(Editor’s note: While CiF Watch doesn’t necessarily endorse the views expressed by Sherman, his commentary, fisking the premises behind most 2-state solution proposals, is thoughtful, politically and morally sober, and needs to be taken seriously.)
“If a Palestinian state is established, it will be armed to the teeth. Within it there will be bases of the most extreme terrorist forces, who will be equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft shoulder-launched rockets, which will endanger not only random passers-by, but also every airplane and helicopter taking off in the skies of Israel and every vehicle traveling along the major traffic routes in the coastal plain.
Even if the Palestinians agree that their state have no army or weapons, who can guarantee that a Palestinian army would not be mustered later to encamp at the gates of Jerusalem and the approaches to the [coastal] lowlands.”
– Shimon Peres
My column last week was largely a historical account of the monumental failure of the endeavor to implement a two-state approach following the 1993 Oslo Agreements. This column will focus more on some of the conceptual defects and inconsistencies that made past failure – and will make future failure –inevitable.
Two kinds of ‘two-staters’
In principle there are two categories of “two-staters:” (a) Those who insist that in their version of a two-state solution, “secure/defensible” borders for Israel are an indispensable imperative; and (b) Those for whom “secure/defensible” borders appear to be consideration of minor–if any–significance in their vision of the two-state arrangement.
Arguably one of the most eminent spokesmen for the first category is Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz; while the second category includes figures such as Peter Beinart, and groups such as J-Street and the Geneva initiative, endorsing the Obama-prescription that the frontiers of the Palestinian state be based on the indefensible 1967-lines with “agreed” (read “minor/cosmetic”) land swaps.
To assess the ramifications of these two schools of thought (or rather “wishful thinking”), it is necessary to comprehend clearly the geo-political significance of the territory ear-marked by them for the putative Palestinian state east of the 1967 frontier.
This is crucial for a responsible risk-assessment on the part of anyone professing pro- Israel credentials. For one would hope that– whatever their political proclivities – they would be mindful not only of the cost of error, but also of the probability of success, of any proposed policy option–particularly in the light of the failed optimism of the past.
‘An arrow aimed at Israel’s heart’
“An arrow-head aimed at Israel’s very heart with all the force of the Arab world behind.”
These words, conveying the danger entailed in the establishment of a Palestinian state, are not those of a radical right-wing rejectionist, but of 2006 Israel Prize (Law) laureate, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, who served as an MK – and education minister–for the dovish Meretz party.
They are of course very apt, for as I have reiterated in previous columns, any territorial configuration even remotely acceptable to even the most moderate of Palestinians would allow them topographical command the all of the following: Most major airfields in the country (civilian and military) – including the only international airport;
• Major sea ports and naval bases;
• Vital infrastructure systems/installations;
• The sweet water system;
• Main land (road and rail) transportation axes –including the Trans-Israel Highway;
• Principal power plants;
• The nation’s parliament, crucial centers of government and military command; • Eighty percent of the civilian population and of the commercial activity in the country.
All of these would be in range of weapons being used today against Israel from territory transferred to Palestinian control–making the notion of “demilitarization” largely irrelevant (something on which I will elaborate in a future column).
This ominous prospect can no longer be dismissed as “right-wing scaremongering,” for it reflects no more than proven past precedents.
Indeed it was clearly predicted in vivid detail by none other than Nobel laureate Shimon Peres who expressed his skepticism regarding the credibility of any prospective peace partner. In a more perceptive era, before of political correctness eclipsed political truth and facts succumbed to fads, he cautioned:
“The demilitarization of the West Bank seems a dubious remedy. The major issue is not [reaching] an agreement on demilitarization, but ensuring its actual implementation in practice. The number of agreements which the Arabs have violated is no less than number which they have kept.”
Presciently, he warned that if a Palestinian state were established:
“in a short space of time, an infrastructure for waging war will be set up in Judea, Samaria [note the non-compliance with the newly proposed “Beinartian” terminology] and the Gaza Strip. Israel will have problems in preserving day-to-day security….
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, to impede the freedom of action of the Israeli air-force in the skies over Israel, and to cause bloodshed among the population.”
In similar vein – and similarly prior to the advent of Oslo-mania, which relegated common sense to “rejectionism”– Amnon Rubinstein cautioned”
“Israel will neither be able to exist nor to prosper if its urban centers, its vulnerable airport and its roads, are shelled….
This is the terrible danger involved in the establishment of a third independent sovereign state between us and the Jordan River.
What are ‘secure borders’?
It is the combination of geographic proximity to, and topographical dominance over, Israel’s urban megatropolis in the coastal plain that makes a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria so potentially perilous. It is this fact – with all its politically incorrect ramifications– that has brought a host of security experts – Israeli and American – to the conclusion that for Israel to maintain secure borders it must retain control of wide swathes of territory between the 1967 Green Line and the Jordan River.
The most recent study, updated in 2011, authored by five former IDF generals – including a former chief of staff and the current national security adviser–stipulated that “secure borders” necessitate Israeli control of the highlands in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley and the entire air space from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
This coincides in large measure with Yitzhak Rabin’s vision of the permanent solution with Palestinians, articulated in his last address to the Knesset, a month prior to his assassination. In the speech, significantly delivered after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and being feted around the world as a valiant warrior for peace, Rabin proclaimed that
“…the security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.”
