…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth, - Sherlock Holmes in “The Sign of the Four”
Hobson’s Choice: a situation in which it seems that you can choose between different things or actions, but there is really only one thing that you can take or do - Cambridge Dictionary
As the more-than-- century old dispute between Jews and Arabs over control of the Holy Land nears its third post-Oslo decade , four archetypical approaches have emerged in the public discourse for its resolution—and one for its “management”(a.k.a. its perpetuation).
In this two-part series I will assess the merits (or lack thereof) of these various approaches –both those which endorse (full or partial) Israeli annexation of territory across the pre-1967 Green Line and those which eschew it.
Indeed as I will show—barring divine intervention (something only the more pious than myself can rely on as a policy input—of these five (four plus one) options, all but one are demonstrably incompatible with the long-term survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. All but one—demonstrably—do not address adequately either the geographic imperatives and/or the demographic imperatives that Israel must address to avoid becoming either geographically untenable or demographically untenable (or both).
Israel as the nation-state of the Jews
It is—or at least should be—manifestly self-evident that for Israel to endure over time as the nation-state of the Jews, it cannot (a) withdraw to geographical/topographical confines that make it impossible to maintain ongoing socio-economic routine in the country’s major commercial centers, or (b) allow the Jewish majority to be so diminished that maintenance of the Jewish nature of the state is imperiled.
Accordingly, it is in terms of their ability to contend with these undeniable imperatives that the alternative proposals for resolution/management for the conflict must be evaluated as appropriate policy prescriptions for Israel if—at the risk of appearing repetitive—it is to retain its status as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
I belabor this point of the long-term preservation of Jewish sovereignty, as a necessary precondition for the acceptability of competing policy proposals, because if one is prepared to forego it, other proposals, which are unable to ensure such an outcome, may well be acceptable—like for instance the post-Zionist call for a non-Jewish state of all its citizens.
Bearing this brief introductory clarification in mind, let’s begin the critical analysis of the proffered alternatives, which this week I shall confine to policy proposals that eschew full or partial full Israeli annexation of territory—deferring analysis of those that endorse such annexation for next week.
Managing the Conflict: Mowing the lawn won’t cut it
The conflict management approach—as opposed to conflict resolution – is ostensibly the least proactive, least provocative—and most pessimistic—largely reflecting the recent assessment of Jared Kushner that there may well be no solution to the Arab-Israeli confrontation.
In a column written last August, I pointed out the grave detriments this approach entailed, detailing how over the last two-and- half decades the military prowess of the terrorist organizations have developed far beyond anything imagined, and how Israel’s political positions have been drastically eroded.
Thus, when Israel left Gaza (2005), the range of the Palestinian rockets was barely 5 km., and the explosive charge they carried about 5 kg. Now, their missiles have a range of over 100 km. and warheads of around 100 kg. Likewise, when Israel left Gaza, only the sparse population in its immediate proximity was threatened by missiles. Now, well over 5 million Israelis, well beyond Tel Aviv, are menaced by them. Moreover the terror organizations have exploited periods of calm to further enhance their infrastructures and other abilities, which were barely conceivable a decade ago—including a massive tunneling enterprise and the development of naval forces, commandoes and underwater capabilities.
But it is not only in the exponential growth of the terror groups’ martial prowess that the endeavor at conflict management has been a resounding failure. The same can be said—arguably even more so--with regard to the ever-tightening political constraints Israel faces.
Mowing the lawn won’t cut it (cont.)
Perhaps one of the most dramatic and disturbing indications of just how far Israeli positions have been rolled back over the last two decades is reflected in the views articulated by Yitzhak Rabin, in his last Knesset address (October 5, 1995), a month before his assassination. In it he sought parliamentary ratification of the Oslo II Accords, then considered by much of the Israeli public as excessively dovish and dangerously concessionary.
There can be little doubt that if today, Netanyahu were to embrace, verbatim, Rabin’s 1995 prescription for a permanent accord with the Palestinian-Arabs in the “West Bank , he would be dismissed—scornfully, disparagingly and angrily—as an “unreasonable extremist”.
It of course requires little analytical acumen and a mere smidgeon of common sense to grasp that–whatever one may believe the real size of the Arab population of Judea-Samaria to be—Israel cannot keep an increasing and increasingly recalcitrant and irredentist population indefinitely in a state of suspended disenfranchised political limbo.
