‘Palestine’: Who Has Moral High Ground?
“Even if the Palestinians agree that their state have no army or weapons, who can guarantee that a Palestinian army would not be mustered later to encamp at the gates of Jerusalem and the approaches to the lowlands? And if the Palestinian state would be unarmed, how would it block terrorist acts perpetrated by extremists, fundamentalists or irredentists?”
— Shimon Peres, The New Middle East (1993), on the perils of the two-state prescription.
“Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist.”
— John Stuart Mill, On Representative Government (1861), on the perils of the one-state prescription.
“With all the money that has been invested in the problem of Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries.”
— Andrei Sakharov, Nobel Peace Laureate, quoted in Jerusalem Post (May 24, 2009), on the merits of funded-emigration prescription.
In ending last week’s article, I undertook to demonstrate why policy prescriptions that promote funded emigration of the Palestinian-Arab residents in Judea and Samaria to third-party countries are superior to all other proposed alternatives, both in terms of practical outcomes and morality. Additionally, I pledged to show why such a policy paradigm — The Humanitarian Paradigm — would be the most moral (even in terms of the value system of its detractors); and why it would produce the most desirable results if it is successful, and the least traumatic results if it is not.
Resolving “Palestine”: A typology
In addressing the problem of “Palestine,” approaches to resolving the conflict can be divided into two major categories:
(a) Those endorsing significant territorial concessions by Israel to facilitate establishment of a self-governing Palestinian-Arab entity, either in the foreseeable future or at some later, yet-to-be-determined, time;
(b) Those opposing such territorial concessions and establishment of such a self-governing entity.
As I underscored last week, the latter category, can be divided into two sub-categories: (i) Those that maintain that Israel can survive in the long-run as the nation-state of the Jewish people if over one third of its permanent population is made up of Muslim-Arabs; and (ii) those that warn that this would critically imperil Israel’s ability to endure, over time, as a Jewish nation-state.
Clearly, the policy I have long advocated — of endorsing funded emigration for the Palestinian-Arab population – falls into the latter category.
In the ensuing sections, I will proceed to analyze the ramifications of the success and the failure of such a policy, compared to those of alternative policies.
Comparing implications of implementation
The clear superiority of “The Humanitarian Paradigm,” should it be successfully implemented, is virtually self-evident. After all, this would provide Israel with short, defensible frontiers, topographical advantage and a manageable-sized Muslim minority. No other policy paradigm, even if successfully executed, can produce a similarly desirable outcome.
Policies based on relinquishing large swathes of Judea and Samaria to facilitate a self-governing Palestinian entity would leave Israel with borders both tenuous and tortuous (anywhere from 450 to 2000 km long, depending on the precise parameters of the prescribed pull-out), and exposed to chilling topographical inferiority. Indeed, it was none other than the late Shimon Peres, who aptly designated such frontiers as “constituting [a] compulsive temptation to attack Israel.” Such tempting vulnerability would leave little room for error of judgement, compelling the IDF to be in a constant state of alert, ready for massive preemption at minimum provocation.
Hardly a recipe for stability.
Any hostile forces, whether regular or renegade — acting either in compliance with or in defiance of the regime set up in the areas evacuated by Israel — could potentially cripple the socioeconomic routine in the coastal plain.
Moreover, the goodwill and sincerity of any envisaged Palestinian peace partner (whether real or imagined) is largely irrelevant. After all, since he could well be replaced by some more inimical successor — likely to invoke any such “perfidious” deal with the hated Zionist entity as justification for seizing power — any territory that was relinquished to allegedly moderate elements would fall to elements of a very different ilk.
Triumph of optimism over experience?
Similarly, if a policy were adopted that included annexing all or most of Judea and Samaria, and co-opting the Arab residents into the permanent population as enfranchised (or potentially enfranchised) citizens, the resultant realities would hardly be more desirable for anyone advocating the long-term survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews.
If such measures were implemented — even given an optimistic demographic assessment of the numbers of the Palestinian-Arabs in Judea and Samaria — Israeli society would include a recalcitrant Muslim minority of anything between 35%-40% of the permanent population.
It would be a huge triumph for naïve optimism over bitter experience to believe that in such conditions it would be possible to forge anything remotely approaching a coherent and cohesive society — never mind one with a predominantly Jewish character.
As the last election indelibly underscored, even the enfranchised Arab population within the pre-1967 lines, by voting overwhelming for the overtly anti-Zionist Joint List, demonstrated that it unequivocally rejects the notion of Israel being a Jewish nation-state. If annexation were to not only double (at minimum) the permanent Muslim presence in the country, but adjoin a population indoctrinated for decades with rabid Judeophobic hatred, it is difficult to see how any form of Judeo-centric governance could be consensually administered.
Even more implications
With such a significant segment of the population not only unwilling to identify with, but viscerally opposed to the Jewish character of the state — including: the flag, anthem, national symbols, structure of the calendar, conduct of public life and national ceremonies, use of Hebrew as the official vehicle of communication in commerce, academia and legal proceedings – it is entirely unclear how unmanageable frictions and alienation could be avoided.
Thus, proponents of this policy would do well to heed the warning of John Stuart Mill (see introductory excerpt): “Among a people without fellow-feeling…the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist.” In such conditions, he cautioned: “Free institutions are next to impossible.”
