… suddenly reducing the Jewish majority from 75 percent to 66 percent will undoubtedly have unforeseeable consequences on Israeli politics.
– Caroline Glick, The Israeli Solution: A One- State Plan for Peace in the Middle East (2014)
Caroline Glick is a journalist of exceptional ability. As readers of The Jerusalem Post well know, she is an astute, articulate analyst of political realities in Israel, the wider Mideast and the US. She has penned countless columns, courageously – at times caustically – critiquing unfolding events and ongoing processes with incisive insight.
I have long been a dedicated follower and avid admirer of her writings, which have made her one of the most widely read Israeli columnists in the English language today.
But it is precisely because of her wide readership and her significant influence that any errors in judgment or flaws in assessments on her part should be addressed rapidly and resolutely.
Excellent analysis, erroneous conclusion
Regrettably, I feel this is the case with her new book, The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, which has received a warm reception among leading rightwing and conservative circles.
The book has considerable value for two reasons. First, it represents a welcome, and much needed, challenge to the monopolistic stranglehold the two-state approach has had on much of the public discourse on the Palestinian issue.
Second, it provides a penetrating historical review of how this choke-hold developed, particularly regarding the formulation of US Mideast policy, and of why this detrimental impediment should be removed.
However, while I strongly endorse her admirable analysis of the pernicious pervasiveness of the two-state principle, I strongly disagree with the conclusions she draws from that analysis. I therefore find myself compelled to take issue with her prescription for the measures with which the problem should be confronted, and with the nature of the alternatives she proposes to replace the dysfunctional paradigm that hitherto dominated the discourse.
Lebanonization of Israel?
I concur with Glick on virtually everything she rejects, but reject much of which she urges us to accept.
I certainly agree that the establishment of a Palestinian state would gravely undermine Israel’s security and its ability to survive over time. Likewise, I share her skepticism regarding the feasibility some solution involving Jordan; and her assessment that “the Hashemites [or any other successor regime – M.S.] cannot be considered viable partners with Israel for governing Judea and Samaria.”
But I have grave reservations – to understate the case – regarding what is, in fact, the center-piece of her book: Her proposal that Israel not only annex the entire area of Judea and Samaria, extend Israeli sovereignty over these territories and apply Israeli law to them, but incorporate the Arab population there as permanent residents of Israel, and offer them a path to citizenship.
It would require more than a gigantic leap of unsubstantiated hope to believe that such a measure could precipitate any result other than “Lebanonization” of Israel.
Implausible and imprudent
“Lebanonization,” as the noted New York Times columnist, the late William Safire, explained, refers to the [situation] within a single country so riven with religious and other disputes that [it] becomes impossible to govern”; and should be distinguished from “Balkanization,” which refers to splitting a country into several separate – usually rivalrous – countries.”
Were Glick’s prescription to be adopted, it is difficult to see how internecine inter-ethnic strife, which has become the hallmark of Israel’s northern neighbor, would not afflict Israel itself. Even if her demographic calculations are correct, it would induce almost intolerable pressures on the socioeconomic fabric of the country, were it to attempt to maintain itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Glick does seem to be aware, at least partially, of the severity of the problems implementation of her policy prescription is likely to generate. She writes: “The main price Israel will pay for applying its laws to Judea and Samaria… will be the demographic burden of increasing its potentially hostile Arab minority by 1.66 million people.”
Elsewhere she acknowledges that there will be an “initial shock that [Israel’s] economy will likely absorb following the sudden, steep rise in the number of applications for its welfare rolls after it grants permanent residency to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.”
But apart from glib acknowledgment of their existence, I could find no indication of how Glick proposes that the grave societal strains she mentions (and the many that she doesn’t) will be resolved, other than an expression of optimism that they will be.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that it is a proposal that is both implausible and imprudent.
“Steady diet of pure hatred…”
Glick correctly warns of the dangers to Israel should there be an influx into the country of the Palestinian diaspora currently resident in surrounding Arab states: “For sixty-six years the United Nations, the PLO, Hamas, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and governing regimes have fed them a steady diet of pure hatred toward Israel.”
She cautions: “With such populations immigrating to the Palestinian state, pressure for Israeli concessions… will only grow, along with the Palestinians’ ability to threaten Israel…”
However, she identifies precisely the same pernicious influences among the very population she advocates – somewhat paradoxically – incorporating permanently into Israel: “Just as devastatingly, Arafat built a Palestinian school system and media and appointed imams in mosques that fed Palestinian society a steady diet of jihadist and Nazi-style anti-Semitism…”
Today, the same Judeophobic indoctrination and Judeocidal incitement continues unabated. Yet Glick, with unflustered equanimity, appears to recommend their almost seamless inclusion into Israeli society, by little more than an administrative decree
With enviable optimism, she predicts that “an Israeli assertion of central authority over the areas will likely have a significant moderating impact. Once the population feels there is a central governing authority in place, that sense of order will likely neutralize a significant amount of opposition momentum spurred by anti-Israel animus.”
Really? I, for one, can envision, with at least equal plausibility, a far more perilous scenario unfolding.
