Following my participation in The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York last month, I received an invitation from Russell Robinson, the CEO of the Jewish National Fund, to make a telephone address to major JNF donors across the United States, assessing the status of the peace process.
I shall devote this week’s and next week’s Into the Fray columns to sharing with Jerusalem Post readers the topics I raised and the analysis I made during that address, which took place as the solemn Remembrance Day drew to a close and the festivities of Independence Day began. (Some minor modifications and editorial tweaks have been made to accommodate the transition from oral to written form):
Shakespeare on the futility of self-deception
I believe that to adequately comprehend the situation we are in, we must understand the process that brought it about.
At the risk of being flamboyant, I should like to begin my explanation of the foretold futility of the “peace-process” with a quote from Shakespeare’s Richard II, Act I, Scene 3.
Although some might find the connection between the citation and the Arab-Israeli conflict e abstruse, I will explain the relevance shortly, and hope that, like myself, the Post readership will find it instructive in elucidating the defective rationale on which the entire peace process was founded.
The quotation relates to an incident in which Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) is exiled by Richard II (ruled 1377-1399) and is distraught at being banished from his beloved England.
His father, John O’ Gaunt, attempts to assuage his distress by advising him to fend off the hardships of exile by imagining that they do not exist:
Look, what thy soul holds dear, imagine it
To lie that way thou go’st, not whence thou comest:
Suppose the singing birds musicians,
The flowers fair ladies, and thy steps no more
Than a delightful measure or a dance;
For gnarling sorrow hath less power to bite
The man that mocks at it and sets it light.
But the realistic Bolingbroke responds by rejecting the recommendation for self-delusion and wishful thinking, declaring forthrightly:
O, who can hold a fire in his hand
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?
Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite
By bare imagination of a feast?
Or wallow naked in December snow
By thinking on fantastic summer’s heat?
The relevance for the ‘peace process’
In a very fundamental way, this citation conveys precisely why the peace process was a forgone failure.
For it portrays the belief, held by some, that reality can be transformed by wishful thinking; that one can forge changes in reality by sheer force of imagination and wish away inconvenient facts by denying their existence.
It is precisely the intellectual licentiousness of the kind advocated by John O’ Gaunt that afflicted the architects of the Oslo process, who seemed – indeed, still seem – sadly immune to the sober realism of Bolingbroke. They cling to the belief that imagination can transform “singing birds” into “musicians,” and “flowers” into “fair ladies,” steadfastly refusing to acknowledge that one cannot “hold a fire in one’s hand [b]y thinking on the frosty Caucasus.”
Indeed, the entire “peace process” has, from the outset, been based on suppositions detached from reality; and the policies adopted to promote it were futile attempts to bend reality to unrealistic desires.
Growing awareness of futility
There are growing signs that awareness of this futility is beginning to dawn – earlier for some, later for others. However, as I shall explain (next week), this is not necessarily producing proposals for alternatives any better, or less hazardous, than the doomed twostate approach.
The futility of the peace process was always a foretold inevitability.
For the structure of the bargain that needs to be struck for the twostate paradigm, on which it is based, to be viable, is unattainable.
It was Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, who remarked, half a decade ago:
“The maximum any Israeli government can offer is less than the minimum any Palestinian leader can accept. The real gap between the sides is much greater than perceived, and that gap is growing.”
Sadly, perhaps the most fitting analogy to graphically convey the situation is that of two cowboys, the one in a black hat, the other in a white one, facing each other in a duel in the main street of a dusty western town, when just before they “go for their guns” the one growls at the other, “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
This is precisely the situation that prevails vis-à-vis Israel and Palestinians with regard to the territory between the (Jordan) River and the (Mediterranean) Sea.
There is no way to arrive at a stable geo-political configuration that involves dividing the sovereignty over this territory between Jews and Arabs And let me stress, I make this determination as a political scientist – not a as religious fundamentalist or radical right-wing ideologue.
Eroding position; desperate proposals
The increasingly evident futility of the endeavor to reach a negotiated settlement is manifesting itself in two main ways: (a) Increasing erosion of Israeli positions; and (b) Increasingly desperate proposals both on the Left and Right.
To grasp just how far Israeli positions have been eroded, consider the following citation from a senior mainstream politician, who almost four decades ago predicted with chilling accuracy what would come about if Israel were to embrace the two-state paradigm: “The establishment of such a state means the inflow of combat- ready Palestinian forces (more than 25,000 men under arms) into Judea and Samaria; this force, together with the local youth, will double itself in a short time. It will not be short of weapons or other [military] equipment, and in a short space of time, an infrastructure for waging war will be set up in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Israel will have problems in preserving day-to-day security, which may drive the country into war, or undermine the morale of its citizens. In time of war, the frontiers of the Palestinian state will constitute an excellent staging point for mobile forces to mount attacks on infrastructure installations vital for Israel’s existence…
and to cause bloodshed among the population… in areas adjacent to the frontier line.”
