Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim
– George Santayana in Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense (1905).
In the headline, the “T” that precedes the BS in TBS stands for “Total.”
The BS stands for what it usually stands for.
TSS is the increasingly common acronym for the “two-state solution.”
Time to remove kid-gloves
The aftermath of Operation Protective Edge leaves little room for niceties in the conduct of the public debate on Israel’s security and on the measures it should adopt to preserve its security. This is no time to call a spade as a manually operated device whose principle function is to create elevation differentials in the surface of the Earth.
We can no longer afford to recoil from the unpleasant necessity of calling a spade a spade.
The recent – and likely-to be-repeated – round of fighting in Gaza should have driven home to anyone with a smidgen of common sense and common decency that conceding territory to Arab control is both futile and fatal.
The revelations of the terrorist capabilities developed in the wake of the 2005 abandonment of Gaza – in terms of overhead missiles and underground tunnels – underscored just how dangerous, detrimental and dysfunctional it is to exchange Jewish land for some wisp of hope of peace with the Arabs. The truth is so glaringly apparent that this nefarious, nonsensical notion can no longer be excused or condoned by assuming well-intentioned naiveté.
It is imperative, therefore, to conduct an open public debate – however heated and blunt, even brutal – about the motives of obdurate adherents of this disproved dogma and the reasons for them clinging so doggedly to it.
Resolute refusal to recognize reality
Elucidation of these issues is becoming increasingly urgent, for it is becoming ever more difficult – if not impossible – to reconcile concern for the security of Israel, and its survival as the nation-state of the Jewish people, with continued support for a doctrine of territorial concessions and political appeasement – and the resolute refusal to abandon belief in the need for Palestinian statehood, given all the evidence conflicting with it.
The urgency of the debate is heightened by the fact that an indisputably failed formula still enjoys strong support from prominent public figures in Israel, who have served the country with great distinction both as diplomats and as warriors.
This is a particularly disturbing and distressing phenomenon. After all, continued adherence to the doctrine, despite its failures, both flagrant and frequent, can only be explained by assuming that its proponents are imbecilic or insidious. Their persistence raises serious doubts as to the sanity or sincerity of eminent members of Israeli society, who enjoy almost unfettered access to the media, and considerable resources to promote their political credo and mold/manipulate public opinion in pursuit of their patently perverse political goals.
Deeply disturbing and distorted
Recurring refutation by recalcitrant reality of their allegedly enlightened” and/or “pragmatic” policy prescriptions has driven advocates of political appeasement and territorial withdrawal to the brink of despair.
In order to rationalize/justify increasingly untenable positions, they have been compelled to adopt (read “concoct”) wildly fluctuating and inconsistent, even contradictory, positions – in a frantic, even fanatic, endeavor to avoid admitting error.
At times, we are told that there is a reasonable Palestinian partner with whom it is possible to reach a negotiated settlement for two states, living side-by-side in peace and prosperity. At times, when it is clear that such claims are hopelessly detached from reality, we are told, despite the fact that there is no reasonable Palestinian partner, that Israel should make far-reaching, un-negotiated unilateral concessions, without any reciprocal returns.
The fact that both assumptions have been tested and failed, with devastatingly deadly consequences, seems to leave advocates of TSS undeterred in their unwavering advocacy of divesting Israel of territorial assets vital to its national security and to the physical safety of its citizens – as the events of Protective Edge underlined so indelibly.
Perverse perspectives of prominent personalities
Recently, however, despite the gruesome display of savagery by Israel’s adversaries; despite the enthusiastic support such conduct receives from the Palestinian public; despite irrefutable evidence that every time land is transferred (or abandoned) to Arab control it becomes a platform to mount lethal assaults against Israel – a particularly disturbing and distorted push for patently perilous territorial concessions is being energetically advanced by two of Israel’s best-known figures in the political arena.
The one is Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former head of Military Intelligence and current head of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), one of Israel’s best-funded and highest-profile think tanks. The other is Michael Oren, formerly Israel’s envoy to Washington, currently holder of the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, arguably the country’s top private institute of higher learning.
Both men have had distinguished careers in the service of their country.
It is thus particularly difficult (in the sense of both painful and hard) to find myself compelled to take strenuous issue with them – especially as I have personal acquaintance with both to them.
But given their unceasing advocacy of positions that I consider patently perverse and pernicious (and, which perhaps more unforgiving souls than myself might designate with even harsher epithets), I find I have little alternative.
Grotesquely distorted arguments
While Yadlin and Oren should be warmly commended for their past achievements, they must be severely condemned for their current endeavors – which to the best of my judgment constitute a grave strategic danger to the existence of the Jewish nationstate.
In recent days, both have reiterated their strong support for unilateral concessions in Judea-Samaria in important public forums – Yadlin in an article, titled “The Case for Unilateral Action,” posted in the September edition of the online Mosaic Magazine; and Oren at the plenary session of the 14th annual conference held in Tel Aviv last week by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
I read the former, and listened to the latter, with a sense of profound dismay, for both were hopelessly detached from current Mideast realities. The most charitable assessment is to describe them as hopelessly naïve and misguided.