Furthermore, implementation of a policy of annexation of land and people will inevitably induce economic and demographic dynamics distinctly detrimental to Israel’s ability to sustain itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The need to reduce the yawning socio-economic gaps between the current Israeli population and Palestinian-Arab residents will siphon off huge budget resources, currently devoted to maintaining the standards of education, welfare, infrastructure for the existing population — where the GDP per capita is over 15 times that of Palestinian-Arabs. This will result in a sharp downward spiral in quality of life in the country, which — together with the socio-cultural impact of a greatly enlarged permanent Muslim presence — is unlikely to make Israel a more inviting location for attracting Jewish immigration, or retaining growing segments of its existing Jewish population.
Such conditions clearly bode ill for the demographic balance in the country, irrespective of optimistic assessments of an initial Jewish majority in the immediate wake of annexation.
Discussing failure: Disingenuous double standards
So, it appears beyond any plausible doubt that, if implemented, the Humanitarian Paradigm would produce the most preferable outcome relative to all other alternatives.
But what if implementation of any of these various options were to fail? Which would precipitate the least catastrophic outcomes?
Frequently, the prospect of failure (i.e. the Palestinian-Arabs declining proposed grants for relocation/rehabilitation) is cited as grounds for rejecting the Humanitarian Paradigm. But this of course reeks of intellectual duplicity and disingenuous double-standards.
After all, for any proposed policy for the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it is possible to ask what the consequences of failure are, and what actions are required to deal with them. Accordingly, there is little reason to avoid discussion of the ramifications of failure of any and all proposals and, similarly, to consider the consequences of failure as grounds for their rejection.
The consequences of failure of the Humanitarian Paradigm are more than likely to be the least catastrophic of all the major proposals currently being debated.
If the initial configuration of the incentives/disincentives package is not effective, the former (emigration grants) can be made more enticing; and the latter (gradual withdrawal of services), more daunting. This is certainly a far less egregious necessity than the responses required should other policy prescriptions fail.
Disingenuous double standards (cont.)
After all, if the two-state endeavor were to fail, the consequences for the Palestinian Arabs are likely to be far more calamitous than an enhanced emigration package of incentives/disincentives.
If, as is highly probable, the Palestinian state became a platform from which to attack Israel – as in every single instance in which Israel has relinquished territory to Arab control – how is Israel to respond?
With a massive retaliatory invasion of the renegade Palestinian state, on a 500-km. front, with difficult topographical disadvantages? With all the massive collateral damage that would be inflicted on the Palestinian civilian population as a result of a defensive IDF operation? Or would it adopt restraint, while greater Tel Aviv is subjected to the realities of the towns and settlements in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip?
Likewise, with the one-state paradigm, if, as is more than likely, it is not possible to forge a cohesive national identity out of adversarial ethnicities that have been at each other throats for decades, what would the resultant realities be? How would the almost inevitable inter-ethnic civil war be dealt with? Mass expulsion of recalcitrant ethnic groups? Forced annulment of their citizenship?
Accordingly, a strong argument can be made for the claim that the proposed Humanitarian Paradigm will be the most humane of all currently debated options if it succeeds, and result in the least inhumane realities if it does not.
Palestinian desire to emigrate
Moreover, it seems to coincide with an emerging desire of Palestinian Arabs to emigrate and extricate themselves from the trying travails the ill-conceived endeavor to foist statehood has wrought on them.
Several weeks after the end of Operation Protective Edge, precipitated by Hamas shelling civilian targets in Israel, Al-Monitor reported the tragic drowning at sea of 500 Gazans, fleeing the daunting realities at home: “Most of them are young people who have lost any hope of a better future, of a change in their situation.”
This was not a fleeting condition. For well over two years after the fighting, Al-Jazeera posted an article, headlined “Palestinians paying thousands in bribes to leave Gaza,” explaining: “The willingness to pay such high fees to leave Gaza …reflect residents’ desperation to escape the coastal enclave.”
Furthermore, surveys conducted by well-known Palestinian polling institutes show consistently that between 45-52% of Gazans and 24-30% of “West Bank” Arabs desire emigrating to other countries because of grave dissatisfaction/disaffection. This, even without a robust system of incentives for leaving and disincentives for staying being put in place.
Typical of the findings of such polls was this, from Sept. 2016: “[T]he percentage of Gazans who say they seek to immigrate to other countries stands at 46%; in the West Bank, the percentage stands at 29%. Three months ago 45% of Gazans and 22% of West Bankers said they seek to emigrate.”
Matters of morality
Setting practicalities aside, for a moment, to address the issue of morality, the question that must be asked is: Who has the moral high-ground?
Is it the proponents of two-states, who advocate establishing (yet another) homophobic, misogynistic Muslim-majority tyranny, whose hallmarks would be: gender discrimination, gay persecution, religious intolerance and political oppression of dissidents?
Or is those who endorse the Humanitarian Paradigm and advocate providing non-belligerent Palestinian individuals with the opportunity of building a better life for themselves elsewhere, out of harm’s way, free from the recurring cycles of death, destruction and destitution that have been brought down on them by the cruel corrupt cliques that have led them astray for decades.
Moreover, it should be asked, why is it morally acceptable to offer financial inducements to Jews in Judea and Samaria to evacuate their homes to facilitate the establishment of said homophobic, misogynistic tyranny — which, almost certainly, would become a bastion for Islamist terror — while it is considered morally reprehensible to offer financial inducements to Arabs in Judea and Samaria to evacuate their homes to prevent the establishment of such an entity?
Any honest debate on the conflict between Jew and Arab for control of the Holy Land must confront these questions squarely and stoutly.