Even more remarkable than the accuracy of the prophesy is the identity of the prophet. Those were the prescient words of none other than Shimon Peres, who now enthusiastically endorses the policy he urged Israel to eschew.
Even more significant erosion
But perhaps an even more dramatic illustration of how gravely Israel’s positions have been eroded in the futile pursuit of an agreement with Palestinians is provided by the text of the final address by Yitzhak Rabin to the Knesset on October 5, 1995, seeking ratification of the Oslo II Accords – a mere month before his assassination.
In it Rabin rejected the idea of Palestinian statehood, declaring that:
“… the permanent solution… will include… a Palestinian entity which will… be an entity which is less than a state…”
He went on to assert:
“We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines… These are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision… in the permanent solution: “First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’aleh Adumim and Givat Ze’ev – as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty… “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
“Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Betar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the Green Line prior to the Six Day War.
“The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.”
This address was delivered after he had been awarded the Nobel Peace prize and hailed as a “valiant warrior for peace.” Yet today, if any Israeli leader were to embrace the Nobel Peace laureate’s vision for a permanent settlement with the Palestinians, he would be dismissed as an unreasonable and unrealistic extremist.
Understanding the impasse: Israel’s twin imperatives
The discovery of the failure of the peace process is not a matter of hindsight. For anyone with the slightest grasp of the basic elements of political science, international relations, the theory of the nation, and the stability of nation-states, it was a foretold inevitability.
Belatedly, the validity and viability of the paradigm that has dominated the discourse – the two-state land-for-peace approach – based on political appeasement and territorial withdrawal – is being questioned by mainstream pundits across the political spectrum.
Thus in 2007, Maj.-Gen. Uzi Dayan, formerly deputy chief of staff and head of the National Security Council, observed: “The landfor- peace idea has now collapsed.
We have to find another way, and a new concept is urgently needed.”
Echoing precisely the same sentiments, distinctly left-wing pundit Prof. Carlo Strenger wrote in Haaretz: “It is time to have a clear-headed, hard look at reality: The two state solution is dead.
Where do we go from here?” To understand the reasons for, and the nature of, the impasse, we need to recognize that for Israel to survive over time as the nationstate of the Jewish people, it must contend with two vital imperatives: The Geographic Imperative and the Demographic Imperative.
In addressing these two imperatives, Israel faces two mortal dangers: The two-state paradigm – which does not address the Geographic Imperative; The one-state paradigm – which does not address the Demographic Imperative.
Not ‘right-wing scaremongering’
The visuals distributed to the JNF audience prior to my address (“Israel: Through the binoculars of a Palestinian intelligence officer”), clearly illustrate why the two-state proposal would make Israel geographically untenable.
Not only would the width of the country – in its most populous areas – be reduced to a minuscule 15-25 km. (roughly the distance from Beverly Hills to Malibu along Sunset Boulevard), but these would be completely dominated topographically by the limestone hills that comprise the “West Bank” and rise above it from the east. Any forces – regular or irregular – deployed on their western slopes, will command:
• Virtually all major airfields in the country (civilian and military), including the only international airport;
• Major sea ports and naval bases;
• The fresh water system;
• Main land transportation axes (road and rail);
• Principal power plants;
• The nation’s parliament;
• Crucial centers of government and military command;
• Eighty percent of the civilian population and the commercial activity in the country.
In any two-state scenario, all of the above would be in range of weapons being used today from areas already transferred to Arab control. This can therefore no longer be dismissed as right-wing scaremongering, for it is merely a prudent extrapolation of the empirical precedent.
Next week – Part II
In the concluding part of my analysis next week, I shall deal with the remaining topics raised in my address:
• The Arab Spring as a threat multiplier
• The irrelevance of assumed Palestinian “sincerity”
• The Hamas-Fatah rapprochement
• The one-state paradigm – A precursor to Muslim tyranny
• Mirror images of desperation: Proposals for unilateral withdrawal vs unilateral annexation/enfranchisement of Arab residents in Judea-Samaria
• My assessment of what Netanyahu is liable to do
• My assessment of what Netanyahu ought to do
I will end next week’s column with the very same words with which I end this one: In the final analysis, between the River and the Sea there will exist either exclusive Jewish sovereignty or exclusive Arab sovereignty.
The side that will prevail, is the side whose national will is the stronger and whose political vision is the sharper.
This is not right-wing extremism or religious fanaticism.
It is merely sound political science.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.