Monday, December 14, 2009

Don't Behave Like Palestinians

Bryan and Victor are battling away on the comments to this post. In my inaccurate summary, Victor is saying that since no presently suggested solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict is possible because the Palestinians will not give peace in return for anything, Israel should move towards a ger-toshav solution. (You'll have to read his comments for the full details). Bryan's liberal upbringing (his words) can't accept that, and wishes some sort of two-state solution will work.

I'm mostly with Victor on the analysis, but with Bryan on the resolution, even if it won't (be a resolution). Moreover, there's a fundamental tactical problem with Victor's position, in that he assumes he knows in advance what the Palestinians will say, mean and do, so he's building a countering reality to deal with that. Although he doesn't intend it, this position is logically similar to the position of the Palestinians and the enemies of Israel who pretend to care about the Palestinians: Since Israel never intends to relinquish its control over the Palestinians, the reasoning goes, therefore whenever Israel does anything that remotely resembles willingness to compromise with the Palestinians, by definition they can't really mean it and thus the Palestinians are right in rejecting it.

I prefer a fact-based policy: let's try whatever we decide to try, and test the results in the real world. True, nothing tried so far has ever resulted in a Palestinian willingness to live in peace alongside Israel, and that needs to be recognized and understood, but it doesn't mean we should stop trying. While not being reckless, of course.

Sorry Victor. Not this time.


Victor said...

I prefer a fact-based policy: let's try whatever we decide to try, and test the results in the real world.

Yaacov, I agree. Isn't that what Oslo and the last 20 years of peacemaking has been all about - Israelis trying?

True, nothing tried so far has ever resulted in a Palestinian willingness to live in peace alongside Israel, and that needs to be recognized and understood, but it doesn't mean we should stop trying.

This is the kind of comment I would expect to encounter on Jewschool. In other words, everyone has basically agreed that the Palestinian leadership does not want peace. BUT, that doesn't mean we should stop trying. Why? Why does it mean that? Why must we keep trying? Why must we keep bleeding them and us, if objective trial and error has proven their intransigence to a two state solution?

The wars are getting more bloodier, not less. Before Oslo, the Palestinians mostly fought with rocks and the occasional Ottoman-era rifle. If Shabbak received intelligence that there was a weapon smuggled in (a single handgun), they would torture people until they found that one gun. That's how rare weapons were in the territories during the 1st Intifada.

After they were armed and equipped by the Americans and Europeans during Oslo, the Palestinians started killing Jews with much greater efficiency.

Today, we are training an entire Palestinian army. They are getting infantry fighting vehicles from Russia, small arms combat units and tactics from the Americans... and the political echelon is still as intrasiegent as ever.

How many times will we keep playing the same movie over and over? That's all I want. Set some benchmarks. Let's be rational about it. By when will we be allowed to say that Oslo has failed and that we need to at least begin to examine other options?

Since Israel never intends to relinquish its control over the Palestinians, the reasoning goes, therefore whenever Israel does anything that remotely resembles willingness to compromise with the Palestinians, by definition they can't really mean it and thus the Palestinians are right in rejecting it.

Well, based on my analysis, which you agreed with - that Palestinians can either submit to Israeli regional dominance or fight it - that's true. We keep telling the Palestinians, you'll have your own state. But in reality, they won't have a real state - real sovereignty - because the minute their state goes against Israeli interests, we're back to war.

If a Palestinian state votes in a government that diverts the flow of the Jordan to Palestinian agriculture and cuts off water to Negev communities downstream, will Israel do nothing?

If Palestinians purchase the S-300 air defense system from Russia and begin "lighting up" every aircraft in Israeli airspace, will Israel do nothing? If they refuse overfly rights for commercial aircraft, will Israel do nothing?

If they conduct war games with Iran, or if they invite a hostile aircraft carrier to station off the coast of Gaza, will Israel do nothing?

And these kinds of things are exactly what the Palestinians will do (assuming they ever accept a 2 state solution). They will relentlessly test the limits of their sovereignty and put themselves at odds with Israeli interests. They will always find an excuse, because they are trapped by their geography into subservience, and they will resist this if given the opportunity.

Bryan Z said...

