surprisingly candid admission, The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote that “universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological. … We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.”

This peer-imposed doctrinaire uniformity has had a debilitating impact on the quality of intellectual discourse in general, and on the question of “peace” in the Middle East in particular.

A New York Times opinion piece by Arthur C. Brooks cautioned: “Excessive homogeneity can lead to stagnation and poor problem solving.” Citing studies that found a “shocking level of political groupthink in academia, he warned that “expecting trustworthy results on politically charged topics from an ideologically incestuous community [is] downright delusional.”

A deceptive word

The considerable potential for defective analysis in the intellectual discourse on such a politically charged topic as “peace” also accounts for another detrimental attribute of the word.

Not only is it rigidly dictatorial, but, perhaps even more significantly, “peace” is a grossly deceptive word. It can be, and indeed is, used to denote two disparate even antithetical political situations. On the one hand, “peace” can be used to describe a state of mutual harmony between parties, but on the other hand it can just as aptly be used to characterize an absence of violence maintained by deterrence.

In the first meaning, “peace” entails a situation in which the parties eschew violence because they share a mutual perception of a common interest in preserving a tranquil status quo. In the second meaning, “peace” entails a situation in which violence is avoided only by the threat of incurring exorbitant costs.

The significance of this goes far beyond semantics. On the contrary. If it is not clearly understood, it is likely to precipitate calamitous consequences.

The perilous pitfalls of ‘peace’

It is crucial for practical policy prescriptions not to blur the sharp substantive differences between these two political realities. Each requires different policies both to achieve and, even more importantly, to sustain them.

The misguided pursuit of one kind of peace may well render the achievement — and certainly the preservation — of the other kind of peace impossible.

Countries with the mutual harmony variety of “peace” typically have relationships characterized by openness and the free movement of people and goods across borders. As in the relationship between Canada and the U.S., there is little or no effort needed to prevent hostile actions by one state against the other. Differences that arise are not only settled without violence, but the very idea of using force against each other is virtually inconceivable.

By contrast, in the second, deterrence-based variety of peace, such as those between the U.S. and USSR during the Cold War or between Iran and Iraq up to the 1980s, the protagonists feel compelled to invest huge efforts in deterrence to maintain the absence of war.

Indeed, whenever the deterrent capacity of one state is perceived to wane, the danger of war becomes very real, as was seen in the Iraqi offensive against an apparently weakened and disorderly Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

In this type of “peace,” there is no harmonious interaction between the peoples of the states. Movements across borders are usually highly restricted and regulated, and often prohibited.

It is not surprising to find that peace of the “mutual harmony” variety prevails almost exclusively between democracies, since its characteristic openness runs counter to the nature of dictatorial regimes.

The perils of pursuing one type of peace (mutual harmony) when only the other type (deterrence) is feasible were summed up over two decades ago by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his acclaimed book “A Place Among the Nations: Israel and the World.” In it, he calls for making a clear distinction between the “peace of democracies” and the “peace of deterrence.”

“As long as you are faced with a dictatorial adversary, you must maintain sufficient strength to deter him from going to war. By doing so, you can at least obtain the peace of deterrence. But if you let down your defenses … you invite war, not peace,” he wrote.

Much earlier, in 1936, Winston Churchill underscored the dangers: “The French Army is the strongest in Europe. But no one is afraid of France. Everyone knows that France wants to be let alone, and that with her it is only a case of self-preservation. … They are a liberal nation with free parliamentary institutions. Germany, on the other hand, under its Nazi regime … [in which] two or three men have the whole of that mighty country in their grip [and] there is no public opinion except what is manufactured by those new and terrible engines — broadcasting and a controlled press fills unmistakably that part [of] … the would-be dominator or potential aggressor.”

Compromise counterproductive

To grasp the potential for disaster when a policy designed to attain a harmonious outcome is pursued in a political context in which none is possible, it is first necessary to recognize that, in principle, there are two archetypal configurations. In one, a policy of compromise and concession may well be appropriate; in the other, such a policy will be devastatingly inappropriate.

In the first configuration, an adversary interprets concessions as conciliatory, and feels obliged to respond with a counter-concession. Thus, by a series of concessions and counter-concessions, the process converges toward some amicably harmonious resolution of conflict.

However, in the second configuration, the adversary sees any concession as a sign of vulnerability and weakness, made under duress. Accordingly, such initiatives do not elicit any reciprocal gesture, only demands for further concessions.

But further concessions still do not prompt reciprocal moves toward a peaceable resolution. This process ill necessarily culminate either in total capitulation or in large-scale violence, either because one side finally realizes that its adversary is acting in bad faith and can only be restrained by force, or because the other side realizes it has extracted all the concessions possible by non-coercive means, and will only win further gains by force.

In such a scenario, compromise is counterproductive and concessions will compound casualties.

Whetting, not satiating, Arab appetites

Of course, little effort is required to see that the conditions confronting Israel today resemble the latter situation far more than the former. No matter how many far-reaching compromises and gut-wrenching concessions Israel has made, they have never been enough to elicit any commensurate counter-concessions from the Arabs. Indeed, rather than satiate the Arab appetite, they have merely whetted it, with each Israeli gesture only leading to further demands for more “gestures.”

If in any “peace” negotiations such compromises undermine Israeli deterrence by increasing its perceived vulnerability, they will make war, not peace, more imminent.

Indeed, it was none other than Shimon Peres, in recent years one of the most avid advocates of the land-for-peace doctrine (or dogma), who, in his book “Tomorrow is Now,” warned vigorously of the perils of the policy he later embraced.

After detailing how surrendering the Sudetenland made Czechoslovakia vulnerable to attack, Peres writes of the concessions Israel is being pressured to make today to attain “peace” : “Without a border which affords security, a country is doomed to destruction in war. … It is of course doubtful whether territorial expanse can provide absolute deterrence. However, the lack of minimal territorial expanse places a country in a position of an absolute lack of deterrence. This in itself constitutes almost compulsive temptation to attack Israel from all directions.”

e also warns: “The major issue is not [attaining] an agreement, but ensuring the actual implementation of the agreement in practice. The number of agreements which the Arabs have violated is no less than number which they have kept.” Since then, of course, their record has hardly improved.

Will Netanyahu 2016 heed Netanyahu 1993?

In 1996, shortly after Netanyahu was elected prime minister for the first time, Ari Shavit of Haaretz interviewed him on positions he had articulated in “A Place Among the Nations.”Shavit: “In your book, you make a distinction between … a harmonious kind of peace that can exist only between democratic countries, and peace through deterrence, which could also be maintained in the Middle East as it currently is. Do you think we need to lower our expectations and adopt a much more modest concept of peace?”

Netanyahu: “One of our problems is that we tend to nurse unrealistic expectations. … When people detach themselves from reality, floating around in the clouds and losing contact with the ground, they will eventually crash on the rocky realities of the true Middle East.”

Let us all hope that Netanyahu of today will heed the advice of Netanyahu of then. It is the only way Israel will be able to avoid the ruinous ravages of the deceptive and dictatorial word “peace.”

(Originally published on Israel Hayom)

5 Mendacious Palestinian Myths Make One False Narrative

Given the lies and distortions of Palestinian claims, what seems more credible: An offer to buy the Brooklyn Bridge or the Palestinian narrative?

Of all the Palestinian lies there is no lie greater or more crushing than that which calls for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank… Not since the time of Dr. Goebbels has there been a case in which continual repetition of a lie has born such great fruits… – Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, formerly education minister, member of the far-left Meretz faction and dean of Tel Aviv University’s law faculty, “Palestinian Lies,”Haaretz, July 30, 1976

Telling the truth about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict would affirm American support for international law, democracy, the peaceful resolution of international disputes, and the principle of equal rights for all peoples… [as well as] American opposition to aggression and terrorism. – Prof. Michael Mandelbaum, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, “The Peace Process Is an Obstacle to Peace – and it always has been, because its premises are false,” Commentary, April 14, 2016

I don’t think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I always thought so… I think it’s a colonialist invention – a Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians?... – Balad party founder Azmi Bishara, Channel 2, 1996

In last week’s column, I demonstrated how attributing legitimacy to the Palestinian narrative (and hence to the aspirations arising from it such as statehood) necessarily culminate in stripping the Zionist narrative of its legitimacy, by delegitimizing the measures required to sustain the Jewish nation-state.

Consequently, the inescapable conclusion is that the only way to attain legitimacy for measures required to sustain the Jewish state is to delegitimize the Palestinian narrative, according to which Palestinian-Arabs comprise an authentic, identifiably distinct national entity, entitled to all the rights accorded other such entities.

I undertook to trace the outlines of how to address the daunting challenge of discrediting, disproving and ultimately delegitimizing a narrative that due to “decades of distortion, deception and delusion [has] become entrenched in the collective international consciousness” as the received wisdom regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Massive sleight of political hand

As I pointed out in a previous column (UN-nation; un-nation; non-nation; anti-nation, September 16, 2011), while no consensus exists among political scientists as to an exact definition of “nation” and “nationalism,” there is broad agreement over what cannot be excluded from such definition. Thus, whatever other details different scholars might wish to include in their preferred definition, there is little disagreement that:

  • A “nation” is an identifiably differentiated segment of humanity exhibiting collective desire to exercise political sovereignty in a defined geographical territory; and
  • “Nationalism” is the pursuit, by those identifiably differentiated segments of humanity, of the exercise of political sovereignty in a defined territory.

Even a cursory analysis of historical events in this region will reveal that, in the case of Palestinians-Arabs, neither of these constituent elements exists: Not an identifiably differentiated people, desiring exercise of political sovereignty; nor a defined territory in which that sovereignty is to be exercised.

One need only examine the declarations and documents of Palestinians themselves to verify this, and discover that they have never really conceived of themselves as a discernibly discrete people with a defined homeland.

Accordingly, little effort is required to demonstrate that the Palestinian “narrative” – the ideo-intellectual fuel driving the demands for statehood – is nothing more than a motley mixture of multiple myths, easily identifiable and readily refutable. The inescapable conclusion is – or should be – that the entire edifice of Palestinian national aspirations is a giant political hoax, a massive sleight of political hand to serve a more sinister – and thinly disguised – ulterior motive.

