The Worst Alternative
"For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." -1 Thessalonians 5:3
PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas must have gotten a kick out of it on Monday when he visited the White House and President Barack Obama praised him as “somebody who has consistently renounced violence, has consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side, in peace and security.”
After all, the same day the men met, Abbas’s regime continued its week-long celebration of the deadliest Palestinian terrorist attack on Israel to date.
On March 11, 1978, PLO terrorists commandeered a passenger bus on the coastal highway and massacred 37 people, including 12 children.
Dalal Mughrabi, a female terrorist, led the raid. Ever since, she has been lionized by the PLO.
While he met with Obama, Abbas’s adviser Sultan Abu al-Einein proclaimed that Mughrabi was the ultimate role model for Palestinian women.
In Einein’s words, (reported by Palestinian Media Watch), “In March, [we mark] Palestinian Women’s Day, in March, Palestinian Mother’s Day also occurs, in March… [we remember Dalal Mughrabi] who would not agree to anything other than to establish her state between Jaffa and Lebanon in her special way.”
Einein urged Palestinian youth to follow Mughrabi’s example of mass murder. “Let the young people hear me: Allah, honor us with Martyrdom, Allah, give us the honor of being part of the procession of Martyrs.”
The Israeli Right didn’t need the Mughrabi festival to understand that Obama’s claim that Abbas wants peace is ridiculous. As Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon explained last Saturday, Abbas is “a partner for taking, not for giving.”
Israeli Leftists, who have slavishly championed Abbas, are finally catching on. Last month, in an op-ed in Haaretz, long-time PLO champion Shlomo Avineri acknowledged the dynamic at work in the two-state policy model and how Abbas uses it to Israel’s disadvantage.
Avineri wrote that it is not that Abbas “is no partner for talks, but that he is an excellent partner for talks — as long as they are talks designed to lead Israel to make more and more concessions, and to put them in writing. Then, on one pretext or another, he is unwilling to sign and brings the negotiations to a halt, so they can be restarted in the future ‘where they left off’: with all the previous Israeli concessions included, and no concessions having been put forward by the Palestinian side.”
In other words, Abbas negotiates not to achieve peace, but to weaken Israel.
But the Americans remain oblivious to all of this. And by now it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Obama’s ignorance of the nature of Abbas’s game is deliberate. His apparently deliberate blindness to the obvious indicates that Obama doesn’t have a problem with Abbas’s behavior and goals.
The lesson from Abbas’s real game and Obama’s apparent support for it is that the status quo is devastating for Israel.
For the past 20 years, Israel has confined itself to a paradigm of two-states. Under this model, since 1994 it has shared control over Judea and Samaria with the PLO.
As statements like Ya’alon’s and Avineri’s make clear, their experience with this model has shown Israelis across the political spectrum that the Palestinians’ primary goal is not to build a Palestinian state. It is today what it has always been: the eradication of the Jewish state.
For the Palestinians, the two-state strategy isn’t about receiving land from Israel in exchange for peace. The two-state strategy is about undermining Israel’s relations with the US and other Western allies and weakening Israeli society’s resolve to defend itself while the PLO builds its terrorist infrastructure for use when deemed appropriate.
Abbas’s unique contribution to this strategy is that he places economic, diplomatic and legal attacks on Israel rather than terrorism at the forefront.
Not that he opposes terrorism. Just like his predecessors, Abbas believes that all means for achieving Israel’s destruction are legitimate. And Israel cannot help but assist him.
Due to Israel’s continued acceptance of the two-state policy model it continues to share control over Judea and Samaria with the PLO. This joint control encourages acceptance of the PLO’s propaganda claim that Israel is a foreign occupier of the areas, and that they rightfully belong to the Palestinians who are dominated by an illegal Israeli occupation.
Israel’s continued abidance by this paradigm makes it impossible for its representatives to defend the country against PLO challenges to its legitimacy. Hence most Israelis assume, rightly, that Israel is powerless to defend itself from the PLO’s political warfare at places like the UN and the International Court of Justice.
The only way that Israel can defend itself against these PLO abuses, the only way it can stop the PLO from continuing to undermine its alliances with the US and friendly parts of Europe, is by ending its embrace of the status quo. So, too, the only way Israel can stop the PLO’s expansion of its security forces into a full-fledged military force, armed and trained by the US and Europe, is by abandoning shared control and ditching the two-state model.
