April 3, 2003


Not open to negotiation (Israel Harel, 4/03/03, Ha'aretz)
Sure, at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention they applauded Colin Powell when he said that settlement activity should be stopped. It is natural that among the 3,000 delegates there were a few hundred who oppose the settlements - particularly at present, when things have to made easier for the American government, which is already caught up in the conflict with the Arab world and with Europe.

But there were many there - and these are the vast majority of the organization's activists, as anyone who has attended a few AIPAC conventions knows - who really and truly support the settlements. And even among them there were some who applauded. That is how cultured people behave, even when they hear things they don't like.

Powell is therefore advised not to be too impressed by that applause. When AIPAC decides to fight the road map, even those who applauded in Washington will enlist. And AIPAC should start now. After all, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is certainly not one of Israel's enemies, and did not arbitrarily release a semi-ultimatum - not to a lobby that can (almost) influence the outcome of the elections - that the "demands [of the road map] are not open to negotiation." And when such a resolute statement is made when the early cherry blossoms of the primaries are already blooming in Washington, it is a sign that the lobby fell asleep on its watch. The open rejoicing of a few left-wingers at the "news" that the road map is about to be forced down our throats, perhaps even before the end of the battles in Iraq, seems, therefore, to have some foundation. [...]

Unlike its predecessor, which was hostile to Israel, the current administration, which is considered friendly to Israel is for some reason in a hurry to get moving and has unsheathed its claws at the height of the war. Now Israel must respond resolutely: The milestones that are marked on this "follow the rules without question" road map are liable to lead the Jewish state into a trap that will endanger its existence. From Israel's perspective, and not that of the U.S., Rice is correct: This road map cannot be open to negotiation.

A dangerous and immoral delusion is taking hold in Israel and among American Jews, the belief that they can prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. This position necessarily envisions holding the Palestinian people in a kind of Jim Crow/apartheid thralldom, complete with homelands, disenfranchisement, etc. But just as white Southerners and Afrikaaners could not sustain healthy democracies while they continued to violate their own ideals--denying democratic rights to a significant portion, even a majority, of their fellow citizens--neither will Israel be able to justify itself to the world if it denies Palestinians the right of self-governance, neither within a greater Israel nor within a rump Palestinian state. The people of Israel have a right to be free from terrorist attacks, but they have no right to deny fundamental freedoms to an entire class of people simply because of the
circumstances of their birth. If they try to do so they will become anathema in the eyes of even Americans who have long supported even the most controversial of Israeli actions and, just as the South and the Boers eventually had to yield, so too will the Israelis, but only after having done themselves immeasurable moral damage.

Of course, there are manifold drawbacks to this solution. To begin with, Palestine is a state in all but name, ethnically dominated by Palestinians, self-governed to some degree, and a recognizable political entity. Meanwhile, holding on to Palestine has not enhanced Israeli security in fact, though that's the theory. Terrorism is more common in Israel than it was thirty or even twenty years ago and the Israeli military has to stay continuously deployed in the territories. Also, the Israeli economy, which was doing fairly well even a few years ago, is flat or declining. It's hard to see why anyone would invest in a business in such an inherently unstable climate. And so on and so forth.

What are the alternatives then? The first, and it should not be dismissed out of hand, is genocide. The brutal truth is that while you often hear talk of slave reparations, you don't hear much about repaying the Native Americans. The reality is that if you dispose of an unwelcome people you suffer from the judgment of others for so long as you're engaged in the process but once gone they're largely forgotten. Moreover, if you just fashion some military pretext, conduct the extermination as a form of warfare, rather than as a Hitler-esque liquidation policy, you may not even face much judgment. Provoke some kind of conflict with Syria/Hamas, suffer a few appalling losses, then drop a couple nukes n Palestine and South Lebanon and the Palestinian question is permanently settled. If the overwhelming purpose here is to prevent statehood and to stop attacks, this will achieve the goals with not many more negatives--except for the Palestinians themselves--than the current policy.