What are the five constituent myths that comprise the noxious concoction of the Palestinian narrative?

The myth of Palestinian homeland

The first – and arguably, the most startling – myth is that of a Palestinian “homeland,” now designated as “the West Bank” (Judea-Samaria) and Gaza. For not only did the “Palestinians” never claim this as their historical homeland, they explicitly eschewed any claims to sovereignty over it until well after it fell under Israeli control in 1967.

Thus Article 16 of the original version of the Palestinian National Covenant sets out the alleged desire of the people of Palestine “who look forward to… restoring the legitimate situation to Palestine, establishing peace and security in its territory, and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty…”

However, since the covenant was adopted in 1964, well before Israel “occupied” a square inch of the “West Bank” or Gaza, the question is what is meant by “its territory” in which the Palestinians were “looking forward… to exercise national sovereignty”? Significantly, in Article 24, they state specifically what this territory did not include, and where they were not seeking to exercise “national sovereignty,” explicitly proclaiming that they do not desire to “exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan… [or] the Gaza Strip…”

From this we learn two stunning facts: Not only did the “Palestinians” not claim the “West Bank” and Gaza as part of their homeland, but they expressly excluded them from it. Moreover they unequivocally acknowledged that the “West Bank” belonged to another sovereign entity, the Hashemite Kingdom.

Myth of homeland (cont.)

There is, therefore, not the slightest resemblance – indeed not one square inch of overlap – between the territory claimed by the Palestinians as their “homeland” when they first allegedly formulated their national aspirations, and the “homeland” claimed today.

Indeed, the two visions of “homeland” territories are not only inconsistent with each other, but mutually exclusive.

Accordingly it would seem that it is Jewish rule, rather than any “collective historical memory,” that is the determining factor in defining the location of the Palestinian “homeland.” This is starkly underlined by the proclamation of Ahmad Shukeiri, Yasser Arafat’s predecessor, on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War: “D Day is approaching.

The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation… This is a fight for the homeland…”

Shukeiri’s use of the words “liberation” and “homeland” are revealing. They clearly cannot refer to Judea-Samaria or Gaza, now claimed as the “Palestinian homeland,” since these were then under exclusive Arab control.

Indeed, nothing could better vindicate the contention that the concept of a “Palestinian homeland” is a fabricated construct, conjured up to further the Arab quest to eradicate any trace of a sovereign Jewish homeland.

The myth of Palestinian peoplehood

Senior Palestinian leaders have openly admitted – consistently and continually – that Palestinians are not a discrete people, identifiably different from others in the Arab world. For example on March 14, 1977, Farouk Kadoumi, head of the PLO’s Political Department, told Newsweek: “… Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people.”

This statement parallels almost exactly the oft cited, and ne’er denied, position expressed two weeks later by the former head of the PLO’s Military Department and Executive Council member, Zuheir Muhsin, who declared: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese… It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity…(Dutch daily Trouw, March 31, 1977).

It was Jordan’s King Hussein who underscored that the emergence of a collective Palestinian identity was merely a ploy to counter Jewish claims to territory considered “Arab.” At the Arab League meeting in Amman in November 1987, he stated: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”

This necessarily implies that the “Palestinian personality” is devoid of any independent existence, a fictional derivative, fabricated only to counteract Jewish territorial claims.

The myth of Palestinian nationhood

But not only do the Palestinians admit that they are not a discrete sociological entity, i.e. a people, they also concede that as a political unit, i.e. a nation, their demands/ aspirations are neither genuine nor permanent.

Indeed, Zuheir Muhsin candidly confesses: We are all part of one [Arab ]nation… The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”

Doesn’t get much more explicit than that – unless you read Azmi Bishara in the introductory excerpt.

Indeed, the Palestinian-Arabs not only affirm that their national demands are bogus, but are merely a temporary instrumental ruse. In their National Covenant 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 how are we to avoid concluding that at some later stage there will be no need to preserve their “national identity or develop consciousness thereof? How are we to avoid concluding that Palestinian identity is nothing but a short-term ruse to achieve a political goal: annulling the “illegal 1947 partition of Palestine” (a.k.a. Israel).

After all, 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 its national identity as so ephemeral and instrumental? The Italians? The Turks? The Japanese? Of course not.

So as King Hussein said: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.” Nothing more.

The myth of Palestinian statelessness

A major theme exploited to evoke great sympathy for the Palestinians’ cause – and commensurate wrath at Israel – is that they are a “stateless” people. But this condition of “statelessness” is not a result of Israeli malfeasance, but of Arab malevolence.

For the Palestinians are stateless because the Arabs have either stripped them of citizenship they already had, nor precluded them from acquiring citizenship they desired.

In the “West Bank” for example, until 1988, all Palestinians – including the “refugees” – held Jordanian citizenship. This was then annulled by King Hussein, after relinquishing his claim to this territory. This abrupt measure was 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.”

But Palestinians have also been prohibited from acquiring citizenship of their countries of residence in the Arab world, where many have lived for over a half-century.

The Arab League has instructed members to deny citizenship to resident Palestinian-Arabs “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.” Thus, Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef, in an 2004 Los Angeles Times interview, reiterated that this official policy was meant “to preserve their Palestinian identity” – which was apparently incapable of independent existence without external coercion.

He went on to assert that “if every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine.” Precisely.

The myth of Palestinian refugees

Much has been written elsewhere on the anomaly of the Palestinian refugees. I will, therefore, confine the discussion to two short but edifying references.

While all other refugees on the face of the globe are under the auspices of the UN High Commission for Refugees, the Palestinian refugees have their own unique organization, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The two organizations have two different definitions of who is a refugee and different mandates as to how they should be treated. These differences have far-reaching consequences, arguably the gravest being that they spectacularly inflate the numbers of Palestinian refugees, from fewer than 50,000 to around 5,000,000.

Thus, in a letter to former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan (May 18, 2002), the late Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on the US House International Relations Committee, expressed bewildered disapproval at the prevailing situation: “I am frankly baffled as to why, more than 50 years after the founding of the State of Israel, there continues to exist a UN agency focused solely on Palestinian refugees… No other refugee problem in the world has been treated in this privileged and prolonged manner.”

Over a decade later (August 31, 2014), former Labor Knesset member and ardent two-stater Einat Wilf wrote: “If UNRWA operated the same way as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which is responsible for all other refugee groups in the world, today there would be only tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees, rather than millions…”

Brooklyn Bridge or Palestinian narrative?

So there you have it – or at least part of it. Thus, in light of this overly condensed and admittedly incomplete exposé of lies, distortions and exaggerations of the Palestinian claims, what seems more credible? An offer to buy the Brooklyn Bridge or the Palestinian narrative?

(Originally published in The Jerusalem Post)

The Alchemy of Palestinian Nationhood

“Alchemy: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation” (The Oxford Dictionary).

“I do not think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I think it’s a colonialist invention — a Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians? Where did they come from? I think there is an Arab nation.” (Azmi Bashara, Channel 2, 1996).

“The Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation. … The Palestinian people believe in Arab unity. In order to contribute their share toward the attainment of that objective, however, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity” (The Palestinian National Charter).

As the end of May draws closer so does the prospect of a French convened international summit, aimed at “relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.” Inevitably, efforts will be focused on reviving the relevance of the two-state paradigm, after a long — and well-deserved — period in “cold storage.”

Plausible perils

Indeed, perhaps the most puzzling conundrum regarding the discourse on the Middle East conflict is the enduring centrality of an idea that has so little to support it, either in terms of its empirical record or its conceptual plausibility.

After all, as Israel’s newly appointed consul general in New York, Dani Dayan wrote some time ago in a New York Times opinion piece: “The insertion of an independent Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan would be a recipe for disaster. … The new state [would become] a hotbed of extremism. … Any peace agreement would collapse. … Israel would then be forced to recapture the area.”

This is hardly an improbable scenario, given the precedent of previous Israeli withdrawals. Indeed, every time Israel has evacuated territory it has become a platform from which to launch lethal attacks against it — whether in Gaza, Lebanon or Sinai, where an assorted collection of jihadi extremists are ever-tightening their grip over the peninsula.

Clearly, in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, there is no reason — other than unsubstantiated hope and unfounded optimism — that a similar fate would not — sooner or later — befall the “West Bank,” were the IDF to evacuate it.

The question then arises: Why would any rational person embrace a policy that so clearly threatens to wreak tragedy on Israelis and Palestinians alike?

Transparent trickery

In the course of modern history mankind has not infrequently been afflicted by political perspectives and policy prescriptions that were manifestly misguided, and by doctrinal dogmas that were demonstrably disastrous. Few, however, have been as transparent in their undisguised trickery as what has, perversely, become known as the “two-state-solution” (or TSS).

Based on the flawed and failed notion of land-for-peace, whose validity has repeatedly been disproven, but somehow never discredited and certainly never discarded, it has, for decades, inexplicably monopolized the debate on the Israel-Arab conflict in general, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict in particular.

What makes the dominance of the TSS-approach so difficult to fathom, is not only that it is anchored neither to empirical fact nor to logical consistency, but that the Arabs openly admit that it is nothing but subterfuge.

This assertion cannot be dismissed as some radical right-wing rant. It is the unavoidable conclusion that emerges from the deeds, declarations and documents of the Palestinians.

Nationhood as alchemy

To understand how unmoored the TSS-approach is from both fact and logic, consider how devoid of substance the key elements, which allegedly underpin it, are — such as the “Palestinian nation” and “Palestinian homeland.”

To illustrate this seemingly far-reaching assertion, suppose for a moment that the Arabs had not initiated the war of annihilation against Israel in 1967. Who then would have been the Palestinians? More important, what would have been Palestine?

After all, at the time, the Arab Palestinians resident in the “West Bank” were not stateless. Until 1988, all were Jordanian citizens.

Moreover, the 1964 version of the Palestinian National Charter (Article 24) explicitly proclaimed, not only that the “West Bank” was not part of the Palestinian homeland, but that it was part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

So, had the Arabs not initiated a war of annihilation against Israel, the Arab residents of the “West Bank” would have been Jordanians, and the territory of the “West Bank” would have been Jordan.

