In a previous post on Bob Simon’s 60-minutes piece, I got a long comment from someone with the tag “israeli”, in which he made the basic argument that Simon did about needing to act now in order to avoid either self-destruction as a Jewish democracy or apartheid.
My answer to him turned out to be much longer than I had planned, and fairly dense in both style and content… lot’s of contorted short-hands and long explanatory phrases in mid-sentence. But I do think it gets at some of my broader thoughts on some key issues concerning the problem of “solving” the conflict. So I’m putting it up as an independent post, and starting a new line of comments.
If anyone wants to offer some edits of my text so it’s not so convoluted, I’d be very grateful. If anyone has links to suggest, also welcome.
I am very late to this, so i am not sure RL will even see my comment but here it goes anyway…
RL, the points you bring up are valid, but there is one or two things you are not taking into consideration… I worked in the policy world for a while, on military matters… The main thing I learned was that critiques are no good if you cannot offer a better solution.
i understand, and have been told that many times. i think, however, that in the current situation, demanding solutions is a luxury we can’t afford. first we have to think seriously and realistically about the situation before we can come up with solutions.
indeed, it’s precisely this demand for solutions that contributed so much to getting into our current predicament. rushing to solutions that policy-makers hoped would work (positive-sum, marshall-plan, land-for-peace type solutions), we systematically ignored all evidence that they wouldn’t work, then didn’t work, indeed even ignoring that they’ve blown up in our face — in this conflict, right now, concession produces violence.
so we won’t find real solutions if we don’t do more reality testing (ie shed our liberal cognitive egocentrism, pay real attention to what’s going on on the other side, and learn to identify and isolate demopaths).
what solutions will emerge for clearly seeing and acknowledging the realities (which in good post-modern style, i will grant you are mutliple and variegated), will only emerge over time. if you won’t move off your current paradigm till you have a solution in sight for this problem, you will go nowhere.
In Israel today the situation is as follows: If there is no peace deal between Israel and the palestinians, the settlements will gradualy expand to the point that a two state solution will become impossible.
i don’t know why you say that. i really doubt any serious settlements are going up in the middle of clearly palestinian areas. most activity (as far as i know — and i’ll accept correction/rectification on this — are areas that a reasonable palestinian negotiating team will agree belongs under israeli sovereignty (e.g., maale adumim, gush etzion).
in any case, this is not what i would call an axiom, so much as it is an acceptance of the current palestinian negotiating stance as immutable — ie the settlements are the reason why there’s not been a 2-state solution yet (eg why Oslo failed), and they all have to go. so if the settlements grow, it’s all over. i don’t accept any of these positions or suppositions as either “fact” or justified.
At that point the palestinians will demand citizenship and Israel will have the choice of apatheid or a democracy that is dominated by the soon to be arab majority.
your very language suggests the degree to which your thinking has been taken over by others. by any sane rules of the democratic game, the “palestinians” have no right to demand citizenship and the israelis are under no moral obligation to grant either to them.
over the last 60 years, the palestinian leadership has pursued policies, both internal and external, that are so profoundly anti-democratic that the current palestinian population, especially the generation raised by the post-Oslo leadership (Fatah and Hamas), are radically incapable of sustaining a democracy among themselves much less participating in one created and maintained with great energy and immense risk, by the israelis.
the only reasoning that this kind of idiotic thinking — that the israelis must grant citizenship to the palestinians if they don’t “give them” their own state — is so fashionable is the result of a combination of incredibly superficial political thinking (along the lines of “hamas was elected, so it must be a democracy/israel, if it wants to be a democracy, can’t insist on being a jewish state”) and really nasty anti-zionism (make them swallow the indigestible palestinians either as citizens or as sovereign neighbors and watch them die a long and painful death).
(i know some of my commentators here will point out that i’ve just “combined” two expressions of the same thing — nasty anti-zionism. and i must confess that the superficiality of most political science right now is so breath-taking that it demands explanation, and that anti-zionism and its siamese twin anti-semitism are major candidates. but i’d like to at least allow the possibility that not every intelligent idiot is a scoundrel. there are genuine dupes of demopaths who, if they realized their folly and confronted the dangers, would change their mind.) Time to swallow the red pill.
So yes, all of your critiques are valid, but what is the alternative? It is either peace or the end of Israel as a jewish and democratic state. this is what arafat was refering to when he said palestinian victory is in the arab womb. The palestinians understand this and that is why they are so reluctant to make peace.
you speak about this reluctance as if, with the current palestinian leadership, peace is even an option. israel says: “i want a divorce!” they say, “you can’t divorce me, you’re still beating me.” and the world castigates israel.
this demographic victory is their backup. it’s a successful but not very glorious way of getting back at israel for the humiliating naqbas they’ve experienced at your hands. but why you, a democracy, have to commit suicide by granting citizenship to people motivated by such malevolence, is completley beyond me. why do you think you israelis have to do that? because the (currently insanely self-destructive) western community tells you you have to?
