– Amnon Rubinstein, former education minister (Meretz), “The Pitfalls of a Third State,’ Haaretz, August 6, 1976
The major issue is not [attaining] an agreement, but ensuring its actual implementation in practice. The number of agreements which the Arabs have violated is no less than the number which they have kept.
– Shimon Peres, Tomorrow is Now (Keter: Jerusalem, 1978), p. 255
There will be no Palestinian state…
– Binyamin Netanyahu, at the first meeting of the Likud central committee after his election as prime minister, 1996
For many who were of voting age in the early 1990s, just before the ruinous Oslo Accords were hatched, the current political realities – particularly the ongoing insistence by the US administration that Israel withdraw to the indefensible pre-1967 Auschwitz borders – must seem like a scene out of a macabre, Kafkaesque fantasy.
And it is there – in the age-distribution demographics – that much of the problem lies.
Once a perfidious anathema
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, only a little over 35 percent of the population today is over 38 years of age and thus were old enough to vote 20 years ago, when the Oslo process began.
This group is the only segment of the population that has any real first-hand political memory of pre-Oslowian realities, when the ideas that process embodied were considered a perfidious anathema (see introductory excerpts).
Who then could have imagined the grotesque twist of events that were about to take place, that within a short time the Judeocidal arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat would be a Nobel Peace laureate, armed Arab militias, drawn from the ranks of murderous terror organizations, would be deployed within mortar range of the nation’s parliament, that a Likud-led government would obliterate decades of Zionist enterprise, lay waste to thriving communities, and abandon Jewish places of worship to desecration and destruction by frenzied Judeophobic mobs…? After all, polls conducted up to the late 1980s showed that well over 80% of the public was opposed to any significant territorial concessions.
Moreover, for 20 of the 28 years between 1977, when the allegedly right-wing Likud, led by Menachem Begin, first came to power on a platform championing Greater Israel, and 2005, when a Likud-led government, headed by Arik Sharon, blatantly violated its electoral pledges, and unilaterally abandoned Gaza – the prime minister came from the ranks of the Likud, which headed the ruling coalition.
Inexplicable conundrum of capitulation
Yet despite enjoying all these advantages, in terms of public sentiment and electoral outcomes, the so-called Right allowed its rivals on the Left to transform what was, until the early 1990s, a completely marginalized – indeed, borderline treasonous – political doctrine into a respectable, arguably majority, mainstream position.
Worse, time and again after having won the elections by promoting policies that opposed territorial concessions and Palestinian statehood, warning of the grave dangers they entailed, so-called right-wing coalitions began to embrace the very policies they had repudiated. Inconceivably, inexplicably and unacceptably this intellectual capitulation occurred just as it became undeniably apparent that these policies had been an abject failure and their prior rejection was completely justified.
Regrettably however, with a few – and largely marginal exceptions – the political Right has been unable and/or unwilling to follow through on the logic of these critiques and draw the conclusions their underlying rationale implies.
Accordingly, it has been appallingly remiss in not proposing a convincing, comprehensive alternative for the conduct of the affairs of the nation, which, if adopted, would result in a sustainable outcome that ensures the long-term survival of Israel as the nationstate of the Jewish people.
Thus instead of consigning the disproven formula of territorial concessions and political appeasement to the garbage pile of history, with all the attendant ridicule it so richly deserves, they breathed – albeit with professed reluctance – new life into this dangerous doctrine.
No convincing comprehensive counter-paradigm
We are compelled to conclude that the leadership of the political Right has displayed neither the intellectual depth and nor the daring necessary to formulate a cogent counter-paradigm to replace that of the political Left.
Indeed, until Netanyahu’s infamous watershed Bar- Ilan Speech in June 2009, when, in effect, it accepted the notion of Palestinian statehood – albeit with unrealistic and ineffectual reservations – the Right had never articulated a clear and comprehensive idea of how it envisioned the permanent-status arrangement with the Palestinians.
As a result, the Right found itself unable to respond effectively to the very pointed and pertinent question from left-wing adversaries: “So what’s your alternative?” With no comprehensive countervailing paradigmatic position to promote or defend, the Right found itself gradually forced to give way under the weight of this onerous question, and to adopt increasing portions of the formula it had rejected.
Recent rumblings, principally from within certain sectors of Israel’s civil society, however, show signs that awareness of the devastatingly detrimental effects of this situation seem to be dawning on some individuals and organizations associated with the Right, and that there is a growing recognition of the urgent need to address the intellectual vacuum left by their political leadership.
In principle, this is a positive development and has resulted in a spate of proposals being advanced from several sources as purported alternatives to withdrawal from large swathes of Judea-Samaria and the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River.
Out of frying pan; into fire?
Regrettably, however, most of these are poorly thought through, and even if implemented, would leave Israel, as the nation-state of the Jewish people, in a situation hardly less beleaguered – diplomatically, politically and physically – than if it adopted the perilous prescription of the Left.
