What Would Ben-Gurion Do?
JNS.org – My colleague, Nave Dromi, disagrees with my negative view of Israel annexing some parts of the West Bank.
My six-part argument, as spelled out here, boils down to dismissing annexation as too-expensive symbolism. It brings no rewards but creates problems everywhere one looks. Therefore, I conclude, annexation obstructs her and my goal of an Israel Victory and Palestinian defeat.
Nave’s six-part argument, as presented here, holds that annexation advances that same goal: It puts territorial pressure on Palestinians. It guarantees security to all. It gives Israel the initiative. It seizes the moment. It has President Donald Trump’s reliable backing. It enjoys wide support within Israel.
I accept most of these points, other than two: those about guaranteeing security (nothing on the ground changes) and about Trump (his volatile views cannot be predicted). But for the sake of argument, I’ll even grant the one about Trump.
Even so, annexation’s benefits remain symbolic while the potential impact is entirely negative. The West Bank and its Jewish towns become yet more contentious. Palestinians may explode. International outrage — from the US Democratic Party to Israeli leftists to Arab governments — costs Israel. Israel gains additional Muslim citizens who reject its very existence.
In all, it boosts the Palestinians’ cause against Israel… in return for roughly nothing.
Nave compares this moment to Israeli founding father and first prime minister David Ben-Gurion’s drive to declare Israel’s independence in 1948. Not so: Declaring independence was not a hollow legalistic gesture like this, but an epochal event — one that, by the way, had the endorsement of the United Nations and the backing of the Soviet and US governments. The comparison does not hold.
But turn it around: Ben-Gurion was a seasoned and canny political operator who, despite grave reservations, took practical steps such as accepting the UN partition plan of 1947. What if he were now Israel’s prime minister? He would reject paying a probably massive price for self-indulgent symbolism. He would say no to annexing any part of the West Bank.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.