However, in 1967 the Arabs did initiate their overtly genocidal aggression against the Jewish state, which resulted in spectacular failure.

From this mixture of defeat and disappointment, “a seemingly magical process of transformation/creation” began to emerge before our very eyes. Poof! As if by some mysterious alchemistic mechanism, Jordanian nationals were transformed into a “Palestinian nation” and Jordanian territory was transformed into a “Palestinian homeland.”

Palestine is where the Jews are

On May 27, 1967, barely a week before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, Ahmad Shukeiri, Yasser Arafat’s predecessor as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, bellowed: “D-Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation.”

On June 1, he crowed: “This is a fight for the homeland — it is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road. The Jews of Palestine will have to leave. … We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants and as for the survivors — if there are any — the boats are ready to deport them.”

Even for the most avid adherent of the TSS-approach, Shukeiri’s use of the words “liberation” and “homeland” should be enlightening. For they certainly did not — and could not — apply to the “West Bank” (or Gaza), since both were under Arab rule and clearly did not comprise the “homeland,” towards which Palestinian “liberation” efforts were directed.

The conclusion appears inescapable.

Rather than defining any specific territory as homeland, “Palestine” is a highly fluid geographical entity, used to designate any territory where the Jews exercise control, from which Arabs have a “sacred duty” to “liberate” it.

Palestine: Pre-1967 vs post-1967

Following the debacle of June 1967, the thrust of Arab “liberation” efforts changed.

Whereas prior to this date, the focus was on the land west of the Green Line, Arab endeavor now switched to that lying east of it, and which had fallen under Israeli control as a result its victory in the defensive war forced upon it — despite Israel’s entreaties to Jordan not to join the planned Arab onslaught against it.

This, however, was only an intermediate aim in a staged strategy to eliminate the Jewish state entirely, whatever its borders.

Perhaps the most explicit — but certainly by no means, the only — articulation of the post-1967 design was that of the oft-quoted, but yet-to-be repudiated, Zuheir Muhsein, former head of the PLO’s Military Department and a member of its Executive Council.

Echoing the identical position set out in the introductory excerpt by Azmi Bishara, a self-proclaimed “Palestinian” who represented the anti-Zionist Arab list Balad in the Knesset until forced to flee because of allegations of treason, Muhsein also opined that “the Palestinian people does not exist.”

He elaborated: “The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the State of Israel for our Arab unity. … It is only for political and tactical reasons that we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.”

He then clearly elucidated the rationale of the post-1967 staged strategy, and the crucial role the construct of a “Palestinian identity” had to play in implementing it: “For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”

Temporary tactical construct

It would be a grave error to dismiss this as merely the opinion of a single, long-forgotten Palestinian leader.

It is a view that has been expressed by many Arab leaders, Palestinian or otherwise, from Farouk Kaddoumi to King Hussein.

More recently, it has been reiterated by none other than the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who in 2014 proclaimed: “We will never recognize the Jewishness of the State of Israel.”

But more important, it is a sentiment that permeates the entire Palestinian National Charter, according to which, “The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the State of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time.”

But no less significant and revealing is the proviso conveyed in the citation from the charter in the introductory excerpt above, regarding the need for the Palestinians to “safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity,” which is to be limited to “the present stage of their struggle.”

Think of it. 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 not!

The merging of ends and means

But what is the purpose of this temporary ruse? The charter is quite explicit: For Palestinians “to contribute their share to the attainment of [the] objective of Arab Unity.” And Arab unity, to what end? The liberation of Palestine, “illegally partitioned” in 1947, which is both the goal of, and the vehicle for, Arab unity.

Article 13 says it all: “Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary objectives, the attainment of either of which facilitates the attainment of the other.

“Thus, Arab unity leads to the liberation of Palestine, the liberation of Palestine leads to Arab unity.”

So there you have it: The Palestinians’ political philosophy in a nutshell … and in their own words. The aspiration for the liberation of Palestine — aka the destruction of Israel — is the force for Arab unity, while the achievement of such liberation/destruction will provide the impetus for pan-Arab unity — presumably via the sense of empowerment and achievement it will generate.

Debunking a dangerous dichotomy

While it is true the implementation of the TSS will in all likelihood bring tragedy to both sides, that is not the only reason to oppose it.

It is a proposal that has no foundation in fact, morality or logic; it is devoid of any justification in history or in present politics.

To quote Dayan again: “Giving up this land in the name of a hallowed two-state solution would mean rewarding those who’ve historically sought to destroy Israel, a manifestly immoral outcome.”

Sadly, it is precisely because the TSS-paradigm is so unfounded, no more capable of resolving the conflict than alchemy is capable of transforming base metal to gold, that its dominance of the discourse constitutes a huge indictment of the intellectual competence of the Israeli leadership.

For not only has that leadership been unable to expose it as a flimsy falsehood, openly acknowledged by Arabs, and to consign it to the garbage heap of history, they have allowed the discourse to be needlessly corralled into a false dichotomy.

It is a dichotomy that is as dangerous as it is deceptive, making it seem that the only choices are either a geographically untenable Jewish democracy, or a demographically untenable Jewish ethnocracy.

Israeli intellectual ineptitude

This is a completely misleading and misplaced perception of reality. Indeed, there exist alternative democratic and Zionist-compliant options that can provide both Palestinians and Israelis with better and more secure lives. Regrettably, it is only Israeli political ineptitude that has prevented serious discussion of their viability and validity.

Unless the Israeli leadership can muster the political will and the intellectual ability to force these alternatives to the center stage of the debate, the consequences will almost certainly be calamitous.

(Originally published on Israel Hayom)

The Political Algorithms of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

By its acceptance of the legitimacy of Palestinian national claims, Israel has, perversely, laid the foundations for the assault on its own legitimacy.

Algorithm: A detailed sequence of actions to perform to accomplish some task…; a precise rule (or set of rules) specifying how to solve some problem – Webster’s online dictionary

Political realism believes that politics… is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature… The operation of these laws being impervious to our preferences, men will challenge them only at the risk of failure – Hans Morgenthau, “Six Principles of Political Realism”

Last week (in “A very simple conflict”) I pointed out that, arguably, the most widely propagated and misleading falsehoods regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, in general, and the Palestinian-Israeli one, in particular; is that it is an immensely complex and complicated problem requiring great sophistication and creativity to resolve.

The corollary of simplicity

I argued that, in fact, quite the opposite was true, but cautioned that recognition of the conflict’s stark simplicity does not in any way imply that it is easy to resolve. Rather, it is precisely its brutal simplicity that makes it so intractable and a solution so elusive.

This simplicity has implications for policy prescriptions for its resolution.

Indeed, as emphasized last week, any attempt to portray the conflict as “complicated” or attribute it any “complexity,” is not a mark of sophistication/profundity, but, at best, indicative of a desire to evade the cruel unvarnished truth.

For the fundamental parameters of the conflict and its defining outlines are so unambiguous and clear-cut that the myriad of details/nuances that enshroud it have little impact on the manner in which it should be addressed or the essential nature of the policy prescriptions required to contend with it. Just as a detailed knowledge of the countless bends and eddy currents in the flow of the Nile cannot obscure the basic fact that the river flows from south to north, so detailed familiarity with the nooks and crannies of the history of the conflict and/or the socio-cultural mores of the region cannot obscure the underlying bedrock of the antagonism between Arab and Jew over control of the land extending between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.

For if one’s point of departure is that Jews should have political sovereignty, administered through a Jewish nation-state, located in the ancient Jewish homeland, then the policy choices necessary to facilitate and sustain that objective are clearly manifest, incontrovertibly derived by a series of “political algorithms,” through a process of almost mathematical deduction.

Jewish nation-state: Twin imperatives for survival

It should be axiomatic that to endure as the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel needs to be viable both geographically and demographically.

Accordingly, Israel must effectively address two imperatives: The Geographic imperative and the Demographic imperative.

The former implies that Israel cannot withdraw to indefensible borders, not only in terms of withstanding invasion but regarding ongoing attrition as well. This dictates the parameters of the frontiers to which Israel can afford to withdraw – and the impact this would necessarily have on any conceivable Arab interlocutor’s perspective on them as “acceptable” (see below).

The latter implies it must not merely initially retain – but durably sustain over time – a Jewish population, which comprises not only a numerical majority at the polls, but of sufficient predominance to ensure the Jewish character of the socio-cultural fabric of the country, in terms of the conduct of its public life, the spirit of its national ceremonies and the nature of its national symbols. This clearly dictates limits on the size of recalcitrant non-Jewish ethnic minorities, who not only do not identify with the Jewish character of the state, but reject it vehemently.

Thus, almost self-evidently, any policy that attempts to preserve demographic viability by sacrificing geographical space (such as the two-state proposal based on the land-forpeace doctrine) will make the Jewish nation-state untenable geographically. Similarly, any policy that attempts to preserve geographic viability by sacrificing demographic exigencies (such as the one-state-of-all-its-inhabitants concept) will make the Jewish nation-state untenable demographically.

The physical implications of defensible borders

Without defensible borders, no government of any state can provide its citizens with the most basic element required of it by the social contract it has with them – security.

This is particularly true in the case of Israel, threatened, as it is, by an array of formidable threats no other country faces. The extraordinary – some would say, miraculous – success the Israeli security forces have had over the last seven decades has obscured that grim reality in the minds of many.

An insightful Facebook comment on one of my previous columns (“Preserving the Jewish state,” October 26, 2015) succinctly encapsulates this troubling reality: “I find it quite unfortunate, that very few in the general public… understand the situation we are in… A country that offers no safety to its citizens inside its own borders… cannot possibly claim to have a certain future.”

Arguably, the most authoritative study on what Israel’s essential requirements are for defensible borders was published by the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs in 2010.

Authored by an impressive array of former IDF generals and senior diplomats, the study determined that to defend itself adequately, and at a bearable economic cost, Israel must retain control of the western slopes of the highlands of Judea-Samaria, commanding the Coastal Plain; the eastern slopes commanding the approaches to the Jordan Valley; as well as the airspace above and the electromagnetic spectrum throughout them both.

The political implications of defensible borders

The physical parameters of these essential security requirements have unequivocal political implications.