Typically, these alternative proposals fall into three broad categories. (a) Those that would leave Israel with a massive enfranchised Muslim minority (up to 40%) within its frontiers, critically undermining the ability to maintain the dominant Jewish character of the state, whatever the initial electoral arithmetic; (b) those that would leave Israel with excessively long and torturous frontiers, impossible to delineate (other than on a map) and to secure; and (c) those that entail both (a) and (b).
Most of these alternative proposals draw on optimistic (but not necessarily unrealistic) demographic assumptions as to the growth of the Arab population, but pay little heed to the negative effect the proposals might have on the Jewish population, were they to be implemented.
Lamentably, by insisting on blatantly flawed and clearly counter-productive political paradigms as proffered alternatives to the Left’s prescription of appeasement and accommodation, the authors of these proposals and their supporters only bolster the false perception that the latter is the only game in town.
Intellectual surrender on the Right
The current situation smacks not only of intellectual surrender of the Right, but seems to be symptomatic of a needless and unjustified sense of intellectual inferiority.
For at base, virtually all of the ideo-political endeavor on the Right has in some way been a response to the frame of reference imposed on the political discourse by the Left, rather than setting up its own frame of reference, and compelling the Left to respond to it.
Arguably, the two principle elements of the Left’s ideo-political framing are the issue of demography and the authenticity of the Palestinian claim to nationhood.
It has been the Right’s fruitless attempts to address one or both of these elements that have made these alternative proposals seem contrived, contorted and unconvincing.
Instead, the Right’s point of departure must be the prescription of the desired strategic reality Israel requires to endure as the nation-state of the Jews (manageable geographic and demographic parameters), and the specification of the requirements necessary to achieve it (retention of geo-strategic assets and reduction of demographically incompatible and hostile elements within the frontiers that include those assets). In other words, the Right’s point of departure must be its own strategic objective and not the alleged obstacles that the Left presents as precluding its attainment.
Subtle but crucial distinction
To some this may appear an abstruse distinction, but it is of crucial importance.
For it will allow the Right to seize the initiative and force the Left to respond – the reverse of the situation that has prevailed until now. Thus, while the Left may be loath to admit it is wrong (more on this later), it must be coerced to prove it is right (no pun intended).
This is something it cannot do.
After all, how can it insist on the authenticity of Palestinian nationality when the Palestinians themselves openly admit it is a hoax to undermine the existence of Jewish nationality? How can it claim that economic incentives cannot induce Palestinian-Arabs to leave the country, when in fact it was economic incentives that induced the vast majority of them to arrive here when Zionism began to develop the country? But most important, since the Left clearly sees no moral defect in funding the evacuation of Jews from their homes (evacuations-compensation) to facilitate the establishment of what in all likelihood will become a failed mini-microstate and a haven for radical Islamist terror groups, how could it possibly object, on ethical grounds, to funding the evacuation of Palestinian-Arabs to preclude the establishment of such an entity?
Misreading the battlefield
The Right has totally mis-read the battlefield and shown itself incapable of understanding the nature of the forces that it has to contend with.
It has failed to grasp the scope and intensity of the enmity of its political rivals. It has failed to realize the lengths to which the Left will go to impose its worldview on the nation. It has failed to recognize the depth of the Left’s malevolent resolve to realize its demonstrably delusional prescription for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, and the Israeli-Palestinian one, in particular.
Accordingly, virtually all of the Right’s activities have been, at best, irrelevant to rebutting or reversing the relentless advance of the political program of the Left.
This is emerging with increasing clarity from the Left’s support for the Kerry initiative, which as I mentioned last week, is threatening to develop into a political tsunami that could wash away almost half a century of Zionist achievement.
The Right has approached the political debate largely in good faith, believing, naively and erroneously, that the substantively better arguments, the constructive and creative efforts on its part, the factual evidence in support of its case, and against that of the Left, would carry the day.
As a result, it has misdirected its efforts and resources into activities and causes that even if successful, will have little, if any, impact on the course events are to take, and the strategic outcomes they will produce.
Like taking a knife to a gun fight
For as noble and praiseworthy as the efforts are to prevent the desecration of the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, to secure the religious rights of Jews on the Temple Mount, to purchase properties for Jews in east Jerusalem, to continue the archeological restoration of the City of David, they are in the final analysis as effective as bringing a knife to a gunfight.
For, they will do little to prevent the historic tragedy of the division of Jerusalem, unless the political will to secure its unity under Jewish sovereignty prevails.
Indeed, they siphon off resources that are needed for victory on the main and crucial front – the strategic ideological battle.
To this end it is imperative to consolidate all rightwing resources into a massive ideological onslaught to delegitimize the Palestinian narrative, and its inevitable corollary, the idea of Palestinian statehood, and to discredit any individual and organization that lends support to them.
After all, that’s what the Left would do.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategicisrael.org)