Friday, December 11, 2009

Call the Bluff

Some of you have noted that I've said nothing, so far, on the settlement freeze. My hesitation stems from my wariness: while this may be a very large story, or not, I'm not convinced how anyone can know yet. So even though the primary purpose of blogs is to respond to everything immediately, and only later if ever to think about it, on this one I'm waiting.

The Economist, however, while also not being sure what's going on, hits the nail on its head: It doesn't really make any difference if Netanyahu is serious or not. The Palestinians need to call his bluff, if bluff it is, or grasp the moment, if the moment is real.

The weirdest thing about this particular moment is that while a Likud-led Israeli government is at the very least creating an impression of willingness to go well beyond what might have been expected of it, the other side is not reciprocating in any discernible way. Netanyahu says he's giving negotiations ten months of opportunity; one of them has already passed. The Palestinians seem to be sitting in Rammallah nursing their grievances. I fail to see what they gain thereby. The Americans, meanwhile, have turned their attention elsewhere.



Anonymous said...

"The weirdest thing about this particular moment is that while a Likud-led Israeli government is at the very least creating an impression of willingness to go well beyond what might have been expected of it, the other side is not reciprocating in any discernible way."
That would be weird if it were novel. It is not. As you continued to say:
"The Palestinians seem to be sitting in Rammallah nursing their grievances."

I enjoy your blog. I respect you . But you are clearly a lunatic. At least under the common wisdom definition: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Shabbat Shalom

Victor said...

Why should the Palestinians do anything but hold to the most maximalist position? When have they ever been held accountable for any action they have ever taken? What will happen if they are completely obstructionist? Will the flow of money to them be cut off? Will Jewish rights to settle in Shomron and Yehudah be recognized by more countries? Will fewer battalions of Palestinian forces be trained and equipped by the Americans? What exactly do they have to lose?

The less they do and the less they agree to, the more they get.

Netanyahu makes unilateral concessions on essential Jewish rights that accomplish nothing except get the Americans off his back for a few months. What did Israel get out of this freeze? Will the Americans now bomb Iran one day sooner, or let Israel do so?

It is Israel that needs to call the Palestinians bluff and start talking and planning the annexation of the West Bank. Put a minister in charge of that portfolio and give him a staff to start drawing up various development schemes, with weekly press conferences.

We have reports on Ynet that Palestinians are pretending to have cancer to get out of Gaza, and that half the population of Gaza would leave if they could. Why is Israel preventing them from doing so? I never understood this. Exit permits should be the most abundant resource the Palestinians have access to.

Bryan Z said...

Victor, planning an annexation of the West Bank would do nothing except change the dialogue from "how do we extort the most out of Israel while getting our own state too" to "how do we destroy Israel from the inside."

A much more credible threat would be planning an annexation of the Gaza Strip that would involve transferring the Palestinians there to the West Bank, but leaving the West Bank to be a future Palestinian State by itself. It's small enough that it seems plausible, but upsetting enough (both to Hamas, who would lose their geographical isolation and hold on power, and to Fatah, who would be threatened by the influx of angry Hamasniks) that it would give actual incentive for the Palestinians to act on their desire to have a state.

Anonymous said...

The PLO can wait. Every year they wait will reduce the numbers of the few Arab elders who remember the time when Arabs and Jews could be neighbors, while a greater share of the population is raised on terrorist propaganda for eternal war. The months and days are only fractions of years. Soon, no one will have the first-hand experience to speak against the lies.

Victor said...

Brian, I disagree. Gaza has no real value. You cannot contain a hostile state in the West Bank, and there's no indication that a Palestine would be anything except that. One way or another, this will all be solved with Israeli annexation of the West Bank, either in peace or in war.

A friend just sent me an email that the IDF is pulling out of his settlement, near Ramallah. He used to be a big army security coordinator in the territories; says that this is just the beginning. Barak will withdraw the IDF to the barrier and let the settlers stew in their own juices without the Army protection.

If there is violence against the settlers, Israel can blame the PA. If there is violence by the settlers, there will be justification to remove them by force. Either way, Israel (the establishment Israel) wins.

The settlements themselves are not the big problem. A settlement has never been overrun. Everyone can fight and they have plans. Even when the Palestinians set fire to the whole hilltop in the middle of the night to burn people alive, they are prepared.