Well, aren't two-state supporters making assumptions about what the Palestinians will say, mean, and do? I think Victor is right that even if a Palestinian state were established, they would test the boundaries of the sovereignty given to them by Israel. In order to assure a secure Israel, Israel would have to withhold certain abilities from the Palestinians (an army, air space controls, etc.), and since the Palestinians have shown a remarkable lack of desire to live in peace even before '67, reason follows that they would continue to bother Israel in whatever way possible. The two-state solution is based on the idea that the Palestinians will want to live to peace when they receive their own state, but will they? You just don't know.

I still haven't come to a conclusion yet, but I'm erring on Victor's side of the analysis of the endgame.

Darryl Dempsey said...

I read recently that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result, so I'm with Victor on the non-viability of a 2 state solution.

A couple of questions:
Is Ger Toshav permanent residence in english?
Does this mean that in theory (hundreds) of thousands of west-bank arabs could decide to go and live in say, the Galilee (where they already are the majority)?
Where does Gaza fit into the Ger Toshav picture?
How well integrated are the israeli arabs who've had citizenship for 60 years?

Einstein once remarked that the solution to a problem has to come from a higher plane than the problem itself. We'd probably call that a game-changer today.

IMHO the game-changer will only occurr when the jewish state comes under existential threat: when the Iranians and Hizbollah begin launching thousands of rockets at it, for example. Who says this won't happen in the next 12 months?

Israel will then take the sort of action that every other state would have taken years ago.

Perhaps that's the price of having a state.

Darryl Dempsey

marek said...

Given the current situation and the rather dim prospects of a real progress towards Palestine and Israel living in peace, at some point in the future Israel will have enough with trying. What do you think will trigger this tipping moment and what will be the next step?
I believe that this moment have been gamed already in multiple forums. But what do you think? What will be the next step after the last try? Or is this still in the category of unthinkable?

Victor said...

Marek, Israel is having international legal problems conducting targeted assassinations of self-professed mass murderers. I don't think ethnic cleansing of 2 million people is in the cards anytime soon (unless they're Jews, in which case that's perfectly acceptable).

marek said...

Victor, I'm not advocating yet any ethnic cleansing. But I do not see what an alternative will be.
Clearly the two state solution is a pipe dream. A political autonomy for Gaza and WB was perhaps a solution 25 years ago. But today after more than half a century of the intensive brainwashing in the Islam world and the 20+ years of Palestinian terror the chances for coexistence are slim. Today you will be advised not to drive via Vadi Ara even in the daylight. So I'm not sure what the consequences of an extra 2 million alienated Arabs with the status of permanent residents will be. I'm assuming that you propose to give these new residents all the rights except perhaps the right to vote for Knesset. If you wish we can discuss the details of "toshav ger"
However, my question is directed rather to Yaacov. What should Israel try next, and next, and next, and... And what if all these tries fail as they have failed until now.

Anonymous said...

Victor- why not buy land in Tunisia or Libya and offer 20K per head to any Palestinian who moves there? Some enemies are just strangers who've got too close.

Pro- you'd be building golden bridges for your enemy to leave. You'd take some pressure off. (I don't have a clue how many would accept).

Con- you'd be giving money to terrorists, or at least people who support them. And it would cost.

Pretty sure this would fail somehow. But I don't know the area so I don't know how.


Dimitry said...

Well, there is more talk (though it is still rather unrealistic) of creating a palestinian-jordanian confederation. That would solve at least some of the problems with the two-state solution (Gaza notwithstanding), but I doubt the Jordanians would ever agree.

Sylvia said...

Is anyone listening to the five o'clock news on Reshet Bet? I just heard Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) calling Goldstone "MUHAMMAD GOLDSTONE, THE BROTHER MUHAMMAD GOLDSTONE"! Does anyone know if Judge Goldstone has converted to Islam? Any idea what this might mean?

Anonymous said...

Dmitry- that's why I said Tunisia or Libya. Out of Israel's face, needs money, big seacoast. Maybe places in several countries, as a backstop.

More money pits. And wow could this fail.

Jordan could have lost Black September. You're right, they'd be nuts to want a do-over. Maybe that goes for Libya, Tunisia, Morocco etc.


Victor said...

Listen, guys. I understand where you're going with the ethnic cleansing bit, but you have to know how remote this possibility is. Buying land in Tunisia or Libya? This is a fantasy.

I'm trying to deal with reality here, and in the real world, no one is pushing the Palestinians out of Shomron and Yehudah. I urge the annexation of this territory (and not Gaza), out of a desire to protect Jewish life and Jewish sovereignty. Not incidentally, I believe that doing so will save lives on all sides, including Arabs, but while that is a major consideration, it is not my primary concern.

