Raise your hands… how many of you believe in a two-state solution, believe two states is critical? …Okay, it’s the vast majority of people here. How many of you don’t, are willing to say so? There’s one hand up… — Secretary of State John Kerry, at the 2016 Saban Forum, asking for a show of hands from the audience in support of a two-state agreement.
Last week, the annual Saban Forum took place, as usual, in Washington in early December — albeit in what appeared to be a somewhat diminished format relative to the past two years.
Clear political slant
The two day program comprised only four items: Interviews with Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry and (via satellite) Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with the valedictory slot being allotted to an interview by Jeffrey Goldberg, of The Atlantic, with outgoing Secretary of State, John Kerry.
Although over the years, the Saban Forum has hosted participants with a wide range of divergent opinions, it has typically had a discernible political slant in its line-ups of speakers and moderators. This has tended to favor perspectives that reflect Democratic, rather than Republican, positions on US policy issues, and the views of two-state-proponents, rather than those of two-state opponents, with regard to the Israel-Arab conflict. Thus, even when two-state opponents have had the floor, their moderator/interviewer has invariably been a strong two-state proponent.
This distinct partisanship (pro-Democrat /pro-two-statism) was starkly on display for Kerry’s appearance at this year’s Forum (his fourth successive one since becoming Secretary of State).
Kerry himself is a dogmatic two-stater, having pursued this elusive goal despite mountains of accumulating evidence as to its practical infeasibility and moral undesirability. His interviewer, Jeffrey Goldberg, widely dubbed as Obama’s court journalist, and arguably no less a two-state enthusiastic than Kerry himself, was hardly an antagonistic interlocutor.
Jarring non sequiturs?
Kerry thus blithely brushed aside Goldberg’s observation that the 18-24 month deadline, set by Kerry himself in May 2013, had long expired — after which, he warned, it would be too late to achieve a two-state resolution.
Instead of addressing the question posed, he launched into a sweeping historical tour d’horizon of Zionism — from the first Zionist Convention in Basel, through the Balfour Declaration, and Israel’s Independence, to the Six-Day War…which, he gushed, is “the greatest story ever told.” Then, in a somewhat jarring non sequitur, he warned ominously, that, despite the stirring account of Zionist achievement he himself had just given, things were “moving in the wrong direction.”
Then, still avoiding the question as to the significance of the long-passed expiration of his own stipulated deadline for the viability of a two-state resolution of the conflict, he pivoted to the Iran deal, admitting that, although he cannot assure us that the Iranians will not violate the terms of the agreement, he can assure us that “in [this] case every option that we have today is available to us then.”
This, of course, leaves us to ponder yet another jarring non sequitur.
If the US (and the other members of the P5+1 countries) previously balked at exercising these formidable “options” against an impoverished, non-nuclearized Iran, what possible reason is there to believe that these options will be exercised later, against an Iran far more enriched economically, and empowered militarily?
‘Do you support a two-state solution?’ is merely code
This is the kind of inane intellectual licentiousness, unmoored to any semblance of disciplined thought or reasoned relationship between doctrinal tenets and observed outcomes, that has come to characterize much of the liberal Left’s political credo in recent decades. Accordingly, the politically correct has eclipsed the factually correct, and allegedly “good intentions” override any recalcitrant realities that may cast doubt on their feasibility.
Nowhere is this unfortunate phenomenon more evident than in the discourse on the two-state approach to the Mid-East conflict. Nowhere is it given a more prestigious platform than in the Saban Forum. Nowhere was this more blatant than the manner in which Kerry addressed the issue in his Forum appearance this year.
Faced with the prospect of the rapidly diminishing – indeed, vanishing – relevance of his, and his administration’s pet project, Kerry turned to the audience for its reaffirmation. In an effort to demonstrate that all rational beings would endorse the self-evident wisdom of, and imperative for the two-state formula, he exhorted: “Raise your hands … how many of you believe in a two-state solution, believe two states is critical…?”
Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the forum and the merciless dictates of political correctness, a “vast majority” duly raised approving hands.
But this is wildly misleading — because “Do you support a two state solution” is merely code for another far more sinister question – the question Kerry should have asked.
The question Kerry should have asked
After all, the call for a two-state “solution” necessarily entails the call for the establishment of a Palestinian state. But there is little to no reason to believe that such a state will be anything other than what past precedent suggests it will be: yet another homophobic, misogynistic, Muslim-majority tyranny, that sooner, rather than later, will become a bastion for Islamist terror groups on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv; abutting a teetering Jordanian monarchy, menaced by ascendant Islamist elements in the east, and an increasingly jihadi-controlled Sinai in the south.
After all, when all the genteel, politically correct veiling has been torn away, endorsing a two-state formula reduces to nothing other than endorsing the establishment of an entity that, in all likelihood, will reflect the very negation of the values invoked for its inception; the very values the Saban Forum would presumably purport to cherish; an entity whose hallmarks would be religious intolerance against any non-Muslim faith; gender discrimination against women and girls; brutal persecution of homosexuals; and the ruthless prosecution of political dissidents.
So what Kerry should have asked the audience was the following: “Raise your hands …how many of you believe in the establishment of yet another homophobic, misogynistic, Muslim-majority tyranny on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv? How many believe that the establishment of said homophobic, misogynistic tyranny is critical…?”
