Tuesday, March 9, 2010

No to the Two State Solution

American Vice President Joe Biden is in town today, mostly to make sure Netanyahu doesn't order a pre-emptive attack on Iran anytime soon, but along the way also to pretend things are moving forward on the Israel-Palestine negotiation track:
"I think we are at a moment of real opportunity, and I think that the interests of the Israeli and Palestinian people, if everybody stops and takes a deep breath, are actually more in line than they are opposites," he added.
Why do respectable people make such silly statements? I can't answer that. I mean, the man is the number 2 person in the American administration; there's a reasonable chance he's being recorded, and someone might even be watching; who knows, if you stretch your imagination a wee bit it's even (just) imaginable that someone will still remember long enough to know how unrealistic he was being.

Ehud Yaari recently published an important article in Foreign Affairs, and a quick summary of it in The Forward. Sadly, the full article is not accessible, and neither of those two links lead to the parts that - to my mind - are most important, namely, the description of how the Palestinians are not interested in a two state resolution to the conflict. Yaari is one of our top experts on the Arab world and the Palestinians in particular; he has spent his entire professional career of over 40 years listening to things Arabs say (in Arabic, of course). His analysis is obvious to those of us who stake our lives on knowing what's going on around us, but needs to be said from the perspective of someone who really listens, directly. So I've cut and pasted a snippet, in the hope the Foreign Affairs people won't sue me for copyright infringement. Its a long and interesting article, and I've only cited three paragraphs.
A small sovereign state within the pre-1967 boundaries has never
been the fundamental goal of Palestinian nationalism; instead, Palestinian
national consciousness has historically focused on avenging the
loss of Arab lands. As the prominent Palestinian academic Ahmad
Khalidi has argued, “Today, the Palestinian state is largely a punitive
construct devised by the Palestinians’ worst historical enemies.” Furthermore,
he contends, “The intention behind the state today is to
limit and constrain Palestinian aspirations territorially, to force them
to give up their moral rights.” Indeed, in a private conversation in
2001, then pa President Yasir Arafat told me that he believed statehood
could potentially become a “sovereign cage.”

Many Palestinians now feel that by denying Israel an “end of conflict, end of claims” deal, they are increasing their chances of gaining
a state for which they are not required to make political concessions.
Within a few years, the scant support for the two-state formula that currently exists will likely erode, and new concepts will begin to
compete as alternatives. In other words, the Palestinian community
will accelerate its collapse into Israel’s unwilling arms, in effect accomplishing
by stealth the sort of Arab demographic dominance that
Israeli leaders have for decades sought to avoid by occupying, rather
than annexing, the Palestinian territories. Such an annexation in reverse
would leave Israel no choice but to coexist alongside an Arab
majority within the whole of Palestine as it existed under the British

Khalidi has illustrated what many Israelis and Americans refuse to
see: the Palestinian general public instinctively distinguishes between
“independence” (the end of occupation) and “sovereignty” (statehood).
Most Palestinians wish to get rid of Israeli control but do not
necessarily strive to see the land divided. More and more Palestinians
are therefore considering options other than statehood. One option
proposed by Abdel Mohsin al-Qattan, former chair of the Palestinian
National Council, would be to maintain the territorial integrity
of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and
govern it through a weak joint central government and two strong autonomous
governments—without necessarily demarcating geographic
borders between them. Another popular solution among
Palestinian leaders is a unitary state, which, for purely demographic
reasons, would eventually be controlled by an Arab majority.
Update: Soccerdad points me to what seems to be the Yaari article in its entirety here.


PetraMB said...

I vividly remember the Khalidi article quoted here; it was originally published in the Guardian under the telling title: "Thanks but no thanks".


I used some quotes from it later in a post for my JPost blog, because interestingly enough, Khalidi said a lot of things about the Palestinians that you could hear from the Israeli right -- so if you take some of Khaldidi's statements without telling the reader who said it, you can set up an interesting quiz.

