A discussion at the seder table

Posted on March 31, 2017 by Vic Rosenthal
So we are sitting around the seder table with our American Uncle Max and he says,

[I] remain convinced that a two-state solution is the only outcome that would quell ongoing incidents of violence, maintain Israel as a secure, Jewish and democratic state, and provide a just and stable future for the Palestinians.

Having had the traditional four cups of wine, my first, immediate reaction would be to say something about 1993 calling and wanting its policy back. But actually this and other surprisingly stupid things appeared in a letter signed by 191 members of the US Congress, read at AIPAC by Nancy Pelosi, and sent to Donald Trump.

Many things have happened in the past 24 years, both in the US and especially in the Middle East, but for these (mostly Democratic) lawmakers, nothing has changed. One wonders exactly what could happen that would change their minds, which seem to have accepted the necessity of an additional partition of the land of Israel as an article of faith.

My second thought is an almost overwhelming feeling of fatigue over the fact that this irrational and dangerous idea will not go away, and that I am yet again forced to argue about it.

So, pay attention, Uncle Max. I am not going to repeat this like the verses of had gadya.

First, there won’t be a “2-state solution.” The Palestinian leadership and man-in-the-street will not agree to anything acceptable to Israel. They have already rejected deals that were better than what Israel would offer today. Their conditions, including the right of return for millions of descendents of Arab refugees and the expulsion of Jewish residents of Judea/Samaria, will always be unacceptable.

But even if some kind of agreement were reached with the PA/PLO, why would we expect them to adhere to it? They have broken countless promises made in the framework of the Oslo agreements, including essential ones like ending official incitement and changing the PLO charter; and they have an ideological/religious mandate to break promises on the smallest of pretexts.

But even if the signers of the agreement did not break it, what guarantee is there that their successors – who could represent Hamas or even more militant radical Islamists – would honor it? If they didn’t, the only option for Israel would be war.

In this connection, it’s interesting that 2-staters often say that “Mahmoud Abbas is the most ‘moderate’ PLO leader,” and that therefore we should get an agreement with him before he is replaced and it is too late. But this is exactly why an agreement with him will be worthless.

But even if Abbas’ successors did not break the agreement, an additional partition of the land of Israel more or less along the Green Line would restore Israel’s pre-1967 indefensible eastern boundary. In addition to the absurdity of reversing the outcome and punishing the winner of a defensive war, it would leave the most populated parts of Israel vulnerable both to terrorism from the high ground in Judea and Samaria, and invasion from the east.

At this point I get my relief map of Israel off the wall and wave it under Uncle Max’s nose. How is it possible to defend Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport from short-range rocket and mortar attacks when terrorists can sit on commanding hills only a few miles away? How can Israel prevent the introduction of weapons and terrorists into these areas if it doesn’t control the Jordan Valley to the east? There are five mountain passes across the Judean and Samarian hills. With Iran controlling more and more territory in Iraq and the unstable country of Jordan tottering, what will prevent Iranian forces from reaching them?

John Kerry in 2014 suggested implementing American-assisted security arrangements that would theoretically protect Israel while allowing Palestinian sovereignty in most of the territories. But former Defense Minister and Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon considered the plan ludicrous, and “not worth the paper it was printed on.” Others have since come up with more sophisticated plans, but Israel is loathe to depend on high-tech sensors, Palestinian cooperation, or (especially) foreign troops. We also need to keep in mind that future American administrations might be even less friendly than the previous one. Only Israel can defend Israel.

***

“But it’s Palestinian land. There’s an international consensus. The settlers are motivated by extremist religious ideas, says Uncle Max.”

Wrong. According to the Palestine Mandate, whose guarantee to the Jewish people is still in force, it’s Jewish land. And the border of Israel legitimately extends to the Jordan River. The “international consensus” is a consensus between the Islamic bloc and the Europeans, both of whom are offended by the idea of a sovereign Jewish state. Both the Muslims and the Europeans, although in different ways, are no less “religious” in their convictions than the observant residents of the territories. The “consensus” is no more than a correspondence of racist anti-Jewish attitudes.

“But wait. Most Israeli Jews support the 2-state solution.”

No they don’t! A new poll shows that there has been a large decrease in support for a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria – from 60% in 2005, when Israel withdrew from Gaza, to 36% in 2017. Apparently Israeli Jews learned something from the Gaza experience.

“But,” Max continues, “the alternative to two states is one state, and Israel can’t absorb all those Arabs and still be Jewish and democratic.”

Wrong. There is no exhaustive dichotomy. Who said Israel has to absorb them? Who said there has to be a sovereign Palestinian state in almost all of Judea and Samaria? How about creating an autonomous territory in a contiguous part of the area – like Puerto Rico is to the US – where the population votes in local but not national elections, and in which external security is provided by the sovereign? That’s just one of many possibilities. Sure, working out the details would be complicated, but no more complicated than the “security arrangements” John Kerry tried to foist on us. And although some Arabs and some Jews might have to move, it would be far less traumatic than the massive expulsion of Jews that is envisaged under a 2-state plan.

“I don’t know,” he says. “There must be a way to make 2-states work.”

No, there isn’t, and that is exactly the problem. You are searching for an answer to the wrong question, one that does not have an answer. The real issue isn’t how to partition the land of Israel yet again. It’s how to guarantee the security of the state and its citizens within its rational, legitimate and defensible borders.

It’s time to say “dayenu” to the 2-state solution. The starting point must be defensible borders, not a Palestinian state.

Of course the Palestinians would find this approach unacceptable, but they also find any 2-state deal that doesn’t provide for the ultimate replacement of the Jewish state with an Arab one equally unacceptable. So why does it matter?

Why do you think we followed Moshe out of comfortable Egypt and into the desert, Uncle Max? It wasn’t in order to create ‘Palestine’!