Friday, April 29, 2011

Benny Morris: Don't let there be a Palestine

Benny Morris - who doesn't read this blog, to the best of my knowledge - takes direct aim at my thesis in the previous post, and says it's all wrong.


Aaron said...

Morris is right here and Lozowick is being (uncharacteristically) naive, but it's even worse than Morris says. YL wrote in his previous post: "Then it's border skirmishes between two sovereign states that disagree about their borders." This is naive. In the 21st century, states don't wage war against states. The war will continue as before: Israel against non-state Palestinian militias, not against the State of Palestine. Going further that Morris: this will be the case whether statehood is declared unilaterally or as part of a treaty.

The State of Palestine will be nominally at peace with Israel no matter what happens. They would be fools not to be. They will use terrorism to achieve their strategic goals, supporting it or restraining it tactically. It will be the same old story: pro forma condemnations of terrorism coupled with demands on Israel to solve the "root problem."

Because Israel will not be at war with the State of Palestine, there will be no legitimate state targets to hit. That was the problem in Lebanon in 2006. Pace YL's earlier comment, the world does recognize Israel's right to defend itself against egregious terrorist attacks - initially. That's how it was in Lebanon. But as soon as the first picture of a dead child is broadcast, Israel will be told to end its "disproportionate response" (in its friends' words) or "war of aggression" (in its enemies' words). And in a way "war of aggression" will be correct, because the Palestinian state did nothing to provoke it. The existence of a Palestinian state will make Israel's moral and legal position in this war worse, not better.

Silke said...

I can't quite make sense out of his last paragraph and the whole thing seems to have been penned rather hurriedly.

Avigdor said...


I'm surprised Morris is still talking about the demographic scare. There has been a rash of material indicating that there is nothing to worry about in this regard.

The issue is not demographics, at least among centrist Israelis I talk to. Let's say, I tell them, that I can convince you that Jews will be an overwhelming majority in Israel and the WB, excluding Gaza... let's say 65-70% under any reasonable future scenario. That's a solid majority that will even grow with time. Now are you in favor of annexing the West Bank? The answer is always no, even when demographics are demonstrated to favor the Jews, because Israelis just don't want to live with West Bank Palestinians. They don't want to live in a Jewish country with a non-Jewish minority that large, with an alien culture that takes up that great a chunk of national life.

I think this is reflected in the things you write also. You want to force the Palestinians behind a hard border, force them to use their own currency, force them to stop trading 80% of their goods with Israel. Why would all this be necessary if there was a peace? Every other country in the world tries to increase trade with its neighbors, and benefits from its currency being used. You want nothing to do with them, and I think this reflects a broad sentiment, regardless of demographics. The basic goal is just to get as far away from them as possible, in every respect.

It's not about demographics. It's about culture, language, national identity.

Anonymous said...

Seems like the line between a demographic threat and a cultural threat is pretty fuzzy. If you have a significant minority in a democracy that can hold itself together politically and is hostile to EVERYONE else as a matter of principle, ... do the math.

The politics in such a country would quickly resolve to Arab vs. Jew and all reasonable political arguments regarding the economy, social services etc, will disappear.

In other words Israel will cease to be a functioning first world democracy.

NormanF said...

As long as Israel doesn't allow itself to be flooded by millions of Arabs via the fictitious right of return, the Arabs have no chance of overtaking the Jews demographically any time in this century.

The demographic scarecrow peddled by Israel's Left is a hoax. Predictions of an Arab majority between the river and the sea have been made since the 1980s and none of them have ever come true.

Time is not on the Arab side as their desperate push for unilateral independence has revealed. The Arabs are not going to defeat the Jews through the womb.

Avigdor said...


This is true, but you're discounting the effects of cultural diffusion over time. Israeli culture is very dynamic and innovative. It quickly and efficiently absorbs foreign influences it finds meaningful, without feeling threatened by them. It also projects its own cultural values beyond its borders, mainly to the Palestinians.

West Bank Palestinians are increasingly learning Hebrew and incorporating Israeli ideas. There is a lot of cultural diffusion going on and Palestinian identity, such as it once was - a tribal, land-based culture - is under a lot of pressure and change, comparable in some ways to Jewish urbanization and modernization in 1800s Europe, which was highly traumatic. It wasn't at all clear in the mid 1800s if Jews would survive as a people, though the debate seemed to have been settled by the mid 1950s.

The point is, if we engage with Palestinian society, we can attempt to influence its development. But many Israelis, like Yaacov, seem to want nothing to do with the West Bank Palestinians. And I mean nothing, literally, not in a judgmental way but as a point of fact.

NormanF said...

Victor, Israeli Jews want to be rid of the Arabs - most Jews in Israel would like to dump Israel's Arabs on the other side of the border to have a homogeneous state and eliminate the "minority" problem.

Call it Meir Kahane's revenge. Israeli Jews don't want anything to do with Arabs and the prevailing mood is to disengage from them and keep them at arm's length. The Arabs feel the same way.