Anyway, thanks Yaacov for drawing my attention to the Foreign Affairs article. I recently complained to them that they don't offer an online subscription; it's quite ridiculous in this day and age that people outside the US should be forced to pay the postage to have the dead-tree-publication send to them.

Yaacov said...

Petra -

Send me an e-mail address to the address I've suggest over to the left, and I'll send you a pdf of the article.

Anonymous said...

much to my delight I have seen that FP offers the pdf article for just 99 ct subscription-free!!!

- finally somebody is getting it that there are foreigners in this world. I've tried American dead tree magazine subscriptions - their postal service to Germany is, as compared to used book sellers mailing from the US, from the age of the postillion and unreliable as well - therefore not worth the trouble.

not having read the full article I wonder, if Khalidi includes the offer Biden seems to me making in his maybe not so stupid remark: Look guys come back to the table and you get Red Carpet treatment/Status enhancement forever (which will probably lead to the same bad outcome but at least offers the chance for a miracle to happen)

Empress Trudy said...

In short, the Palestinians want all the power and none of the accountability. How do you 'negotiate' with children?

Michael W. said...

I think Biden is just trying to start rhetorical optimism. Isn't this where the peace processes start?

I don't remember where I heard it, but someone once said that Jews care about what people say. It matters what Hamas wrote in their charter and say everyday, like it was important what Hitler wrote and said (unfortunately European Jewry didn't listen hard enough). Now we have a zillion organizations to monitor what other communities, friends and enemies, say about Jews. Biden's statement is directed mostly towards Israel.

The Palestinians, especially Arafat and his successors, don't care what they say or write and how it might harm their relation with Israel. It's mostly because they don't have a very solid political establishment. The Jordan monarch cares what Knesset members say (like "Jordan is Palestine") because it challenges his power, but Palestinians have no power and the few cronies that do hold some power, are getting fattened by cash from America and the EU no matter what they say.

Anonymous said...

this is Hell
"they" are not children they only know how to play the very adult "look how cute and harmless and dumb we are" game really well. (very popular and successful in office feuds also when a no-good wants to discredit a competent one)
Everybody with a romantic heart wants to storm out to help these poor people who act like they don't know how to help themselves
Look at this, search for Heinsohn in the text and shudder - I have listened to Heinsohn in numerous talk shows, he is no crank, no Islamo- or any other -phobe, read him up (Kramer provides links) and you get an idea of what European taxes do to Israel.
Israelis should bash those figures over the head of every one of our visiting representatives.


Anonymous said...

I wonder whether Ehud Barak's lecture at the Washington Institute on February 26, 2010 is related to the article (haven't listened to it yet myself)

Anonymous said...

I apologize in advance that I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but it's amazing to me how persistent, and how numerous, the blatantly false representations of Palestinian motives are, even among friends of Israel.

The behavior of the Palestinian mainstream has a reputation for being inexplicable ('they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity', they saw off the branch they are sitting on, etc). But it is only inexplicable if one closes one's eyes to their actual motivation, which is that they have an overriding cultural imperative to legitimize the hurting of Jews for being Jews. Consequently:

They do not want a two-state solution (except if it can be obtained in a way that will preserve or enhance the legitimacy of hurting Jews).

They do not want a one-state solution (except insofar as it would, by being sovereign, confer legitimacy on hurting Jews).

They have no particular desire for a state at all (except possibly as in instrument for legitimizing the hurting of Jews via the privileges of sovereignty, or more realistically as a demand which, by merely being pursued, legitimizes hurting Jews).

They do not want a 'solution' ('end of conflict, end of claims' settlement) at all, because the present situation already legitimizes hurting Jews and a settlement of that sort would delegitimize it. Of course they would love to have more prosperity, safety, dignity etc in addition, if it were available, but not at the expense of the legitimacy of hurting Jews.

