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The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."


What’s Wrong with the Right — Part I

By Martin Sherman

16 August, 2012


As demented and disastrous as the two state “solution” is, most alternatives proffered by the Right would be no less calamitous.


Photo: Avi Katz

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. – Sir Winston Churchill 

As readers of this – soon to be discontinued – column are well aware, I have been a resolute opponent of the two-state solution (TSS), for a variety of reasons, including its logical inconsistency, moral bankruptcy and proven impracticality. Accordingly, I have argued that continued attempts to pursue it will inevitably result in tragedy and trauma for both Arab and Jew.

Perilous Proposals 

Sadly, however, those who rightly – no pun intended – oppose the TSS have been less than comprehensive and far-sighted in formulating the well-intentioned alternatives they proffer in its stead. Indeed, if implemented, some of these alternatives may well precipitate situations just as perilous at TSS – in some cases perhaps more so.

These TSS-resistant alternatives can be broadly bracketed into four major groupings: 

(a) Those that advocate stabilizing the status quo, putting the emphasis on managing the conflict rather than resolving it, and condition any further accommodation of Palestinians’ demands on them “getting their act together” – i.e. by demonstrating more peace-conducive behavior.

(b) Those that are “Jordan-centric,” and involve giving Jordan a crucial role in the envisioned end-state solution – either as the planned abode of the Palestinian Arabs in the “West Bank” and/or in giving Amman the function of running the lives of the Palestinian Arabs in the “West Bank,” subject to overarching Israeli sovereignty.

(c) Those that advocate Israel’s partial annexation of Judea and Samaria, typically of the dominantly Jewish-populated Area C.

(d) Those that advocate annexation of the entire “West Bank,” offering Israeli citizenship to its Arab residents, typically together with changes in the electoral system to marginalize the potential impact of their vote.

Although these proposals may well obviate some of the deadly dangers entailed in the TSS and a consequent IDF evacuation of Judea/Samaria, they ignore – indeed may even augment – some of the grave threats to Israel’s survival that exist today. This is true both in terms of the diplomatic assault on the country’s legitimacy and the physical assault on its national security and the safety of its citizens.

What follows is a brutally compressed and far from comprehensive critique of these alternatives, which reflect an unwillingness on the part of many on the Israel Right to face harsh realities unflinchingly and to pursue their essentially valid point of departure to its logical but perhaps unpalatable conclusion.

Kicking the Can Down the Road 

While the first set of solutions (stabilization/ conflict management) is based on the ostensibly sensible approach of “not making things worse,” it is really nothing more than kicking the can down the road.

This approach may appear to have a measure of merit, but it seriously underestimates the urgency and intensity of the issues at hand, and the need to sketch, at least in general terms, some prescription for a preferred end-state arrangement. At best, these proposals are a temporary tactic rather than a serious strategy, providing no hint of how any long-term resolution is to be to be approached, much less achieved.

For whatever one’s position might be regarding Palestinian claims for political independence – whether one rejects them as a huge hoax designed to undermine Jewish sovereignty, or an authentic aspiration for national freedom – there seems little practical purpose, or moral justification, in proposing perpetuation of an unresolved state of open-ended limbo and indefinite suspended political animation.

Indeed, such delays are liable to make Israel’s plight even more dire. And to what end? Advocates of this approach usually prescribe stabilization/management of the status quo until there is perceptible positive change in the conduct of the Palestinians that will facilitate progress toward some “final status” outcome.

Futile and Illogical 

But this position is both futile and illogical.

It is illogical because one either recognizes the Palestinians’ right to nationhood as legitimate and authentic, or one does not.

If one does recognize such a right, its exercise cannot be made contingent on the judgment/approval of their behavior/ governance by some extraneous entity, particularly an adversarial one like Israel.

Why should Palestinian independence be conditioned on good governance and democracy and not that of Algeria or Afghanistan? Why should Palestinians be held to a higher standard than, say, Somalis or Sudanese.

Why should implementation of their “legitimate rights” be conditioned on reaching peaceable relations with any, or all, of their neighbors, when this was never the case for other claimants of national self-determination – including Israelis? What justification could there be for expecting Palestinians to accept Israel (with or without US accompaniment) as an adjudicator, not only of their behavior being “proper” enough to warrant statehood, but of the criteria by which it is to be so judged? 