After all, they clearly obviate the possibility of establishing any self-governing entity with territorial parameters remotely acceptable to even the most compliant Palestinian.

To convey the inescapable truth of this dour diagnosis, permit me to refer readers to an article that appeared in the reputable Foreign Affairs (January 5, 2011).

Titled, “The Myth of Defensible Borders,” and authored by Profs. Omar Dajani, formerly an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team, and Ezzedine Fishere, an adviser to the-then Egyptian foreign minister, it claims – not without considerable justification: “A policy of defensible borders would… perpetuate the current sources of Palestinian insecurity, further delegitimizing an agreement in the public’s eyes. Israel would retain the discretion to impose arbitrary and crippling constraints on the movement of people and goods… For these reasons, Palestinians are likely to regard defensible borders as little more than occupation by another name.”

The inevitable impasse created by the Palestinians’ stated political aspirations and Israel’s critical security requirements was aptly portrayed in a paper, “The Future of the Two-State Solution” (February 7, 2009), by the former head of Israel’s National Security Council Maj.-Gen. (res) Giora Eiland: “When we talk about the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we see a paradox… [W]hile the outlines of a two-state solution are generally known, the maximum that any government of Israel will be ready to offer the Palestinians… is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian leader can accept.”

He added prophetically, “… the real gap between both sides is much greater than what is perceived, and that gap is growing…”

Delegitimization: The algorithmic logic

Eilands’s assessment echoes a caveat in a book I authored a decade earlier (Macmillan, 1999) in which I cautioned “…the structure of the bargain required to be struck between [Israel] and the Arabs seems inherently irresolvable. For whatever appears to be even minimally adequate… for Israel, seems to be totally inadequate… for the Arabs.”

This leads us to the first chain of algorithmic-like reasoning, which will show that Israel’s acceptance of the legitimacy of Palestinian national claims has in effect laid the foundations for the assault on its own legitimacy.

Although – due to the distortive dictates of prevailing political correctness – this may appear counterintuitive to many, the logic behind it is compelling and the conclusion to be drawn from it unassailable.

After all:

• If the Palestinian narrative, which portrays the Palestinians as an authentic national entity, is acknowledged as legitimate, then all aspirations that arise from that narrative – such as achieving Palestinian statehood – are legitimate.

• Accordingly, any policy that precludes the achievement of those aspirations will be perceived as illegitimate.

• So, if the legitimacy of a Palestinian state is accepted, then any measures incompatible with its viability are illegitimate.

• However, as we have just seen – in the absence of wildly optimistic, and hence irresponsibly unrealistic “best-case” assumptions – any policy ensuring Israel’s minimal security requirements will preclude the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

• Consequently, any endeavor to realistically provide Israel with minimal security will be perceived as illegitimate.

• Therefore, by accepting the admissibility of a Palestinian state, one necessarily admits the inadmissibility of measures required to ensure Israeli security, and hence the inherent lack of Israel’s viability.

Addressing the Geographic imperative: Essential prerequisite

The inevitable conclusion must therefore be: For Israel to secure conditions that adequately address its minimal security requirements, and hence its survival as the nation-state of the Jewish people, the Palestinian narrative, and the aspirations that flow from it, must be delegitimized.

It is difficult to overstate the significance of this conclusion regarding the need to delegitimize the Palestinian narrative. For unless this is done, Israel will not be able to formulate – much less implement – any policy that can effectively address either the Geographic or the Demographic imperative – much less both.

For it is only by delegitimizing the authenticity of Palestinian claims to nationhood, and pursuant claims for statehood in Judea-Samaria, that Israel can legitimize its need (and right) to extend Jewish sovereignty over the cradle of Jewish civilization.

Indeed, it is only by extending Jewish sovereignty to Judea-Samaria (and eventually Gaza) can Israel ensure who – and who does not – control these strategically critical areas, adjacent to the nation’s major population centers and vital infrastructure installations. And unless it can accomplish that, it cannot adequately address the Geographic imperative and ensure the security of its citizens.

Addressing the Demographic imperative: Essential prerequisite

But adequately addressing the Geographic imperative by extending Jewish sovereignty over Judea-Samaria and Gaza immediately raises the problem of addressing the other imperative, the Demographic one.

I have argued, repeatedly, that it would be impossible to incorporate the Palestinian-Arab residents into the enfranchised population of Israel without critically jeopardizing the Jewish character of the country – see for example “Sovereignty? Yes, but look before you leap” (January 9, 2014); and “Islamizing Israel – When the radical Left and hard Right concur” (April 3, 2015). Recent events and decades of venomous Judeophobic incitement have made the prospect of forging Jew and Arab into a sustainable, cohesive society so implausible as to disqualify any such suggestion as an acceptable basis for future policy.

Accordingly, for anyone whose point of departure is that Israel should endure over time as the nation-state of the Jewish people, there is but one conclusion. The only conceivable way forward which prevents Israel from descending into coercively imposing its control over an unenfranchised non-Jewish minority or forcibly ejecting it, is to significantly reduce the Palestinian-Arab population by economically induced emigration – i.e. by enhanced material incentives for leaving and commensurately enhanced material disincentives for staying.

The only way that such a policy can be implemented, without crippling international censure and sanction, is by a massive public diplomacy assault on the Palestinian narrative to disprove, discredit and delegitimize it, for unless this is achieved, the Jewish nation state will eventually – probably sooner than later – become untenable, either geographically or demographically, or both.

Can the Palestinian narrative be delegitimized?

As unpalatable this might sound to some, for anyone committed to Israel’s existence as the Jewish nation-state there is little alternative. Contemplating other less challenging policy options is little more than an exercise is self-delusion. Hoping for the Palestinian-Arabs to metamorphosize into more Judeophilic beings is an exercise in futility, especially in view of the fact that most discernible changes in Palestinian society go precisely the opposite direction.

In an article published a half-decade ago (Ynet, March 6, 2011), I wrote of the need to delegitimize the Palestinian narrative: “This of course is easier said than done. For rolling back the accumulated decades of distortion, deception and delusion that have become entrenched in the collective international consciousness will be a Herculean task. But the immense scale of the task cannot diminish the imperative of its implementation.” Sadly my call to action went unheeded.

Next week, subject to breaking events, I will address how this Herculean task ought to be approached.

(Originally published in

The Problem With Israeli Politics

Consider the following remarkable facts regarding Israel’s parliamentary history:

1) For 20 of the 28 years between 1977 (when Likud first won the elections on a platform of “Greater Israel”) and 2005 (when a Likud government withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in stark contradiction to its electoral pledges), the Israeli government was headed by a prime minister from Likud.

2) When Likud came to power, not only was the entire Sinai Peninsula under Israeli control, but any suggestion that Israel might evacuate the Jordan Valley was virtually unthinkable, any thought of dividing Jerusalem was tantamount to blasphemy, and any hint of withdrawal from the Golan was almost akin to treason.

3) Yet today, over a third of a century since Menachem Begin’s dramatic electoral victory over the hitherto hegemonic Labor party, all the above are either already widely accepted — even recommended — outcomes by much of the political mainstream in the country. Astonishingly, even the question of the strategically vital Golan Heights, which for several years disappeared from the political agenda because of the gory internal war in Syria, has recently reemerged as an issue for debate, despite the war in Syria.

Win elections; never get into power

These developments clearly demonstrate that, although the parties designated as the “right wing” regularly win elections and manage to form a ruling coalition, they somehow never really get into power, in the sense that they cannot — or dare not — implement the policies they were elected to implement. Worse, they appear coerced to adopt, with varying degrees of reluctance, the policies of their defeated “left-wing” rivals, which they were elected to prevent.

This is a phenomenon that can only be rationally accounted for by the existence of some influence, extraneous to the political system, which imposes on it outcomes that diverge dramatically from those that should be expected from the regular unhindered operation of that system.

Thus, Yitzhak Rabin, who, in 1992 was elected on the basis of a series of hawkish “nays” regarding negotiations with and concession to Yasser Arafat’s terrorist PLO, radically switched his policy mid-term, transforming them all to dovish “yeas,” which begot the Oslo fiasco.

Even more dramatically, Ariel Sharon, elected on a platform of vehement opposition to any notion of unilateral withdrawal, adopted precisely such policy, advocated by his Labor party rival, and rejected by the electorate.

It is difficult to overstate the implications of this phenomenon, which, for all intents and purposes, drains the Israeli democratic process of any significance. After all, it clearly negates the purpose of casting a vote at the ballot box — since, even if one’s preferred party prevails at the polls, the policy soon adopted is that which voters chose to renounce.

Spurious ’causes’

Three claims frequently raised to account for such blatant disregard for electoral pledges must be summarily rebuffed.

The first is that they were the result of international — particularly American — pressure. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the case of Oslo, the entire unfortunate process was covertly conceived exclusively by Israelis and Palestinians in remote Scandinavia, without any international coercion. Indeed, deep into the negotiation process, the PLO, cosignatory to the accords that emerged from this ill-considered initiative, was still classified as a terror organization by the U.S. government.

Neither can the disastrous Gaza disengagement be attributed to American, or other sources of external, pressures. Quite the reverse, Washington, initially highly skeptical as to the prudence of unilateral initiatives, had to be actively convinced by Sharon as to the merits of the idea.

The second claim that needs to be dispelled is that these mid-term policy reversals reflect some far-sighted wisdom in dovish policies of territorial concessions and political appeasement that make the post-election abandonment of more hawkish political platforms inevitable. Indeed, one of the most astonishing aspects of the Israeli political system is of ostensibly “hawkish” politicians adopting, once in power, “dovish” policies they previously repudiated. After all, these policies have consistently and continuously proved disastrous failures — making continued adherence to them utterly incomprehensible.

The third spurious claim is that because of Israel’s allegedly dysfunctional electoral system, elected coalitions cannot govern coherently and, to prevent their disintegration, are coerced to make concessions to recalcitrant partners.

However, internal coalition pressures and the exigencies of coalition preservation cannot account for the aforementioned policy decisions, since there were no internal coalition pressures to adopt them. Quite the opposite. Several coalition members, in fact, resigned in protest against them.

Unholy trinity?

