Dr. Emmanuel NavonThe author heads the Political Science and Communications Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College, and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
Attending the Herzliya Conference’s panel on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like following Woody Allen’s therapy through his movies: you know that the patient is hopeless and that the new movie is going to be a mere repetition of the previous one, and yet you maintain the ritual out of snobbism. This year’s panel, however, was more like a flashback. I felt like I was watching the ending scene of Mighty Aphrodite, when the Greek tragedy turns into a Broadway show.
The panel included seven speakers: Tzipi Livni (chairperson of the “Hatnuah” party), Shlomo Avineri (a Hebrew-U emeritus professor), Robert Danin (from the US Council on Foreign Relations), Michael Herzog (from the Washington Institute for Near East Policies), Yoaz Hendel (chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategy), Nati Sharoni (chairman of the Council for Peace and Security), and Dani Dayan (former chairman of the Judea and Samaria Council). The moderator was Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent of Haaretz.
Supposedly, the purpose of a panel is to present different opinions and to have a debate. In this panel, however, all but one member expressed support for the “two-state solution” (the only minor differences between the speakers were about technicalities). Even the moderator clearly stated his opinion and sided with the six panelists who expressed their support for the “two-state solution.” The only dissident was Dani Dayan, who was added at the last minute (his name was not on the original program, and an extra seat was squeezed-in for him right before the session started). In the end, seven speakers (including the “moderator”) said that a Palestinian state must be established in Judea and Samaria, and one speaker begged to differ. It was a 7-1 ratio, or an 86% majority –an impressive display of pluralism and balance.
Tzipi Livni (whose party represents 5% of the Knesset) opened her remarks by claiming that she speaks for the majority. Then she explained why the establishment of a Palestinian state is so urgent: soon Hamas will be in charge and when that happens signing a deal with the Palestinians will no longer be an option. Is Tzipi Livni aware of her argument’s silliness? If, as she herself admits, Hamas will eventually take over, what is the point of signing with Fatah today a deal that Hamas will trash tomorrow? But what is telling about Tzipi Livni (and about the “majority” she supposedly represents) is not her comical twisted logic, but the way she perceives Israel’s rights. She said that a peace agreement is the Archimedean point of Israel’s existence, and that peace grants legitimacy to Israel. In other words, Israel’s rights and existence are not sui generis, but are only valid if the world (especially Israel’s enemies) approve them.
Even Ehud Barak said during the Camp David negotiations in July 2000 that the Archimedean point of Israel’s existence (he used the very same expression) is the Temple Mount. For Tzipi Livni, this Archimedean point is neither divine nor historical (I suspect Ehud Barak was referring to the second option). Rather, Israel only has a right to exist if its critics agree to it.
Tzipi Livni has the same “externality” problem on a personal level, which is why she has metamorphosed over the years into the spokesperson of Haaretz. Precisely because Israel’s self-proclaimed intellectuals will agree to grant you a certificate of intelligence only if you pledge allegiance to the two-state solution, and precisely because Livni is an intellectual lightweight who suffers from an inferiority complex vis-à-vis the "branja" (the "in" group of "experts", ed.), she became more royalist than the king. Tellingly, Shlomo Avineri publicly congratulated her during the “debate” for joining the exclusive club of the enlightened ones after years of darkness in the Likud grotto.
“Exclusive club” was the expression used by Barak Ravid to describe those who support the two-state solution. This is typically how the Israeli Left tries to intimidate those who don’t toe the party line: we are the star-belly sneetches. Then Ravid harangued the audience about what he called “Israel’s Apartheid against the Palestinians” and claimed that, for this “apartheid” to end, a Palestinian state must be established as soon as possible in all of Judea and Samaria.
Robert Danin castigated the Israeli government for claiming that there is no partner for peace. When you keep telling people there is no partner, he said, they end up believing it. Danin didn’t discuss whether or not the PLO is a reliable partner for peace. His argument was not about history, but about psychology: if you can convince people that there is no partner for peace, then you can also convince them that there is a partner for peace. The truth or falsehood of the argument itself is irrelevant. What’s important is to believe.
“The Two State Religion.” It’s not about facts. It’s about faith.
This is precisely why I once wrote an article called “The Two State Religion.” It’s not about facts. It’s about faith.
Michel Herzog made a point which I also find fantastic: we have to negotiate with the Palestinians so that we can say to ourselves and to the world that we tried. Well, what about Camp David in July 2000, what about Taba in December 2000, and what about the Olmert proposal to Abbas in 2008? Didn’t we try then? Hasn’t Herzog been around for the past twelve years?
Yoaz Hendel publicly confirmed that he agrees with Tzipi Livni (he had briefly considered running on her list for the 2013 Knesset elections). He also claimed that “the Israeli people accepts the two-state solution” (actually, over 50 MKs oppose it: 12 MKs from the Jewish Home, 28 MKs from Likud-Beitenu [if you exclude Netanyahu, Tzahi Hanegbi, and maybe Sylvan Shalom], and at least 2/3 of the 18 MKs from the two ultra-orthodox parties).
Nati Sharoni pledged to “get rid of the occupied territories” and played a short movie by Dror Moreh, the author of The Gatekeepers. The movie explains (with soft background music) how to ethnically cleanse Judea and Samaria from its Jews.
Danny Dayan claimed that a two-state solution is unreachable because the gap is too wide between the maximum that Israel is willing to offer and the minimum that the Palestinians are willing to accept (as proven by Abbas’ rejection of Olmert’s proposal). He suggested improving the status quo by granting the Palestinians full civil rights under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, while maintaining Israel’s exclusive security prerogatives.
To which Shlomo Avineri replied that Dayan’s proposal meant denying the Palestinians full national rights, and that this constitutes an injustice. Finally there was a debate (this was the only interesting part of the panel). The difference between Shlomo Avineri and Dani Dayan on this issue is not that wide: Avineri doesn’t really believe that a solution is possible, but he wants to keep trying nevertheless. Dayan really doesn’t believe that there is a solution, and thinks it isn’t worth anyone’s time to keep banging your head against the wall.
But the debate between the two raised an important question: is it legitimate to grant the Palestinians full civil rights, but to deny them national rights?
My answer to this question is positive, for four reasons.
First, because the “Palestinians” do not constitute a genuine people. They are part of the Arab nation, a nation that has 22 states.
Second, because the Palestinian narrative is a fraud and because the Archimedean point (to use that expression again) of “Palestinism” is the destruction of Israel.
Third, because the Palestinians openly admit that they won’t tolerate any Jewish minority in the “Palestinian state” (by contrast, there is a significant Arab minority in the Jewish state).
Fourth, because such a state would inevitably be militarized, it would incite its population (as the PA currently does) against Israel and the Jews, it would eventually be run by Hamas, and it would be an ally of Israel’s worst enemies (especially Iran).
So, yes, there are very good reasons to grant the Palestinian Arabs full civil rights, but to deny them national rights.
As the panel was coming to an end, Barak Ravid tried very hard to find out if Netanyahu might actually take concrete steps toward the establishment of a Palestinian state (the dream of the Israeli Left). Shlomo Avineri said he didn’t think so because of Netanyahu’s “revisionist” upbringing.
Referring to Netanyahu, Avineri said the following: “Beware of people who are true believers, because true believers never admit that they are wrong.”
Well said, professor. You obviously didn’t realize that you were unintentionally ridiculing the “two-state” believers such as yourself. But I had a good laugh: thank you for turning the Greek tragedy into a Broadway show.