Its going to be a messy divorce but there is no chance two antagonistic and irreconcilable peoples can live together in the same country. My view is if the Arabs want independence let them have on condition Israel cuts off ties with them. There should no relations with them whatsoever.

In the long run, Israel will benefit by being able to strengthen its Jewish identity and prepare for life in a dangerous region in which conflict will continue well beyond the lifetime of those of us alive on this thread.

Avigdor said...

NormanF, show me another highly industrialized, modern society bordering an economically poor society, without considerable labor migration and cross-border economic activity.

This notion that you can seal the Palestinians off is a fantasy. They're like one of those deadbeat husbands who refuse to give a women her get.

I remember I was in northern Israel, at a famous marzipan factory. They get their almonds from Spain. SPAIN! They could drive twenty minutes south and get all the almonds they want. The Palestinians don't collect even half their almond harvest because they don't know what to do with all these almonds. But Israeli companies will go 3000 miles to buy almonds instead of driving 20 minutes? That's insanity.

Shaltiel said...

Yaacov-- your previous post was correct. Keep making this point!!!

Jamie said...


Jews don't want to get rid of Arabs, Jews want to have some peace and quiet and currently that's the only solution that may still yield some favorable results. And as you can well remember that wasn't always the case in 96 Jews wanted to intermingle with Arabs for the exact same reason.

Arabs don't want to get away from the Jews, They proved it by refusing to even consider the possibility of shifting the fence of the Palestinian state to encompass current Israeli Arabs. In fact they dub the one who suggest it a Racist.

Your comment is lacking, you may support Yaacov's suggestion but you gave nothing of substance to argue that 'Yaacov is correct'.

I for one think that Yaacov is incorrect, and I hope I am wrong. But for the life of me I can't understand how can we expect different result by doing very similar things that were tried before and failed miserably. In fact I see a reverse correlation between the number of concessions Israel gives and common support in the Western world.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov is 100% right. It doesn't matter what the West thinks. Israel should disengage because it's the right thing for Israel to do for itself.


Silke said...

Yaacov hopes that the undecided in the West will start to think better of Israel if she starts the process:

this is a comment from a journalist published at Memo. In himself certainly not the kind of person Yaacov thinks of except that Amnesty will host an event with Memo.

that's why the only arguments I can get interested in are military ones. All that public opinion Hasbara stuff betting that reason will prevail is valuable to help the "pros" to stay the course but it will not change one opinion of any other - certainly an organisation beatified by Amnesty can't be totally disregarded.

Jamie said...

Carrie you will have to clarify more:

What do you mean by right.
right as in it's morally right to ethnically cleanse all Jews from the future Palestine ?
It's morally right to give up all right to Jewish holy sites in future Palestine knowing that they are going to desecrate them (Extrapolating on past & present events) ?
It's morally right to to endanger the Jewish state financial blood line by allowing people, who proved time and again that they can and want to kill Jews, be in a mortar range from Tel Aviv?

and I can continue on and on...

I guess you were more inclined to think about the right thing to do as in. It's morally right to allow Palestine self determination. But to really argue your case and Yaacov's you will have to answer lots of other moral questions that are deprived of Israelis in so doing.

So you will agree with me that I can't accept your answer as a real argument.

Anonymous said...

Jamie, I didn't ask you to accept my answer. It is my opinion that Israel should form their own borders BEFORE the rest of world dictates them. This will leave Israel with more bargaining room as well as a more secure Israel with hostile Arabs OUTSIDE of Israel proper, beyond the security barrier. I don't believe Israel should rule over Palestinians for obvious reasons, but also because it is a financial burden on Israelis.

I did not give my opinion on Jewish holy sites, but I do feel that Israel should keep as many as they can as I fully understand that the Arabs will destroy as many as they can. I also agree with Yaacov's suggestion that Jerusalem should be divided by placing some Arab villages in "Palestine." Most of Jerusalem should remain in Israel. To me, there is no question.

Again, in my opinion, the settlers made a strategic mistake by populating desolate areas in the West Bank instead of populating Jerusalem, and we will all pay for this mistake.

As for rockets, all of Israel is within rocket range (from Hezbollah and other terrorists) so I don't accept this argument that once Israel leaves the WB more of Israel will be in rocket range.

Avigdor said...

I did not give my opinion on Jewish holy sites, but I do feel that Israel should keep as many as they can as I fully understand that the Arabs will destroy as many as they can.


I just want to know, which of our ancestors do you want to subject to urine and feces? Abraham? Rachel? Joseph?

The Jewish people, having created a country that can support one of the largest and best equipped armies in the world can't protect the graves of our patriarchs a mere fifteen miles away?

What does that say about us, that we casually accept the sound of Arab mallots against ancestral Jewish gravestones? They haven't even done it yet, again, that is, and you've already given them license.

You don't have all the answers, and I don't either. Just think about it.

Silke said...

if Israel would define borders reasonable in the eyes of the world, what would happen during the next round of negotiations?

chip here, chip there, chip everywhere

If Israel would define borders unacceptable in the eyes of the world, what would happen during the next round of negotiations?

chip here, chip there, chip everywhere

In the second scenario there is at least a very slim hope that the end result may be reasonable borders for Israel.

bataween said...