Or, Israel could simply declare that all of the land that it has control of now is and for all time shall be the state of Israel and all of the peoples on the land are Israelis. If it is the land that is at issue and biblical injunctions about which state shall have those lands, this solution takes care of that and settles the question of a Palestinian state. It seems implausible though that this will enhance internal security or create better economic conditions or help with any of the other secondary problems. And, unfortunately, in just a few short years the Arabs of this greater Israel will outnumber the Jews, so Israel, assuming it were to remain a democracy, would become an Arab state. Thus does an Israel that fulfills the dreams of both Jewish nationalists and liberal democrats end up being the very worst option.

Which brings us to the fourth alternative: imposed statehood. Israel could today recognize a state of Palestine, with boundaries determined by the government of Israel, withdraw from the rest, and tell the new Palestine that it stands ready to help in any way it can, but will vigorously defend its borders. This course of action has numerous advantages: first, the element of surprise, that will shake up a region and a world already on edge, and in need of a good shake; second, the rights of Palestinians, or lack of such, will no longer be an Israeli responsibility; third, Israel will regain the moral high ground, so that when folks complain, as they will, about the boundaries extending a quarter mile here or there, Israel can just say: "We made them a nation and you want to quibble about a few random acres?"; fourth, it will, hopefully, turn Palestinian violence inwards, as the main struggle
becomes not whether there'll be a state but who will run it; and, fifth, if the genocide option does end up being inevitable, it turns the coming conflict into one between coequal nations, rather than one of a powerful political ruling class against a minority, a silly distinction to be sure, but one that matters in international law and social psychology.

This scenario, of course, has its own drawbacks. Chief among them is that in order to create a credible state of Palestine, Israel will have to either pull back some settlers or leave them to what are unlikely to be the tender mercies of the newly empowered Palestinian people. The former will cause significant domestic unrest immediately, the latter when the settlers are slaughtered. Statehood also won't satisfy the most radical elements in Palestinian society and therefore does not guarantee greater security from terrorism. But it does enable Israel to hold another government, Palestine's, responsible for helping stop the violence and it entitles Israel to take commensurate actions to protect the national security if the Palestinians refuse to help. It also offers at least the possibility that terrorism will lessen as Palestinians turn their fury on one another, instead of directing it predominantly
outward. Finally, it concedes, for now anyway, the end of the dream of a greater Israel, occupying all of Biblical lands of historic Israel. This will come as a blow to some Zionists, but given the demographic trends of the Jewish people is merely an acceptance of reality. In fact, the long term future of any Jewish state, indeed of Judaism itself, is in some doubt. But these futures depend on the Israelis themselves, and Jews generally, and have rather little to do with the Palestinians, except in so far as Palestine may one day subsume a dying Israel (if it fails to get its population crisis under control).

Of all of these, statehood certainly seems to be the best option, though we welcome different opinions and alternatives.

-The danger, Israel, is to the West (Stan Goodenough,  March 28, 2003, Israeli Insider)

The noble goal of liberating Iraq has long been linked in the British mind with the ignoble one of creating "Palestine" on Jewish lands.

-A Unifying Theory: Palestine for Iraq (Ted Belman, April 03, 2003, Israpundit)
-PA official calls for Israel's 'elimination' (Herb Keinon, Mar. 31, 2003, Jerusalem Post)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center demanded Sunday the recall of the Palestinian observer to the UN Human Rights Commission for callingfor the "elimination" of Israel.

Shimon Samuels, the Wiesenthal Center's representative at the 59th Human Rights Commission session currently taking place in Geneva, wrote to UN Human Rights High Commissioner Sergio Vieira de Mello calling on him to "immediately condemn the Palestinian observer and take the necessary measures for his recall, due to his violation of the UN Charter in calling for the 'elimination' of the state of Israel."

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 3, 2003 12:05 PM

You da man, Orrin!

BTW, am I being weird here about something?

Mr. Bush, as a man of faith, is, I think, somewhat more inclined to take it to heart when God (Life, Karma, whatever you want to call it) sends you signals.

For whatever it's worth, for the second time this year, US towns called 'Palestine' have been thrust into the spotlight. In Texas, where the first pieces of the shuttle fell, and now in West Virginia, home of the heroic Private Lynch.

Coincidence? Fine. Coincidence. But a rather weird one. I don't think I even knew any such towns existed, now I know of two of them. And, significantly, so does the rest of the world.

Is this meaningless? Am I being weird? Could this have even just a subtle effect on our President?

