Lauder’s lame lament

According to Ronald Lauder, Israel must be either perilously insecure; or demographically untenable. This is an utterly false dichotomy.

“…the Jewish democratic state faces two grave threats that I believe could endanger its very existence…The first threat is the possible demise of the two-state solution…The second, two-prong threat, is Israel’s capitulation to religious extremists and the growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora.” – Ronald S. Lauder, New York Times, March 18, 2018.

Earlier this week the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, published an Op-Ed in the New York Times, entitled Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds.

In it, he made a bewildering claim.

Lauder’s bewildering call for homophobic, misogynistic tyranny

According to Lauder, Israel can only remain a democratic Jewish state if it agrees—with some yet-to-be-identified amenable Palestinian-Arab—to establish what almost inevitably would be—if past precedent, prevailing reality and future projection are any criterion—a homophobic, misogynistic Muslim majority tyranny, on the highlands overlooking Israel’s densely populated coastal plain, dominating its only international airport, and abutting major transportation routes.

If, indeed, Lauder believes that some future Palestinian state would be anything other than said homophobic, misogynistic tyranny, with most of population drenched in inciteful, Judeocidal hatred, he never bothered to indicate that—and certainly never provided any persuasive argument, why he felt that this would be the case.

This is, to say the least, disturbing.

After all, there is little reason to surmise that once the IDF pulls out of Judea-Samaria, what happened before—every time Israel vacated territory—will not happen again.

Regrettably, Lauder seems to blithely ignore the catastrophic consequences that resulted from doing precisely what he proposes… in Gaza—where the ill-conceived effort of trying to foist self-governance on the Palestinian-Arabs culminated not only in a grave security threat to Israel, precipitating three mini-wars, but also a grave humanitarian crisis for the hapless residents of that coastal enclave.

Endorsing a mega-Gaza on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv

As a result, not only Hamas and its murderous Jihadi surrogates have weapons that can reach Greater Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport, but Israel is now compelled to construct a massive barrier along the 50 kms border with Gaza, reportedly 6 m above ground to prevent surface infiltration by terrorists; and 40 meters underground to prevent sub-surface infiltration via terror tunnels.

The construction of this barrier was deemed by IDF’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, “the largest project” ever carried out in Israel’s military history.

There is, as mentioned, little reason to believe that if the IDF were to evacuate Judea-Samaria to facilitate the implementation of the two-state formula, the resultant realities would not follow the same path as Gaza. Significantly, the proponents of such evacuation, Lauder included, have not—and cannot—provide any persuasive assurance that it will not. Certainly, such an outcome cannot be discounted as totally implausible—and hence must be factored into Israel’s strategic planning as a possibility with which it may well have to contend.

Accordingly, if Israel’s evacuation of Gaza gave rise to the need to build a multi-billion shekel above- and below-ground barrier to protect the sparsely populated, largely rural south, surely the evacuation of Judea-Samaria is likely to give rise to a need to construct a similar barrier to protect the heavily populated, largely urban areas, which would border the evacuated territories.

Gaza vs Judea-Samaria: The daunting difference

There would, however, be several significant differences.

For, unlike Gaza, which has a 50 km border with Israel, any prospective Palestinian-Arab entity of the kind Lauder envisions in Judea-Samaria, would have a frontier of anything up to 500 km—and possibly more, depending on the exact parameters of the evacuated areas.

Moreover, unlike Gaza, which has no topographical superiority over its surrounding environs, the limestone hills of Judea-Samaria dominate virtually all of Israel’s major airfields (civilian and military); main seaports and naval bases; vital infrastructure installations (power generation and transmission, water, communications and transportation systems); centers of civilian government and military command; and 80 percent of the civilian population and commercial activity.

Under these conditions, demilitarization is virtually irrelevant—as illustrated by the allegedly “demilitarized” Gaza. For even in the absence of a conventional air-force, navy, and armor, lightly armed renegades with improvised weapons could totally disrupt the socioeconomic routine of the nation at will, with or without the complicity of the incumbent regime, which, given its despotic nature, would have little commitment to the welfare of the average citizen.

Faced with this grim prospect, any Israeli government would either have to resign itself to recurring paralysis of the economy, mounting civilian casualties and the disruption of life in the country, or respond repeatedly with massive retaliation, with the attendant collateral damage among the non-belligerent Palestinian-Arab population, and international condemnation of its use of allegedly “disproportionate force.”

By ballot or bullet?

But it is not only demilitarization that is largely irrelevant.

So too is the alleged sincerity of any prospective Palestinian “peace partner”. For whatever the deal Lauder envisions being struck, its durability cannot be assured.

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

Accordingly, there is every reason to believe—and precious little not to—that any Palestinian state established in any area evacuated by Israel would—sooner or later—degenerate into a menacing giant Gaza-like entity overlooking greater Tel Aviv—with all the attendant perils such an outcome would entail.

In the past few days, a new danger, spawned by two-statism, has emerged in Gaza—the specter of mass marches of tens of thousands towards the fence separating Gaza from Israel. According to Ehud Yaari, an international fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the objective of such Hamas marches is “clearly an attempt to break through the fences, and they are ready to tolerate losses…”

In another analysis of the planned march, Jonathan Halevi warned that the organizers have been “authorized to decide for the mob to break through the border fence between Gaza and Israel, and they have hinted at their intention to issue such an order.”

