Monday, May 30, 2011

Dare to Leave the Palestinians Alone

Back in the 1880s, Yehuda Leib Pinsker thought the Jews could cure the non-Jews of antisemitism by rectifying the abnormality of Jewish existence as a nation without a homeland. He was an important theorist of the first wave of what would later become Zionist settlement. 15 years later Theodore Herzl had the same idea, but given his position as a prominent journalist in Vienna (an important town in those long-past days), and his indefatigable energy, he was able to launch more than a small wave of settlers.

Both men were wrong. There's nothing the Jews can do to cure the non-Jews who hate them. Yet their efforts resulted in something vastly better than a cure for Jew hatred. They contributed to the creation of a world in which the Jews can live a full national life, without having to bow scrape and grovel before their enemies. The hatred is still there, but to a certain extent, Jews needn't care any longer. They can get on with life - and they do.

Moreover, in spite of the bloody violence directed at the Jews in their homeland, it's nowhere as bad as what Pinsker and Herzl saw, not to mention what came after them, between 1918 and 1945. Remember, in the forgotten pogroms of the early 1920s vastly more Jews were murdered than have been killed in a century of war between the Zionists and their neighbors.

Israel is not going to enjoy normality with the Arab world anytime soon, nor will it have peace with the Palestinians. However, this does not preclude living a vibrant and creative national life in Israel. It hasn't so far, and won't henceforth. Nor does it necessarily mean there will be permanent violence. It's probably not a coincidence that after reaching for its nuclear sword in 1973 (according to foreign sources) no Arab army ever again attacked Israel. Instead, the Arabs moved to wars of civilians against civilians, or at least wars of irregulars embedded amongst civilians against Israeli civilians. Yet even those have not proven effective, and once Israel figured out how to beat them, they tapered off. Israel defeated the 2nd Intifada (the first, too), and it frightened both HizbAllah and Hamas, in 2006 and 2009, enough to make them mostly desist from violence. For the time being, of course, until they change their mind, obviously, but nevertheless.

In the meantime we get on with all the things we wish to do. Jewish life in the early 21 century is richer, more diverse and more vibrant than at any time since Herod the Great, and even the parts that aren't happening in Israel wouldn't be the same were it not for the return of the Jewish nation to the political realm.

None of this success is predicated on settling the West Bank, nor need it be harmed were that settlement to be dismantled (or left outside the border of Israel, which is a far less likely scenario). So why is Israel there?

Between 1967 and the beginning of the 1st Intifada 20 years later, Israeli society held a raucous conversation about the importance of settling Jews in the Biblical heartland. (It is significant that the non-Israeli part of the Jewish people didn't have much input one way or the other: Jewish national discussions, it appears, happen essentially in the Jewish national state). The positions and the arguments went back and forth, but by the end of the 1980s the Jews of Israel had decided, as a community, that settling Judea and Samaria was not important enough, and it was abandoned as a national project - if it ever had been one. No matter what might have been the case in, say, 1978 or 1980, for the past 25 years the Israeli consensus has been that someday, in the fullness of time and in the correct international context, Israel will hand over most of the West Bank so as to enable the creation of a Palestinian state.

From that moment on, every addition to the settlements, any investments and construction of infrastructures must be regarded as a strategic waste of effort, even if in some cases the creation of better roads, say, or security measures, were essential. For a while the supporters of the settlement project could tell themselves the conversation was not yet over and could yet be tilted back to their position, but not after decades.

The reason the Israeli majority never made the effort to halt the settlers was because of considerations relating to the Palestinians. There was the plausible, perhaps even correct assumption that it was the settlements alone which would eventually convince the Palestinians to start negotiating for a two state solution to the conflict, before there was no room left to have Palestine. (The Palestinians made this decision, slowly, impartially, and if they ever really made it, between 1989-1992). There was the assumption that dismantling settlements would be a major negotiation chip for which the Palestinians would play some chip of their own. There was the assumption that the decision to dismantle many settlements was going to be traumatic for Israeli society, and should happen once, in the context of an end-of-conflict peace agreement with the Palestinians, at which point it would enjoy sweeping support and be less painful than in any conceivable other context. Or, as any settler will tell you if you steer the conversation deftly: we've been repeatedly saved by the Palestinians.

Since late 2000 and the collapse of the Oslo negotiations at the latest - some would say, it should have been many years earlier - it has become obvious to a very large majority of Israelis that peace with the Palestinians is not to be had. At best, the Palestinians are willing to accept partition only if it's done in a way that leaves open the possibility of an eventual disintegration of Jewish Israel, while the Israelis insist on an end-of-conflict agreement which blocks any conceivable future Palestinian moves or claims. During the 2nd Intifada Israel  reconquered sections of the West Bank which had been handed over to the Palestinian Authority, because this was essential to militarily defeating the Palestinians.

In 2005 Ariel Sharon began the project of unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians. The strategic idea, never publicly spelled out for obvious reasons but quite explicit nonetheless, was to end the occupation even without agreement with the Palestinians. Perhaps even, some might say, precisely without agreement with the Palestinians, who had demonstrated that their terms for peace would be unacceptable to Israel. The novelty of Sharon's positions in 2004-2005 was the understanding that the occupation itself had become a millstone, a weapon the Palestinians were wielding with tremendous effectiveness against Israel so as force concessions that otherwise would not be offered.