In my new book, The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, I advocate for Israel to end the current situation, which erodes its ability to survive, by applying its laws to Judea and Samaria and providing the Palestinians who live there with permanent residency status and the right to apply for Israeli citizenship.
Obviously, I recognize and discuss at length the challenges this policy will present. And I also explain, at length, why the dangers inherent to this clearly imperfect policy are smaller than those Israel faces from the status quo.
Critics of my policy like Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin have dismissed my policy as “fantasy” and insist that the best option for Israel is the status quo of shared control over the areas with the PLO.
Among other things, Tobin and others insist that since there is no support for the option of Israel applying its laws to Judea and Samaria in the US today, the plan should be ignored.
But it is far from clear why this is the case. A better plan is to build support for this option in the US and in Europe as the only viable alternative to the two-state paradigm which has failed for 90 years and will continue to fail for the foreseeable future because the Palestinians reject the Jews’ right to self-determination.
Like the rest of the world, today, due to its abidance by the two-state formula, Israel’s default position is that it is the occupier of its own historic homeland without which its borders are indefensible and its existence is incomprehensible.
The only way for Israel to defend itself competently in the international arena is for its default position to rest on Israel’s historic and legal rights to the areas – that is, to stop accepting that these areas, to which Israel has a stronger legal claim that the Palestinians, belong to the Palestinians and begin asserting Israel’s positive case for sovereignty.
Other critics of the Israeli one-state plan like Hillel Halkin argue that if Israel applies its laws to the areas, all of the Palestinians will immediately apply for Israeli citizenship and vote in Knesset elections.
The problem with this argument is that it assumes that Israel’s experience with implementing the one-state policy – in unified Jerusalem in 1967 and in the Golan Heights in 1981 – is irrelevant.
This assumption is hard to understand.
As I show in my book, Jerusalem’s Arabs only applied for Israeli citizenship when they feared that Israel would surrender their neighborhoods to the PLO. And the Golan Heights Druse only began applying for Israeli citizenship in significant numbers after the Syrian civil war broke out.
Since an Israeli decision to apply its laws to Judea and Samaria is a clear statement that Israel has no intention of leaving, history indicates that there is no reason to assume that the Palestinians will apply for Israeli citizenship en masse.
Another criticism is that it is too late in the game for Israel to end PLO rule in Judea and Samaria. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak.
There are two problems with this contention.
First, it assumes that Israel must agree to remain confined to a policy model that undermines its ability to survive and damns it to an eternal erosion of its national resolve and relations with the rest of the free world while building the military capabilities of an enemy dedicated to its destruction.
The second problem is that it assumes that applying Israeli civil law to the areas involves reverting to the past.
But the Israeli one-state plan is not a reversion to the military government. It is a progression to the rule of civil law, under which the Palestinians and the Israelis in the areas will be governed as the rest of the citizens of Israel are governed, under a liberal legal code which provides full legal protections to all.
Critics extrapolate from Israel’s current diplomatic helplessness under the weight of the twostate paradigm that Israel will necessarily and forever be incapable of defending itself. And so they assume that Israel will be powerless to offset the economic devastation of European economic sanctions that they believe will necessarily follow an Israeli decision to apply its laws to Judea and Samaria.
This claim ignores three important issues. Its proponents assume the US will back a European trade war against Israel. Is this really the most likely scenario? Second, they ignore the fact that Europe initiated its economic war against Israel now, as Israel maintains its allegiance to the two-state paradigm.
Obviously maintaining this faith isn’t getting Israel to a better place.
By changing its default position to one based on asserting Israel’s rights rather than ignoring them, Israel will have the capacity to defend against Europe’s political and economic warfare.
Finally, they assume that Israel has no ability to withstand a European economic war. But this assessment ignores Israel’s burgeoning trade with Asia. China is building a rail link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean through Israel as an alternative to the Suez Canal. Israel is India’s largest military supplier. Israel’s energy independence and emergence as a major exporter of natural gas similarly decreases its reliance on European markets.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the Israeli one-state plan is the worst possible plan for managing the Palestinian and pan-Arab conflict with Israel, except for every other plan that has been tried from time to time. It presents Israel with considerable threats and challenges. But on balance, as I show in my book, these threats are less acute and less dangerous than the ones Israel now faces. Moreover, the Israeli one-state plan is a viable prospect, which similarly distinguishes it from all the other ideas on offer.