On the other hand, if one rejects the authenticity and legitimacy of the Palestinians’ claim to nationhood, what is the point in “stabilizing the status quo” and prolonging the state of “suspended political animation” until they prove themselves “deserving.” Surely logic would dictate endeavors to transform – rather than stabilize – the status quo and to strive for the establishment of a sustainable finalstatus arrangement that would not include a Palestinian state? 

Futile and Illogical (cont.) 

If one refutes the legitimacy/authenticity of the Palestinian claims, prolonging the status quo is not only illogical, it is counterproductive. It will only entrench realities that make achieving such a sustainable final-status arrangement – sans a Palestinian state – that much more difficult to achieve.

Moreover, suggesting that the status quo should be stabilized in the hope of “improved” (i.e. peace–conducive/Israel-
compliant) Palestinian behavior in the future is futile. Those who hope/believe that the Palestinians might one day “get their act together” lack one crucial element for making their case credible: a persuasive argument why this should ever occur.

After the better part of a quarter-century, since the giddy euphoria of Oslo, and the consequent flood of disaster and disappointment, it is time to recognize that with the Palestinians “what you see is what you’ll get.” In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, responsibility requires us to conclude that they do not have another “act” – and to begin formulating policy that proactively addresses – rather than evades – this unfortunate reality.

Historically True, Politically Implausible 

The next group of TSS-resistant proposals is the Jordan-centric one based on, or linked to, the notion that “Jordan is Palestine.”

It is indisputable that this claim has much to support it, historically, geographically and demographically. After all, historically, Jordan did indeed comprise most of Mandatory Palestine, geographically covering almost 80 percent of its territory, while demographically, a clear majority of its current population are ethnically Palestinians. Moreover, until summarily, and arguably, illegally, stripped of their citizenship by King Hussein in 1988, all the Arab residents of the “West Bank” were Jordanian citizens.

Yet despite the compelling evidence that can be produced to support the claim that “Jordan is Palestine,” there are even more compelling ones to consider policy proposals based on it impractical – even imprudent – politically. (This is not to say that if such proposals were successful, the outcomes would not be desirable, but only that such success is unlikely, and even more unlikely to be sustainable, and that their likely failure would have dangerous repercussions.) 

The Jordan-centric proposals typically advocate applying Israeli sovereignty over Judea/Samaria, and declaring that portion of Mandatory Palestine east of the Jordan River (the present-day Hashemite kingdom) the Palestinian state.

“Harsher” variants envisage the resettlement of the Arab residents of these areas in trans-Jordan; more “benign” variants envisage Amman reinstating their Jordanian citizenship and undertaking the role of running the civilian aspects of their lives in the “West Bank,” under overarching Israeli sovereignty.

The major problem with Jordan-centric proposals is that Israel controls none of the decision variables crucial, not only for their success, but for their implementation.

By definition, they confer veto power on Amman, which could render the entire plan inoperable by refusing to accede to an idea it has very little incentive to accept.

Providing Veto Power to Amman 

The current regime has little upside in shouldering responsibility for a large additional population with little sentiments of loyalty to the monarchy, and daunting disincentives, both political and economic, for doing so.

The winds of wrath that have swept through the region since December 2010 – a.k.a. the “Arab Spring” – have made the Jordan-centric prescriptions even more precarious for a myriad of reasons too numerous to enumerate here.

The prudent working assumption for Israeli strategic planners must be that the Islamic inputs of the “Spring” will, sooner or later, impact Jordan, either bringing an overtly Islamist regime to power, or an interim puppet-regime, in which the king is stripped of his power but retained as a figurehead by Islamist masters, to preclude the claim that “Jordan is Palestine” (see my “From potentate to puppet?” February 3, 2012).

This clearly makes any proposal for giving Jordan civilian jurisdiction –including for law enforcement – over the Palestinian Arabs in Judea/Samaria (as Jordanian citizens), very unwise. Neither the populace, nor the Jordanian authorities appointed to manage its civilian affairs, would any longer owe allegiance to an ostensibly moderate pro-Western monarchy, but – in all likelihood – to a vehemently Judeophobic Islamocracy, with a far greater stake in fomenting violence than in keeping the peace.