If the question were framed that way, the way it should have been framed — to reflect political reality rather than political correctness — I venture to wager the result would not have been “a vast majority” of approving raised hands…
“…assurance West Bank won’t turn into Gaza”
Kerry does insist that he is alive to the problematic nature of the “weak and divided Palestinian entity,” and that he is not naïve as to the difficulties this poses. He asserts:
It [an Israeli turnover of power] has to happen with the assurance that you’re not turning the West Bank into Gaza…we all understand Israel’s security. I’m not suggesting that you want to have a situation like Gaza where you can dig a tunnel and you have the ability to build missiles in a fake factory and fire them against Israel. We all understand that challenge.
Sadly, conceding/acknowledging the existence of a problem, even articulating its existence, is not the same as contending with it, and certainly not solving it — even though many left-leaning Liberals appear to believe this to be the case.
Conversely, denying/ignoring the existence of a problem, even refusing to articulate its existence, is not the same as contending with it, and certainly not solving it — even though many left-leaning Liberals appear to believe this to be the case.
Regrettably, Kerry commits both these transgressions at the Saban Forum.
Indeed, apart from hinting at some wildly complex multi-lateral/multi-national security configurations (of which far simpler versions have failed miserably and regularly elsewhere) he gives no hint as to how one might provide Israel and Israelis “with the assurance that you’re not turning the West Bank into Gaza…”
Of course, it might be a smidgen more reassuring if the US showed how it might ensure that Syria would not turn into…well, Syria; or Libya not turn into Libya; or Iraq not turn into Iraq; or even Gaza not turn into Gaza, before it asks Israel/Israelis to “bet the farm” on the chance that it now has some new miracle “snake oil” that would do the trick in the“West Bank.”
“…Oslo deal didn’t happen for a number of reasons”
In trying to explain Palestinian disgruntlement with the situation that has evolved since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Kerry suggests: “When Oslo was signed in 1993, the vision was that over the next year and a half , Area C…which is 60 percent of the West Bank … would be transferred to the Palestinian control… Well, it didn’t happen for a number of different reasons. We won’t go into that now…”
“Didn’t happen for a number of reasons”??? “We won’t go into that…”???
This might be a good time to remind folks that the reason that the Oslo process came to a screeching halt was the gory Palestinian-Arab terror that ripped through Israeli cities across the length and breadth of the country…leaving thousands murdered and maimed. It was not because Israelis built crèches, kindergartens and schools across the pre-1967 Green Line, but because the Palestinian-Arabs blew up Israeli cafes, buses and shopping malls inside the pre-1967 Green Line.
Yet Kerry insists, almost exclusively, on focusing on the former, and totally ignoring the latter — thus ensuring that his analysis will be both fatally flawed and disastrously defective. For unless one does go into the reasons for the failure — indeed, the futility — of the Oslo Process, there is little chance of addressing them…and virtually none of redressing them.
Palestinian destruction, not Israeli construction
Thus, when Kerry bewails the massive increase in the Jewish population in the “West Bank” as some sort of “mitigating factor” for Palestinian violence, he seems totally unmindful of the chronology of the events that took place.
After all, the gruesome wave of carnage instigated by the Palestinian Arabs began almost immediately after the commencement of the Oslo Process, before any significant “settlement activity” took place in its wake, clearly indicating that it was Israeli concessions, not Israeli intransigence, that ignited the violence.
It was not Israeli construction beyond the pre-1967 lines, but Palestinian destruction inside those lines that comprised the epicenter of the problem that confounded the ill- conceived Oslo Process.
Unless these inconvenient facts are confronted honestly, there is scant chance of contending with their ramifications — and for formulating policy that can contain the violence that flows from them.
Yet, rather than face the recalcitrant realities squarely, Kerry attempted, disingenuously, to sidestep or circumvent them. He thus tried to resurrect the disproved and discarded delusion of a “New Middle East,” with the promise of regional peace and prosperity being unlocked only once some agreement based on far-reaching and perilous territorial concessions by Israel is reached.
This is an absurd position to adopt. For it implies not only that the Arab world is unable avail itself of much of the benefits Israel could offer it from alternative sources, such as the US, EU, China and Korea, to name but a few, but that Arab countries would purposefully put their own development on hold for the sake of their Palestinian “kinfolk,” for whose fate they have demonstrated the most appalling indifference in the past.
The one thing about which Kerry is right
Kerry is, however, quite right about one thing. Rejection of the two-state paradigm is not a stand-alone decision. Indeed, two-state rejectionists are morally obligated to propose a viable alternative, which not only addresses the crucial problems that two-statism inevitably entails, but also those that such rejection will equally inevitably entail.
In particular, this calls for a comprehensive approach on how to deal with the large Palestinian-Arab population, resident in the territories that the two-state paradigm would assign the envisioned Palestinian state.
As followers of this column will know, this is something I have written about extensively and regularly in the past. Accordingly I would urge readers to revisit my many references to the “Humanitarian Paradigm”, calling for the generous funding of voluntary relocation/rehabilitation of non-belligerent Palestinian families, out of harm’s way, in third party countries, free from the control of the cruel corrupt cliques who have led them from disaster to devastation for decades.
This is the only non-coercive – or at least, the only non-kinetic – policy alternative that can ensure the long-term survival of Israel as the Jewish nation-state.
As the two-state formula begins to fade into irrelevance, grasping this unavoidable truth is becoming increasingly urgent and imperative.
John Kerry Speech at Brookings Institute Saban Forum 12/5/15
Dr. Martin Sherman