For it is difficult to see how Glick’s blueprint could allow Israel to forge its permanent population into anything remotely resembling a coherent, cohesive societal entity.
The specter of a country riven by ethno-religious rivalries and domestic unrest seems far more plausible.
For her blueprint ignores the very essence of nationhood and contravenes what leading liberal scholars have long identified as the most central component of viable nations – a sense of fellow-feeling.
After all, nations are more than a random amalgam of individuals, bound by no more than the coincidence of their current location in a given area.
It was French philosopher Ernest Renan who in What is a Nation? (1882) noted: “[A] nation, is the culmination of a long past of endeavors, sacrifice, and devotion.” Elaborating on this, Renan stipulated: “A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things… constitute this soul or spiritual principle. One lies in the past, one in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories; the other is present- day consent, the desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in an undivided form…”
This is particularly true if one wishes to maintain democratic governance and representative institutions.
Thus, in his seminal treatise On Representative Government (1861), John Stuart Mill, who essentially concurs with Renan as to the essence of nationhood, cautions that without such fellow-feeling, “Free institutions are next to impossible... [and] the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist.”
Mill identifies the strongest components of this indispensable “fellow-feeling” as an “identity of political antecedents; the possession of a national history, and consequent community of recollections; collective pride and humiliation, pleasure and regret, connected with the same incidents in the past.”
This clearly is the antithesis of the realities that would prevail were Glick’s blueprint to be implemented – as can be vividly illustrated with a single example of one “incident in the past” – say the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
For Jewish Israelis, this is a source of pride and pleasure; for the Arabs, humiliation and regret.
Note that this is not a marginal incident, but a seminal event in the collective memory of the two groups, and is but one example of the antithetical attitudes of Jews and Arabs in relation to a host of socio-cultural issues in the past and the present.
In light of such stark ethno-nationalist discordance, can anyone seriously posit a stable, functioning state, unless one group has overwhelming numerical dominance over the other? As the relative sizes of the discordant groups converge – even if the dominant one maintains its (dwindling?) majority – the internal situation will become increasingly unmanageable, especially if, as is highly likely, there exist large disparities in their socioeconomic conditions. Withholding full voting rights from a sizable portion of the sizable ethnic minority, as Glick seems to suggest, would inevitably exacerbate these internal tensions – and external pressures.
And the daunting prospect of Lebanonization will become increasingly tangible.
Size does matter
The kind of socio-political entity Israel would be varies greatly depending on the size of the Jewish majority in the country. So do the societal processes and socio-cultural dynamics that could be sustained and justified.
Thus, if Israel is designated to be a Jewish state, with an overwhelming Jewish majority, a whole array of aspects of public life in the country can be justified as having a sound sustainable, national rationale.
For example: The blue and white Star of David on the national flag; the Menorah as the state emblem; the national anthem referring to the Jewish soul yearning for Zion; the calendar, celebrating/commemorating Jewish holidays and events relating to Zionist heritage; Hebrew as the dominant lingua in commerce, law and academia; the designation of Saturday as the day of rest, Judeo-centric legislation such as Law of Return… All of these are essential elements that make up the fabric of life in a Jewish state.
However, none of these makes any sense – i.e., is justifiable and sustainable – if between 35 percent and 40% of the population not only is unable to identify with them, but – having been fed a “steady diet of pure hatred” – harbors considerable hostility toward them.
Under such circumstances, a wide-ranging assault on the state’s Jewish character will soon be under way. It will be almost impossible to resist.
Mirror images of despair?
I have barely touched on the myriad of ways that more than doubling the Muslim population of Israel will adversely impact socioeconomic realities in the country and gravely undermine its ability to preserve itself as the Jewish nation-state. Such an exhaustive analysis must be deferred for another occasion.
However, in this regard I would refer readers to several earlier columns in which I discuss in greater detail some of these dangerous consequences – see “What’s wrong with the Right – Parts I & II” (August 16 & 23, 2012); “Brain dead on the Right?” (June 26, 2013); “Sovereignty? Yes, but look before you leap” (January 9, 2014).
As I mentioned last week in my critique of Michael Oren’s policy proposal, in many ways calls for a single state and offering permanent residency/citizenship to the Arabs of Judea-Samaria constitute a mirror-image of those calling for unilateral withdrawal.
Both attempt to disguise what is essentially intellectual surrender by a false display of hubris – portraying them as bold Zionist initiatives, when in reality either would doom – or at least, gravely imperil – the Zionist enterprise they profess to preserve.
While the former purports to address Israel’s geographic imperative by making it demographically untenable – even if a Jewish majority is maintained; the latter purports to address Israel’s demographic imperative by making it geographically untenable – even if it does not involve a full withdrawal to pre-1967 lines.
Both would set in motion a deteriorating Jewish demographic dynamic —the former because of the deteriorating socioeconomic situation it will inevitably engender; the latter because of the equally inevitable deteriorating security situation it will engender.
For these reasons – and many others – I would earnestly call on my colleague Caroline to rethink her call for “A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East” as the preferred “Israeli solution.”
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.