Action by the IDF to address this situation would inevitably be construed as a casus belli, and give the regime in Amman excellent grounds for rallying Arab assistance in protecting its citizens from “Zionist aggression.”

Crazy Patchwork of Enclaves 

The third group of TSS-resistant proposals advocate annexation of portions of Judea/Samaria – typically Area C where the population is predominately Jewish.

Prima facie, the extension of Israeli sovereignty over additional territory is a positive idea. However, in the specific context of this group of proposals, it is likely to generate more problems than it will solve.

If a country deems certain territory to be under its sovereignty, it must demarcate the frontiers of that territory and be ready to secure them against infiltration or attack.

A brief glance at the map will immediately reveal how impractical such partial annexation would be for Israel. Area C is a crazy quilted patchwork of enclaves and axis roads, with an outer contour of hundreds of kilometers – possibly well over a thousand. Is this meant to designate Israel’s final sovereign frontiers? 

If so, how is it to be secured, and at what cost operationally, financially and diplomatically? If not, how are these frontiers to be determined? 

No less important, how is the status of the residual territory and its inhabitants to be established? For the remaining Areas A and B (less than 40 percent) are scattered helter-skelter in disconnected patches across the “West Bank,” clearly incapable of being forged into any sustainable collective entity, making the accusations of ethnically delineated and discriminatory Bantustans (or rather Arabstans) far more difficult to repudiate...

Impossible Socioeconomic Burden 

This brings us to the final group of TSSresistant proposals, which advocate applying Israeli sovereignty to all of Judea/Samaria, together with an offer of Israeli citizenship to the Arab residents.

This type of proposal is typically accompanied by “alternative” (albeit well-substantiated) demographic assessments and blue prints for changes in the electoral system – usually the institution of a regional ballot rather than the current nationwide one – designed to minimize the impact of the newly enfranchised Palestinian Arabs.

Despite its theoretical logic, this is a prescription fraught with immense danger for the Zionist enterprise and Israel’s status as the Jewish nation-state.

Even if one believes that, despite the inevitable legal challenges, the boundaries of the voting constituencies could be gerrymandered to marginalize the Palestinian Arab vote, and even if the most optimistic demographic estimates prove correct, this will not obviate the perils.

For the socioeconomic burden entailed in the inclusion of such a large, culturally discordant population, many of whom have been infused with anti-Israel hatred for decades, will cripple the country and catapult it back into developing-nation status, certainly disqualifying it from its newly acquired membership in the OECD...

What to Do? 

Of course, none of this means that the TSS should be reinstated as the only viable option available to Israel. It clearly should not.

What is does mean is that the shortcomings of the alternatives analyzed above need to be dealt with in a more comprehensive and integrative manner, and that the issues at hand and the obstacles need to be addressed with greater foresight and broader perspective.

* * * * * * * 

What’s Wrong with the Right – Part II

By Martin Sherman

23 August, 2012


The Right must realize that between the river and the sea, either exclusive Jewish or exclusive Arab sovereignty will eventually prevail.

right wing protest Tel Aviv

Photo: Ben Hartman

With all the money that has been invested in the problem of [the] Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries. – Andrei Sakharov, human rights activist and 1975 Nobel Peace Prize laureate 

Allow me to begin with an announcement. The decision to discontinue this column has been reversed. I should like to thank my readers for their robust support and The Jerusalem Post for its consumer-conscious response. Now to the business at hand.

This article is relevant reading only for those who share the belief that Israel should survive permanently as the nation-state of the Jewish people. For those who hold dissenting views, much of what is expressed here will be neither pertinent nor persuasive.

But for those who share my point of departure, what follows has the inexorable inevitability of deductive mathematical logic, making the conclusions that emerge from it commensurately inescapable. The fact that they may be unpalatable to some will do nothing to make them any less true.

The Right’s Intellectual Surrender 

There have been many unfortunate developments in the evolution of the discourse conducted over the last quarter-century on the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, and the Israeli-Palestinian component of it in particular. Arguably the most regrettable of these has been the “intellectual surrender” on the part of many on the so-called Right to the tyranny of their political adversaries on the so-called Left.