Waddya think?

Posted by: Andrew X at April 3, 2003 12:47 PM

I think you've pretty well convinced me that this plan is the best, Orrin. But here's a question--what happens to the Palestinians who don't live within the new state?

Posted by: Timothy at April 3, 2003 12:49 PM

My sense is that most Jews recognize that everyone has a right to sit under his or her own fig tree, undisturbed, as Isaiah put it, and given that Palestinians own most of the West Bank, they have the right to decide how they will be governed, as long as they respect the like right of Israelis. So the opposition is not to a Palestinian state per se
, or to Palestinian control over the ancient homeland of the Jews, but rather to the existence of a state controlled by terrorists.

Establishing a terrorist-controlled state is certain to lead to war, and bloody war at that, especially if the Palestinian state gets its hands on WMD. The record of democracies established in the absence of civil society is poor; they tend to lead to internal bloodshed and conflict followed by a reversion to dictatorship. If you want Palestinians to kill each other, this proposal makes sense, but if you want everyone to live in peace and prosper, I think it would be more prudent to remove the terrorists, establish a working civil society, and then let a democratic state take over.

We're following the right model in Iraq -- kill or imprison the terrorists, establish a working civil society under occupation, then give them a democratic state of their own and hope they can keep it.

Posted by: Paul Jaminet at April 3, 2003 12:53 PM


If you check out the Israeli and pro-Israeli press though, there's increasing talk of never allowing a Palestinian state and of taking on George W. Bush because he thinks there should be one. This is an unsustainable position for democrats (small "d').

Posted by: oj at April 3, 2003 1:04 PM


They will have to have full rights as Israeli citizens, so long as they exercise them responsibly.

Posted by: oj at April 3, 2003 1:05 PM


You're being weird. :)

Posted by: oj at April 3, 2003 1:06 PM

A Palestinian State will not make Israel more secure. But genocide and transfer are out of the question and the vast majority of Jews and Israelis agree. But one should start with the premise that the Arabs want to remove Israel from the ME and not just the territories, no deal should be done that will hasten that outcome. So the issue is what will make Israel more secure, not whether or not we have to create a state.

Posted by: Ted Belman at April 3, 2003 1:25 PM

That sounds good to me, of course. Is that something Israel is prepared to do? I have no idea, but those I have shared this idea with seem skeptical.

Posted by: Timothy at April 3, 2003 3:04 PM

Any chance that a Palestine state could be formed from part of Iraq (i.e. near Syria border) after the war is over? Giving them a state and getting them away from Israel would seem to be the best solution if it is possible.

Posted by: AWW at April 3, 2003 4:02 PM


The reason that's not a solution is as easy as asking why Israel doesn't just move there.

Posted by: oj at April 3, 2003 4:58 PM

Mr. Belman:

So are you saying that Israel could deny fundamental political rights to the Palestinians in perpetuity?

Posted by: oj at April 3, 2003 4:59 PM

I'd like to say that shouldn't an election be set up in Palestine where all the leaders can run, announce their position as far as whether or not they accept a two-state solution, and let the people decide, but it will never work. There is just no way any Palestinian can accept a two-state solution without knowing what the borders would be. Therefore, I think Orrin (may I call you Orrin) is right, they have to just pull out. At best it will lead to a war in which many Palestinians will be killed, at worst the "international community" will come down on Israel with even more pressure because the Palestinian state isn't "viable". I think that in the case of the latter, which is highly likely, it will just further embolden the Palestinians. I know Orrin thinks that this is a "paradigm-shifting" event, but I'm sure that friends-of-Yasser around the world will be shocked for a few weeks and then resume their attack on Israel. At that point, is Bush willing to stand up and say "Israel has pulled out, everyone back off!"? Will the Palestinians hold off attacks long enough until 2004 hoping a pliable Democrat comes into office? My head is spinning.

Posted by: Matt at April 3, 2003 7:33 PM


You're more than welcome to call me Orrin.

For the imposed state solution to work, the U.S. would have to immediately recognize the new state of Palestine, so the effort would have to be co-ordinated with Washington. At that point George Bush seems like exactly the kind of guy who would stand up to the international community.

Posted by: oj at April 3, 2003 8:21 PM