Right now, we have Jewish communities in Shomron and Yehudah, living on private Jewish land, who are being threatened with ethnic cleansing not by the Arabs, but by the government of Israel!

Ethnic cleansing other people is not my radar, and (in my opinion) if you care about Jews, it shouldn't be on your radar. Preventing ethnic cleansing of Jews SHOULD be our primary focus today. The only way to do that is by strengthening and growing the remote Jewish communities of Yesha in every peaceful and legal way possible.

I accept that a Palestinian state may be established, despite what I and others believe is best for Jewish Israeli interests. My priority is making sure that those Jewish settlements that now exist in Shomron and Yehudah will remain under whatever scenario; that the property rights of Jews will be protected in whatever state they find themselves, and that these communities have a chance to grow and prosper.

I would much rather have a Palestinian state that has to deal with a rapidly growing Jewish minority with some leverage over the economy and politics of that state, than a Palestine cleansed of Jews and free to continue warfare against Israel.

In other words, in my opinion, the Jewish settlements serve the role of a strategic tripwire to curb Palestinian ambitions whether they are part of Israel, or whether they are part of Palestine, but they can only do so if they are allowed to remain, and allowed to grow.

Anonymous said...

Victor- Didn't mean forced expulsion, or ethnic cleansing. I meant volunteers.

Probably a dumb idea for other reasons, though.


Victor said...

I'm not trying to cut people down, but we should all understand that this is not merely an academic subject.

If you are advocating for kicking Palestinians out - which will not happen - at least take a much more limited, practical step to support Jewish communities that are already there, and which are threatened with expulsion. This is the reality today, and no one can take your place to support these communities. There's no one else. It's you, and me, and whoever else - Jew or non-Jew - decides that Jewish communities in Shomron and Yehudah must remain and grow.

At the very least, educate yourself about the settlements and their residents.

I feel like I'm proselytizing on Yaacov's blog. Sorry, Yaacov. I wanted to propose a simple idea - ger toshav - but (respectfully) some of the feedback is just removed from any semblance of reality on the ground. As fun as it is to play Risk, this isn't a game.

Yaacov said...

Be my guest, Victor. At some point I'll add my opinion, but not today.

Dimitry said...

Well, the annexation isn't going to happen either (unless something drastically changes). I am not a big fan of unilateral moves, but some sort of convergeance (removing outflung settlements and annexing parts with the settlements' blocs) is likely to happen once the anti missile shield is fully online. I am not saying that this an optimal or even desirable (for me) outcome. Just that it is probably the most likely one given the moods amog the Israeli public.

Victor said...

The Israeli public voted for a right wing government that campaigned on resisting international pressure, not repeating the mistakes of Oslo, and not giving an inch to the Palestinians without reciprocity.

Dimitry, let's take think through what you wrote. Suppose a Palestinian state is formed. Why is it necessary to "remove" "outflung" settlements? Let's just clarify these terms. "Remove" means to depopulate by force. "Outflung" means a 15 or 30 minute drive from the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Some of these communities are on private Jewish land. Others were build on Area C state lands, which will be turned over to the PA in any deal. Why should these communities be forcibly depopulated if their residents choose to stay? Why must the Palestinians receive a blank slate, a state free of Jews? Let's deal with that question.

Dimitry said...

Well, the public opinion changes. And I actually heard similar sentiments from people who are right wing. I didn't say I liked the options, but I think it is reality that will come to pass. So, your question shouldn't be to me, but to the majority who think this way. Why? I am guessing because even despite being a relatively short drive away, such settlments prevent the separation barrier from being fully copleted. They require manpower to protect and they require roads to maintain and protect. They increase friction with the Palestinians. All these are purely pragmatic considerations. As long as such settlments remain deep in "palestinian" territory, there will be a need for checkpoints not between Israel and PA, but inside PA. There will be need for Israeli-only roads, or at least some form of control on who drives where. While these measures are necessary in today's situation and were necessary before the completion of the separation barrier, once you remove isolated settlements and bring everybody behind the barrier, ther woulf be no need for such means. Does it mean there will be no friction and no hostilities? Certainly not.

I am well aware of the moral and pragmatic problems with this course. I just think it is the most likely course to come to life in the next decade or so.

