Response to Daniel Pipes: Why Palestinian Statehood Obviates Israeli Victory
“Of all the nations at the UN the Palestinian state would be the only one which has limits imposed on its sovereignty, the only one without an army or air force. It would be the only one in the world that would be classified as second-class state; it would resemble the black protectorates in South Africa. Such inferiority…would mean a deepening of Palestinian humiliation, an intensification of the enmity towards Israel and the perpetuation of the Arab-Jewish conflict. This is the real pitfall in the proposal to establish a separate Palestinian state between us and the desert.”
— Prof. Amnon Rubinstein “The Pitfall of a Third State” (Hebrew), Haaretz, August 8, 1976.
This was not really the topic I originally intended to write on this week.
Having devoted my last three columns (see here, here and here) to the newly-launched Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVC), I thought the time had come to turn to other issues — like, for instance, an analysis of the rambling 5000-word rant in Haaretz by Ehud Barak on “Israeli security and the occupation,” in which he tried to prove that the “Right” (and reality) has gotten it wrong, while the “Left,” despite being proven continuously and catastrophically wrong, has gotten it right.
Eagerly accepted invitation
However, following this week’s response by the Middle East Forum’s (MEF) Daniel Pipes, the driving force behind CIVC, to my tripartite analysis of his initiative, a good number of readers have urged me to address the points he raised — particularly the few on which our views appear to diverge.
Accordingly, I will forgo the tempting opportunity to lampoon the presumptuous gall of Barak — the man who as prime minister abandoned South Lebanon to Hezbollah and under whose government the Second Intifada erupted, and who as defense minister oversaw two inconclusive (to be charitable) campaigns against Hamas in Gaza — purporting to have the definitive prescription for the nation’s security.
Instead, I shall turn my attention, once again, to the issue of Israeli victory and Pipes’s comments on the positions I articulated thereon.
I do this because I feel the CIVC is an initiative of critical importance with genuine paradigmatic game-changing potential for the discourse and policy formulation regarding both the specific Israel-Palestinian conflict and the wider Arab-Israel one.
I begin this week’s discussion with an expression of thanks to Pipes for his thoughtful and thought-provoking reply, which revealed wide areas of agreement between us and left me greatly heartened. As he summed up: “I’m encouraged that we agree on so much and look forward to working together to promote a goal whose time has come: Israel victory.”
Similarly encouraged, I eagerly accept his kind invitation to work together to promote the notion of the need for Israel to be victorious.
Revolutionizing the rhetoric?
Arguably one of the CIVC’s most significant contributions has been to the rhetoric surrounding the Israel-Palestinian issue. For the first time in several decades — certainly for the first time in the post-Oslo period — a prominent institute of intellectual endeavor, namely the MEF, has adopted language invoking harsh coercive measures, specifically designed to break the will of the Palestinian-Arabs to sustain their struggle against Israel.
With commendable daring, Pipes — an international scholar of repute — has opened up the mainstream discourse for the use of terms previously thought of as beyond-the-pale in “polite company.”
He unabashedly called for subjecting the Palestinians to “the bitter crucible of defeat, with all its deprivation, destruction, and despair” and does not shy away from prescribing that Israel “dismantle the PA’s security infrastructure…reduce and then shut off the water and electricity that Israel supplies…occupy and control the areas from which…gunfire, mortar shelling, and rockets…originate.”
This language is refreshing, beneficial and will contribute greatly to breaking up the semantic “logjam” that the tyranny of political correctness has imposed on the discussion of Israeli policy options. By dispelling semantic taboos that restrict open debate, the CIVC rhetoric can contribute greatly to a more robust and unfettered appraisal of such options.
Pipes concisely sums up the principal point of disagreement between us: “Sherman and I directly disagree on only one point — Israel accepting the possibility of a Palestinian state.” He goes on to speculate that “the allure of a state after the conflict ends offers benefits to both sides. Israelis will be free of ruling unwanted subjects. Palestinians have a reason to behave.”