All the palestinians need to do is keep the conflict on a low simmer for the next two decades and they will end up with one palestinian state dominated by arabs between the jordan and the sea.
much can and will happen in 20 years. it’s always a mistake to project demographic (and other) trends linearly into the future. i gather that there’s serious debate over this demographic argument, and i certainly know that given how untrustworthy statistics can be and how intense the political meaning of any of these statistics (to which, add the long-standing palestinian practice of inflating them), that it wd be unwise to make decisions, or imagine the options, constrained by such figures. that doesn’t mean i’d ignore them, just that i wouldn’t assume them or let them dictate decisions.
Sharon eventually understood this dynamic and that is how we ened up with the disengagement.
which blew up in your face in more ways than one. remember that sharon had said to sharansky beforehand that the disengagement wouldn’t solve anything, “but at least it will prove our bona fides and get the west off our necks for a decade or so.” sorry, just as the concession whet the palestinian appetite for violence, it whet the western appetite for demonizing israel and making more demands for concessions. so even if he read the future right, sharon read the present wrong and made a policy error.
granted, staying in was also a problem, but at least, given how obvious the coming failure of the disengagement was to anyone who’s been paying attention (esp since oslo), at least the period after the disengagement could have been better prepared and handled. like bush in iraq, if you know a move of yours is going to open up a new round of hostilities, you better get ready for it, rather than assume it’ll quiet things down.
we can sit here and criticize the peace process all we want but in the end we will be facilitating the destruction of Israel as a jewish state.
presumably here you meant to end the sentence if we don’t try and do something now. i agree israel should do something. but right now, i’d argue heavily against making more concessions. i’d say israel need to make some clear and serious demands, first of which is an end to hate-mongering.
israel should not have to make concessions to a culture that rivals the nazis for genocidal desires. on the contrary, israel should be making a clear set of demands about the nature of any neighbor they should have to live with, an argument that makes clear what the demands on a population are, before they have a right to ask the international community for statehood. not every 20-year old gets the keys to a tank loaded with ammunition. if there’s anyone on the planet not worthy of statehood right now, it’s “palestine.”
now granted, you can say to me, “but even if you’re right, no one will listen to this argument. no one will go anywhere with these demands.” and in the current scene, i agree with you.
on the other hand, these arguments are really common sense, based on an appreciation of how valuable and rare civil polities are. since we face a decade of failing states and collapsing democratic experiments, it’s just possible that people will begin to acknowledge these “self-evident” truths, drowned out by the current politically correct discourse.
in any case, they stand a far greater chance of getting people to think, if, on the one hand, the israelis articulate them firmly and clearly; and on the other, she doesn’t participate in her own self-destruction by making concessions that will back fire, based on assumptions that come from malevolent-minded analysts like jimmy carter.
israel is probably the least racist society in the world, and the very notion that they are racist apartheiders if they refuse to either incorporate or empower a population brainwashed with a vicious hatred of them and a profound incapacity to even govern themselves well, is moral sadism on the part of people like carter, and masochism on the part of any israeli so lacking in perspective that he believes that accusation.
Instead we should be focusing our efforts on figuring out a way to separate from the palestinians.
yeh. and anything you do short of establish a weaponized enemy in your bosom, will be viewed as apartheid.
As hard as it is to swallow the future of israel depends on two states, one with as many jews and as few palestinians as possible, and the other with as many palestinians and as few jews as possible.
that’s one way to look at it. actually, if we’re talking about two civil polities, one israeli, one palestinian — which is what israel should hold out for and the “left” should insist on for the sake of the palestinian people, and which reflects a real confidence in the possibilities of the palestinians overcoming their unfortunate legacies — then they should have a fair ability to tolerate such minorities. in fact the palestinians could use israeli help and know-how.
think of it: under the most trying circumstances, israel is the civil polity (democracy) with the largest percentage of muslims in the world. quite an accomplishment i’d say, no matter what criticisms one might want to add. so israel has a right to demand reciprocity at even a heavily diminished level, say, the right to incorporate the major settlements into israel since the palestinians are incapable of protecting the rights of christians, much less jews, in the areas they rule. instead israel bows its head in shame at how they’ve treated the arabs. now that‘s shameful.
i think it’s important not to make up your mind about the future. maybe it’s time for the israelis to get zen, get “don’t-know-mind” and start with (the painful, non-delusional reading of) the now. so much of israeli policy decision (including their semi-conscious “hasbarah” policies) are based on a profoundly faulty analysis of what motivates the palestinian/arab/muslim world, and what motivates various elements (political spectrum) and areas (academia, media) in the west.
we can’t find the solution till we first find out what alternative sources of leverage we have. i for one am really big on embarrassment. the arabs/palestinians are deeply susceptible to public rebuke. it’s time for the west to start getting tough verbally. and that’s a truth with a future. otherwise, it’ll be terrible violence. since that’s what the worst of them want, we — israel, the usa, the west — would be advised to start talking intelligently and courageously sooner rather than later.