Photo Credit: Flash90
Sheikh Abu Khalil El Tamimi (C) attends the Israel Sovereignty Conference in Jerusalem on February 12, 2017.

Sovereignty extended over territory confers citizenship to all residents of that territory.

Sovereignty applies equally to all the residents of the area—Israeli and non-Israeli. There is not one law for Israelis and another for non-Israelis.  It must be clear—if we apply sovereignty—it must be egalitarian…- President Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem, February 14, 2017, in a staggeringly obtuse political declaration, suggesting that the Jewish nation cannot extend its sovereignty over its ancient homeland, unless it totally disregards any difference between its kinfolk and its implacable enemies, sworn to its destruction.



“The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.” – Justice Robert H. Jackson of the US Supreme Court,   May 16, 1949 


Allow me to pick up from last week’s column, where I set out the differences between two strategic approaches to the application of Israeli sovereignty over Judea-Samaria: The one, advocated by people such as the prominent journalist, Caroline Glick; the other by people such as the founder of the new Zehut party, former MK Moshe Feiglin, and myself.


An eventful week

This week was an eventful one for pro-sovereignty proponents.


On Sunday evening the Fourth Sovereignty Conference, organized by the “Forum for Sovereignty” and the “Women in Green” movement, under the banner of “Sovereignty with Responsibility”, took place at Jerusalem’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. Then on Monday, at the very same venue, the B’Sheva Jerusalem Conference took place, and although not devoted exclusively to the issue of sovereignty, the topic was raised by numerous speakers, including senior ministers and even the President himself (see introductory excerpt).

Then, on Tuesday, the New York Times, in a rare display of editorial evenhandedness, ran an Op-Ed written by Yishai Fleisher, the international spokesman of the Jewish community in Hebron, entitled “A Settler’s View of Israel’s Future”. In it he rebuffs the two-state formula and lists several alternative policy prescriptions most of which entail applying Israeli sovereignty to all, or most, of Judea-Samaria—including my own proposal for funded emigration of the Arab population in these areas.


The flurry of sovereignty-related activity demonstrated two things.


The first is that there is an increasingly assertive surge against the hitherto dominant two-state paradigm, that has all but dominated the discourse for over two decades on the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, and the Israeli-Palestinian one in particular.


The second, and perhaps less apparent, but no less significant feature, is that there is a distinct rift emerging between the opponents of the two-state idea, who subscribe to two divergent schools of thought.


Two divergent schools of thought

 In principle, this is a rift between anti-two staters, who believe that Israel can endure over time as the nation-state of the Jewish people with a large Arab-Muslim population permanently resident west of the Jordan River, and those who believe that it cannot.


Adherents of the first school of thought believe that some political/administrative configuration can be devised to allow a large Arab-Muslim presence, comprising upward of 35% of the population, without critically jeopardizing Israel’s ability to sustain its dominantly Jewish character, both politically and socio-culturally.  These political/administrative configurations range from ascribing the Arab residents of Judea-Samaria political affiliation to some extraneous authority (such as Jordan), via some sort of autonomous self-rule in enclaves within the sphere of over-arching Israeli sovereignty, to full enfranchisement within a single sovereign state extending over all the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.


Adherents of the second school of thought believe that, given the deep and enduring national and political rivalries and the socio-cultural disparities, such a large Arab-Muslim presence would preclude the ability to forge a coherent, cohesive society of any sort—certainly one that could sustain its overall Jewish character. Accordingly, to maintain Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, this school of thought advocates policies to substantially reduce the Arab presence in the territory under Israeli sovereignty, which they also see as extending from “the River to the Sea”. Typically, the policies advocated entail non-coercive (or at least non-kinetic) inducements to emigrate, by setting up a system of material incentives to leave (generous relocation grants to individual non-belligerents) and disincentives to stay (phased denial of services to an adversarial and alien collective.)


Ideological clamor not strategic clarity

While the energized debate on alternatives for the two-state folly—particularly those endorsing the extension of Israeli sovereignty beyond the pre-1967 lines—is a welcome development, most of the policy proposals it is generating reflect far more ideological fervor than strategic clarity. Indeed, while they are undoubtedly motivated by the best of intentions, they are, in many cases, demonstrably no less inimical to the future of the Zionist enterprise than the disastrous two-state prescription they are intended to replace.


