Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Price of Folly.

By Raphael Israeli


These days Israel has been paying for the foolishness of the past 13 years, and is being warned against pursuing the march of folly in which we have been trapped. For politicians are so narcissistic that they would rather dig deeper into the marsh than admit their errors, because if they did they would have to disappear from our sight.


Indeed, some of us had warned when Oslo was signed that, against all expectations and hopes, the Palestinian leadership did not change, nor did Arafat who continued to vow martyrdom and war for the sake of "liberating" Jerusalem, so that he could once again impose his Pax Islamica and block access  for Jews to their holy places. Arafat certainly got his Nobel Prize for Oslo, and he proved that he deserved it more than anyone else, if one takes into consideration that Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and could not imagine a better customer than the head of the PLO and its founder.


However, far from learning  from that unfortunate experience, we invented the misfortune of "disengagement" from Gaza under the pretext that we should separate ourselves from the Palestinians rather than "rule" them.  Some thoughtful Israelis, including former Chief of Staff Ya'alon, begged the decision makers at least to forego withdrawal from the northern Gaza Strip, where there was not one single Palestinian to rule, and where a single hill was located that separated Gaza from the strategic installations of Ashqelon (the oil pipeline that supplies all Israel, a major power plant for the entire south of the country and a precious desalination plant that helps relieve Israel's permanent shortage of potable water). That hill was settled by three booming Israeli settlements and barred the way to terrorism from the Gaza Strip. In addition, we warned against  turning the evacuation the entire Gaza strip into a precedent for  a total retreat of Israel from the West Bank too. But nothing was convincing to the Sharon government, which decided to pursue this useless one-sided retreat, which backfired against us, produced the rise of the Hamas, and vindicated their position that Israeli withdrawals should not be rewarded by any Palestinian quid pro-quo.  However, Sharon pledged before he sunk into his coma that no Palestinian would dare to attack Israel after the "friction was removed", and that if they dared,  a massive and swift Israeli retaliation would silence them.


Now it is clear that all the predictions of the government failed while ours proved accurate. Evacuation without agreement proved lethal, bombings of our towns increased, Hamas took over power, our strategic installations are under direct threat, and Palestinians dare to attack Israel inside its territory and kidnap its soldiers. Worse of all, our decision makers are impotent to do anything about these threats and all their bravado proves empty talk.


If we end up as the clear losers of the shortsightedness of our leaders, after all their predictions failed, since Oslo and through disengagements, at the very least we expect them to stop at the brink of the abyss and to refrain from any further step that will put our state into jeopardy. The people are smarter and more forbearing than its leadership, and it will know how to stop it before the next foolish "convergence" plan (another euphemism for unilateral withdrawal), which  our leaders consider a great leap forward, but we believe it would precipitate us into the abyss.


Since the whole delusory idea of a two-state solution west of the Jordan river has drowned beyond retrieval, with the Palestinian leadership vowing to recover the entire land at the expense of Israel, it is time to reconsider the entire concept of the partition of Palestine/ the Land of Israel and make  an offer that would encompass most of the Palestinian people on the one hand and arrest the erosion of Israel's security needs on the other. That offer can be based on the principles that have been avoided and ignored so far, but have now become inescapable:

  1. The entire land of historical Palestine (Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and Jordan) is up for partition.  The Hashemite Kingdom  is a regime, not a people or a nation,  and for the sake of resolving the Palestinian problem, it must be included in the solution, since half the Palestinian people , which constitutes 70% of the Jordanian population is under King Abdallah (another  Eastern Palestinian who married a Western Palestinian) . Whether dubbed Jordan, Palestine or the Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine, it has become evident that since the 30% of the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza cannot provide a wholesome solution to satisfy them if they wish to repatriate their refugees, there is no escaping the inclusion of Jordan in the solution.
  2. When the entire expanse of historical Palestine is partitioned through negotiations between the parties, the minority populations which will remain in  alien land (Jews in Palestine and Arabs in Israel) will either be exchanged or given the opportunity to choose between full nationalization in their non-national territory, or opt for permanent residency without the accruing privileges of citizenship.


Great statesmanship is not the one that distinguishes between good and bad. That is too easy and too impractical in our complicated world, but the expression of the ability to seize the bad before it grows worse. We are  today in a bad situation, but if we adopt this kind of dramatic program, we will have rescued the sovereignty of Israel from sinking in an ocean of  Arab demography, we will secure Israel's strategic positions that are crucial to our survival by holding on to parts of the West Bank, and we will ensure a large enough territory for the Palestinians to assume their sovereignty , resolve their refugee problem and be self-confident and  sufficiently satisfied to leave us in peace.

Raphael Israeli


Raphael Israeli is a Professor of Islamic History at Hebrew University, Jerusalem.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school, in 2004, our teacher asked us to write a hypothetical final solution for peace in the Middle East. This is almost exactly what I wrote, except my solution also included putting Gaza into Egyptian control. The teacher gave me a C, because she said the Palestinians would not agree to it.

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