So if the most dramatic political initiatives over the last two decades cannot be attributed to international pressure, to the far-sighted “wisdom” of Israeli leaders, to domestic political pressures or the preferences of the Israeli electorate, to what can they be ascribed?

The answer to this critical conundrum is to be found more in Israel’s sociological structure, rather than its political mechanisms.

More specifically, it lies in the composition of its civil society elites: the ones who dictate the tone of Israel’s legal establishment, dominate much of its mainstream media and hold the sway in the country’s academia (particularly in the social sciences and humanities — where the politically correct regularly overrides the factually correct).

These groups comprise an interactive “trinity of influence” that, in effect, dictates much of the socio-political discourse in Israel, which in turn determines how politicians perceive their policy constraints and possibilities. This allows them to set the overall tenor and direction of the national agenda at the strategic level. They manage to inculcate their worldview into the decision-making processes of elected politicians with impressive effectiveness and manipulate the perceptions of the general public as to the prevailing political realities the country faces.

Accordingly, from their unelected position of privilege, power and prestige, this trinity of elites has both the ability and the motivation to impose on the elected incumbents an agenda that diverges significantly from electoral pledges — and from the promotion and preservation of the long-term national interest.

Seeking approval of peers abroad

Thus, for example, the legal elite can impede any assertive initiative that the elected polity may wish to implement. Similarly, the media elite can promote any concessionary initiative that the elected polity may be loath to implement. And when the stamp of professional approval is required for either, the amenable and biased academic elite is ever-ready to provide it.

It requires little analytical acumen to identify that these were the mechanisms that, in large measure, generated — or at least facilitated — most of the major political processes over the last two decades. Accordingly, the ability to understand the political realities in Israel is contingent on understanding the worldview and the cost-benefit analysis of these powerful and influential elites.

For them, the approval of peer groups abroad is far more important in determining their agenda than the approval of Israeli citizens at home. Invitations to deliver keynote speeches at high-profile conventions, sought-after appointments as visiting scholars at prestigious institutes and lucrative grants for research projects are far more forthcoming if one is identified as empathetic to the Palestinian narrative rather than as committed to the Zionist one.

Far-reaching effects

This reality has far-reaching effects.

For example, it prevents Israeli public diplomacy — largely under the sway of these elites — from portraying the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, as they truly are. After all, such an assertive portrayal would make the dominant elites’ worldview look outrageously irresponsible. They are thus compelled to depict the Arab/Palestinian side in a far more favorable light than reality warrants, while portraying the Israeli side in a far more negative one — otherwise there would be no justification in handing over areas of vital strategic importance to Arab/Palestinian control.

After all, to acknowledge Arab brutality and backwardness, to focus on the repression of women, the suppression of dissidents, and the oppression of homosexuals; to draw attention to the harassing of critical journalists and the hounding of political opponents, would gravely undermine the prudence of any policy advocating the establishment of a Palestinian entity barely a mile from the Knesset, overlooking Ben-Gurion International Airport, and adjacent to the Trans-Israel Highway.

Danger to democracy

The gravity of the consequences that the imposition of elite political preferences has on Israeli policy, and the debilitating effect it will inevitably have on the democratic process, cannot be ignored. These dramatic minority elite-induced policy reversals constitute a powerful disincentive for taking part in the electoral process — indeed, for even considering it of any worth at all.

After all, what is the point of voting any party or person into power if they end up implementing precisely what was rejected by the voters? And once the electorate loses faith in democratic governance, what is there to prevent the onset of “alternative” forms of governance?

(Originally Published on Israel Hayom)

The Conflict Over the Land of Israel Is Very Simple

The intractability of the 100-year dispute between Jew and Arab over the Land of Israel is rooted not in its complexity, but its brutal simplicity.

Until 1967, Israel did not hold an inch of the Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or the Golan Heights. Israel held not an acre of what is now considered disputed territory. And yet we enjoyed no peace. Year after year Israel called for – pleaded for – a negotiated peace with the Arab governments. Their answer was a blank refusal and more war… The reason was not a conflict over territorial claims. The reason was, and remains, the fact that a free Jewish state sits on territory at all. – Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, before a joint session of the US Congress, January 28, 1976

We will never recognize the Jewishness of the State of Israel. – Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, Cairo, November, 2014

One of the widely propagated falsehoods regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, and Palestinian-Israeli one in particular, is that it is an immensely complex problem requiring great sophistication and creativity to resolve.

Brutal simplicity

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The 100-year struggle between Jew and Arab over control of the Holy Land, extending west of the Jordan River to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, is in fact a very simple one.

But recognition of the stark simplicity of the conflict does not in any way imply that it is easy to resolve. In fact, it is the brutal simplicity of the conflict that makes a solution so elusive.

Any endeavor to obfuscate this unpalatable fact can only have – indeed, has had – gravely detrimental, even tragic, consequences, just as mistaken diagnosis of a malaise is likely to have detrimental, even tragic, outcomes. Any attempt to portray the conflict as “complicated” is not a mark of sophistication or profundity, but rather of a desire to evade the merciless, unembellished truth.

For the clash between Jew and Arab over the exercise of national sovereignty anywhere west of the Jordan is a classic “them” or “us” scenario, an arch-typical zerosum game, in which the gains of one side are unequivocally the loss of the other.

No amount of genteel pussyfooting around this harsh reality will change it. No amount of polite politically correct jargon will soften it.

Essence of enmity

This reality is aptly conveyed by the introductory excerpt from Yitzhak Rabin’s January 1976 address to a joint session of the US Congress, when in his more lucid, pre-Oslo, period he succinctly diagnosed that the root of Arab Judeophobic enmity was not a dispute over any particular allocation of territory between Jew and Arab, but the allocation of any territory for Jewish sovereignty: “The reason [for the Arab refusal of peace and the ongoing belligerency] was not a conflict over territorial claims. The reason was, and remains, the fact that a free Jewish state sits on territory at all.”

Rabin’s assessment was valid then; it is valid today.

No matter what territorial configuration for dividing the land was proposed, it was invariably rejected by Israel’s Arab interlocutors – from the 1947 Partition Plan, through the far-reaching concessions offered by Ehud Barak in 2000, that elicited nothing but a massive wave of violence that lasted almost five years and left thousands dead and injured; to the even more dramatically pliant proposal put forward by Ehud Olmert and rejected by Abbas in 2008.

Clearly then, as Rabin identified, the roots of Arab belligerence vis-a-vis the Jews cannot be traced to any specific borders of the Jewish state – but to the existence of the Jewish state itself.

Not about borders, but existence

Accordingly we are compelled to the conclusion that the “root causes” of the dispute are:
• not about Jewish military “occupation” of Arab land; but about Jewish political existence on any land;
• not about the Jewish state’s policies; but about the Jewish state per se; and
• not about what the Jewish people do; but about what the Jewish people are.

Resounding affirmation of this came from the allegedly “moderate” and “pragmatic” Abbas himself, who in November 2014 told an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers that no peace accord with Israel was possible if this involved recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – see introductory excerpt.

This was no slip of the tongue.

Several months earlier, Reuters reported (March 9): “The Arab League has backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’… [and] endorsed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of Israel’s demand for recognition as a Jewish state.” The League issued a statement declaring: “The council of the Arab League confirms its support for the Palestinian leadership…

and emphasizes its rejection of recognizing Israel as a ‘Jewish state.’” Clearly, this should be a sobering message for all the self-professed Zionists who have so eagerly advocated that Israel adopt the Arab League Plan (aka the “Saudi Initiative”) – which calls for a return to the indefensible pre-1967 lines, division of Jerusalem, return of Arab refugees, and withdrawal from the Golan Heights – as a basis for peace negotiations and pan-Arab recognition.

Recognition? Really? As an un-Jewish state? How accommodating.

Resolute rejection of recognition

This resolute rejection of Jewish sovereignty, which increasingly has reflected itself in expression of revulsion at things Jewish, should be seen as the back drop to some recently reported – and revealing – incidents.

Thus following Abbas’s outrageous declaration last September that Jews have no right to “desecrate” the Temple Mount with “their filthy feet,” and his incendiary endorsement of the harassment of Jewish visitors by Arab hooligans, the allegedly moderate Jordanian government warned of “serious consequences” if the Jewish state allowed Jews to visit the site which according to Jewish religion is the most holy to Jews.

Significantly, the Jordanian warning came soon after Amman, under intense Palestinian pressure, recanted on its proposal to install security cameras to document events and monitor attempts to instigate violence on the Temple Mount, leaving Arab hoodlums free to assail Jewish visitors with impunity while accusing them of aggression and desecration.

Then, of course there was the impudent and blatantly Judeophobic characterization of MK Tzipi Livni as “so smelly” by a Harvard law student, one Husam El-Qoulaq, reportedly head of Harvard’s Students for Justice in Palestine.

The reported transcript (Ynet, April 22) of the incident dispels any doubt that the barb was an intentional slur: STUDENT: Okay, my question is for Tzipi Livni, um, how is it that you are so smelly? (panel looks confused) STUDENT: Oh, it’s regarding your odor.

MODERATOR: I’m not sure I understand the question.

STUDENT: I’m question (sic) about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.

Bitter fruits of pliancy

There is a bitter sense of irony in this incident involving Livni. After all, she has been arguably the most pliant of all mainstream Israeli politicians toward Palestinian demands.

The abuse she was subject to serves to underscore the bitter fruits of such pliancy and to reinforce the validity of the previous diagnosis of the sources of Arab opprobrium toward all things Jewish: It is not about what the Jews do, but what they are – Jewish.

Commenting on the incident, well-known scholar Robert Spencer aptly remarked: “One thing is certain: If the roles had been reversed, and a Jewish student had asked a Muslim politician why she was so ‘smelly,’ that student would no longer be at Harvard, and would be subjected to international opprobrium, while stories on ‘Islamophobia’ would be blanketing the airwaves and filling mainstream media publications.”

Too true.

Indeed, imagine the international outcry if an Israeli leader, say Benjamin Netanyahu, had declared that the Palestinian-Arabs were desecrating Judaism’s holy sites, say the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, “with their filthy feet” and called on the “settlers” to “defend it by all means possible…”

Just imagine…

Perilous parallels

Irrepressible optimists and indefatigable two-state advocates cling desperately to irrelevant historical precedents in which once implacable enemies have put their bloody past and inimical grievances behind them and forged lasting peace agreements that have permitted them to live in political harmony and economic prosperity.