If one assumes the Palestinians and Israelis really and profoundly understand each other, an assumption that a century of conflict and cohabitation and enmity and daily collaboration make plausible, the events of 2004-2006 take on a meaning never presented in the Western media. By 2004 both sides knew they weren't moving towards peace. Both recognized how the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians had become the main weapon against Israel. Both knew that the outcome of the unilateral Israeli departure from Gaza would determine the next step. Both knew Sharon's move was a sign of Israeli weariness, though the Palestinian side may have seen it as existential weariness, while the Israelis saw it as tactical weariness with dominating Palestinians. The Palestinian election of Hamas was therefore the result of two considerations. First, that since Israel was wearying, the Palestinian response should be to strengthen their hawkish side. Second, that post-disengagement violence would serve the Palestinian interests, by further weakening Israeli resolve but also by thwarting the next stage of Israeli disengagement, from the West Bank. The Israelis, on the other hand, elected Ehud Olmert in the Spring of 2006 on the explicit platform of continuing the disengagement.

The war in Lebanon and the violence from Gaza derailed the unilateral disengagement from the West Bank. Instead, Olmert (and his foreign minister, Zippi Livni) did their best to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, and offered them even more than previous Israeli negotiators ever had, but predictably they were rebuffed. The Palestinians have no interest in an end-of-conflict agreement.

Netanyahu, elected in 2009, tried his hand at improving the daily lives of the Palestinians by lifting much of the weight of the occupation, but this has failed: individual Palestinians may benefit, but the leadership, and the people as a nation, need the pressure on Israel to continue until someday it caves in, which is the context for the current policy of having the UN give the Palestinians a state, or - since the UN can't do that, only Israel can - having the UN lay the ground for international sanctions against Israel.

These are unlikely to work, for reasons I may write about elsewhere, but the Palestinians see no downside in trying.

Which brings us back to the Israeli control of the Palestinians. The attempt to have Greater Israel is long over. The settlements have been dismantled in Gaza, and the electorate has voted to dismantle them in the West Bank. The only reason Israel still controls the West Bank, and still blockades Gaza (ever less efficiently, since Egypt has now opened its border) is because of the Israeli assumption that it must control the Palestinians to fend off their violence. Should Israel leave the West Bank or remove the blockade of Gaza, so the logic, the Palestinians will immediately rain down destruction on Israel, as they did after the departure from Gaza.

And well they may. The Palestinians will have the motive and the means, and the international community will shield them from Israel's wrath. But only for a while. Actually, assuming they'll be aiming at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the airport, rather than far-away Sderot, I don't expect the Israelis to hold their wrath very long. For there's a second lesson of the past decade, and that is that in each case where Arab enemies of Israel goaded it, be it Palestinians or Hizballah, the Israelis were eventually goaded and the enemies backed off. In other words, full-blooded Israeli wrath (I use the word blooded advisedly) is not something people enjoy provoking. Moreover, since the Palestinians already provoked it once, in 2002, and watched from close up as others provoked it (2006, 2009), perhaps they might even refrain from trying, at least for a while.

My position, to be clear, is that Israel needs to end as much of the occupation as possible, by moving out of the West Bank till the security fence, so as to continue the conflict from a vastly better starting point. Before that, Israel should lift the blockade of Gaza, right now. (This is what Shlomo Avineri says in his column today). This doesn't mean major moves need to be done carelessly. Moving out of the West Bank will take a few years in any scenario, and these could be calibrated: first, stop all construction in settlements, and offer financial encouragement to individuals who wish to move (there will be many thousands of them). Then clarify to the Palestinians that the disengagement may have serious consequences for them, such as severing economic ties, or cutting off supplies of water and electricity, as part of a true end of Israeli engagement - unless the Palestinians wish to negotiate otherwise. Later on, dismantling settlements doesn't have to include pulling back IDF forces, until Israel decides it is safe to do so. Yet the overarching policy should be clear: Israel intends to leave, to let the Palestinians live their own lives, and in return expects the Palestinians to get on with their lives, not attack Israel.

Peace will come some other day. But Israel will be a better place, with better international relations. It will still need the most lethal military possible, and it will need to confront many enemies that surround it, but its fundamental situation will be healthier. Most important of all, its internal cohesion and determination will be strengthened. The whole society will know it needs to defend its existence, not an occupation many of us don't want.

Update: I've done my best to respond to the many thoughtful comments, here.


Anthony said...

May I say I'm greatly heartened by this post. I agree with almost everything you say though I'm not sure the position laid out in it has much support inside Israel and possibly even less outside (among pro-Israelis).

One point though. Your analysis of the Palestinian UN plan seems difficult. Why should we assume that its all a ploy to bring sanctions on Israel? Why not assume that they do actually want a state of their own?

It doesn't affect your analysis in any way since even such a desire doesn't mean that they are willing to accept a final deal any time soon. But it leaves a bad taste to suggest that Palestinians truly do not want peace and do not want a state.

Dimitry said...

Let's start with small things, shall we? Declare that Israel "severs it's ties with Gaza" and see where it leads.

P.S. As I said in the previous thread, it is unlikely that Israel will be quick to act decisively against a threat similar to the one from Gaza, coming from the WB. It already happened when buses exploded in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. I don't have to remind you what was going on and how long it took even Sharon to decide on Defensive Shield.

More generally, I agree that this will probably happen. Though, I do think that the IDF will remain in the Jordan valley and on key points of the WB for many years.

Dimitry said...

Antony, we may assume this about the Palestinian UN plan, because they explicitly say so and because if they were really ready to compromise to get a state, it would have been created long ago.

aparatchik said...