Victor said...

Dimitry, I agree with everything you have written above. If there is to be a two state solution, I still don't understand why we need to remove those Jewish communities which will be in PA lands. Why would this be necessary?

Let's put it like this: In order to avoid friction with Jews, why haven't all the Israeli Arabs left Israel?

That's a rhetorical question, but I hope you see where I'm going with it. We can reduce friction through mass suicide as well. Our concerns should be the preservation of Jewish lives and Jewish rights.

If a 2-state solution is agreed upon, Jewish communities in Shomron and Yehudah (and I'm not talking about the large settlement blocks which Israel is keeping regardless) must be allowed to remain on the land, and the security of their inhabitants must be enforced by all those shiny new Palestinian police and soldiers the Americans are minting.

If this does not happen, instead of folding our arms and forcing Jews from their homes to reduce friction, international outrage should ensue.

Victor said...

Since we've been talking about the settlements, which most people around the world consider to be in violation of international law, here's a strong, factual rebuttal from David M. Phillips, professor at Northeastern University School of Law.

One of his more interesting points is that, despite not being based in international law, the same arguments used to delegitimize the settlements, if accepted, can be used to delegitimize the State of Israel itself.

Those who consider themselves friends of Israel but opponents of the settlement policy should carefully consider whether, in advancing these illegitimate and specious arguments, they will eventually be unable to resist the logic of the argument that says—falsely and without a shred of supporting evidence from international law itself—that Israel is illegitimate.

Commentary's reach is limited. Please pass this article on.

Dimitry said...

First, in an ideal world I agree with you. But in relty this probably won't happen.
Second, I wasnt talking about an agreed two-state solution. I was talking about a unilateral situation in which case it is problematc to count on Palestinian forces to protect the Jews.

Victor said...

Dimitry, there are organizations working on this issue, and the communities are not blind to the danger of being left to fend for themselves.

The One Israel Fund, for example, is working to equip every community with surveillance and perimeter defenses. As I wrote before, though, the roads are the real problem.

Really, the mindset you're talking about is the problem. This idea that we're going to leave Jews at the mercy of the Arabs... it assumes the Arabs will attempt to kill them, and that's probably right.

And once the Arabs complete a bloodbath of the Jewish communities in Shomron and Yehudah, they will move against Israel proper. So, what's the point of demarcating a border, unilaterally or otherwise? Everyone accepts we're going to remain at war. So why are we going forward with this insanity?!

If you think for a second that the international pressure on Israel will cease once Israel withdraws from the territories, that's just ridiculous. Look at Gaza. The Arabs will provoke another war, and then cry for the cameras when Israel responds.

We need to reject this nonsense that will lead to more violence and more death, on all sides. It starts with people like you and me saying "no", educating our friends and demanding results from our leadership, whether in the US or in Israel.

We have the choice, Dima.

Dimitry said...

You really need to separate what I think should hopefully happen (which I havn't even stated what that is) and what I think will happen :)

Victor said...

Dima, read this. I spoke to Marc on the phone for an hour earlier today. He's a security consultant and I was gathering information for a company a friend of mine owns.

Anyway, our conversation veered towards the settlements, and I asked Marc, flat out, if the IDF leaves, can the communities survive. His response was amazing. We don't need the IDF here, he said. Half the men in the settlements are from elite Israeli units, which operated in all the Arab villages and understand the terrain by heart. They are highly trained, have good relations with many Palestinians in both the villages and the PA. He said the problem is not the IDF leaving, but the IDF leaving overnight, because it takes time to set up volunteer teams to take over security duties. In fact, overall security might actually improve, because the IDF is staffed by 18 year olds, and the settlers are hardened veterans.

I have a completely new appreciation for the level of preparedness the Jewish communities have to survive and thrive without Israeli support. Will it be difficult, yes, but it can be done. And that's not idle chatter spoken by a fool. Marc was an army coordinator in the Shilo region (just north or Ramallah), which experienced some of the most violent terror attacks during the second intifada.

The only thing they need from the outside, Marc said, is money. Security and preparedness costs money, and the IDF has been slashing community defense budgets for a decade. It's up to Jews who can give, to give.

The point is, and this is what I was trying to get to in the last comment, our mindset needs to change. Not only is what we are discussing possible - the preservation and growth of Jewish communities in Shomron and Yehudah - but we can make it a reality.