Benny Morris is right: a Palestinian state on the West Bank with no corresponding Palestinian pledge to end all claims on Israel will only perpetuate the conflict. However, the chances of a unilateral Palestinian state being declared have receded now that Fatah and Hamas have 'reconciled'. The moderate Fayad is no longer in the PA government.
For years, the 'peace process' has been focusing on borders when it should have been shooting down the Palestinian 'right of return'. See this article, which suggests the RoR, Refugees and Democracy should be the main focus of peacemaking:

Jamie said...

"Israel should form their own borders BEFORE the rest of world dictates them."

That's a reasonable starting premise. I am not necessary buying into it as Israel has clear borders with Gaza and the amount of criticism (and terror atacks) Israel suffers from the Gaza affair far surpasses the WB criticism (and terror attacks).

But my comment was misunderstood, comments like 'this is the right thing to do' sound strident to me since Oslo where Israel did the "right thing". And I am afraid that until the level of discourse will not be detailed enough and the discourse will not have cost/benefit analysis, we will be doomed to repeat old mistakes.

Also, i see the same line of reasoning between Yaacov, Beny and yourself that Israel must do something, could be, but sometimes as strategical games such as chess and game theory show doing nothing is the best move that can be had, so this also should be part of the analysis.

And last, how is having defined borders is better than having current international law backing Israel.

I am not sure how true it is, but according to that link Palestine's creation is a gift from Israel. What could be better for negotiations for division of a cake when you own it all.

Anonymous said...

I'll add one voice to Silke on this. Increasingly, the only arguments I want to hear are material. What do we need to fight the next war? I'm pretty sure that giving Hamas de facto control over west bank borders is a less than ideal starting point.

If we want to have a hasbara effort, lets start talking to the Egyptian people directly about the value of peace and the real meaning of war. They're a democracy now, so we can no longer cut deals with the leadership. We have to influence the people. The Palestinians have long understood this about Israel and we have to understand it now about Egypt.

Silke said...

The Jewish disease of “if only Israel would do x,y, or z” there would be peace & harmony in the Mid-East

plus an idea of how to do something for Gilad Shalit

Anonymous said...

Carrie, the missiles that Hizbollah needs to fire at Tel Aviv are orders of magnitude bigger and more expensive than the qassams you could fire on Tel Aviv from the West Bank. That means it is easier to destroy them, both on the ground and in the air and the cost equation is more balanced in Israel's favour.

How will the "rest of the world" "dictate" Israel's borders? Exactly what makes you think pulling back to any line will eliminate or even lessen the pressure? Did this work with Lebanon? Did this work with Gaza?

Your "solution" is to do enough to endanger Israel's security whilst not doing enough to satisfy even the vaguest critic.


Barry Meislin said...

Benny Morris...takes direct aim at my thesis in the previous post

Hmm. Except that Morris wrote his column two days before you wrote your post.

Rather curiously, though, it's a column that appears to betray the Benny Morris of old (the one I thought he had kicked up into the attic to whimper with all the other insane, if desperately vocal, relatives) beginning as it does with astute conclusions based on hard observations, but ending in fashionable incoherence.

But it seems that that Benny Morris is still among us. For in that column he, correctly, argues why peace with Palestinians is a chimera and an impossibility (the very use of the word "peace" is and always has been, alas, a Trojan horse cunningly deposited within the Israel politic); yet by the column's end, Morris chastises Netanyahu (a la mode) for not having done enough, for not doing enough, for not doing more, for not doing anything, to demonstrate Israel's desire---or plan, or what have you---for peace with its "Partners in Peace" (Inc.).

Striking incoherence, if fashionably so.

(And yet, it is what practically everyone believes---and so, therefore, must make the highest order of sense....)

Yes, an extraordinary incoherence....shared, by oh so many (including some posters here) who believe that Israel still has (or ever had) someone to talk to about "peace" or that Israel has any options left, except to continue to be strong and extremely vigilant.

(Need not be said, or repeated, or reiterated, that the major problem---and it is of this that our "Partners in Peace" (Inc.) are supremely aware---is that those partners are dealing with Jews, who, having been slaves in the land of Egypt (and oppressed through the centuries) have this cultural tendency to bend over backwards to understand, to accommodate, to privilege, to feel sorry for, to have mercy upon, those who would destroy them?....and have, so far, prevented their neighbors from doing so? So far. For which efforts Israel can be labeled (and libeled) "Nazis" by all the moral, ethical, progressive elites around the world.)

A desperate people, willing, needing, programmed(?) to blame itself for practically everything.

Arrayed against a people who blame themselves for absolutely nothing. And who take responsibility for absoutely nothing.

File under: "Fearful Symmetry"

Barry Meislin said...


"Need not be said..."

should be:

"Need it be said..."

Malcolm said...

Israel's Human Chameleon Strikes Again Benny Morris)