Why not offer the financial inducements to the WB Arabs to leave? I'm sure many more thousands of them would take the offer. You accept that there will not be peace with the arabs, so why weaken Israel's position? Why not move to weaken the Arabs?

annie said...

You haven't explained how many planes will need to be downed, how many Israeli cities will need to be rocketed by how many missiles, before Israel will react and then, as sure as the sun rising in the East, be condemned by the UN and its cohorts.

You have not explained about the strategic high ground. You have not explained about the water and control of the aquifers...

You are living in a pipe dream and I'm very surprised at you.

Saul Lieberman said...


You suggest that moving out of the West Bank could be calibrated. What would halt the process? You’ve already calmly acknowledged that Palestinians will immediately rain down destruction on Israel, so that wouldn’t be enough. By your standards, your proposal is a sure winner.

“Dismantling settlements doesn't have to include pulling back IDF forces, until Israel decides it is safe to do so.” Are you confident about that? Why?

In previous posts (just over the last week), you were much more candid about the bloodshed and mayhem:
“Palestinian forces - regular or irregular - will infiltrate along the line, and given the tiny distances they'll be able to reach Israel's main cities within minutes and wreak havoc… will be able to shoot directly at numerous targets in Israel's populous heartland… Israel will lose its ability to collect human intelligence about terror cells in the West Bank… Rather controlling the West Bank, Israel will have to defend itself along a long and twisted border much of it in hilly terrain.
“The Palestinians see a peace treaty as a step on the longer road to Israel's disappearance as the Jewish nation state.
“In 2002-2004, Israel needed to reoccupy the entire West Bank, re-build its intelligence sources and networks, and also construct the security barrier; only then was the bloody 2nd Intifada defeated. Its ongoing control is the reason no kassam rockets or mortars are shot from the West Bank, while many thousands have been shot from Gaza.”

You suggest that Israel’s policy should be clear: “Israel intends to leave, to let the Palestinians live their own lives, and in return expects the Palestinians to get on with their lives, not attack Israel.” But you don’t really expect that the Palestinians won’t attack Israel. And the Palestinians know that. So instead, the Palestinians will see another step on the road to Israel's disappearance and the attacks will begin with greater force. And that is OK with you because we will have temporarily ended the occupation (until we go in again). I had no idea.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

I assume--correct me if I'm wrong--that you are talking about keeping at least the settlement blocks that Olmert hoped to keep through negotiation. So what is going to be the value of an end to occupation that nobody except "Zionists" will perceive as such? Isn't that one of the big problems with the Gaza withdrawal? Isn't the justification for the Hamas attacks over the grand new border already written and saved to Robert Fisk's hard drive?

Silke said...

Israel may become a better place when the majority gets what it wants, but better international relations?

to the US maybe, the Europeans? really? you are kidding me. the Australians?

India? China? no idea - but do they care?
aren't both "occupying" land for their own good or not so good reasons? Won't they mind, if y "co-occupier" jumps ship?

And what about the BDS-crowd? It needs a new bone to chew - even with graded withdrawal I predict that the less pretexts they have, the more ferocious they'll become.

PS: I have listened to two German academics today elaborating at length about the evils of anti-semitism and philo-semitism - it made my head swirl - and I suspect they were from the pro-Israel-camp but they love their caveats a lot better than any straight forward taking sides. No efficient support from them forthcoming.

Brooklyn said...

So basically its back to the idea from a couple of years ago of creating a Palestinian state with provisional borders? A state that by nature can't be separated from Israel because you have to cross Israel to get from the West Bank to Gaza (unless the idea here is to prevent crossing until a peace deal is worked out)?

In any case, isn't the argument here basically the same one given when the Gaza disengagement was put into motion, that Israel leaves but if the Palestinians attack then Israel will be free to respond? And how didn't that end up with Goldstone, a figurative couple of steps short of a war crimes tribunal? And hasn't the unending rocket threat from Gaza (lets not forget Lebanon either) become an accepted part of the everyday scene rather than something abnormal to be crushed? Why would life in a post-West Bank withdrawal be much different? Its not like we are saying anymore that this move would end the conflict.

(There is also a question I have that never gets addressed: if the borders of Israel and Palestine are finally decided on and in such a way that Israel retains some percentage of the West Bank, what happens to any Palestinians who end up on the Israeli side? Are they going to have to move in the same way the settlers on the Palestinian side will have to? You repeatedly point out the difficulty of partitioning Jerusalem but what about the ability to draw a defensible border? That is after all still the official position of the Israeli government, which is not the same as designing a border to split territory on purely ethnic lines. Last time Israel settled on a "border", the armistice line, it absorbed the Triangle area. Is that the plan here now too, to absorb whatever Palestinians remain on the Israeli side of the line while Palestine gets all the Jews in its territory moved out ASAP? Its a question I never see come up in any of the various plans or suggestions or editorials that talk about solutions. Partition implies a movement of not just borders but also populations that applies to both sides.)

I could also ask about Jewish religious sites in the West Bank. I imagine Rachel's Tomb is close enough to Israel that it would be annexed but given how easily Israels red lines move when push comes to shove, its hard to say. But what about the Tomb of the Patriarchs for instance? Are we going back to the pre-1948 situation where Jewish worshipers won't even be allowed in the building? I know that Hebron is too deep in the West Bank and Israel will never ever entertain a realistic idea of annexing it but my point is that just throwing your hands up in the air and saying, lets just leave and threaten that if they bother us after that, we'll give them a hit like they won't forget, isn't a solution.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering where Gilad Shalit fits into this discussion.