True, numerous spokesmen of the Right have repeatedly provided cogent and convincing critiques of the Left’s dysfunctional doctrine and it flagship dogma, the two-state-solution (TSS). However, their most palpable and pernicious failure has been their inability/unwillingness to follow through on the logic of these critiques and draw the conclusions their rationale necessarily implies.

They have been markedly remiss in not proposing a convincing and comprehensive alternative for the conduct of the affairs of the nation which if adopted, would result in a sustainable outcome that ensures the long-term survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Devastating Defeat 

The result has been a devastating defeat for the political credo of the Israeli Right.

This has been most dramatically reflected by the erosion of the core-ideals of the ruling Likud Party – the party of government for most of the three-and-a-half decades since it first came to power in 1977 on a platform of Greater Israel and the resolute rejection of territorial withdrawal in general and the TSS in particular.

Despite its longstanding and vocal opposition to the TSS, it has never articulated a clear idea of how it envisions the permanent-status arrangement. As a result, the Likud found itself unable to respond effectively to the pointed and very pertinent question from its TSS-adherent adversaries: “So what’s your alternative?” 

With no comprehensive countervailing paradigmatic position to promote or defend, it found itself gradually forced to give way under the weight of this onerous question, and to increasingly adopt elements of the TSS-paradigm which it had not only previously opposed, but was proved totally vindicated in doing so.

It is impossible to understate the damage this corrosive process has caused.

The situation that confronts us today defies belief: The Likud is urging (some might say, beseeching) the Palestinians to enter into negotiations over an arrangement (the TSS) which it, itself, vehemently rejected several years ago as unacceptably dangerous. Incredibly, this is occurring despite the fact that all the dangers warned of did in fact materialize! 

It is difficult to imagine a greater – and more uncalled for – intellectual capitulation and a more devastating and unmerited ideological defeat.

Imperative to Recognize Imperatives 

To survive as the permanent nation-state of the Jewish people Israel must address two fundamental imperatives: 

• The geographic imperative 

• The demographic imperative 

It is self-evident that if either of these is inadequately addressed, Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people will be gravely jeopardized, eventually becoming unsustainable.

The mainstream discourse invariably – and deceptively – presents Israel’s only choice as being between accepting the TSS – which would make Israel untenable geographically, or the OSS (one-state solution) – which would make it untenable demographically.

Neither comprises an acceptable policy-paradigm for anyone whose point of departure is the continued existence of Israel as the permanent nation-state of the Jews.

This, as we will see, compels us to the inexorable conclusion that between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea there can – and eventually will – prevail either exclusive Jewish or exclusive Arab sovereignty.

Untenable Geographic Reality 

Why the TSS entails an unacceptable geographic reality, except under wildly unrealistic – hence irresponsible – “best-case scenario” assumptions has been spelled out in considerable detail on numerous occasions by numerous authoritative experts.

Indeed, for any moderately well-informed person with a modicum of common sense and intellectual integrity, it is a conclusion that is manifestly unavoidable.

I will therefore refrain from repeating these details, which I have set out in several previous columns, and suffice with the following observation: In the absence of any compelling contrary evidence, Israel’s working assumption must be that there is no reason to believe that a TSS-compliant evacuation of the West Bank (or large tracts thereof) by the IDF will produce results essentially dissimilar to those precipitated by similar withdrawals elsewhere.

Accordingly, there is no reason to expect that TSS-implementation will not culminate in Israel’s urban metropolis – from Haifa to Ashdod, where up to 80 percent of its civilian population resides, a similar proportion of its economic activities is conducted, and much of its vital infrastructure is located – being subjected to realities similar to those to which Sderot and its environs are subjected.

Clearly, such realities (or even the tangible threat thereof) would – at negligible cost to Israel’s adversaries – make any socioeconomic routine impossible to maintain.

Such a situation would be extremely difficult to redress, other than by the coercive dismantling of a sovereign state, something virtually unthinkable in today’s international milieu.

Untenable Demographic Reality 

The OSS, on the other hand, along with other hybrid/interim proposals that envisage a large Arab population being included, as enfranchised citizens, within Israel’s sovereign territory, would create an unacceptable demographic reality for anyone wishing to preserve it as the permanent nation-state of the Jews.