They do not especially want to avenge the loss of Arab lands, though again they would quite like to if they could achieve it at little cost, except in the very indirect sense that pursuing such revenge creates legitimacy for hurting Jews. (And also in the sense that the 'loss' of lands in 1948 -- i.e. the establishment of Israeli sovereignty -- drastically reduced that legitimacy.) They do not feel strong national aspirations to territory, or aspirations to assert their 'moral rights', except the right legitimately to hurt Jews. That, they are willing to pay a very high price for.

They do not seek an end to Israeli control, except insofar as the mere demand for this creates legitimacy for hurting Jews -- (but achieving it would reduce that legitimacy which is why they never work towards achieving it).

They are not in it for the cash (though like most people they won't say no to cash for doing what they feel they must do in any case), but for legitimizing the hurting of Jews.

They do not want "power without responsibility". In fact they do not especially want political power (except insofar as this would legitimize the hurting of Jews) and do not especially shirk responsibility, except the responsibility to refrain from hurting of Jews for being Jews.

Andrew said...

Yaacov, not a big deal, but our VP is "JoE Biden," not "Jo." As I said, no big thing.

Biden's quote is pretty much a restatement of what has become the entrenched conventional wisdom in the states. The popular sentiment is now to state that both sides are actually closer on the general outlines of an agreement than ever before: two states roughly along the '67 borders and a divided Jerusalem. Then you bemoan the irony of the situation, as it seems like the sides are farther apart than ever on the details.

Throw in a little Shakespeare ("a pox on both your houses"), and you're officially a Serious Foreign Policy Thinker.

Yaacov said...

Oops! Fixed it.

X said...

Very interesting stuff. I was intrigued by this bit: "One option
proposed by Abdel Mohsin al-Qattan, former chair of the Palestinian
National Council, would be to maintain the territorial integrity
of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and
govern it through a weak joint central government and two strong autonomous
governments—without necessarily demarcating geographic
borders between them."

So some sort of weak federal system that lets the Jews block any attempts by the Palestinian majority to push them around. Too risky for Israel, though? If the Palestinians decide they don't like the rules anymore, once their demographic superiority is a fait accompli.

Anonymous said...

You can all call me naive, but...

When Joe Biden says, "...I think that the interests of the Israeli and Palestinian people, if everybody stops and takes a deep breath, are actually more in line than they are opposites," he means the "interests" of the people (notice he uses the word "people"). Those interests are economic prosperity, good health, security, water, environment, educational opportunity, etc.

Yaakov writes about the political goals of the leadership of the PA. I am sure they have support among some of the Palestinian population, but not all of it. Does an entire population want to wait it out in misery for generations until they outnumber Jews someday rather than come to a settlement that will provide immediate material relief? I am sure for the leadership, who live well, they are willing to wait. But is everybody? I don't believe it. Maybe I am wrong, but I don't believe so.


Anonymous said...

one historian who sounded serious to me has said recently that if a leadership sticks together the people can do all the wanting they like it will not move anything. (his examples were the SU, North-Korea, Persia - the SU and Persia as examples of where the leadership lost unity) (in office terms when we underlings got uppity we turned on eachother preferring to fight it out with our cubicle neighbours - seems to be a lot more fun than unified action against the power wielders ... the poor normal folks voted in Hamas presumably to get at Fatah - lots of good it did them)

And in my book the Palestinian big ones know full well that once they have their own state and start to behave responsibly nobody is going to care about them or their narrative any longer i.e. they will stop to be prime performers on the world stage. All the news agencies will stop to consider their biggest words let alone their slightest sneeze (like it is now) capital letter headline stuff.

How you can come up with a scheme incentivising them to believe that they'll get more red carpet as heads of state than they do now or a desirable alternative to red carpet I have no idea. But before somebody has that idea I cannot imagine much honest trying emerging.

PS: German news said this morning that Israel's Defense Ministry spoke out against settlement construction - let's hope that this kind of vacillating is favourable for Israel's stand with the foreign peace advisors - hope I'll find the time to listen to Barak's talk today.