Anonymous said...

I'm also wondering where the United States fits in. What of the forgotten Bush-Sharon letters? What kind of security guarantees will the United State provide Israel in exchange for unilateral withdrawal?

Avigdor said...

I think many of you are missing the point embedded in Yaacov's post.

Anthony, I'm glad to see you commenting here. I was too young for the Oslo Accords, and the Camp David negotiations found me in my late teenage years. I was, however, politically aware and active during the Gaza disengagement, the Lebanon and Gaza wars, through the present day.

Every enthusiasm I've ever heard expressed on behalf of the Palestinians has long been buried in disappointment. From our short encounters earlier, you seem younger than I, which is why I'm sharing.

You should have heard the Gaza Disengagement proponents in 2004 and 2005. They were jubilant. The Palestinians will build a paradise in Gaza, they said. Europe will help them, and there was no shortage of investors, including Israelis, who were ready to invest in Gaza. It was the stepping stone to peace. And if they do fight us, the saying went, we won't need to fight them with two hands behind our backs, the whole world will support us. It all sounds so silly now.

It's been like that for 20 years! There are Jewish millionaires in my hometown, Milwaukee, who in the 1990s went to Ramallah to help Arafat create the Palestinian banking system, to build schools in the Palestinian villages. They thought they were helping to end the conflict.

Yaacov isn't expressing any optimism about the Palestinians because he is older even than I, and I am an old man, relatively speaking ;). He was there through the first intifada, Oslo and all the rest.

No one besides maybe 5% of Israeli Jews who live in the Tel Aviv bubble has any illusions anymore about what the Palestinian leadership wants, and how it wants to achieve it. No one believes anymore that the world will support Israel if only it does this, or if only it does that. Everything you can think of has been tried in the past. Everything has been tested, short of total war, and everything has failed. All the good intentions and the innocence has long been dead and buried.

And this is what all of you are missing in Yaacov's post - the sheer exhaustion. Yaacov is neither some left-wing peacenik Pollyanna not a right-wing boogieman. He understands full well that nothing Israel will do will stop the war or even slow it down much. He knows there will be no peace.

All Yaakov wants is to remove the daily irritant to the lives of Palestinians - not because he cares so much about them, but because he he doesn't want to be in their lives, and because it is diplomatically unwise. But after that, he wants to just hunker down, behind a wall, behind a fence, behind guard towers and missile defense systems. He fully expects Israel to be rocketed, the country infiltrated with terrorists, for Israelis to be bombed to pieces every now and then, for Israel to be sanctioned and boycotted when it reacts - maybe less or maybe more.

He's accepted all this, that the Palestinians will never stop their war, and that Israel will never know peace. I am not saying this in a judgmental way. This is where the Israeli center is today - exhausted, tired of "peace efforts" and promises, tired of violence and conflict, just wanting to be left alone to live life like everyone else in the world.

Who are we, those of us outside of Israel, to tell Yaacov he's wrong? No one is stopping any of you from moving to Israel and having 8 kids (and more, G-d willing). I will tell you this, and again, not in a judgmental way, or in a propagandist way: The settlements are not exhausted. Within Israel's sovereignty or outside of it, the role they serve is irreplaceable, if beyond the scope of this discussion. The way things are headed, Yaacov will soon be relatively safe behind Jabotinsky's Iron Wall. The day after, the real work, the real effort to preserve and advance Jewish rights and Jewish security, for preserving Jewish holy places, for taming adversarial Palestinian nationalism and confronting Islamist violence will continue on the other side of that wall, in the settlements.

Just a Thought said...

"What kind of security guarantees will the United State provide Israel in exchange for unilateral withdrawal?"

I would think Israel better off not raising the issue of security guarantees.

1. It is a violation of one of the fundamental precepts of Zionism to again place the Jewish people in the position of depending upon gentiles for their defense.

2. International and US "guarantees" have in any case been shown to be of doubtful reliability if not outrightly worthless.

Just a Thought said...

"All Yaakov wants is to remove the daily irritant to the lives of Palestinians... because he he doesn't want to be in their lives, and because it is diplomatically unwise. ... He fully expects Israel to be rocketed, the country infiltrated with terrorists, for Israelis to be bombed to pieces every now and then, for Israel to be sanctioned and boycotted when it reacts - maybe less or maybe more."

Excuse my bluntness, but your reasoning here (and Yaacov's) seems to fall into one of two paths:
- Israelis should die so as not to irritate the Palestinains
- Israelis should die so that Yaacov can feel good about himself.

Thank God most Israelis reject such reasoning.

Avigdor said...

That is a grotesque misrepresentation of what I wrote. If you understood what I wrote, and just wanted to make a caricature of my words for semantic gain, I'll understand, we've all been there. If, however, you really think that's what I meant, then I will have to respond to clarify your misconceptions.

Dimitry said...

Well, Just a Thought, the sort of possible "guarantees" we might be talking about is Vulcan Phalanx, lots of them :)

Brooklyn said...

I understand the point, of the grand exhaustion and frustration with the situation and the justifiable desire for the Iron Wall. I don't even disagree with the sentiment. Its the most deeply realistic conclusion to come to given the circumstances.

I'm just deeply skeptical about the proposed solution this post puts forward; this here is not talk about the Iron Wall but just more of the same talk we've been listening to for years but just phrased differently and spoken more wearily.