He elaborates on the benefits he envisions emerging from the establishment of a Palestinian state, pursuant to an Israeli victory, writing that “when Palestinians do finally give up the fight against Israel, their centrality to the conflict will enfeeble anti-Zionism from Morocco to Indonesia.” He admits “[t]hat shift won’t happen instantly, to be sure,” but somewhat optimistically suggests that “sustaining a more-Catholic-than-the-pope position gets harder over time. A Palestinian defeat marks the beginning of the end of the wider Arab and Muslim war on Israel.”
I confess to a certain amount of surprise at encountering this view from someone as knowledgeable and well-informed as Pipes, for he appears to be embracing the unfounded thesis that Arab/Muslim enmity towards the Jewish state centers solely on the issue of self-determination for the Palestinian-Arabs.
Sadly, this is demonstrably untrue, or at least only very partially true.
Indeed, it is a matter of historical record that rejection of a Jewish state pre-dates the dispute over the establishment of a Palestinian-Arab one in Judea and Samaria, and there are manifold reasons for believing that it will definitely postdate the establishment of any such entity.
“Root cause” or “red herring”?
The crucial question is whether the demand for Palestinian statehood is a genuine grievance, which, once addressed, will remove any further pretext for rejection of Jewish statehood. There is little to substantiate that it is, and much to corroborate that it isn’t.
After all, the entire area of Judea and Samaria, now claimed as the Palestinian Arabs’ ancient homeland, was under Arab control for two decades after Israel’s founding (1948-1967), without even the feeblest of effort being made to set up an independent Palestinian state. Moreover, in their original “National Covenant” — formulated in 1964! — the Palestinian Arabs themselves eschew any sovereign claim to that territory (see Article 24).
It was not a desire to liberate Nablus, Hebron or Ramallah that prompted the murderous pan-Arab attempt to obliterate the Jewish state in June 1967, and a desire for an independent state did not drive the bloodcurdling declarations of genocidal intent by leaders across the Arab world in the years before Israel held a square inch of the “West Bank” or laid a single brick in the construction of any “settlement” (see “Reassessing ‘Root Causes’ And ‘Red Herrings’“).
Indeed, it would take a giant leap of (largely unfounded) faith to believe that the establishment of a micro-mini statelet (presumably demilitarized), established as the result of a humiliating defeat, would defuse the ample Judeophobic frenzy rampant across the Arab/Muslim world today.
As Professor Amnon Rubinstein — Israel Prize Laureate and a former left-wing Knesset member of the far-left, dovish Meretz faction — once pointed out (see opening excerpt) that the establishment of such an entity is even liable to induce “a deepening of Palestinian humiliation and an intensification of the enmity towards Israel and the perpetuation of the Arab-Jewish conflict.”
Inevitable symbiosis with hostile environment
The surrender of the Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria (and presumably Gaza as well) to the hated Zionists is unlikely to placate hatemongers of the ilk of the hugely influential Qatar-based Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qardawi; the head of Hezbollah, Hasan Nassrallah; the theocratic tyrants in Tehran; or the countless Salafist/Wahhabi firebrands across the Arabian peninsula and beyond.
As I suggested in earlier columns, unless there is some formula for decoupling the defeated Palestinian Arabs in Judea-Samaria-Gaza from the wider Arab/Muslim world (to which they see themselves belonging and vice versa), any self-governing Palestinian entity would be easy prey to the deluge of incitement that would almost inevitably follow its inception.
Even Shimon Peres, seems to have been alive to this danger, when in his book, The New Middle East, he asked how any future Palestinian states (even if initially demilitarized) could “guarantee that a Palestinian army would not be mustered later to encamp at the gates of Jerusalem and the approaches to the lowlands?” Perhaps even more pointedly, he pressed: “And if the Palestinian state would be unarmed, how would it block terrorist acts perpetrated by extremists, fundamentalists or irredentists?”
It is this almost inevitable symbiosis with the surrounding hostile Arab/Muslim world, unaffected by Palestinian surrender within Judea-Samaria-Gaza, that sets the Palestinian conflict apart from other historical precedents, such as the surrender of Germany and Japan in WWII.
Who is doing the surrendering?
