The United States remains committed to a two-state solution… that can bring lasting peace and stability to both peoples. A two-state solution is the only way for Israel to ensure its future as a Jewish and democratic state. And it is the best path forward for Israel’s security, for Palestinian aspirations, and for regional stability. –
Samantha Powers, US ambassador to the UN, April 21
If the new Israeli government is seen as stepping back from its commitment to a two-state solution – that makes our jobs in the international arena a lot tougher because our ability to push back on efforts to internationalize the conflict…
has depended on our insistence that the best course is in achieving a two-state solution. –
Wendy Sherman, US under-secretary of state, April 27
President Obama has made clear that we need to take a hard look at our approach to the conflict. We look to the next Israeli government… to demonstrate – through policies and actions – a genuine commitment to a two-state solution. –
Susan Rice, US national security adviser, April 29
These excerpts reflect a series of warnings by Washington in the wake of the Israeli election. Officials from both the White House and State Department have cautioned that any perceived backtracking from Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution could mean the US will not veto future UN resolutions endorsing unilateral Palestinian initiatives for statehood.
In large measure, they convey the despondency, if not desperation, born of the futility of almost obsessive pursuit of a failed dogma, to which the personal prestige and professional standing of so many have been mortgaged.
Such despair should not be unexpected – which is not to say it should go unchallenged.
Disproportionate, discriminatory, distorted
Few, if any, political disputes in modern history have endured as long as that between Arab and Jew over control of the biblical Land of Israel, extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Few, if any, have generated such intense and disproportionate debate.
None has been accompanied by such fierce, discriminatory double standards, nor been driven by such grotesque distortion of historical and political realities.
None has been accompanied by a discourse dominated by the (largely fallacious) narrative of the vanquished, rather than by the (largely veracious) narrative of the victors.
This situation was reflected in two wry quips by Israel’s iconic foreign minister, Abba Eban. In referring to Arab response to Israel’s stunning victory in the 1967 war, he remarked acerbically: “I think this is the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.”
Regarding the veracity (or rather, the lack thereof) in the international debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict, he commented caustically that if the Arabs “introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”
Death & destruction dwarfed
By any reasonable substantive criterion, it is difficult to understand the international obsession with the Judeo-Arab conflict in general, and the ongoing Israel- Palestinian one, in particular.
In scope and in scale, the physical destruction and human deaths in kinetic clashes that have resulted from it are dwarfed by those that have been wrought by many others that have flared up during the same span of history.
Indeed, since the end of World War II and the dissolution of the colonial empires, violent conflicts have raged across the globe – whether inter-state wars or intra-state turmoil – causing far higher combat casualties, civilian collateral damage and flows of homeless refugees.
As I have underscored elsewhere, (see “Something rotten in the state of Denmark?” December 18, 2014), such massive tragedy is not confined to clashes involving authoritarian regimes of countries in the developing world across Africa and Asia.
In recent decades, the developed, democratic West, including numerous nations in NATO, has responded militarily to situations in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq far more harshly than Israel has, even when the threat to its own population was far less tangible than that menacing Israeli civilians.
Other lives worth less
The forces of Western democracies have, in far-flung theaters, thousands of kilometers from their homelands, inflicted vast numbers of civilian casualties, engaged in massively disproportional responses, and imposed far more punishing embargoes than the Jewish state ever has. (By some estimates, the US-led UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 1990s caused more infant deaths than the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.) Yet somehow, the suffering, the carnage, the injustices – whether at the hand of domestic despots or foreign forces – never produced the same crescendo of condemnation that far lesser incidents in the Arab-Jewish conflict elicit – at least as long as the casualties are Arab, particularly Palestinian-Arab.
This, of course, is a clear indication of the blatant moral blemish in international attitudes to the Arab-Jewish dispute. For beyond the unequivocal, unabashed and undisguised application of discriminatory double standards toward the Jewish state, there is another inescapable conclusion to be drawn. This regards the equally blatant diminution of the value of lives lost in other conflicts, and in tragedies suffered by collectives other than the Palestinian-Arabs.
This appears to be the case for millions in the Congo, Black Muslims in Darfur, non-Muslims in Nigeria, Taliban victims in Afghanistan and casualties of the post- “Spring” chaos sweeping the Arab world from Libya to Yemen – to mention but a few examples.
‘This frightening silence…’
This insensitivity to tragedy seems to extend even to Palestinian-Arabs – provided their fate was not inflicted by Jews.
Highlighting this is the gruesome plight of Palestinian- Arabs in Syria. This was vividly conveyed in a Guardian report, “‘Yarmuk is being annihilated’: Palestinians in Syria are left to their fate” (April 10), and echoed by Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan in “The Palestinians of Yarmuk and the shameful silence when Israel is not to blame” (Guardian, April 12). The appalling lot of the luckless Palestinian residents in the Damascus suburb – homelessness starvation, beheadings – have been greeted largely with chilling apathy, deafening silence – and impotent inaction.