All this talk about the occupation as an irritant is a dead argument, killed by Ariel Sharon in 2005. Gaza is unoccupied. The West Bank cities are not occupied. Money and technical assistance has been pouring in for years. But there is no peace. Rockets are launched over the border on one end and on the other in Lebanon, talk is of missiles that will probably hit Tel-Aviv in the next war. Gilad Shalit sits in captivity if he is even still alive. No one is talking about a peace treaty anymore even but about how in the wake of the next batch of territorial withdrawals, the country will most likely face rocket attacks in its major cities and on its main airport. And with all this I just keep hearing how noble and honorable and moral it is to abandon most of the West Bank even without Israel having met any of the national goals. I fail to see how staging a repeat of the year 2000 Lebanon withdrawal except on the footsteps of Tel-Aviv is any sort of rational idea to consider.

Anonymous said...

Anthony, if the Palestinian leadership ever wanted a state then they would have had one anytime since 1937.

Yaacov, rather than end the "blockade", Israel should finalise it. That means no contact between Israel and Gaza. No import/export. No crossing into Gaza or out. No electricity, no food, no water, no "humanitarian aid". Nothing just a sealed off border. Otherwise we are looking at the same old crap since the pullout. The other route is to take Gaza back which frankly i believe is more doable because of the Israeli government du jour's inability to actually follow through and the web of Israeli business interests that tie Israel to the people trying to murder Israelis.


Avigdor said...

Brooklyn, you bring up an interesting point:

Gaza is unoccupied. The West Bank cities are not occupied.

This is actually true. No, seriously. If we're talking about Palestinian population centers, I wonder to what extent Israeli actions or the Civil Administration still impact daily Palestinian life. The occupation is horrendous and indefensible, we're told. Really? Would the average Ramallan notice a practical difference between their life now, and under Palestinian sovereignty?

It's a point worth examining, though, of course, the occupation isn't really the issue, unless we're talking about the one which began in 1948, or 1880, or 1500 BCE, or whatever.

Anonymous said...

Victor, imagine if the Palestinians actually did have a real state. One that had to stand on its own two feet, that had to deliver services, that had accountability for all the aid. Name one member of the Palestinian leadership who would want that rather than what they have right now.


NormanF said...

There won't be peace.

But Israel should annex area C, and the Jordan Valley. This is were almost all the Jewish history is and there are almost no Arabs living there and making it sovereign Israel won't create a great deal of additional conflict. That and a united Jerusalem should be at the core of a small Greater Israel, since as a small country, Israel does need defense in depth to grow as well to survive in the face of future enemy aggression.

In exchange, Israel hands over to the Arabs the little Triangle. The Separation Wall can be rerouted to be the new formal border between Palestine and Israel, which will surround it on all sides.

I don't expect the Arabs to give up their aim of destroying Israel and for that to disappear, million of Jews have to settle in area C, principally in Hebron, making it a Jewish city. This is a national project that would take several lifetimes.

At the end of it, the Arabs may well decide Israel's disengagement from them is not producing results for them and they will sue for peace. Right now, the Stupid Jews of Israel subsidize Palestinian Arab extremism and irrationality through money transfers, transfers of goods and security cooperation with the Arabs. That should all end for good with an independent Palestine. Israel owes its enemy nothing.

Like Meir Kahane, I want an Israel without hostile Arabs in it. My reasoning is Jews are sick of them and they're sick of us and if they want to live their own way among their own people, that's fine. That is the same practical formula the Czechs used to resolve the Sudeten Question after World War II and ended the permanent tension with Germany. This should be Israel's policy towards the Palestinians. Both sides should live far apart from each other.

Israel can build up the Jewish homeland without worrying about how to integrate millions of hostile Arabs. Zionism has never depended on Arab consent and a unilateral disengagement is exactly what the Arabs fear - Israel should give it to them but only on Israel's own terms.

yesjb said...

The only way Mr. Lozowick's ideas can realistically come to fruition is for Israel to unilaterally draw the borders, build an energy force field around the borders to keep anyone and any thing undesirable out. And then tell the Palestinians and other Arabs "You're on your own, good luck and good riddance"
The only thing lacking for now in that scenario is the force field. But who knows... :-)

Avigdor said...

Salam Fayaad, but I take your point. I'm not one of the "Palestinians are Amalek" types. There is a portion of Palestinian society - 20-30% - who would live in peace with Israel, without really harboring any metaphysical vendettas. But at this point in time, that 20-30% is about it. Moreover, I don't think this percentage will necessarily grow in time, though it might, just as I don't think it has grown from the 1940s.

Fundamentally, I don't think strategic retrenchment is a sustainable option. Which is why the settlements are vitally important, aside from whatever military value they may or may not have. The settlements and their Jewish residents are an instrument with which we can leverage and influence Palestinian society in the direction we want it to go.

I've spoken to prominent pro-Palestinians, and Yaacov may remember, as I shared the conversation with him, who view a sizable Jewish settlement population in a future Palestinian state as a natural ally for that "modernized" 20-30% Palestinians, against Islamism, regressive tribalism or extremist nationalism.

The problems are in the territories, and I just disagree that Israel can hide or shield itself from them. Jews need to be in the territories to have a say about Palestinian cultural and political development, which is the only long term option for peace. The settlements are a spine around which a truly progressive Palestinian culture which resists Islamist, tribalist and radical influence can develop.