In this regard, they frequently point to the cases of Germany and Japan, who were bitter enemies of the Allies in WWII, the largest conflict humanity has ever known, in which tens of millions perished, cities were devastated and economies ruined. Yet a few short decades after the cessation of hostilities, both were staunch allies and robust trading partners of their erstwhile foes.

These are dangerously false analogies. We should be wary of being misled by them and cautious of drawing misplaced conclusions from them.

Putting aside for the moment the innate and obdurate antagonism that Islam harbors for all that is not Islam, there are important differences in the geo-political structure of the situation prevailing in post-WWII Japan and Germany, on the one hand, and that facing Israel today, on the other.

First of all, both the Germans and Japanese were unequivocally defeated and signed documents of unconditional surrender, something the Arabs in general, and the Palestinian-Arabs in particular, have not been required to do.

Berlin is not Baghdad

Secondly, and arguably more significant, unlike any prospective Palestine state, which would be part and parcel of a larger Islamic world, Germany was not surrounded by a swathe of kindred Teutonic nations, nor Japan by kindred Nipponic nations, that, driven by a radical Teutonic/Nipponic ideology, strove continually to undermine the stability and legitimacy of any peaceable regime that foreign powers might install.

Overlooking this element was in no small measure part of the reason for the failure of the American attempt to set up amenable, democratically oriented regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. For unlike defeated Berlin (and Tokyo), Baghdad (and Kabul) and their environs were continually assailed by Islamic insurgents, financed and equipped from surrounding Muslim countries, imperiling any government not to their liking.

This is a lesson Israel will ignore at its peril.

For this is precisely the situation that any regime set up in territory evacuated by Israel is almost certainly liable to face – and precisely the predicament that Israel would have to deal with in the wake of such evacuation.

Sadly, the vast majority of proposals for resolution of the conflict do exactly that, and are totally unmindful of the repercussions their implementation are liable to foment.

If Hamas were disarmed…

Thus, one of the frequently aired proposals is for the disarming of Hamas.

Nothing could highlight more effectively the moronic myopia of these kinds of suggestions than the previous analysis. For in the unlikely event that Hamas could be persuaded to disarm, how would it defend itself against more radical – and armed – challengers that would abound in and from its Islamic surrounds? And to what avail would Israel endeavor to disarm Hamas, only to have it replaced by a more menacing successor? This confronts Israeli policy-makers with almost mathematical algorithmic logic: The only way to ensure who rules – and does not rule – Gaza is for Israel to rule it itself. Precisely the same logic holds for Judea-Samaria.

The only way for Israel to do this without “ruling another people” is to relocate the “other people” outside the territory it is obliged to administer.

The only nonviolent and humane way to effect such relocation of the “other people” is by economic inducements – increasing material incentives to leave and disincentives to stay.

Q.E.D. What could be simpler or more compelling?

(Originally posted on Jpost)

Staggering stupidity

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. – Albert Einstein

One does not have to be an Einstein to grasp that Israel cannot solve the problems created by the endeavor to establish a Palestinian state by continuing the endeavor to establish such a state.

Futile and self-obstructive

Sadly, what should be a simple self-evident truth seems to have eluded Israeli political leaders – who for almost a quarter century have impaled the nation on the horns of an irresolvable dilemma. For by ostensibly accepting the principle of a two-state resolution of the conflict with the Palestinian-Arabs, they have, in effect, committed the nation to a policy whose implementation requires concessions too perilous for any responsible government to make.

On the one hand, this necessarily makes Israel appear disingenuous and duplicitous, since it cannot take the actions required to facilitate its alleged political goals. On the other, because of its commitment to Palestinian statehood, Israel must limit its use of military force to levels that cannot eradicate the threat to its civilian population, for fear of eliminating any prospect of negotiations with some as yet unidentified Palestinian interlocutor with whom agreement might be reached.

Little could highlight the futility of the starkly self-obstructive approach, adopted by successive Israeli governments, than three items that made the news this week.

The first was the announcement of the discovery of an underground attack tunnel, extending from somewhere inside the terrorist enclave of Gaza into Israeli sovereign territory.

The second was the report that, having rid itself of the “costly” upkeep of the settlements in Gaza, Israel is about to invest a gazillion shekels in a super-sophisticated barrier, designed to detect any additional tunnels that Gaza-based terrorists might have burrowed or are about to burrow.

The third was an interview with Construction Minister Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant, formerly head of Southern Command, in which he reiterated his support for the construction of a port off the Gaza coast that he expressed several weeks before.

Tunnels: Technological breakthrough; policy breakdown?

Following the detection of the terrorist tunnel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed its identification as a “pioneering achievement” and “global breakthrough,” adding that his government has invested a “fortune” in technology enabling discovery and destruction of tunnels.

It is, of course, too early to draw decisive conclusion as to the efficacy/reliability of the new detection techniques, but it might well be that the discovery of the tunnel indeed constitutes an impressive breakthrough technologically.

Sadly, however, it also reflects a grave breakdown of the policy adopted during, and subsequent to, 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

Apparently dug after that campaign, the tunnel provided conclusive proof – for anyone who felt additional evidence was required – that despite the vast damage inflicted on Gaza by the IDF, the will of the terrorist organizations entrenched there to continue the violence remains undiminished.

The unpalatable conclusion is unavoidable.

Just as with Hezbollah in 2006, and with Hamas in previous engagements in 2008/9 and 2012, so too in 2014 Israel has not achieved genuine deterrence in the sense of breaking its adversary’s will to fight. To the contrary, all it has done is to achieve a ceasefire during which the enemy has not lost its taste for battle, but has utilized the respite to regroup, rearm and redeploy – and to emerge as an even more formidable foe for the next, virtually inevitable, round of violence.

Deterrence diminished despite damage

In a perceptive New York Times op-ed, soberingly titled, “How Hamas Beat Israel in Gaza” (August 10, 2014), Ronen Bergman underscored not only the futility but the detrimental consequences of recurring bouts of inconclusive fighting, despite massive damage inflicted on the Arab side: “If body counts and destroyed weaponry are the main criteria for victory, Israel is the clear winner… But counting bodies is not the most important criterion in deciding who should be declared victorious. Much more important is comparing each side’s goals before the fighting and what they have achieved. Seen in this light, Hamas won.” Indeed, as Bergman states: “For Israel, this round of fighting will probably end… with significant damage to Israel’s deterrence.”

Back in March 2002, about a decade before the start of this INTO THE FRAY series, I wrote aJerusalem Post op-ed piece titled, “Conquer or capitulate.” In it, I warned that in effect “Israel has no acceptable way of diminishing the Palestinian will to attack it, and thus must eliminate Palestinian ability to do so by…decisive conquest of the areas transferred to Palestinian control, the dismantling of all the political and military organizations and infrastructures established since the Oslo Accords, and… reinstatement of effective Israeli sovereign rule from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

I acknowledged: “this is undoubtedly a course of action fraught with many hazards. Its implementation requires meeting many daunting challenges…” However, I pointed out, “if Israel… desires to preserve its national independence and the political sovereignty of the Jewish nation-state, there is no other feasible alternative.”

It is a diagnosis that is as valid today as it was then – but to act on it the government must first extricate itself from its foolish and self-imposed commitment to the folly of two-statism.

Just imagine…

The announcement that Israel was now engaged in a multi-billion shekel effort extending over two years to protect the civilian population in the vicinity of the Gaza strip, should – paradoxically (?) – be enough to give Israelis many sleepless nights.

This sum, together with the cost of the Iron Dome system to intercept the rockets of assorted terrorist gangs in Gaza, the cost of developing a new warning system against mortar fire, reportedly designed to give fleeing civilians seven more seconds to scramble for cover, the direct cost of Operations Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense, Protective Edge, and the indirect cost due to weeks of economic disruption, make a mockery of the claim often raised to justify the 2005 disengagement and the futile and forcible expulsion of the Jewish communities in Gaza: i.e. the allegedly exorbitant cost of securing the thriving pre-2005 “settlements.”

But let us set aside this doleful arithmetic for the moment, and overlook the errors of the past, including the heavy toll of lives/ limbs the unilateral evacuation of Gaza has wrought, and the fearsome arsenal it has allowed the terrorist organizations to accumulate.

Instead, let us focus on the future, and imagine the dread situation that would arise if the IDF withdrew from Judea-Samaria to allow the establishment of a political entity ruled by Palestinian-Arabs – as per the wishes of the international community and Israel’s own commitment to the two-state principle.

Not a 50-km. front, but 500 km.…

In the absence of compelling contrary evidence, there is little reason to believe that what happened in Gaza would not happen in Judea-Samaria, and that the same means required to protect the Israeli population in the South, would not be required on the eastern border.

But unlike Gaza, which abuts sparsely populated, largely rural areas, the “mega-Gaza” that almost certainly will emerge in Judea-Samaria abuts the country’s most populous urban areas. Unlike Gaza, which has no topographic superiority over adjacent Israeli territory, the prospective “mega-Gaza” in Judea-Samaria will totally command the adjacent coastal megalopolis, in which much of Israel’s vital infrastructure (both civilian and military) is located, where 80 percent of its civilian population resides and 80% of its commercial activity takes place. But perhaps most significant, unlike Gaza, which has only about a 50-km. front with Israel, the envisioned “mega-Gaza” in Judea-Samaria would have a front up to almost 500 km….

Now bearing all these daunting facts in mind, if it takes billions of shekels and two years to set up a system to (hopefully) defend civilian populations against the threat of tunnels from Gaza along a 50-km. front, imagine the gargantuan effort, in terms of treasure and time, that would be required to defend civilian populations against a similar threat from a “mega-Gaza” along a 500-km. front…

Anyone still think two-statism is a good idea??

Between moronic and imbecilic

The first time I heard of the appallingly absurd idea of building a potentially retractable port, under Israeli security supervision, on an artificial island off the coast of Gaza, was in a private conversation with someone (whom I shall leave nameless) recently designated as contender for the position of head of the Mossad, just prior to the appointment of the current director.