That individuals who held such senior positions of responsibility can not only endorse but actively promote such dangerous delusions almost defies belief. It vividly illustrates the grotesquely distorted argumentation necessary to support a perception that Palestinian statehood remains a valid policy option.
Been there; done that; didn’t work
In his “Mosaic” piece, subtitled “Why Israel needs to move now toward a division of the land – even in the absence of a peace deal,” Yadlin responds to a claim by veteran US diplomat Elliott Abramsthat the status quo is “much more sustainable than is commonly argued.” Yadlin asserts that this is not good enough – that Israel must strive for a situation that is not only tolerable, but desirable.
So far, so good – until one reads Yadlin’s formula for moving beyond the sustainable status quo to achieve a more “desirable” outcome.
He writes: “A generous offer should be made to Palestinians, the outlines of which are by now quite familiar, [since they have] been repeatedly put on the table by successive Israeli prime ministers. If, once again, the offer is rejected out of hand or meets with impossible and non-negotiable demands like the wholesale return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, or sovereignty over the Temple Mount, Israel on its own should continue to pursue a two-state reality.”
Of course, Yadlin must know that, just as in the oft-repeated past, there is little (read “zero”) chance of any Palestinian leader relinquishing their “impossible” demands.
Accordingly, this sure-to-be-rejected “generous offer” is merely window dressing for his prescribed unilateral pursuit of a two-state reality.
So how should a “two-state reality” be pursued?
Perhaps in a parallel universe
Yadlin: “... acting on principles formulated in consultation with its global allies and friends, Israel would shape its own borders, maintaining full control over Jerusalem, the settlement blocs, and the Jordan River.
As for other areas under Israeli control, they would include for the time being all territories west of the security fence; the eventual disposition of these territories would be decided when the Palestinians are ready to negotiate seriously.”
This might work splendidly in a parallel universe, where realities are very different from those here on Planet Earth.
One can only wonder which “global allies and friends” Yadlin has in mind, with whom Israel could “formulate principles” that unilaterally give it “full control over Jerusalem, the settlement blocs, and the Jordan River,” and, for an undefined period of time, control over “all territories west of the security fence.” They certainly can’t be our friends and allies in the US or EU, who are locked onto the pre-1967 lines with minor undefined (read “undefinable”) land swaps.
Yadlin continues: “Meanwhile, Israel would renounce its formal claims to political sovereignty in areas where very few Israelis reside – areas that happen to constitute some 85 percent of the West Bank. By taking such a unilateral initiative, Israel would wrest from the current Palestinian leadership its crippling veto power over partition [along lines that Israel favors], while simultaneously acting to secure its own future as a Jewish, democratic, secure and just state.”
This, of course, raises several trenchant questions. For instance what would be the justification/rationale for an open-ended military presence in areas in which Israel has renounced any claims to political sovereignty? This makes the “West Bank” a giant pre- 2000 South Lebanon. Who would be responsible for the civilian administration of the Arab population – given how unlikely (read “inconceivable”) it is that any significant Palestinian individual or entity would agree to administer the patchwork of enclaves and corridors that Israel’s unilateral initiative would leave them.
Redoubling efforts having forgotten the objective
Michael Oren, after making some valid points concerning Israel’s gross dereliction of duty in the conduct of its public diplomacy in his plenary address, lapsed into following much the same (il)logical lines set out by Yadlin.
After cataloging the dangers of the BDS movement and brandishing the specter of Google and Intel being forced out of Israel because of pressure due to the “Palestinian issue,” Oren suggested that we prove our detractors right... by giving in unilaterally to their major demands, even though it demonstrates to our adversaries that coercive pressure works – and thus invites further pressures.
It remains entirely unclear why Oren believes that Israel’s legitimacy would be enhanced – and international pressure mitigated – by a unilateral move that leaves the Palestinians with an emaciated stretch of land, while – in his words – Israel would retain territory that includes “maximum Israelis, maximum holy places and optimal security arrangements.” If only such political alchemy were feasible.
I have touched only briefly on the grave defects inherent in the notion of unilateral concessions in Judea-Samaria, and the intractable questions it inevitably raises. Significantly, neither Yadlin nor Oren broach the issue of the final frontiers they envision; whether or not Ben-Gurion Airport will be in mortar range from these frontiers; how far they will be from the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6), and so on.
Reviewing their policy prescription, one might be excused for concluding that they recommend redoubling efforts, having forgotten that the objective is not the partition of the land but providing security for Israel.
Pro-peace or anti-settlements?
Given the consequences of unilateral abandonment of Gaza, one may legitimately ask whether the objective of those who obsessively insist on relinquishing territory is really the attainment of Arab-Israeli peace or rather the dismantlement of Jewish settlements.
For as the Gaza precedent proves, it is unlikely to attain the former, but it may well achieve the latter.
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Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategic-israel.org)