If the Palestinians can live in peace with the settlements, they will live in peace with Israel. And if not, the canary in the coalmine will tell us otherwise, fairly quickly, giving us time to make alternate provisions.

I understand and greatly respect Yaacov's perspective. What people in the world face the kind of daily grinding pressure that Israelis do? When was the last time that you, yes you, had to write an article defending the territorial integrity of the city in which you live. Just think of it! Israelis like Yaacov have to deal with this reality. They are expected to convince a world why a city they live and work and raise their children in should not be divided - a city which most people have never seen, whose streets they will likely never walk. How ludicrous is that?! Just think of your city - Milwaukee is mine - and consider how you would convince people on another continent, who couldn't care less, why an international border shouldn't be bulldozed through it's center! But this is what Yaacov has to do, or else.

No one is capitulating, G-d forbid, but people (good people, proud Jews and ardent Zionists) feel a desperate need to rationalize their defensive lines (both literally and psychologically), and I understand this support them in this.

Which is why I'm not advocating that the settlements need drag Israel into annexing the territories. No, just help negotiate a deal which leaves the settlements in place, and their residents with civil rights and basic security. The pro-settlement movement will do the rest.

Herb said...

If I were a Palestinian, and knew that I could fire an anti-tank missile at a schoolbus, and get 110nations to automatically back me, there is no way I would negotiate with you. I would take my case to the UN, see what I could get from there, and if I was not satisfied, I would initiate more violence. Negotiating with Israel would mean that I would have to make committments as well, and by not negotiating, I dont tie myself down. I say wait for September, allow the UN to recognize "Palestine" and then wait for enforcement. NATO cant defeat Libya, so I dont see them taking on Israel. UN sanctions havent hurt Iran too much, so I doubt they would hurt Israel too much

yesjb said...

Sorry, this is the way my post should have read:

Before Israel, the Jews said: "If we just leave the goyim alone, they'll leave us alone. We'll just stay in our little ghettos, mind our own business and get along"
Well, we all know how well that worked out!
Reminds me of Gaza...
"Anonymous said" is right. Why should the Palestinian leadership give up all that foreign free money, world sympathy, hatred for the Jews and their never-ending quest to eradicate Israel (oops, I mean the Zionist entity) for the opportunity to take responsibility for their own actions, run their own affairs and coexist.
While I agree it would be wonderful to get them out of your face, I don't think its going to happen.
To paraphrase the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof: "May G-d bless and keep the Palestinians...far away from us!"
The only way Mr. Lozowick's ideas can realistically come to fruition is for Israel to unilaterally draw the borders, build an energy force field around the borders to keep anyone and any thing undesirable out. And then tell the Palestinians and other Arabs "You're on your own, good luck and good riddance"
The only thing lacking for now in that scenario is the force field. But who knows... :-)

Anonymous said...


When you write, "first, stop all construction in settlements, "

are you referring to construction only in the settlements not protected by the Security Fence? Or all over the West Bank?

And when you continue,
"and offer financial encouragement to individuals who wish to move (there will be many thousands of them)",

do you mean incentives for people to move just to Israel as defined by the Green Line, or also to the settlement areas guarded by the Fence?

Just a Thought said...

Victor, that is exacty what you (and Yaacov) said, when stripped of the hemming and hawing. The paragraph of yours I cited made clear the proposal is for "Israel to be rocketed, the country infiltrated with terrorists, for Israelis to be bombed to pieces every now and then" in order "to remove the daily irritant to the lives of Palestinians."

Wasn't one of the principles of Zionism that Jews should act in their own self-interest like all other peoples?

Clap Hammer said...

Very nice article Lozowick.

I will archive the link for future posting to 'annoy' others when I see an opening on the anti Israel threads.

Avigdor said...

Just A Thought...

Here's what you wrote:

"Wasn't one of the principles of Zionism that Jews should..." " bombed to pieces every now and then".

Oh, look, I just juxtaposed some garbled fragments that YOU wrote and came up with a brand new meaning. How fun! Why do you want Jews to be bombed to pieces, JustAThought? Isn't that kind of, well... horrible? How do you sleep at night, you fascist Nazi Stalinist?


Anonymous said...

@ those who want to completely 'disengage' from the Palestinian territories:

Ever wondered why Palestinians (still) use the Shekel?

Kind regards


Y. Ben-David said...

Dismantling the settlements would be an existentially catastrophic mistake. By destroying Jewish settlement in the heartland of Biblical Israel, the Arab extremists would continue to say, just as they did after Gush Katif was destroyed, that "the Qur'an and Muhammed were right...the Jews are a bunch of cowards and weaklings who don't have the guts to hold on to their holiest places. This PROVES that more violence will get them to fold up completely and they will be fighting to take the last boat from Tel Aviv to flee the country".
Yaacov, I can't understand you, you are very intelligent and idealistic but you have a blind spot on this. If we run away from the settlements, we will then run away from east Jerusalem, which you think is a bad idea. After all, why not? Olmert was willing to give up the Kotel, so to heck with the whole thing. Then the Arabs in east Jerusalem, who have residence rights, would move to west Jerusalem, the Jews would then flee that part of the city and then the rest of Israel would be doomed as moral collapses and the rest of the world says "If the Jews are going to defend themselves, why should we bother to support such a bunch of losers?".
The settlements MUST be held and strengthened if there is to be any future to the Zionist enterprise.

Y. Ben-David said...

Ooos, I meant to say that the rest of the world would say that if the Jews are NOT willing to defend themselves, why should we support them?

Saul Lieberman said...