He endorsed the retention of Israeli sovereignty over large tracts of land on the highlands including the settlements of “Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities… which are east of what was the “Green Line” and urged:
“…the establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria [again note the noncompliance with the newly proposed “Beinartian” terminology].”
242 and ‘secure borders’
This prescription for “secure borders” presented by an array of Israeli experts – with nary a radical right-wing religious rejectionist among them –closely reflects the findings of an earlier study of Israel’s security requirements, made by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The study was referred to in an article published in 1993 by Eugene Rostow, former US under-secretary of state and one of the principal authors of UN Security Council Resolution 242. According to Rostow:
“[The study] is useful in interpreting Resolution 242 because it reveals… what the US government had in mind in pushing the resolution through.”
He went on to observe:
“[t]he study advised …that the security of Israel required Israel to receive [substantial] parts of the territory of the West Bank as essential to its defense”
And, he pointed to the wide-ranging consensus on this, remarked:
“In fact, all the studies of the Israeli security problem reached the same conclusion – from the security point of view, Israel must hold the high points in the West Bank and areas along the Jordan River.”
He summed up stating:
“I do not know if the Joint Chiefs of Staff would draw a different map today, but I doubt is very much.”
Findings of subsequent studies provide strong support for his assessment.
Clueless, conniving, corrupt?
What does all this mean for the two previously delineated categories of “two-staters”? It perhaps simpler to begin with the second category–those who minimize (or disregard) the issue of “secure borders” for the Jewish state and are willing to accept withdrawal to the 1967 “Auschwitz” borders – with or without minimal adjustments.
Clearly in light of the potential perils these lines portend for Israel, this is a proposal comprises – at best – a gamble of epic proportions.
Its endorsement portrays its proponents as either clueless, conniving or corrupt: clueless because they are unaware of the mortal dangers their suggested policy entails; conniving because – although they may be aware of these dangers – they persist in collaborating with Israel’s adversaries to advance their pernicious agenda – equipped with nothing more than naiveté and alleged goodwill (read “wishful thinking”) to prevent the lethal consequences of their implausible political credo; corrupt because are advancing a policy that clearly menaces the security of Israel and safety Israelis in exchange for benefits – material or otherwise – from foreign sources with interests often divergent from those of Israel.
Of course, there is always an outside chance that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad will miraculously morph into a benign liberal social-democratic party, but are these “ two-staters” seriously suggesting that we “bet the farm” on that? Are the “enlightened” proponents of this version of the two-state paradigm suggesting that Israel base its policy on the wildly improbable? Surely prudence dictates heeding the accumulated lessons of past experience and the proven patterns of previous behavior?
Insincere or inconsistent
The other class of “ two-staters ”–t hose who claim they insist on “secure borders”– are if anything, more exasperating. Take, for example, the following excerpt from Dershowitz’s The Case for Peace, which shows that he is keenly aware not only of dangers that might arise from a Palestinian state but that the Palestinian signatory to any “two-state” agreement would be powerless to ensure his contractual commitments, even if he sincerely wished to:
A Palestinian state will not soon secure the monopoly on the use of arms. Terrorists organizations and militias – such as Hamas, Al-Aqasa Martyrs Brigades, Islamic Jihad and others – will continue to have access to weapons of all kinds. Even if the Palestinian state renounced all support for terrorism, other states, most particularly Syrian and Iran, will likely continue to arm terrorist groups dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Nor is it out of the question that someday Hamas might gain control over the Palestinian government, either by means of a coup, or an election, or some such combination of both. Israel cannot be asked to accept a fully militarized Hamas state on its vulnerable borders.
In many ways, this is a stunning admission for a “two-stater.”
Given the clear recognition of the potential dangers, several trenchant questions arise: In light of the plausible scenarios he himself raises, what are the geographical parameters that Dershowitz proposes to provide Israel with “secure borders”? What Palestinian could survive–politically or physically–the wrath of his rivals, were he to accede to frontiers that would provide Israel with “secure” borders that even remotely approach the parameters set out by military experts? And if such borders are politically unfeasible, why advocate entering into an arrangement with some Palestinian counterpart who – by Dershowitz’s own admission – may not be able to prevent the onset of situations which – by Dershowitz’s own admission – are intolerable…and far from improbable.
So is it just me or are “secure-border-two-staters” seriously advancing a policy that is either unattainable politically or unachievable geographically? And if so, why? Are they being mindfully insincere or mindless inconsistent?
To be continued…
Much of which needs to be said about the dangerous and detrimental delusion of the two-state paradigm, and the corrosive consequences it has had on Israel, its national security, its diplomatic standing, its international legitimacy and the level and vibrancy of its public discourse, has still been left unsaid.
Indeed, as time goes by and events consistently refute their dogmatic doctrine, “ two-staters ”– seemingly oblivious to the facts and dismissive of the dangers – are looking more and more like “flat-eathers.”
But as Pessah is almost upon us and as I do not wish to incur the wrath of my very patient editor, I will defer further discussion for a future opportunity.