The menace of mass marches

Halevi points out that the “national committee” for the “march of return” is led by one of the leaders of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and comprises various nationalist and Islamic organizations, including political movements such as Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.

According to Halevi, the committee coordinates its activities with Palestinian organizations in Judea-Samaria that are planning to organize similar “marches of return”, whose avowed strategic goal is the realization of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendants.

Clearly, if such marches do take place, Israel and its military will be put in an unenviable (to greatly understate matters) predicament—having to choose between mowing down large numbers of (largely unarmed) civilians and being inundated with international censure and possibly sanctions; or allowing frenzied mobs to overrun and ravage Israeli towns, villages and farming communities located close to the border, and to raze their homes, rape their women and butcher their residents.

Is Lauder seriously suggesting that Israel evacuate more territory to afford the Palestinian-Arabs greater freedom to conduct such pernicious and potentially lethal rallies??

After all, for two-statism to work, the Palestinian-Arabs will have to morph into something that they have not been for over a hundred years. There is, however, not a shred of evidence that they are likely to do so within any foreseeable time frame. To the contrary, as time progresses, such metamorphosis seems increasingly remote.

Lauder professes deep love for Israel. So one can only scratch one’s head in bewilderment as to why he would urge “our beloved nation” to pursue a path that has proved so perilous in the past—with little reason for it to be any less so in the future.

“Capitulation to religious extremists”? Give us a break, Ron!

The second purported mortal threat that Lauder sees imperiling Israel’s existence is its alleged “capitulation to religious extremists” and “the growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora”.

As for Israel capitulating to religious extremism, Lauder charges: “…the spread of state-enforced religiosity in Israel is turning a modern, liberal nation into a semi-theocratic one”.

On this, allow me, as a decidedly non-observant Jew, to blurt out: Give us a break Ron!

After all, for anyone remotely familiar with the realities of Israeli society—the glut of seafood restaurants offering their fare on Friday nights, the congested highways on Saturdays, the throngs of shoppers flocking to the crowded department stores and coffee shops open on the Sabbath, the skimpy bikinis on crowded beaches over the weekend, the carnal content freely available in the national media—this is clearly complete claptrap.

Indeed, the overwhelmingly greater part of everyday life in Israel is such that most non-Orthodox Jews would feel entirely comfortable here. Any discomfort some might sense would probably be because they occasionally find some of it overly licentious, rather than restrictively puritan.

It is of course, true that Orthodox Jewry does have a monopoly of certain official and ceremonial aspects of Jewish life. But that has always been the case and is hardly an alarming new development, indicating that Israel is sliding from being a modern, liberal nation into a semi-theocratic one.

How the two-state dogma empowers religious Orthodoxy

Quite the opposite. The current situation reflects the outcome of the workings of Israeli democracy, not Israeli theocracy. It is the consequence of the power structure determined by free and fair elections and not the diktat of some authoritarian high priest, ensconced by divine decree.

In this regard, little analysis is required to discover a crucial, but seldom recognized, truth regarding the socio-political realities in Israel. Virtually all the political power of the religious parties is a direct result of the political schism between the secular parties over the issue of two-statism. For it is only because of the intra-secular rivalry over the appropriate territorial dimensions of Israel that give the religious parties their hold over “the balance of power” and allow them to wring disproportionate political gains from their coalition partners—much in the same way as Avigdor Liberman’s stridently secular Yisrael Beitainu faction managed to coerce Netanyahu into giving him the defense portfolio.

After all, not a single piece of religious legislation has ever been passed in the Knesset without overwhelmingly more secular MKs voting for it than religious MKs.

Accordingly, if Lauder wishes to break the power of the Orthodox factions in the Knesset, all he need to do is this: Urge the left-leaning secular parties to forsake the fatally flawed and failed formula of two-statism and the disproven land-for-peace doctrine on which it is based, to allow a unified secular bloc in the Knesset, which could operate freely without “extortion” from the Orthodox parties, who would no longer hold the balance of power.

Simple really. Merely elementary arithmetic.

Lauder’s false dichotomy

Lauder presents his reader with a stark choice, claiming: “…13 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And almost half of them are Palestinian…If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy”.

He thus concluded: “To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution.”

Even without engaging him on his demographic assessments and projections, this is a wildly misleading representation of reality and an utterly false dichotomy.

For there is a way to retain Israeli democracy while avoiding the territorial peril entailed in the two-state formula, and the demographic dangers entailed in enfranchising the enemy.

This is the Humanitarian Paradigm on which I have written frequently— and which entails initiating incentivized emigration of the Arab residents in Judea-Samaria through a comprehensive system of enticing incentives for leaving and daunting disincentives for staying.

I would urge Lauder to familiarize himself with the details of this paradigm. Indeed, I am sure he will soon discover—as I have shown elsewhere—that it is the most humane policy option if it succeeds, and the least inhumane if it does not. Perhaps then, he will be able to abandon his false dichotomy and adopt an alternative that addresses both Israel’s geographic and demographic needs—without forsaking its democracy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunate and uncalled-for acrimony

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

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

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

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

Several raised eyebrows

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raised eyebrows (continued)  

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

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

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

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

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

Other options ominous

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

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

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

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

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

A contrived construct

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

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

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

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

Jordan is indeed Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not much room for ambiguity there.

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

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

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

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

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

Feasibility, desirability & inevitability (cont.)  

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

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

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