Every couple of years, critics of Israel come up with a new slogan that they hope will pressure the Israelis into making more concessions to the Palestinian Authority. They’ve just trotted out their latest model: “Shrinking the conflict.”
Such slogans are usually invented to try to overcome some obstacle that’s interfering with the left’s campaign to force Israel to accept a Palestinian state in its back yard. The current obstacle is that it’s been more than seven years (!) since Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been willing to negotiate with Israel.
If Abbas won’t talk, there’s no way to talk Israel into surrendering half its country. So, Israel’s leftwing critics figure they will wait him out—after all, Abbas, now in the 16 th year of his four year term of office, is 85 and facing various domestic problems. He can’t last forever. While they wait, the pressure-Israel crowd is looking for other ways to engineer Israeli concessions. Hence “shrinking the conflict.”
The Israel-critics think they’re being very clever with this one, because it actually comes from a phrase that was spoken by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But of course, they’ve taken it out of context and tried to turn it into a weapon against him.
The concept that Prime Minister Bennett has mentioned is that since there’s no way of ending the conflict, then all that’s possible is to “shrink” it somewhat, through small steps aimed at economic improvement for the Palestinian Arabs.
But critics of Israel see “shrinking the conflict” differently—they see it as a new formula for building a Palestinian state, just more gradually. So, they’ve seized on the phrase and are running with it.
In a major feature article last week, Patrick Kingsley, the Jerusalem bureau chief for the New York Times, announced that the concept of “shrinking the conflict” is “taking root in political and diplomatic discourse in Jerusalem.” Translation: the New York Times declares that it’s “taking root,” in the hope that it will then take root.
Kingsley trotted out an “Israeli philosopher”—which presumably makes him an expert on Israel’s military and strategic needs!— who supposedly is an “unofficial adviser” to the prime minister, whatever that means. Much to the delight of the Times, this particular “unofficial adviser” wants “shrinking the conflict” to turn into what he calls “expanding Palestinian self-rule.” He thus became the featured voice in the article, which took up nearly an entire page in the Times.
How about “American engagement?” J Street came up with that one. The J Streeters know they can’t get most of American Jews to support forcing Israel back to the indefensible pre-1967 armistice lines. But J Street also knows that historically, American involvement in Mideast negotiations has meant American pressure on Israel to go back to the 1967 lines. So, a few years ago, J Street started taking polls which simply asked American Jews if they favor “American engagement in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.” That sounds pretty innocent, so most of the respondents said “yes.” That’s how J Street hopes to get the trojan horse of American pressure back onto the scene.
The left’s most successful slogan in recent memory is “two-state solution.” It actually began as “land for peace” back in the 1970s, and it had a certain vague appeal to people who didn’t think it through. But most of the Jewish public still thought that “peace for peace” made more sense.
So, the left gradually abandoned “land for peace” and began pushing the phrase “two-state solution,” which likewise has a superficial appeal. After all, if you’ve got two peoples, why shouldn’t they each have a state? Isn’t that fair? Like all slogans, though, its weakness is that it crumbles when people ask exactly where the Palestinian Arab state should be.
That’s because “two-state solution” in practice means that Israel will be pushed back to the indefensible nine-miles-wide lines at its mid-section. That would enable an Arab tank column to cut the country in two in a matter of minutes. If leftwing groups were honest and called this “solution” by its real name, “the nine-miles-wide solution,” nobody would support it.
The same is true for the new “shrinking the conflict” slogan that the New York Times is now promoting. When people realize that it’s just another cover for trying to wring risky, one-sided concessions out of Israel, it will fade into obscurity alongside the various other propaganda lines that have come and gone over the years. Which is exactly where it belongs.
Stephen M. Flatow, is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”