The big problem are the roads. People need to come and go. They are being shot at anyways right now, even if Haaretz doesn't report it. If the Arabs know the Army is not coming they will become more bold, shooting during the day, not just at night, setting ambushes, maybe roadside bombs. Who will stop them?

And that's what Barak wants, to scare (or bleed?) the settlers into leaving on their own. Maybe they will cut off water and electricity next.

the_raptor said...

"The weirdest thing about this particular moment is that while a Likud-led Israeli government is at the very least creating an impression of willingness to go well beyond what might have been expected of it, the other side is not reciprocating in any discernible way."

What's weird about it? Netanyahu knew that Abu Mazen would not respond, so he wouldn't have to pay for his position.

Bryan Z said...

I disagree. I don't think Israeli annexation of the West Bank is a credible threat. I just don't think it likely that the Israeli government will nationalize 2,200,000 Palestinians in the West Bank. I think that saying "we'll move every Palestinian in the Gaza Strip to the West Bank with compensation over a period of several months" is a much more credible (and more terrifying) threat than "we'll nationalize 2 million of you so that you can effect demographic change within Israel to threaten the Jewish majority." I mean, it's an ugly thought, but how would the Jews of Israel react if the Arab Muslims came close to having a majority?

Victor said...

Bryan, assuming the 2.2mil number is accurate (it's not), why must every Palestinian be automatically awarded Israeli citizenship again? Wouldn't a more prudent course be to offer a mix of permanent residency, earned citizenship or compensated emigration?

You're proposing plans to threaten Palestinians into submitting to a two state solution. I don't see how a recognized sovereign Palestinian state armed and trained with American and European weapons, bulging with another 2 million Palestinian refugees from Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, is any solution at all.

I don't want to threaten the Palestinians and I don't want to play games with the Americans. I want to end the war in a way that ensures Jewish life and Jewish sovereignty. For that to happen, Jewish control over and settlement in Shomron and Yehudah is, in my view, vital. Anything else is a play for time until the next war.

Bryan Z said...

Oh, okay. I was mistakenly under the assumption that we were discussing options for the same goal when in fact we weren't.

I can see why you believe a two-state solution wouldn't work, but may I ask why you believe the Palestinians would give up the desire to have a state? Sure, the Palestinian nationalist movement is of dubious origin (to be generous), but it is quite real now to the average Palestinian. I suspect the vast majority of them would stay in Israel: some would continue to terrorize Israel from within, and the others would continue to whine to the rest of the world about how oppressed they are, and the rest of the world would continue to condemn Israel.

As for compensated emigration, to where would they emigrate? The Arab states refuse to nationalize Palestinians now (in fact, Jordan has been busying itself stripping Jordanian citizens with family in the Yesha of citizenship), so why should they accept Palestinians emigrants later? Europe surely wouldn't accept them. The United States might, but not large numbers.

I don't mean to seem belligerent, so if I come off that way, I apologize. I just don't really understand these aspects of the one-state solution and they're not really very often discussed.

Victor said...

Hey Brian. You're not beligerent. Please. I spend a good ten hours a week in rhetorical fistfights with everyone from Palestinian nationalists to Hamasniks, Peaceniks and Jstreetniks. You are definitely NOT belligerent, my friend.

In response to your questions, here's what I think. Let's break this discussion up a bit, otherwise this will be one heck of a long comment.

why you believe the Palestinians would give up the desire to have a state?

I don't think a desire to have a state is at the core of Palestinian identity. Palestinian nationalism is a reaction, a resistance to and a consequence of Zionism. So long as the Jews are in the land, Palestinian nationalism will not be fulfilled. But, that's more ideology, so let's look at it practically...

Under any 2-state scenario, the Palestinians will have a very small, insignificant nation. In Gaza, they will be perpetually penned in by Israel and Egypt. Gaza is an island in every sense of the word. It is surrounded by sea and desert, and contains an unsustainable population reliant on an economy large enough to absorb its labor pool. The only such economy is Israel. Gaza is destined to forever be dominated by Israel.

In the West Bank, whatever nation emerges will be under Israeli political, military and economic dominance. Think about it. The Israeli economy is 50 times as large. The Israeli military is a regional powerhouse. As a consequence of the previous two, Israeli politics are of regional concern. Where does a Palestine fit in here? If Palestinians play by Israeli priorities, they enhance Israeli power. If they play against Israeli priorities... in that case, what's the point of giving them a state, right?