True, recent “counter-establishment” demographic studies, headed by people such as the indefatigable Yoram Ettinger, have provided persuasive, well-researched evidence that the demographic threat is far less acute – or at least, less urgent – than usually portrayed, both in terms of its present scale and its future trends.

However, even if these estimates are correct (as they appear to be), this does not imply that there is no longer a grave demographic problem, but only that we have more time to deal with it in a more measured, less pressured manner.

For any proposal involving the permanent inclusion of a large, enfranchised socio-culturally discordant population within the frontiers of Israel will precipitate a unbearable societal burden, “balkanizing” the country, making it impossible to govern.

No matter how ingenious the schemes devised to dilute the political power of the additional Arab population might be, this would not alleviate the gravity of the threat, even if they could overcome the daunting array of judicial and legislative challenges they would inevitably encounter. For the problem is not merely a numerical one of how to produce – or prevent – parliamentary majorities, but one of the relative weights of inherently adversarial socio-cultural sectors that would make up the weave of Israel’s societal fabric.

Brutally Simple Dilemma 

While addressing the geographic imperative requires Israel to maintain control of all Judea and Samaria (or at least of sufficiently large segments to make the TSS unviable), addressing the demographic imperative means that the Arab population of these areas cannot be permanently incorporated into the population of Israel.

To adopt a policy based on any contrary – and highly implausible – assumptions would be an unconscionable gamble of historic proportions, gravely imperiling the Jewish state.

We are left to confront a brutally simple choice: Either forgo the Jewish nation-state or address the need to significantly diminish the scale of the Palestinian-Arab population.

Whether one relates to this stark dilemma with a sense of moral outrage or equanimity will not affect the inexorable logic that led to its deduction, or the necessity to acknowledge its inevitability. Trying to evade the bleak nature of this inescapable choice by reformulating it in less forbidding terms would be no more than an exercise in hypocrisy or self-delusion.

Half-baked, poorly thought-through alternatives that would leave Israel with impossibly torturous and lengthy borders, and disconnected or quasi-connected enclaves, accessible only by narrow, indefensible corridors would – even if they could be implemented – solve few problems and acerbate many.

So, for those who find the prospect of forgoing the Jewish nation-state unacceptable, the grim decision is whether to address the problem of diminishing the Palestinian-Arab population by coercive or by non-coercive means.

Discounting the Coercive 

Coercive displacement of populations is hardly a rare phenomenon in today’s world and – depending on the classification and the source – its luckless victims number up to 30 million. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the Palestinians have publicly proclaimed that, had the fortunes of war been reversed and the Arabs been victorious, they would have had no compunction in expelling any surviving Jews from “Palestine.” Even today it would be hopelessly naïve to assume that given the opportunity they would not embrace such measures.

Yet despite all this – and in the absence of large-scale military conflict – moral, political and practical considerations preclude physical coercion as an instrument of Israeli policy to achieve demographic goals.

That leaves non-coercive measures, such as generous economic inducements, to address Israel’s demographic imperative.

It would be a grave error to dismiss this rigorously derived conclusion as an unrealistic rant or an unachievable, extremist goal.

It is not rooted in any messianic dogma of divine dictates (I would probably be deemed a scandalously sinful secularist by many); or in some fanatical fascist fundamentalism (I often find myself closer to the Center-Left than to the radical Right on a host of socioeconomic issues); or in a ethnocentric desire for tribal purity (I, too, appreciate the merits of social diversity and am susceptible to the lure of multiculturalism, although I do balk at the moral relativism that often springs from it).

Indeed, it is a conclusion that reflects sentiments articulated by some of the most prominent human rights activists in modern history (as the example in the opening excerpt illustrates).

Questions to be Addressed 

But the conceptual validity of an analytical conclusion – however compelling –does not ensure its practical applicability.

To assess the chances of its implementation, numerous operational questions need to be addressed: 

• How are these proposed non-coercive inducements to be structured? What would be their scope, scale and sources?

• What is its feasibility given the prevailing opinions in both the Israeli and Palestinian publics? 

• What diplomatic objectives need to be achieved internationally to prepare for its implementation? 

• How does Israeli diplomacy – both official and public (particularly the latter) – need to be restructured to meet these challenges? 

• How do pro-Zionist civil society elites – in Israel and abroad – need to be mobilized to prime public opinion? 

* * * * * * * 

Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.