Putting aside for the moment the crucial importance of factors such as historical and religious rights, in order to secure a durable future, Israel must strive to achieve a strategic outcome, which provides it with frontiers that:


-Are not excessively long and contorted;

-Do not expose it to intolerable topographical inferiority /vulnerability;

-Do not include an overly large collective, comprising a recalcitrant and potentially hostile ethnic minority, with socio-cultural mores in many ways not only divergent from, but incompatible with those of the Jewish majority.  (For those who might protest that this third element reflects racist overtones, it should be underscored that this is precisely the rationale invoked by two-staters for insisting on “separation” from the Palestinian-Arabs.)


The first two elements are necessary to allow Israel to maintain its external security at a bearable economic cost –see Israel’s Requirements for Defensible Borders .


The third element is necessary to allow Israel to maintain its internal security—and prevent the Lebanonization/Balkanization and eventual Islamization of its society.


Clearly, alternatives based on the first school of thought do not satisfy all of these strategic requirements – and some (like certain variations of the “Jordanian Option”) satisfy none of them!


Skirting the cardinal issue

Indeed, it is only prescriptions based on the second school of thought—which advocate retaining the territory and reducing the Arab presence in it—that fulfill these requirements adequately.


Listening to the upbeat addresses by senior public figures last week, lauding the change in the international political climate regarding the Palestinian issue and the prospect of a new and more benign dawn towards Israel in this regard, one could not escape the distinct impression that what I would call the nascent “pro-Sovereignty Establishment” is skirting what should be the cardinal issue on its agenda: How to address the question of a large potentially inimical Arab population, “nourished” by decades of Judeophobic –indeed, Judeocidal—incitement.


After all, the point is not to conjure up some contrived and contorted construct that might provide a flimsy prime facie rationale for resolving the question of the Palestinian-Arabs’ political affiliation/representation. The real—far more tangible—problem is that of their physical presence, making up what I described previously as a large “recalcitrant and potentially hostile ethnic minority, with socio-cultural mores in many ways not only divergent from, but incompatible with the Jewish majority”.


This, together with all the attendant—and intractable—socio-cultural difficulties such conditions would entail for the fabric of the nation’s society—and the negative political and demographic dynamics they would inevitably ignite in the future—should be the real focus of the debate of the pro-Sovereignty camp.


The possible vs the necessary

 In an article published today (February 16, 2017), Israel’s former national security advisor, Maj-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror wrote: “The Right, for its part, hopes that now that it is free of the constraints imposed by the previous American administration, it will be able to realize its dream of integrating Judea and Samaria…If Israel does decide to change direction and effectively close the door on future negotiations, it will be unable to avoid the question of the civilian-political future of the Palestinians.”


Israel will, indeed, be forced to address precisely this question, which delineates the divide between the two previously designated schools of thought.


In doing so, it will be compelled to distinguish between what is feasible to undertake, given prevailing political/diplomatic constraints, and what is necessary to undertake to ensure its survival as the Jewish nation-state. If it finds that what is possible does not fulfill the demands of what is necessary, it will be required to change the prevailing political/diplomatic constraints until what is necessary is, in fact, possible. If it does not, it will jeopardize the future survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

To this end, I have advocated repeatedly and regularly for a massive investment in public diplomacy (up to a billion dollars—or 1% of state budget—annually) to facilitate robust and assertive presentation of Israel’s case to the world—that would discredit and delegitimize the mendacious myths that comprise the Palestinian narrative and sustain the claim for Palestinian statehood.  Its purpose would be to generate the freedom of action for Israel to set and achieve strategic goals, currently precluded by prevailing constraints—i.e. to make the necessary possible.


Making the necessary possible

But before such a strategic diplomatic offensive can be unleashed on the international community, the pro-Sovereignty camp must conduct a candid and thorough internal debate on whether alternative proposals that might be conceivably feasible today (such as conferring Israeli citizenship on members of a vehemently adversarial collective) coincide with what is necessary to achieve the aims for which the application of sovereignty is demanded in the first place: The preservation of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.


Next week – subject to breaking news—I will endeavor to contribute to such a debate and demonstrate why the alternatives derived from the second school of thought (such as funded emigration of the Palestinian-Arab residents in Judea-Samaria) are not only superior both in terms of morality and  practical outcomes to  those based on the first school of thought.  Indeed I will show why such a policy would be the most moral (even in terms of the value system of its detractors); why, in comparison with all other alternatives, it would produce the most desirable results if it is successful—and the least traumatic results if it is unsuccessful.


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Dr. Martin Sherman spent seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli defense establishment. He is the founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a member of the Habithonistim-Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF) research team, and a participant in the Israel Victory Initiative.