16 years after the failed Camp David summit, the fiction of the two-state solution is about to be shattered once and for all. The only relevant question today, is what does Israel intend to do next? Caroline Glick, “The end of Mahmoud Abbas”, Aug, 29, 2016.
Last month, following the decision of the Republican Party (GOP) to remove the longstanding support for a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict from the party platform, I published an article entitled “What if the GOP wins” (July 22, 2016).
Imperative to prepare for post-two state era
In it, I noted that this shift was merely one more indication that “enthusiasm for the two-state concept is waning—even among ardent erstwhile adherents”, some of whom have actually acknowledged that the Palestinians have contributed to its accelerated irrelevance.
However, I advised that Israel must begin preparing itself for a new reality, in which the two-state principle is no longer the dominant paradigm which, in large measure, monopolized the discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For while the growing awareness of the dangerous futility entailed in continued pursuit of the two-state “chimera” was potentially a distinctly positive development, the challenges Israel may have to face in a post-two-state era could well be as dire—perhaps more so—than those posed by the perilous two-state paradigm.
Indeed, with the passing of the two-state formula as a relevant policy option, new perils will immediately—and inevitably—emerge. Accordingly, I urged that planning on how they should be contended with be seen as a pressing national imperative.
I was, therefore, extremely gratified that Caroline Glick took up essentially the same theme in her latest article “The end of Mahmoud Abbas” published earlier this week, urging that we focus on “the only relevant question today,” which she defines as “what does Israel intend to do next” given that “the fiction of the two-state solution is about to be shattered once and for all”.
As if in a parallel universe
Given the realities on the ground inside the Palestinian administered (or rather largely un-administered) territories, it is hard to believe that any well-meaning soul is seriously suggesting anything approaching a two-state prescription as a means of defusing—never mind permanently resolving –the conflict.
Citing studies from the Gatestone Institute and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Glick describes the disintegration of Palestinian society, its descent into lawlessness and violent anarchy, together with the accelerating decline of Abbas’s central authority in Ramallah—all this against the backdrop of approaching municipal elections in which lists associated with/backed by the Islamist Hamas are expected to emerge victorious—or at least with handsome gains.
Indeed, it would appear that today’s adherents to the fatally flawed formula of two states inhabit a parallel universe, where realities are very different, and far more amiable than in this one.
After all, given the situation on the ground, a quarter-century after the initiation of the Oslo process with all the pomp and ceremony, the international fanfare and enthusiastic optimism, it is difficult to accept that anyone could, in good faith, still suggest, that some stable two-state scenario was even remotely feasible—much less desirable. When it comes to Israelis, who profess concern for the security and well-being of their country, continuing support for the idea is little short of staggering.
Accordingly, given the past precedents and future projections it is difficult to avoid the disturbing conclusion that yet unchastened Israeli two-staters have greater allegiance to their pet ideology than they do to the security of their country and the safety of their countrymen.
Fading relevance of ‘two-statism’
Glick writes: “Like it or not, the day is fast approaching when the Palestinian Authority we have known for the past 22 years will cease to exist.” It is a caveat that both the Israeli political leadership and civil society elites will do well to heed.
An urgent and thorough debate is called for to formulate ways to contend with emerging realities, in which the demise of the two-state principle appears inevitable—or at least highly probable.
Indeed, recent polls show sagging support for the idea in both Israeli and Palestinian societies. A joint survey conducted by the left-leaning Israel Democracy Institute and the Palestinian Center for Policy Survey Research (August 22, 2016) show that only small majorities support (and hence very sizeable minorities oppose) the generic two-state idea.
However, when the proposal is fleshed out and the details elaborated, support declines steeply from small majorities to distinct minorities.
Thus, only 39% of Palestinians and 46% of Israelis (39% of the Jewish population) support a peace agreement “package” that comprises:
– A de-militarized Palestinian state;
– An Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line with equal territorial exchange;
– A family unification in Israel of 100,000 Palestinian refugees;
– West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine,
– The Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty and the Muslim and Christian quarters and the al Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount under Palestinian sovereignty; and
– The end of the conflict and claims.
Significantly, the Palestinian Authority has rejected similar offers repeatedly in the past.
“Regionalism”: a ridiculous canard
Refusing to concede the irresponsible impracticality of continued endorsement of the two-state folly, its proponents, undeterred by the disaster their political credo has wrought on Jew and Arab alike, have, in a desperate effort to rescue it from fading into oblivion plucked a new “rabbit” from their magicians hat. This is the idea of “regionalism”.
Having more of less despaired of reaching a two-state outcome in a bilateral arrangement between Israel and the Palestinian-Arabs, dogged—or rather dogmatic—two staters now bandy about the idea of such an outcome being achieved within the context of a regional accord with the wider Arab world. This proposal is usually presented in the form of the Arab Peace Initiative (API) –a.k.a. The Saudi Peace Plan, which involves Israel withdrawing to the pre-1967 lines, including from the Golan Heights, division of Jerusalem and acknowledging the “right of return” of Palestinian-Arabs to within these pre-1967 borders. In return for these far-reaching concessions, the Arab world would “establish normal relations with Israel in the context of a comprehensive peace, and consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended… and provide security for all the states of the region.”