On Sunday, you wrote that Israel will be damned if it responds when Palestinians rain down destruction on Israel. Is this included in the "better international relations" that we can expect. And if we can expect to be damned when Palestinians rain down destruction on Israel, how will we maintain IDF forces there? What will those forces be allowed to do? Do you think that our new friends in the international community won't call the mere presence of those forces occupation too?
Perhaps you can expand on that.

Zionist Juice said...


i am 100% with you on that.

Barry Meislin said...

If only, if only we had "dared" to "leave them alone" in 1947-48.

(Or in 1967.... Or.... Or....)

Alas, it was beyond us.

So maybe, just maybe we'll be able to do it this time around....

Just a Thought said...

Victor, you (and Yaacov) are being intellectually dishonest; you understand quite well my point, and are dodging it. Saul, Yesjb, and Brooklyn made exactly the same point, and you (and Yaacov) have failed to respond adequately to them as well.

Removing Israel as a "daily irritant" from the lives of Palestinians (or Lebanese or Gazans) means (absent a "force field" as Yesjb sarcastically suggests) exposing Israel to the certain Palestinian violence. You admit it, and so did Lozowick: "Should Israel leave the West Bank or remove the blockade of Gaza, so the logic, the Palestinians will immediately rain down destruction on Israel, as they did after the departure from Gaza."

So all Lozowick is doing is piling speculation upon speculation:

- that Israel can stop the onslaught with reprisals
- that only a moderate number of Israelis will die before that happens
- that "democratic" Egypt and/or Jordan and/or Syria and/or Iran would not join in such a final push to eliminate Israel
- that the Israeli reprisal will be enough to calm the Palestinians
- or, if it is not, that the whole of Israel is prepared to live, forever, as Sderot has these past years.

Yaacov's history is accurate, but his proposal is insane -- foolishness of the Avineri type.

In simpler words, it is "Let's surrender to appease the gentiles, and take our punsihment (dead Jews)." It's the ghetto mentality on steroids.

Again, thank God most Israelis reject it.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov's article is a proof that the Arabs are right, Jews don't have the resolve to keep this country, and Arab unyielding persistence will just drive us out.

The uncompromising zeal of the Jews who created this country whose slogan was 'never again!' is being eroded by the long conflict whose friction is burning away the Zionist façade and revealing the Jew underneath. The Jew that just wants to be kept in peace in his/her corner, who Just want to be nice to everyone and to be liked, especially liked.

Well, Yaacov, You may be wrong in one aspect at least. I was among those opposed to the settlements, I changed my colours since than, and I believe that the notion of unilateral abandoning of the territories is no longer being entrained by majority of Israelis. but quite the opposite. As it finally dawned on us that every concession Israel made only intensified the conflict and motivated the people that chose to be our enemies to remain so, Why would anyone abandon a winning strategy especially after so much effort ?!

I hope that I am right and most Israelis are not weary as you seem to be, as I didn't see in your article even one advantage of leaving the territories (Providing of course that it is as easy as you make it seem to be).

And if I am wrong and most Israelis will support that move, For all our sakes, I hope that you are right and the behaviour exhibited by Gaza and Lebanon will not recur in the WB.


Yaacov said...

I've done my best to respond to the many thoughtful comments, here

Juniper in the Desert said...

At this moment, when the arabs have a lot of self-inflicted problems on their plates, and when Saudi Arabia is turning to China for help against Iran, Israel MUST act. It must nuke Iran otherwise this warfare will go on for ever! Otherwise, Iran will pass on its nuclear technology to Turkey and Egypt and that will truly be the end.
There is no other way. It would be great if they could nuke Pakistan too, but as it is, thinks are being left till it is too late. I thought last year was the last chance saloon; now we are near the back door.

Silke said...

I have friendly motherly feelings towards you (no irony intended) and that's why I must say "accusing" non-settler-Israelis of being tired is a bit rich from somebody sitting in cozy Milwaukee, especially if said accuser is as young and dashing as you are.

It comes too close to Obama's and his friends demands for Israeli risk-taking and boldness which gets me into high-blood-pressure mode whenever I come across it.

Avigdor said...

Victor, you (and Yaacov) are being intellectually dishonest; you understand quite well my point, and are dodging it. Saul, Yesjb, and Brooklyn made exactly the same point, and you (and Yaacov) have failed to respond adequately to them as well.

Heh, Yaacov and I are not in cahoots. We didn't co-write his post, and I didn't endorse the outcome he proposed. We disagree over this issue. You've misinterpreted my understanding and empathy for my consent. This is what I was trying to explain to you earlier. You utterly misunderstood the point I was making about the underlying point Yaacov is making. I strongly urge you to read my initial remarks again, and those which follow them.

In simpler words, it is "Let's surrender to appease the gentiles, and take our punsihment (dead Jews)." It's the ghetto mentality on steroids.

When you write things like this, it makes me question whether you read Yaacov's post at all, or any of the subsequent comments I made. You're talking to a strawman you've built in your mind. May I referee that match? You vs. The Strawman. Mmm... *ding ding*... it was a close call, but you win.

You should continue reading my reply to Silke, below.

Avigdor said...

Which brings me to Silke...

