One might expect that any support for a single state among Israeli Jews would come from the far Left... Recently, proposals to grant Israeli citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank, including the right to vote for the Knesset, have emerged from a surprising direction: right-wing stalwarts... We should watch how this debate develop…and encourage it carefully. – Ali Abunimah, “Israeli Right embracing one-state?” Al Jazeera.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.– An aphorism of uncertain origins, sometimes attributed to Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
As reluctant recognition of the futility of further pursuit of the “two-states-for-two-people” principle begins to dawn on growing circles of its erstwhile proponents, numerous alternative policy proposals are emerging in the public discourse.
No less perilous or pernicious
Sadly, many of these proffered alternatives are poorly thought through and, in the final analysis, no less perilous or pernicious than the very two-state formula they are intended to replace.
These putative alternatives range from calls to withdraw unilaterally from virtually all territory beyond the current security barrier from the so-called “Left”; to calls for annexing all the territory together with the Arab population from the so-called “Right”.
Clearly, little reflection is required to grasp that unilateral withdrawal will inevitably transform the “West Bank” into either a mega-South Lebanon (if the IDF remains deployed, as some suggest) or a giant Gaza (if the IDF is removed as others suggest).
Likewise, scant reflection is called for to realize that annexing the territory of Judea-Samaria, together with the bulk of its Arab residents, is an unequivocal recipe for the Lebanonization of Israel (if they are seen as being enfranchised—or potentially enfranchised—citizens in a single societal unit); or for its Balkanization (if they are seen as being politically affiliated to several disconnected autonomous mini-enclaves scattered across the territory).
Accordingly, although the disastrous defects of the two-state paradigm should be painfully apparent to anyone with sufficient intellectual integrity to differentiate between the politically correct and the factually correct, it is also true that not everything that is not a “two-state” proposition is necessarily better than that fatally flawed and failed formula.
“Right” regrettably remiss
The impending demise of the “two-state” concept as a viable policy option—together with the recent demise of the pro-“two-state” Obama incumbency—have understandably buoyed the spirits of those who have opposed the establishment of a Palestinian-Arab state west of the Jordan River.
But any euphoria on this score may well prove premature. For to capitalize on the undeniable opportunity that both Mid-Eastern realities and a potentially fortuitous US election outcome have opened up, anti-two-staters must formulate a cogent, coherent and comprehensive alternative that will enhance, not degrade, Israel’s strategic position; that will underpin the Zionist endeavor, not undermine it.
Regrettably, the “Right-wing” opponents have been remarkably remiss in this regard.
Indeed, almost four months before the November 2016 US elections, immediately following the removal of any mention of the two-state principle from the Republican Party platform, I called on opponents of that idea to prepare a viable alternative in the event of (what then seemed an improbable) GOP victory see-What if the GOP wins? (July 22, 2016)
In the column, I urged against adopting/propagating seductive conventional wisdom alternatives, such as:
- ‘Managing the conflict’ which is little more than an exercise in futility—and self-delusion—that will only carry the country on a perilous downward spiral, with prevailing problems increasing in both scale and intensity;
- Proposals prescribing inclusion of the Palestinian-Arabs in the permanent population of a post-two-state Israel, which 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 advocating partial annexation and limited autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs, concentrated in disconnected mini-enclaves which will result in wildly tortuous and contorted borders, virtually impossible to demarcate and secure, thus emptying “sovereignty” in the annexed areas of any meaningful content.
What’s wrong with the “Right”
Plainly, none of these proposals offer a sustainable alternative paradigm to the two-state formula that can ensure Israel’s long-term survival as a viable nation-state of the Jewish people.
For almost half-decade, when frustration and exasperation got the better of me, I have written with various degrees of acerbity, even abrasiveness, on the severe shortcoming of the more commonly aired proposals for alternatives for the two-state principle—see What’s Wrong with The Right : Part 1 (August, 2012) &Part 2 (August, 2012); Annexing Area C: An Open Letter to Naftali Bennett (December, 2012); Brain Dead on The Right? (June, 2013 ); Sovereignty? Yes, But Look Before You Leap (January, 2014); Sovereignty? Yes, But Beware of Annexing Area C: (January, 2014); Islamizing Israel - When The Radical Left and Hard Right Concur (April, 2015).
However, to avoid false impressions, let me be unequivocally clear. Ever since the early 1990s, I have been an unswerving advocate for extending Jewish sovereignty over the entire area from the “River to the Sea”, which I believe is indispensable for ensuring Israel’s long-term ability to survive as the Jewish nation-state.
That said, I am equally convinced that injudicious initiatives to apply Jewish sovereignty to the territories across the pre-1967 lines, without a clear program for dramatically reducing the Arab presence, will not only impair the country’s ability to sustain its sovereignty over these areas, but will imperil Jewish sovereignty over any territory west of the Jordan—including within the pre-1967 lines!!!
Twin Imperatives for Survival
In the past, I have been at pains to underscore something that should be entirely self-evident: In order to endure as the Jewish nation-state, Israel must effectively address TWO equally important imperatives: The Geographic Imperative and the Demographic Imperative.
The first of these imperatives calls for Israeli control (i.e. sovereignty) over all the territory east of the coastal plain up to the Jordan River—to prevent intolerable risks to its physical survival; the second imperative calls for significant reduction of the Arab presence in the territory under Jewish sovereignty to forestall an intolerable demographic threat to its dominant Jewish character.
Clearly the need to contend with these twin imperatives is virtually axiomatic—for if it fails to do so, Israel will either become untenable as the nation-state of the Jews geographically or demographically—or both.