I remember at the time being taken aback by an idea so patently puerile and perilous being bandied about by someone so senior – but took (false) comfort in the belief that it was so outlandish that it would never be given serious consideration by those in authority.

How wrong I was! Incredibly, at least two incumbent ministers and apparently a number of serving IDF generals have come out in favor of the “idea” – for want of a better word.

Thus, Transportation Minister Israel Katz has come out in favor of constructing such an island, connected to the Gaza mainland by a 4.5-km. bridge, to accommodate a port under Israeli security supervision. The idea was supported by Construction Minister Yoav Galant – who, during Operation Cast Lead, served as head of Southern Command.

Quoted by Bloomberg, Galant declared: “The biggest danger to Israel is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza… If Gaza had the ability to bring ships, and goods, without posing a security problem, that is in everybody’s interest.”

Galant is a man with an impressive career of sacrifice and daring. For that, as an individual, he deserves our esteem. Not so his political prescriptions.

For what he is proposing is little more than a hazardous hallucination, falling somewhere between the moronic and the imbecilic.

Port no panacea for poverty

A port in Gaza will be no panacea for the poverty of the population.

Hamas, and its other terrorist cohorts, are not burrowing tunnels because Gaza has no port. They are burrowing them despite the fact it does not have one.

After all, Gaza does have a modern port, under Israeli supervision, at its disposal barely 35 km. north of it, in Ashdod. Under conditions of peace (or even credible non-belligerency), Ashdod can supply all Gaza’s supervised civilian needs without squandering billions on a fanciful floating island port.

However, under conditions of on-going belligerency, even under the strictest Israeli supervision, there is no way, short of taking control of Gaza, that dual purpose material such as cement, fertilizer and steel will not be used for belligerent objectives.

For example, even if the island port were under tight inspection, how could Israel ensure that the building materials that went to construct the recently discovered tunnels would be used for more benign purposes? One might also ask how Israeli supervision is to be maintained, and the safety of the Israeli personnel secured in the isolated off-shore port, should they, as is far from implausible, be set upon by a bloodthirsty local mob.

Humanitarian solution to humanitarian crisis

The dire economic situation that plagues Gaza will not be alleviated by giving Gaza access to port facilities, which it, in principle, already has available to it.

Israeli restrictions on the flow of goods are not the cause of Arab enmity, but the result thereof. The crippling unemployment, reportedly above 40%, will not be alleviated by transferring Israeli supervision from Ashdod and the Gaza border crossing to an off-shore islet.

There is soaring unemployment because any creative energies that there might be are not channeled by those who rule Gaza toward productive/constructive goals, but into fomenting violence against the hated “Zionist entity.” A port will not change those realities.

Indeed, it is likely to exacerbate them.

The penury of the enclave is not due to lack of resources, but to the preferences/priorities of the brigands who govern it, and as events have shown, the only way Israel can determine who governs Gaza – and who does not – is by governing it itself.

Galant is, of course, right that Israel should defuse the brewing humanitarian crisis in Gaza – which is demonstrably the consequence of the ill-conceived two-state approach and misguided attempts to foist statehood on the Palestinian Arabs.

But it is a humanitarian crisis that requires a genuine humanitarian solution: Generously funded humanitarian relocation of the non-belligerent Arab population elsewhere, out of harm’s way, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region.

That is the only approach that can:

• Provide a durable solution to the problem of Gaza;

• Eliminate the threat to Israel continually issuing from Gaza; and

• Preclude the need for Israel to “rule over another people.”

Happy Passover

But despite all this let me take the opportunity to wish readers a Happy Passover, and hope they can forget, for a few festive days, that the staggering stupidity of some of Israel’s political leaders comprise a peril no less pernicious than those posed by our Arab adversaries.

Originally published here.

Two-statism – The slim chance of success; the grim cost of failure

… in our founding statement [we announced] that we would be artisans and partisans of the two-state solution. We adamantly refuse to drift with those who through a failure of nerve, a lack of political seriousness or a sectarian maximalist agenda are exiting the paradigm of two states for two peoples. – The editors, Spring 2016 edition of Fathom magazine, published by BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Center)

…I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning. – Jibril Rajoub, deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, to Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV channel, April 30, 2013.

Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim – George Santayana, Life of Reason, 1905

As readers will recall, last week I took issue with the editor of Fathom magazine, Alan Johnson, who decided to withdraw an invitation for me to submit an essay because of my position on how Israel should deal with the predicament it faces regarding the Palestinian-Arabs – i.e. by providing the non-belligerent population the chance of building a better life elsewhere out of harm’s way in third countries, by means of generous relocations/rehabilitation grants.

Political prudence & moral merit

To be more precise, what Johnson took umbrage at was the harsh response he inferred I would prescribe, should, for some reason, the generous relocation grants offered the Palestinian- Arabs be rejected. True, if the initial package of incentives for leaving/ disincentive for staying is not effective, then measures may well have to be taken to make the former more tempting and the latter more daunting. This admission seemingly horrified Johnson’s delicate sensibilities, deeming my policy proposal a blueprint for “starving the Palestinians out of the West Bank.”

However, as I pointed out last week, Johnson, and two-staters in general, while challenging proponents of alternative paradigms to provide and justify an acceptable “Plan B,” should their original intentions not be fulfilled, feel little obligation to do the same themselves.

This is of course entirely inappropriate.

After all, given the inherent uncertainty of the political decision-making environment, when assessing the practical prudence and/ or moral merit of any course of action, apart from the desired outcomes the policy is designed to attain, two additional factors should be appraised: the chances of success and the cost of failure.

No matter how enticing the projected outcomes a given policy might be, if the chances of attaining them are remote and/or the cost of failing to do so is exorbitant, political prudence and moral merit may well dictate abandoning it, and compel a search for more plausible and less hazardous alternatives.

Exasperating pigheadedness; infuriating arrogance

Yet this is a calculus that two-staters never seem to undertake – nor feel any need to. As I have emphasized several times in the past, despite the fact that the two-state dogma has been regularly and repeatedly disproven, somehow it has never been discarded or even significantly discredited. Impervious to reason and reality, two-staters cling, with exasperating pigheadedness and infuriating arrogance, to a political credo that has wrought untold tragedy to Jew and Arab alike.

The obdurate refusal of two-staters to admit any possibility of error, or even to concede that such possibility exists, reveals more than a hint of ideological fanaticism and intellectual dishonesty.

After all, if Johnson and other two-staters were compelled to consider the realities that foisting statehood on the Palestinian-Arabs might precipitate, they would rapidly realize that these would be far more cataclysmic than those that would result from an initial rejection of relocation grants, and the responses called for to contend with them, far more drastic.

As I suggested last week – and promised to elaborate on this week – “my proposed Humanitarian Paradigm for the resolution of the Palestinian predicament will be the most humane of all currently debated options if it succeeds, and result in the least inhumane realities, if it does not.”

But more than that, for many Palestinians it would provide a solution for precisely the predicament the ill-fated two-state endeavor has created for them.

The ravages of two-statism

After all, for many, the ravages of two-statism are no longer a matter of speculation, but of empirical fact. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the place where the ill-conceived enterprise began almost a quarter-century ago: Gaza, the scene of tumultuous jubilation at the triumphant arrival of Yasser Arafat in the summer of 1994.

Compare and contrast the giddy euphoria of then with the dismal despair of now. It is despair that is, demonstrably and indisputably, the direct consequence of the attempt to establish Palestinian self-determination in the Gaza Strip – despite massive international financial aid and political support.

Ironically, for many Gazans, beset by devastating unemployment, awash in flows of raw sewage and under the yoke of theocratic tyranny, the most immediate desire is to leave.

If we are to believe the ever-more frequent reports from Arab and left-leaning sources, generous grants to facilitate their emigration would be no less than a blessed fulfillment of their most fervent dreams.

This is not difficult to understand, since more than a decade after Israel evacuated Gaza, it has become an unsustainable entity, with over 45 percent of the workforce unemployed and 80% of the population dependent on foreign aid.

Gaza ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020?

Even the most doctrinaire advocates of two-statism such as Gershon Baskin was recently forced to confess: “The internal conflict between Gaza and the West Bank is not close to resolution. Gaza remains in ruins with nearly two million people living in total poverty. A majority of Gazans would leave if they had any place to go. (Jerusalem Post, March 2) This assessment echoes those of numerous other sources.

For example, a report published (September 2015) by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development warned that Gaza could become uninhabitable by the end of the decade. Al Monitor (September 24, 2015) in a post headlined “Gazans consider the Strip ‘uninhabitable’ now,” cited the predicament of a mother of five from Beit Hanun in the north of the Gaza Strip, who admitted, “I always think about emigrating, and I am constantly looking for a safe place for my family and myself.”

In similar vein, Electronic Intifada (October 2014), not normally my preferred source of information, in a scathing, dismissive critique of the reconstruction efforts, lamented: “Young Palestinians in Gaza, facing unemployment rates as high as 60%, have lost hope and are putting their lives in the hands of smugglers in a bid to reach Europe and a future.”

Fleeing despair and desperation

Thus, well before the current wave of Muslim migrants engulfed Europe, the lengths some Gazans are prepared to go to extricate themselves from the fruits of the unfortunate two-state experiment are vividly conveyed in several media outlets.

Thus, Haaretz quoted one Gaza resident as declaring: “It’s better to die at sea than to die of despair and frustration in Gaza.”

An Al Jazeera article, headlined, “Palestinian Migrants Fleeing Gaza Strip Drown in Mediterranean Sea,” described how Gazans increasingly turn to smugglers to escape economic privation and deadly conflict. The New York Times wrote of Gazans “Fleeing Gaza, only to face treachery and disaster at sea,” and Ynet reported that “Scores of Gazans die at sea in attempt to flee…”

Now, imagine that an orderly mechanism had been established to help nonbelligerent Gazans extricate themselves from the clutches of the cruel, corrupt cliques that have (mis) led them, time and time again, into penury and disaster, and provide them the resources to build a better life for themselves and their families elsewhere, not as penniless refugees but as relatively affluent immigrants? Surely that is a far more humane approach than insisting they remain tethered to tyranny, in the forlorn hope that a formula that has failed so dismally before, will suddenly magically succeed.

