With all the talk about whether or not the US is continuing to insist on a “2-state solution” there are still two basic principles that have to be taken into account when considering changes in the status of Judea and Samaria:
- Israel must retain security control of the high ground on both sides of the central hilly region and the passes through it. Otherwise the country can’t be defended against terrorism from the territories or attack from the east. No guarantees from the US, UN or the Arab nations can change this.
- Israel can’t absorb any more Arabs. Although there would continue to be a Jewish majority even if all of Judea and Samaria were annexed, the large Arab population would be destabilizing, from political, security and economic standpoints.
In the cauldron of violence and instability that is the Middle East, Israel cannot allow herself to be weakened, either territorially or demographically. But it is also true that the present situation, while not “unsustainable” as is often said, is definitely sub-optimal. The heavily populated Arab areas constitute a reservoir of hostility which expresses itself in frequent deadly terrorist attacks against the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, as well as somewhat less frequent – but still deadly – ones west of the Green Line.
American and European “peace processing” has generally centered on denying principle 1) above, proposing security guarantees involving establishing a friendly Palestinian or Palestinian/Jordanian regime or putting foreign troops in the territories. Nobody in their right mind believes that any of these ideas is worth two minutes of discussion. Only Israel can defend herself, and she can only do so with adequate strategic depth and consideration of topographic reality. A sovereign Palestinian state in the territories would mean the end of the Jewish state.
But annexation of all of Judea and Samaria, along with the 1.7 million hostile Arabs it contains (this number is in dispute, but the dispute is irrelevant to this discussion), would make Israel into an ungovernable, violent third-world society.
The Israeli Left plays down the threat implicit in denying 1), and insists that it’s necessary to give up territory to save us from the consequences of 2). The right wing, on the other hand, prefers to emphasize the military threat and deemphasize the demographic one.
For some time, Dr. Martin Sherman of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies has been arguing (see more from him here) that both principles are true, and violation of either will bring disaster. Further, he believes that proposals for annexing only parts of the land (the parts with few Arabs) like those of Naftali Bennett (video) and Mordechai Kedar are unworkable, because “partial annexation and limited autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs, concentrated in disconnected mini-enclaves will result in wildly torturous [sic] and contorted borders, virtually impossible to demarcate and secure, thus emptying ‘sovereignty’ in the annexed areas of any meaningful content.”
Sherman believes that any successful outcome would require full annexation of the territories, along with emigration of much of the Arab population. He envisions a “humanitarian approach,” which would involve “generous funding for the relocation and rehabilitation of the Palestinian Arabs resident in Judea/Samaria (and eventually Gaza) in third-party countries of their choice.” His arguments that such a program of relocation grants to individual families would be less expensive than the establishment of a Palestinian State or the continuance of UNRWA and the PA, and much better for the families are very persuasive.
Sherman provides answers to the questions that naturally come up. How much would it cost, who would pay, what would happen to UNRWA, where would Palestinians go, how would we prevent extremists from murdering anyone that chose to accept a grant, and more. But no matter how good his plan may be, it’s impossible to imagine that it would be implemented.
The problem is that almost the entire world is committed to Palestinian sovereignty in the territories (at least), whether or not that is good for individual Palestinians or consistent with the continued existence of a Jewish state. While Sherman’s plan actually is a solution which could theoretically end the misery of the Palestinians (including the refugees in various countries), it is close to politically impossible. His ideas are almost universally rejected, or rather, ignored. He is a Cassandra that almost nobody listens to and few even bother to argue with.
No Palestinian leader, whose bread and butter is the alienation of the “Palestinian people” from their “homeland,” could possibly support an idea which would put them out of a job. No academic in love with the post-colonial paradigm could accept anything other than full self-determination for this “oppressed people.” No Arab, European, or American State Department employee whose heart’s desire is to see Israel reduced to an indefensible fragment which will soon disappear entirely, could agree with Sherman. And those who have no trouble calling for the mass expulsion of Jews from their homes against their will as a legitimate act in the name of “peace,” recoil in horror from the idea of paying Arabs to relocate, calling it “ethnic cleansing.”
Nevertheless, Sherman’s logic is unassailable and his conclusion unavoidable, even if his solution is not taken seriously.
Israel’s enemies like to say that the Zionists want the land but not the people. They are right, too. Israel’s security can’t be guaranteed without control of the land, and there is no possibility of absorbing the people.
This was not always the case, and need not have been the case; but that is the point we have reached today, thanks to failures of leadership on both sides. Thanks, for example, to Amin al-Husseini, the father of Palestinian nationalism, Jew-hater, pogromist and Nazi. Thanks also to his disciple, Yasser Arafat and his heir Mahmoud Abbas, who created the narrative and fed (and continue to feed) the hatred. And thanks especially to Israelis like Yossi Beilin and Shimon Peres who brought the poisonous Arafat back from exile and injected his evil potion directly into our heart.
But today it’s 2017, not 1967 or 1993. We can’t undo the past.
Sherman’s plan would be an optimal solution for Israelis and Palestinians, but whether or not it can be implemented, the logic that led him to it still stands. Any outcome to the conflict that will include a Jewish state will have to take into account the two propositions at the start of this post.
The questions we need to be asking today are not how we can live alongside a sovereign Palestinian state (we can’t), nor how we can absorb the Arabs of Judea and Samaria and remain a Jewish state (we can’t), nor how we can annex the patchwork of the territories that is necessary for our survival while isolating the hostile population in enclaves (we can’t do that either).
The only question to ask today is this one: how can we reduce the Arab population between the river and the sea?