"accusing" non-settler-Israelis of being tired is a bit rich from somebody sitting in cozy Milwaukee

I take your point; I've made it myself on occasion. I don't think it's possible to ignore the weariness implicit in Yaacov's proposed approach to the conflict. Rather, yes, it is possible to ignore it, but the truth is that it's there. I hear it. As I wrote, I say this without judgement, with respect, and as a friend. I'm not calling anyone a coward, G-d forbid, emasculating, insulting, or trivializing Yaacov's experiences (or those of Israelis in general). I tried to make that clear earlier, and not in a facetious manner. It's the exact opposite. I find it perfectly understandable, given the considerable pressure the country is under, why Yaacov and perhaps a majority of Israelis have come to the conclusions they have. They carry a terrible burden, and they are directly responsible for the policies they implement. I support them in carrying out whatever policies they choose, even while I disagree with them.

I'm caught between Just a Thought, who thinks I have fully endorsed Yaacov's perspective and is out there calling us both essentially self-hating Jews, and you, who is suggesting that I'm court marshalling Yaacov as a self-hating, weak-kneed Jewish traitor from my safe Diaspora penthouse.

What I'm saying is more nuanced than either of you give me credit. I empathize with Israel's predicament, and am attempting to chart a way forward which is acceptable to Israeli centrists like Yaacov (who want to disengage from the Palestinians, and think destroying the settlements is part of this task), while preserving the role the settlements play and could play in the territories. And that role is, to paraphrase, to preserve Jewish rights, access to Jewish holy places, to influence Palestinian political and cultural development, to resist radical and Islamist forces and thus positively impact Israeli security.

If a majority of Israelis have made the decision to disengage from the Palestinians, and the settlements are the great weight around Israel's neck preventing the country from doing so, then I say take the weight off. Disengage from the Palestinians and disavow the settlements. All I ask is that you don't destroy the latter, but allow those of us in the settlements, and those of us in the Diaspora to continue working together along shared objectives which in no way will undermine Israel or Israeli security, but may strengthen it, which is their intended effect.

Silke said...

you, who is suggesting that I'm court marshalling Yaacov as a self-hating, weak-kneed Jewish traitor from my safe Diaspora penthouse.

sorry, did I really come across so robustly? If yes I sincerely apologize. I know where you are, Victor, or I think I do. It isn't your point of view I object to it is your choice of words and I believe heck I am sure that you can do better than that.

That said as to your last paragraph that makes me ask just as many questions as to real life consequences as Yaacov's ideas do.

BTW while I am at it - I am getting told that "evangelical Christians" are firmly pro-Israel. Do they have a view-point on settlements? and if yes? what is it?

If they are as important for winning elections as I am told then surely their viewpoint could be more important than Merkel's.

Yaacov said...


The evangelicals (in the American meaning, not the German one) are often very very pro settlements; they need the Jews all over the Biblical land for their theology, I think. And indeed, they play a role in American politics. I don't think they play much role in any other country, though. Maybe they will someday, if they keep on multiplying in South America, for example.

Silke said...

I hear Catholics moaning on German radio that they are gaining ground in Africa -

let's hope they stay pro-Israel while spreading to everywhere.

Avigdor said...

The US Evangelical community, and its main lobbying unit - CUFI - is very much complementing AIPAC as the spine of the US pro-Israel community.

But the biggest long term impact they will have is not so much on the US, but in the developing world. For example, Latin America is relatively indifferent to Israel, with pockets of hostility. This goes for Hispanics in general - they tend to be Catholic, and Catholics tend to be very ambivalent about Jewish sovereignty, and receptive to the Palestinian narrative.

As Evangelicals have grown at Catholic expense, there are now pockets of pro-Israel Evangelical support in most of South America. They are still small, as the congregations are few in number, but they are growing.

This goes for the rest of the world as well. I'm constantly hearing of Evangelical communities in countries thought lost to Israel, like Sweden and in South East Asia, voicing support. In 50 years the picture may be dramatically different.

In the near term, with regards to the settlement movement, US Evangelicals can play an important role. You have to remember, these may be religious people, but they are also Americans - very pragmatic and task-oriented.

The settlement of Itamar (I think it's Itamar, but I may be remembering wrong) is paired up with a certain Evangelical community in the US. Itamar has been having water supply and waste-treatment issues for years. They talked it over with a delegation from that Evangelical community which was visiting, some of whom happened to be civil engineers. I don't know all the details, but the Americans worked out the infrastructure details and provided most or all of the funding the solve the problem. No empty promises, no nonsense, just rolled up their sleeves and got the job done. That's the kind of support the settlements are going to need in the coming years.

Just a Thought said...

"If a majority of Israelis have made the decision to disengage from the Palestinians, and the settlements are the great weight around Israel's neck preventing the country from doing so, then I say take the weight off."

But a majority of Israelis have quie clearly rejected the idea of unilateral disengagement, following its failure in Gaza and southern Lebanon.

One might even assert that Kadima was elected representing a slender majority favouring "seaparation," only to have that majority (and Kadima's intent) evaporate under Nasrallah's bombardment of the North. As I remeber one Israeli leader commented at the time, Nasrallah reminded the Israeli majority that "missiles dwarf a fence." (Had Nasrallah been a bit less macho and a bit more wily, he would have waited until Kadima had actually withdrawn behind the fence before launching his missiles. He "sprung the trap" too early, forewarning Israelis of what would transpire in the West Bank.)

That said, it is within the right of the Israeli electorate to "take chances" for peace -- just not foolhardy chances. Were Israeli public opinion to change and once again favour unilateral disengagement, I hope the Israeli government has the foresight to prepare a robust backup plan, an element distinctly lacking in its handling of Oslo, Lebanon, and Gaza.