In this regard, it should be remembered that, today, with the changing nature of Arab enmity, the major existential challenge to Israel’s existence as the Jewish nation-state is no longer repulsing invasion, but resisting attrition—both militarily and politically.
Accordingly, by eschewing decisive proactive measures to contend with a predicament that entails a mounting threat and decreasing freedom to deal with it, “conflict management” has become a prescription for avoiding immediate confrontations that can be won, thereby risking having to contend with later confrontations that cannot be won—or can be won only at ruinous cost.
Two-States: A mega-Gaza overlooking Tel Aviv?
Of course, the policy paradigm which, for decades, has dominated the discourse on how to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict is that advocating a two-state outcome. Bizarrely, support for this formula has always been the sine-qua-non for admission into “polite company” while opposition to it was the perceived hallmark of the uncouth and ignorant.
Just how perverse this situation is can be gauged from the fact that there is no persuasive reason to believe --and certainly none has ever been provided by two-state proponents – that a Palestinian state will be anything other than a homophobic, misogynistic, Muslim-majority tyranny, whose hallmarks would be: gender discrimination, gay persecution, religious intolerance, and political oppression of dissidents—and which would rapidly become a bastion for Islamist terror.
After all, one might well ask, why would anyone purporting to profess to liberal values, wish to endorse the establishment of such an entity -- which is clearly the utter negation of the very values invoked for its establishment?!
Readers will recall that it was in Gaza that the initial optimistic attempts to implement the two-state idea were made. So, how events unfolded there should be instructive as to how they may be expected to unfold in Judea-Samaria. For in the absence of a compelling argument to the contrary—and as mentioned, none has ever been presented—there is little reason to believe if Israel were to evacuate the “West Bank” the outcome would not be largely similar to that which followed Israel’s evacuation of Gaza.
Indeed, unsubstantiated hope aside, there is neither sound theoretical foundation nor empirical evidence on which two-state proponents can base any prognosis for the success of their political credo.
A mega-Gaza (cont.)
Accordingly, the prudent working assumption must be that any attempt to implement the two-state principle in Judea-Samaria will result in a “mega-Gaza”—and that measures, similar to those required to protect the Israeli population in the South, would be required as well on Israel’s eastern border.But unlike Gaza, which abuts sparsely populated, largely rural areas, the “mega-Gaza” that almost certainly will emerge in Judea-Samaria would abut Israel’s most populous urban areas. Unlike Gaza, which has no topographic superiority over adjacent Israeli territory, the prospective “mega-Gaza” in Judea-Samaria will totally command the adjacent coastal megalopolis, in which much of Israel’s vital infrastructure (both civilian and military) is located, where 80 percent of its civilian population resides and 80% of its commercial activity takes place.
But perhaps most significantly, unlike Gaza, which has only about a 50-km. front with Israel, the envisioned “mega-Gaza” in Judea-Samaria would have a front up to almost 500 km!
Accordingly, what might be expected to concentrate two-staters’ minds, more than anything is that, after evacuating Gaza, Israel is now undertaking what IDF Chief-of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisencott, called the "largest project" ever carried out in the history of the IDF—a wall along the entire Israel-Gaza border, not only several storeys above ground but – to contend with the tunnel threat-- several storeys below it !! Now imagine a project over ten times that scale along a “mega-Gaza” in the east…
Next week: Analyzing Annexation
As mentioned, next week I will focus attention on those approaches which advocate full or partial annexations of the territories across the 1967 Green Line. In the analysis I will demonstrate that without an operational plan for dramatically reducing the Arab presence, east of the Jordan River, the former will result in the Lebanonization of Israel, creating a single society so fractured by interethnic strife that it would be untenable as the nation- state of the Jewish people ; while the later will result in the Balkanization of Israel, dividing the territory up into disconnected autonomous enclaves, which will be recalcitrant, rivalrous and rejectionist, creating an ungovernable reality for Israel.
Accordingly, by a logical process of elimination, I will show that the Humanitarian Paradigm, advocating funded emigration of the Arab residents of Judea-Samaria (and eventually Gaza) is the only policy paradigm consistent with the long term survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, and hence—for those dedicated to the preservation of the Zionist ideal—Hobson choice.
Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.