Slim chance of success

Of course, there is little reason to believe that if the IDF were to evacuate Judea-Samaria (as was the case in Gaza) and all trace of Jewish presence were obliterated (as was the case in Gaza), that the same fate would not befall the Arab population that resides there.

Those who might invoke quarantines, security barriers and recurring military campaigns to account for the Palestinians’ socioeconomic plight, should be brusquely reminded that all of these are products of the post-Oslowian two-statism. They are the consequence of post-Oslowian Arab terrorism, not the cause of it.

Indeed, after decades of bloodshed and broken pledges, it seems that the entire “rationale” for continuing to cling to the two-state creed is the quasi-messianic belief that somehow the Palestinians, as a collective, will not only change, but miraculously morph into something, not only different from what they have been for decades, but into the antithetical opposite.

But furthermore, for the two-state construct to be not only momentarily feasible, but sustainably durable, this envisaged metamorphosis cannot be limited to any one particular pliant Palestinian interlocutor, who, whether by ballot or bullet, may be removed by a more radical successor (as was the case in Gaza), eager to repudiate all the perfidious pledges of peace made to the hated Zionist entity.

Slim chance (cont.)

Of course, such hope for a benign sea change in the collective Palestinian-Arab psyche has always been wildly fanciful, but at least in the heady days immediately following the signature of the Oslo Accords there may have been a reason, however flimsy, to succumb to the allure of naïve optimism.

But a gory two-and-a-half decades later, there can be no such excuse – particularly in the post Arab Spring ascendancy of jihadism, sweeping across the Mideast, menacing the Jordanian monarchy and challenging Egypt’s control of Sinai.

It seems inconceivable that under such conditions, and given our experiences, anyone with a modicum of concern for the future of the Jewish state could still adhere to such a patently perilous and implausible paradigm.

Sadly, it seems that obsessive two-staters have failed to internalize the lesson of the Golan Heights, which many land-for-peace adherents urged be handed over to Bashar Assad, then a reputedly moderate, Western- educated reformer. Imagine the dread that would prevail today if affiliates of al-Qaida and ISIS were deployed on the heights overlooking the Galilee and the city of Tiberias.

Now imagine forces of a similar ilk deployed – whether with compliance, or in defiance, of some Palestinian-Arab regime in Judea-Samaria – on the heights overlooking Israel’s coastal megalopolis, within mortar range from its only international airport and tunnel reach of its Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6).

Then, draw your own conclusions as to the prudence and morality of the harebrained two-state scheme.

Grim cost of failure

However, suppose for a moment that a Palestinian state were established on the strategic heights commanding Israel’s most populous and prosperous region – the narrow Coastal Plain.

Suppose, if, as is far from implausible, and irrespective of the purported goodwill of any initial Palestinian regime, control is taken over by a more inimical successor, which began to carry out terrorist attacks along the 500-km. front and from the commanding topographic territory, adjacent to Israeli population centers and infrastructure installations, whether overhead rocket salvos, underground tunnel attacks, or small arms ambushes on transport arteries.

Clearly, the consequences for the civilian populations on both sides of the new frontier would be severe. Israel, faced with recurring disruption of its socioeconomic routine and attrition of its population, would have little option but to retaliate harshly – far more so than in the previous Gaza operations, on a far wider front, with far greater topographical inferiority and far greater exposure of its urban hinterland. Extensive collateral damage among Palestinian-Arab civilians – and commensurate international censure of Israel – would be inevitable…

Moreover, if the regime in Amman were to veer Islamist, the IDF could well find itself embroiled in battle against Jordanian regular military forces, with the consequences unclear but certainly dire…

I could go on, but I think the issue of the grim cost is reasonably clear.

Intellectual cowardice?

Given the starkly slim chances of success and the gruesomely grim cost of failure, the refusal of two-staters such as the folks at Fathom to foster discussion on competing alternatives, likely to produce more humane outcomes, if they succeed, and less inhumane ones, if they fail, is, to say the least, disappointing.

Could it be that two-staters are no longer able to defend their position by rational debate and therefore need to fall back on avoiding debate?

More unforgiving souls might consider such avoidance nothing less than intellectual cowardice.

(Originally Published in the Jerusalem Post)

The 2-State Notion Is No Solution

One of the most perverse paradoxes in the political discourse on the Israeli-Arab conflict is that the people who supported the two-state principle should have been its fiercest opponents — at least if we are to judge by the “enlightened” moral values and progressive political pragmatism they purportedly invoke for endorsing it.

For even the most perfunctory analysis quickly reveals the two-state endeavor to be not only an exercise in utter futility, which will not attain any of its declared aims, but one that is both self-obstructive and self-contradictory. In fact, it would most likely bring about the exact opposite of its stated aims.

The two-state endeavor is immoral, irrational, and incompatible with the long-term existence of Israel as the Jewish nation-state.

It is immoral because it will create realties that are the absolute negation of the lofty values invoked for its implementation.

It is irrational because it will generate the precise perils it was designed to prevent.

It is incompatible with Israel’s long-term existence as the Jewish nation-state because it will almost inevitably culminate in a mega-Gaza on the outskirts of the greater Tel Aviv area.

Why the two-state endeavor is immoral

Typically — indeed, almost invariably — two-state proponents lay claim to the moral high ground, invoking lofty liberal values for their political credo, while impugning their ideological opponents’ ethical credentials for opposing it.

Indeed, given the socio-cultural conditions in virtually all Arab countries, and the precedents set in Palestinian-administered territories evacuated by Israel, the inevitable outcome of the two-state notion is not difficult to foresee. Indeed , there is little reason to believe (and certainly two-state proponents have never provided anything approaching a persuasive one) that any prospective Palestinian state, established on any territory Israel evacuated, will quickly become anything but yet another homophobic, misogynistic Muslim-majority tyranny.

Why on earth then would anyone who allegedly subscribes to values of gender equality, tolerance of sexual preferences and political pluralism endorse any policy that would almost certainly obviate the ethical tenets they purport to cherish? On what basis could advocating the establishment of such an entity be made a claim for the moral high ground — or indeed for any moral merit whatsoever?

Why the two-state endeavor is irrational

But it is not only in terms of moral outcomes that the two-state paradigm is a perversely self-obstructive endeavor. The same is true for the practical outcomes that it will almost certainly precipitate.

It is hard to say what has to happen before it is recognized that the land-for-peace doctrine, on which the two-state concept is based, is a perilously counterproductive endeavor — as it has in every instance it was attempted, not only in the Arab-Israeli context, but whenever an effort was made to appease tyranny with political concessions and territorial withdrawals.

For whenever that unfortunate formula has been applied, rather than result in peace, it has produced increased violence and bloodshed. Every time territory has been relinquished to Arab control, that territory has, sooner or later — usually sooner rather than later — become a platform for launching lethal attacks against Israel: Almost immediately in Gaza, within months in Judea and Samaria, within years in southern Lebanon and after several decades in Sinai, which is now descending into the depths of depravity and unspeakable brutality — with no good options on the horizon.

In light of the grim precedents provided by previous land-for-peace experiments, together with the no less grim trends in Arab society in general and Palestinian society in particular, continued insistence on this fatally flawed formula is both gravely irrational and grossly irresponsible.

Why the two-state endeavor is incompatible with Israel’s existence

Thus, apart from wishful thinking, dangerously detached from any prevailing (or foreseeable) reality, stubborn adherence to the two-state dogma has no value — neither in terms of its moral merits nor its political pragmatism. Worse yet, the pursuit of it is totally incompatible with Israel’s long-term existence.

To grasp the fundamental validity of this seemingly far-reaching statement it is necessary to recognize that today, with the changing nature of Arab enmity, the major existential challenge to Israel’s existence as the Jewish nation-state is no longer fending off invasion, but resisting attrition.

Nowhere was this more starkly evident than in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, where continued bombardment resulted in the evacuation of entire Jewish communities in Israel’s south.

Without compelling evidence to the contrary, there is little reason to believe, and certainly to adopt as a working assumption, that the realities in the south will not be repeated on Israel’s eastern border — with several chilling differences.

The most plausible outcome of an Israeli evacuation of Judea and Samaria is the emergence of a mega-Gaza on the very outskirts of the greater Tel Aviv area and other major urban centers in the heavily populated coastal plain. But unlike Gaza, which has a border of 51 kilometers (32 miles) and no topographical command of adjacent territory inside the pre-1967 frontiers, the situation in Judea and Samaria would — to understate the case — be alarmingly different.

“Depraved indifference” of the two-state paradigm

Any Arab entity set up there would have a front abutting Israel’s most populous area, of about 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) and total topographical superiority over 80% of the country’s civilian population, vital infrastructure systems and 80% of its commercial activity.

All of these will be in range of weapons used against Israel from territory evacuated and transferred to Arab control. Accordingly, this grim caveat cannot be dismissed as “right-wing scaremongering” for it is merely the empirical precedent.

Any force deployed in these areas — whether regular or renegade — could, with cheap readily available weapons, disrupt at will any socio-economic routine in Israel’s coastal megalopolis, turning the popular tourist city of Netanya into a Sderot-by-the-sea, and making the attrition in daily life increasingly onerous.

There is, of course, little dispute over the assessment, that if Israel were to evacuate Judea and Samaria it would almost certainly fall into the hands of Hamas-like elements, or worse. At the very least, such an outcome is highly probable. Indeed, the only way to ensure that what happened in Gaza does not happen in Judea and Samaria is for Israel to retain control of this territory — thereby obviating implementation of the two-state formula and the emergence of a Palestinian state.

Surely then, given the grave — indeed, existential — risks inherent in the two-state paradigm, considerably heightened by the precarious position of the current regime in neighboring Jordan, threatened, as it is, by ever-ascendant Islamist elements, would it not be eminently reasonable to consider further advocacy of this perilous prescription as “reckless endangerment” — even “depraved indifference”?

Immediate imperative

Accordingly, with the catastrophic consequences of continued insistence on the quest for a two-state resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict an ever more ominous likelihood, a determined search for plausible and durable alternatives — more moral, more rational and more compatible with the survival of the Jewish nation state — is now an urgent imperative.

(This article was originally published on Israel Hayom)