With commendable integrity, Hasan asks: “Let’s be honest: How different, how vocal and passionate, would our reaction be if the people besieging Yarmuk were wearing the uniforms of the IDF?” A Palestinian humanitarian worker remarked bitterly on the world’s indifference, “I’m not just angry but indignant at this frightening silence,” and one of the unfortunate remaining residents of Yarmuk bewailed the “serious crisis of morality and humanity going on in Syria.”
In large measure, this egregious divergence in attitude toward the context, causes and consequences of the Arab-Jewish conflict, on the one hand, and toward nearly all other conflicts on the face of the planet, on the other, can be traced to the emergence of the two-state principle as the dominant paradigm for its resolution.
From border-line treason to mainstream paradigm
The two-state principle emerged from being an almost treasonous anathema to become the dominant paradigm in Israeli politics at the start of the 1990s.
Support for it soon became the hallmark of enlightened bon ton – and a required calling card for admission to polite company – and absolutely indispensable for acceptance, and certainly promotion, in much of the academic world.
From being an act punishable by law, contact with Arafat’s terrorist PLO became a badge of honor to be flaunted at fashionable social gatherings.
It created a dangerous illusion that a solution to the century-old conflict was at hand, and, if reason prevailed (mainly on the Israeli side), the dawn of a future of peace and prosperity was within reach. It was so seductive in its facile appeal that many powerful and prominent figures staked their personal and professional prestige on it – making retraction of their support for it prohibitively damaging to their reputations.
Yet since its adoption as the declared paradigm for Israeli policy-making – with varying degrees of enthusiasm/ reluctance, depending on the composition of the sitting government – it has brought nearly a quarter- century of death, destruction and deprivation for Jew and Arab alike. Indeed, for far more for Arabs than for Jews – at least so far.
Yet, despite the fact that the two-state dogma has been regularly disproved, for some reason it has never been discredited and certainly never discarded – as the stridently supportive tone of the introductory excerpts clearly indicate.
This is deeply disturbing – on both practical and ethical grounds.
The futility of further pursuit
On the practical level, this is disturbing because its catastrophic failure was entirely predictable – indeed, predicted, by an intrepid few, who were willing to resist the mighty flow of perilous, politically correct poppycock that envisioned its success.
Its inherent implausibility was aptly – albeit belatedly – articulated by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National Security Council, who in 2009 correctly observed: “… the maximum that any government of Israel will be ready to offer the Palestinians…
is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian leader can accept.”
Detailed studies of Israel’s minimum security requirements, buttressed by precedent and prudent evaluation of the significance of recent developments in the Arab world, lead to one clear conclusion: Maintenance of Israel’s minimum security needs is incompatible with the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
Which brings us to the ethical level: Continued pursuit of this fundamentally and fatally flawed formula will result in further failure, bringing more trauma and tragedy to both Jew and Arab.
It is precisely for this reason that further adherence to the two-state idea, as per the insistent behest of the Obama administration, is devoid of any moral value.
It is precisely for this reason that it must be resolutely resisted.
Endorsing Muslim-majority tyranny
Proponents of a the two-state principle can no longer claim, in good faith, the moral high ground. For we have seen what their preferred prescription has precipitated in the past; and we have a fair idea of what it will produce in the future.
They have no moral merits on their side. There is no moral merit in establishing what, almost certainly, will become a mega-Gaza on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv, within mortar range of Ben-Gurion Airport and within tunnel reach of the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6).
There is no moral merit in endorsing the creation of what, almost certainly, will rapidly become (yet another) Muslim-majority tyranny, the utter negation of the very values its advocates invoke for its establishment – gender discrimination, gay persecution, religious intolerance, oppression of political dissidents.
There is no moral merit in supporting a policy that, almost certainly, will expose thousands of kindergartens in the Coastal Plain to the dangers that southern towns, villages and farms experience repeatedly due to the failed attempt to confer self-rule on the Palestinian-Arabs in Gaza.
There is no moral merit in promoting a policy that, almost certainly, would subject the Palestinian-Arab civilian population to the ravages of repeated retaliatory action the IDF would be compelled to take in response to the attacks against Israel’s civilian population/installations from the Palestinian-administrated territory – as the Gaza precedent clearly foretells.
The moral imperative
A keen awareness of the futility and moral bankruptcy of the two-state paradigm has led me to propose what I call the “Humanitarian Paradigm” for the resolution (or rather dissolution) of the conflict with the Palestinian- Arabs, involving the generous funding of their voluntary relocation and rehabilitation in third-party countries.
I have been excoriated for daring to raise such a “monstrously unethical” initiative. But in light of the forgoing discussion, who really has the moral high ground? Those who promote the establishment of (yet another) Muslim-majority tyranny, with all the attendant detriments and dangers described above? Or those who advocate providing non-belligerent Palestinian individuals the opportunity to build a better life for themselves elsewhere, out of harm’s way, free from the cycles of death, destruction and destitution that have been brought down on them by the cruel, corrupt cliques that have them astray for decades.
After all, if proponents of the two-state principle find no moral blemish in advocating the funded evacuation of Jews to facilitate the establishment of an entity that would, in all likelihood, become a bastion of radical Islamist terrorism, what moral principle would cause them to shrink in horror at the suggestion of funded evacuation of Arabs from their homes, to obviate the establishment of such an entity? I leave the readers to ponder the question.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org).