Israel has repeatedly and rightly raised the question of who among the Palestinian Arabs is authorized to sign a binding peace agreement. An equally valid question is which Palestinians would be authorized to sign a binding document of surrender?
Could Mahmoud Abbas, widely perceived as an illegitimate president, surrender in the name of the Palestinian Authority? Or Fatah? Would a Fatah surrender be binding on Hamas? If not, what would be the consequences? Would Hamas’s acquiescence to surrender commit the Islamic Jihad, or the host of Salafist Jihadis in the adjacent Sinai?
Given the critical strategic importance of the territory designated for any prospective Palestinian state (see here and here), these are questions that cannot left be long unaddressed, for they impinge directly and dramatically on the validity of the CIVC as a policy-relevant enterprise.
It is the foregoing analysis that has led me to what, in my mind, is an unavoidable conclusion: For the fruits of an Israeli victory to be lasting, any post-victory reality must preclude the establishment of some self-governing Palestinian entity, which would always be subjected to external sources of incitement designed to reignite the Palestinian will to fight the Jewish “intruders” on land they consider Arab.
The only way to ensure that such resurgent irredentist forces do not emerge is to remove the potentially recalcitrant population from the disputed areas — for good.
In order to avoid the need to effect that removal by inflicting large-scale casualties on the Palestinian population I have advocated a less kinetic approach, involving generously funded emigration for individual non-belligerent Palestinian-Arabs.
I have proposed achieving this by setting up a comprehensive system of ample material incentives for leaving and daunting disincentives for staying. The former would include highly attractive grants for relocation and rehabilitation in third party countries, while the later would include the coercive dismantling of the Palestinian Authority and the phased withdrawal of services currently provided by Israel to the Palestinian collective — measures Pipes himself has endorsed (see above).
Pipes, however, has expressed reservations as to the practical efficacy of funded emigration. He writes: “Due to intense nationalism, even stronger social pressure, and likely threats of violence, I highly doubt this scheme will find significant numbers of takers,” although he does concede that “it’s certainly worth a try.”
It is not precisely clear on what the skepticism regarding the effectiveness of funded emigration is based. Not only is the approach’s conceptual logic far sounder than other alternatives (particularly the two-state proposal), but it also rests on far more empirical support than those alternatives.
There is ample evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, indicating a widespread desire among the Arab residents of the “West Bank” and Gaza to seek their future elsewhere — even without an effective system of incentives/disincentives in place.
Unwarranted skepticism (cont.)
Several years ago, the New York Times wrote of that growing desire to emigrate: “Where young Palestinians once dreamed of staying to build a new state, now many are giving up and scheming to get out.” The Times reported: “According to…polls for Birzeit University, 35 percent of Palestinians over the age of 18 want to emigrate. Nearly 50 percent of those between 18 and 30 would leave if they could.”
“What about those who would accuse you of giving up your rights in your land?” the paper asked a prospective emigrant. He replied “I don’t care…I want to live happily.”
A similar picture was reflected in a Jerusalem Post account of sentiment among the Palestinian Arabs: “Alarmed by the growing number of Palestinians who are emigrating from the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian Authority’s mufti has issued a fatwa [religious decree] forbidding Muslims to leave.”
Recent polls conducted by leading Palestinian institutes consistently show that between 45-55% of Gazans and 25-35% in Judea and Samaria wish to emigrate permanently. Clearly, if Israel were to reduce and eventually cease provision of goods and services, while offering significant financial incentives to leave, the numbers could be expected to rise considerably.
This is a very truncated presentation of the evidence indicating that large-scale economically incentivized emigration of the Palestinian Arabs is eminently feasible.
My appeal to the CIVC
Accordingly, since the CIVC cannot remain a politically viable enterprise if it restricts itself to generic calls for victory — especially if it plans to partner with a sister victory caucus in the Knesset — I urge its creators to adopt the funded emigration paradigm as its preferred path to victory.
I therefore issue a reciprocal invitation to Pipes, the CVIC’s enterprising initiator, to jointly explore ways to advance that paradigm and overcome/circumvent obstacles to its implementation by demonstrating its political acceptability, economic affordability, practical applicability, legal compatibility and above all, its moral superiority.