But “regionalism” of this kind is nothing but a risible ruse—a mere sleight of hand to prevent the public acknowledgement of the final failure of the two-state formula.
You couldn’t make this stuff up
Significantly, since it was first raised, almost a decade and a half ago, this “Initiative” has been rejected by successive Israeli governments—including some of the most ultra-concessionary ones—such as those headed by Ehud Olmert. Indeed, for years any such proposal would have been considered borderline sedition—and with good reason.
For in essence, what does this “regionalism” entail?
It involves Israel undertaking perilous (and largely irrevocable, except at enormous cost) concessions in exchange for pledges (entirely revocable at the slightest pretext) for some of the most decadent, depraved, oppressive, unstable, anachronistic and tyrannical regimes on the planet. Seriously???
You couldn’t make this stuff up—especially today with the post-“Arab Spring” ravaging the area.
If—with a giant leap of faith –one might have conceived there being any sense in such an arrangement back in 2002, when the Saudi initiative was first aired, there can be no justification for such forlorn hope today. With the Arab world ablaze with merciless fratricidal frenzy, with Arab countries at war among—and within—themselves, with no guarantee that the regimes of today will be the regimes of tomorrow, what possible stock can be placed in any pledges to “ provide security for all the states of the region”—when they can provide it for none today?
What credence can be given an undertaking to “establish normal relations with Israel” when Arab nations cannot even establish, much less maintain, “normal” relations (in the normal sense of “normal”) with one another?
No, “regionalism” is little more than a “red herring” to divert attention from the increasingly evident collapse of the concept of two-states.
Israel will do well not to succumb to its lure.
End of Two-State Era: Potential Payoffs and Pitfalls
With the growing prospect of the two-state option being abandoned, the question of what alternative paradigm Israel should adopt is becoming a matter of increasing—and urgent—relevance. But while there can be little doubt this is a development that heralds great opportunity for Israel—it is not one without dangerous pitfalls.
Indeed, to reap the potential benefits (and avoid the potential pitfalls, inextricably inherent in this emerging situation), Israel must prepare a persuasive, sustainable, long-term alternative blueprint for the outcome of the conflict with the Palestinian-Arabs to replace the two-state folly.
In recent years, a debate on such alternatives has indeed begun. Sadly however, to date, its output has been less than impressive. After all, not everything that is not a two-state proposal is preferable to the two-state principle itself. Indeed, nearly all the major alternatives being advanced today by prominent opponents of the two-state paradigm, are – notwithstanding the sincere goodwill of their authors—no less inimical to the long-term survival of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
In broad brush strokes, these “alternatives” can be divided into three major categories.
The first is that proposed by those who favor “managing—rather than resolving–the conflict”, which basically consists of “kicking the can down the road”. In effect, it calls for letting the problem fester, until some unspecified event(s) occur to—hopefully and inexplicably—facilitate resolution.
The other two, somewhat more proactive, suggestions can be divided into those that will, almost inevitably, lead to either:
(a) The Lebanonization (and later Islamization) of Israel, by incorporating the Palestinian-Arab residents of the territories across the pre-1967 lines, into the permanent enfranchised population of Israel; or
(b) The Balkanization of Israel by trying to encapsulate the Palestinian-Arab population in disconnected, miniscule, autonomous enclaves in portions of these areas.
No less menacing than two-state formula
In a series of past articles, I have—with varying degrees of acerbity and exasperation—laid out in considerable detail, the manifest shortcomings of these alternative proposals.
In them I demonstrate why:
– “Managing the conflict” is an exercise in futility—and self-delusion—that will only carry the country on a perilous downward spiral, with prevailing problems, both security and political, increasing in scale and intensity;
– Proposals that prescribe including the Palestinian Arabs in the permanent population of a post-two-state Israel would almost inevitably turn the country into a Muslim-majority tyranny within a few generations—even if the optimistic demographers are right and, initially, the Muslim population will comprise a 35-40% minority;
– Proposals that advocate partial annexation and limited autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs, concentrated in disconnected mini-enclaves will result in wildly torturous and contorted borders, virtually impossible to demarcate and secure, thus emptying “sovereignty” in the annexed areas of any meaningful content.
None of these three categories can pave the way for Israel—as the nation-state of the Jews—to a sustainable long-term situation that is any less menacing than that entailed in the two-state scenario.
To do this Israel requires a policy paradigm that addresses both its geographic and demographic imperatives for survival—lest it adopt a proposal that threatens to make it untenable, either geographically or demographically—or both.
Accordingly, it must be a proposal that ensures Israeli control over vital geo-strategic assets in Judea-Samaria and drastically reduces the presence of the hostile Arab population resident there—preferably by non-coercive means such as economic inducements…which, by the way, is what attracted the bulk of the Arab population here in the first place.
A very relevant question…
To formulate such an alternative policy paradigm in lieu of the two-state formula, to acquire sufficient legitimacy for it, to advance it in the public discourse and to generate widespread recognition for its adoption as a national imperative is undoubtedly, as Glick identifies, one of the most pressing and pertinent questions on the Zionist agenda today.
Dr. Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org)
Dr. Martin Sherman