Accordingly, for a proposed alternative to even begin to address the Demographic Imperative, any demand for Israeli sovereignty over Judea-Samaria must simultaneously provide a blueprint for the future of the Arab population resident there after application of Israeli sovereignty.
It is precisely here that many leading pro-sovereignty proponents, heartened by optimistic demographic estimates, begin to “lose the plot”.
For, even if these estimates are accurate, and in a post-annexation Israel, the Jews will (initially) still retain a 60-65% majority, they are largely beside the point when it comes to the crux of the Demographic Imperative.
For the crucial issue is not the (initial) electoral arithmetic. Rather it is the impact an enfranchised (or potentially enfranchised ) Muslim minority, comprising 35-40% of the permanent population within sovereign Israeli territory, would have on the socio-cultural fabric of the country, the subsequent budgetary and demographic dynamics this would set in motion—and the virtually inevitable political outcomes these eventually would precipitate.
Caveat to Caroline
One of the best-known advocates for extending Israeli sovereignty over all the territory and the people of Judea-Samaria is the widely acclaimed columnist, Caroline Glick. To her credit, Glick laid out the specifics of her policy proposal in a book published in 2014, entitled “The Israeli Solution: A One- State Plan for Peace in the Middle East”.
In it she stipulates: “The mechanics of the policy are fairly straightforward. Israel will apply its laws to Judea and Samaria and govern the areas as normal parts of Israel…Contingent on security concerns…Palestinians will have the right to travel and live anywhere they wish within Israeli territory…Palestinians will have the same legal and civil rights as the rest of the residents and citizens of Israel…Those that receive Israeli citizenship in accordance with Israel’s Citizenship Law will also be allowed to vote in national elections for the Knesset.”
This is a perilous proposition which, if adopted, will spell the almost certain demise of the Jewish nation state—no less than the pernicious two-state principle, from which it purports to redeem it.
I have set out my reservations regarding Glick’s proposal in a column titled To My Colleague Caroline, A Caveat (April, 2014). In it I write “I concur with Glick on virtually everything she rejects, but reject much of which she urges us to accept”.
Indeed, this encapsulates much of my subsequent analysis—for while I strongly endorse her incisive diagnosis of the fatal failings of the two-state formula, I disagree, just as strongly, with the prescription she offers to remedy them.
Unbounded, unfounded optimism
Indeed, one cannot but wonder at Glick’s unbounded—and sadly, unfounded—optimism, reflected in her belief that, somehow, Israel, with a 35-40% Muslim minority could forge a coherent and cohesive society that would preserve its dominant Jewish character.
This optimism is particularly remarkable given the disruption that far smaller Muslim minorities have wrought in recent years on other non-Muslim societies in the West, where inherent inter-ethnic rivalries (unencumbered by the 100 year history of war over the Holy Land), are arguably far less intense than those prevailing between Jew and Arab.
For even if the optimistic demographics are correct –and under the far from certain assumption that the radical Left would not side with it—the Muslim minority could command anything up to 40 mandates in any election . This would be a dramatic political development, drastically enhancing the anti-Zionist representation in the national parliament.
But the socio-economic impact is likely to be even more significant.
Clearly huge budget resources will have to be diverted from the Jewish sector to the Muslim sector in an endeavor to reduce the yawning gaps between the two sectors, siphoning off funds currently utilized for enhancing infrastructure, welfare, education and so on. Indeed, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that Israel is likely to be catapulted back from being a first-world post-industrial county to a third-world developing one.
Chilling effect on ‘Aliyah’
This is likely to have a chilling effect on Jewish immigration as well. For with a recalcitrant minority of up to 40%, many of whom have been taught for decades to hate Jews (as Glick herself acknowledges), and who vehemently reject the Jewish character of the state, its symbols, calendar and conduct of public life, Israel is unlikely to be a more appealing destination for Diaspora Jews. This is especially true if the standard of living is severely downgraded and incipient Lebanon-like inter-ethnic tensions constantly simmer—and occasionally boil over into violent clashes.
Conversely, these realities are likely to make Israel a less hospitable location for Israeli Jews currently resident in the country, and provide a powerful inducement for them to seek an alternative abode abroad, thus stimulating the motivation for emigration.
Clearly this will have a corrosive effect on the initial demographic calculations gradually, but inexorably, eroding any Jewish majority which may have initially existed…
I have barely scratched the surface in elaborating the appalling dangers entailed in Glick’s (and others’) prescription for annexing Judea-Samaria together with the resident Arab population. I have, however, presented them in greater detail in the hyperlinked columns mentioned above, and I urge readers to familiarize themselves with them. For they broach what is perhaps the most critical issue for Israel and the Zionist enterprise today.
Rift on the “Right”?
In many ways, Israel is on the cusp of dramatic historical developments. The stakes are high and the cost of error may be irretrievable. Much—arguably, all—depends on how judicious it is in its decision-making.
With the almost inevitable demise of the two-state paradigm, its opponents are divided into two distinct factions. Both advocate applying Israeli sovereignty to Judea-Samaria. They are, however, divided on one crucial issue – the fate of the Arab population resident in these areas.
The one faction, represented by Glick, holds that the Arabs should remain under Israeli rule; the other, represented by people like Moshe Feiglin and myself, believe that this would create an untenable situation for Israel as the nation state of the Jews, and the Arab populations must be diminished—preferably by non-coercive means, such as economic inducements.
This is the vital debate that the “Right” must conduct within itself—and without delay. For it is almost too late!
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategic-israel.org)