The West Bank, too, then, will be utterly dominated by Israel in everything from water rights to overfly rights to regional security issues, to diplomatic initiatives. If the Palestinians remain passive and peaceful, they only enhance Israeli domination. And if they assert their "national rights" to have an opinion against Israeli dominance, then we're back to fighting a war.

So, at the most fundamental level, I don't believe that a "West Bank + Gaza" formula will allow Palestinian nationalism to turn inward. Who would want such a state? Divided in two, utterly subservient to the whims of a regional power. Would such a state meet your nationalist aims? Who would care about such a state? It would have no bearing on anything of significance. In fact, the only way for it to achieve prominence is by doing exactly what the Palestinians have been doing for the past 60 years - destabilizing.

In this case, geography is destiny. The Palestinians will never be satisfied with a divided, weak, subservient rump state that does not meet their minimal conditions for sovereignty. 1967 means nothing. 1948 means everything. They will fight, and with better weapons, until 1948 is undone, or until they are all dead or ethnically cleansed or... until Palestinian nationalism is nullified at its source.

I would rather not kill people, or ethnically cleanse them from the land. I don't even want to discuss such things. Jewish law provides an answer for the Palestinians - ger toshav. Some formulation along the lines of ger toshav may be acceptable to many of them. Those who deeply wish to be Israeli citizens can be placed in a citizenship process.

To be a citizen of the US you have to wait almost 10 years now. Millions of Turks are permanent residents of Germany, for decades now, without any issues. Why should the Palestinians be granted citizenship overnight, after fighting 60 years of brutal war with the Jews? That's insane and unreasonable. Those who wish to become Israeli citizens should meet certain eligibility criteria - non-involvement in terrorist organizations, one generation of permanent residency, conscription in the armed forces, etc. I'm sure the details can be worked out. This isn't a matter of demographics, even, but of pragmatism.

Victor said...

By the way, ger toshav status is essentially how the Muslims had the Jews live in Arab lands for the last 1500 years - a protected minority. Permanent residency without sovereignty is a language the Arabs understand, because it translates to their vocabulary.

If Palestinians do not wish to meet the criteria to become Israeli citizens, they have plenty of choices, from compensated emigration to permanent residency, which has worked to keep the peace in Jerusalem for 40 years.

Has anyone ever tried this? Has anyone ever offered this to the villagers? Let's try.

Victor said...

As for compensated emigration, to where would they emigrate?

To where are they emigrating now? Palestinian emigration is skyrocketing (which is just one reason why that 2.2mil in WB number is based on optimistic projections from 1996). Tens of thousands of Palestinians are emigrating every year to the Gulf, to Europe and to the US.

Why is Israel the only party expected to contribute to an international resolution of a 60-year old regional conflict.

In fact, if you think about it, the one thing that Israel has never received from the initial Arab attack in 1948 is reparations. It is an accepted principle, enshrined in the annals of history, that belligerent nations that lose wars bear their cost. Yet, the Arabs have borne no cost from their initial invasion, which created 60 years of war. They, above all, are responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians, and they must be held accountable (in the pocketbook, pun intended).

Remember, also, that Palestinian emigration does not have to occur unaided. The UNRWA will no longer need to exist. Arab reparations, US and EU donations... each Palestinian family that leaves can do so with a nice nest egg of $100k-250,000. Plenty of countries will want citizens who can bring in that kind of money.

Lastly, we should examine the result of immigration on Palestinian identity. I think it remains to be seen whether Palestinians in the Diaspora can sustain themselves as a unique people, or whether they will assimilate and melt into their adopted societies. Look at the massive investments being made in Jewish continuity, and the assimilation rate regardless. Now consider what will happen to Palestinians living abroad for 2 or 3 generations. This is their problem, not ours. They are not waking up at night, worried about Jewish survival, believe me.

Our mission (at least my goal) is to protect Jewish life and Jewish sovereignty.

Bryan Z said...

Well, the liberal inside me is screaming at the injustice implicit in the idea of a ger toshav, but the pragmatist inside me is saying that you're probably right. And my inner pragmatist is much more convincing than my inner liberal.

Plus, the Israelis have shown that being a ger toshav in Israel is much better than being a dhimmi in Saudi Arabia. Palestinians already have access to the justice system, which obviously wouldn't change if the Yesha were annexed.

I'll have to sleep on this. It's upsetting and confusing my delicate sensitivities.