More Thoughts on the Two-State Solution

Intro

Although I’ve touched on this subject before––See: https://pollakspolitics.com/2019/01/12/peace-should-not-be-the-goal-it-can-only-be-the-result/  I want to clarify the difference between what Israelis and Americans mean by the term “two-state solution.”

The Two-State Difference

At a recent presentation on the upcoming Israeli election (April 9, 2019), the speaker identified which Israeli political parties support a “two-state solution.” When you break it down, however, not all the parties mean the same thing by this term. Some include giving East Jerusalem to the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians; some do not. The parties’ views on how to handle the so-called settlements in the Arab areas also differ. That said, I am confident that most Americans––Jews and non-Jews alike––feel encouraged by this consensus, as the vast majority of people polled on this issue favor that path to peace.

The problem, which was not fully elucidated by the speaker, however, is that what most Americans mean by a “two-state solution” and what most Israelis mean is not identical.

Most Americans believe peace can only come to the Middle East if and when Israel gives up more territory to the Arabs. (They ignore how it turned out when Israel gave them Gaza, but that’s a story for another day.) Americans would shut down all of the “settlements,” give up East Jerusalem, and probably provide a direct road connecting Gaza and the West Bank territories. Most Israelis would reject all three of those “concessions.”

What Israelis Want

Peace to most Israelis can only arrive if the Arabs give up their desire to put an end to the state of Israel. How do Hamas and the PLO––the party that controls the Palestinian Authority––the organization that controls part of the West Bank differ in this regard?

Hamas is primarily a jihadist organization. Their motivation is religious. They would establish a califate along the lines of ISIS, which would rule out the presence of anyone who is not a Moslem.

Ilhan Omar, Rhasida Tlaib and other members of Congress who support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement claim Israel is an “apartheid” state. That is not true, but what would be true is that a state ruled by Hamas would be an apartheid state. Anyone who is not a Moslem would be required to convert or leave.

The PLO is an Arab nationalist organization primarily. There are Christian, Druze and other non-Moslem Arabs who live in the territory they control. These groups are not included in the governance or setting policy, but they are allowed to live there. The PLO might allow Jews to remain in a Palestinian state the encompassed the current land of Israel, but certainly not with any political power.

What Do Israelis Want?

Not only would most Israelis require the Arab residents of the Gaza and the West Bank to give up their goal of pushing them into the Mediterranean, they also want them to be disarmed. As long as the territory that would be included in an Arab state borders Israel, allowing the Arabs to have the ability to kill thousands with rockets and other weapons is a non-starter.

Why don’t most Americans understand the difference between their views and the views of the Israeli people? The answer is how the American media covers the Middle East. Take the recent “protests” of residents of Gaza. The protests consist of thousands approaching the barrier separating Israel and Gaza and trying to launch incendiary devises, such as burning tires and balloons containing inflammatory fluids, into Israel to cause death and destruction. The goal of the protests is to weaken the moral of the Israelis who live on the Eastern side of the barrier and eventually break down the barrier.

The West’s coverage focuses on the injuries and deaths of Palestinians who participate in these “protests.” They don’t discuss the injuries of Israelis or the damage caused by the protests, or the cost of having to deploy thousands of young Israeli soldiers on the border to prevent the barrier from being overcome. A perfect example was the article in the Washington Post that I commented on recently. Search my Facebook page to see the post.

The Trump Admin Proposal

Whoever becomes Israel’s prime minister after next week’s election is going to have to deal with a proposal from the Trump administration that attempts to solve the conflict. I am highly skeptical that it will get anywhere. The PLO will reject it saving Israel from having to do so.

As I stated in my earlier article, peace comes through strength. Israel must hold firm against concessions until the Arabs accept the fact that Israel is there to stay. It would be nice of Americans supported that solution.

When Jews Betray Jews

Imagine a contingent of German Jews sometime in the late 1930s visiting Adolph Hitler to tell him they understand why he hates Jews so much. It must be those Eastern European Jews that bother you so much––the ones who speak that pseudo-German language called Yiddish, who wear those odd black hats and black coats and who conspire against German greatness. It’s not us good Jews you hate, Adolph, they tell him. It’s those other Jews.

Now consider the recent visit of Jeremy Ben-Ami, the leader of J-Street, to Ramallah to meet Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and “president” of the State of Palestine. I wasn’t there, but I didn’t need to be present to know the message Ben-Ami and his organization conveyed just by arranging the meeting.

We understand why you hate those Israeli Jews, Ben-Ami conveyed. They resist your claim for the entire land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. They prevent your people from killing more Jews in knife, motor vehicle, and bomb attacks. They conspire with America to cut off your financial pipeline and your desire to claim Jerusalem as the capital of your city. It’s not us American Jews you should hate, Abu Mazen. It’s those Israeli Jews.

Of course, Adolph Hitler would not have taken a meeting with a contingent of German Jews, but if he had, he would have gotten a good laugh out of their plea. He would have said fine. I’ll kill the Eastern European Jews if you promise not to complain, and then later he’d come for those fine, upstanding “good” Jews.

The message J-Street conveys is equally pernicious. They divide the Jewish people into “good Jews”––the ones who hate Benjamin Netanyahu––and the bad Jews––the Israeli people who elected him prime minister and who refuse to accept his vacuous claims for the entire land. Wait until 2020 when the Democrats take back the White House Ben-Ami must have told Abbas. Then, your money will be restored. Then the U.S. will reverse the decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Then the U.S. will interfere in the next Israeli election to make sure Netanyahu is defeated. Then you can have your country back and the bad Jews will go back to Europe where they belong.

Instead of Solutions, the Arab-Israel Conflict Needs a Way

In light of the Republican Party’s decision to abandon the two-state solution, I’m offering something better than a solution.

 

Those who think a solution to the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict can be found if the right people with the right attitudes sit down at a table, are fooling themselves. It’s not a matter of the right people, or people with the right intentions, or people who have caved to pressure from the U.S. or any other external body. Solutions are for math problems. What’s needed is a way.

In case you think I’m playing with words or offering a semantic solution (pun intended), here’s the difference. A solution is something that a group of authorized parties representing the key players with a direct interest in the outcome can put in words in a document for all to sign. That solution must also be something the leaders who the signers represent will accept and implement. It must be an agreement with some hope of working––i.e., holding up for an extended length of time.

A way in this context implies a process whose outcome will lead to a satisfactory outcome or a status that approximates the goals of those seeking a solution. A way doesn’t necessarily include the signing of an agreement or any formal recognition of the outcome. A way doesn’t require formal consent nor is it a public policy. A way is merely a strategic process implemented over many years that yields a result the majority over time come to accept.

What’s wrong with solutions?

Solutions are often imposed on the signers. They give up something to get something. Solutions engender opposition––people who are dissatisfied with the outcome who believe their side gave up too much may attempt to sabotage the agreement. Solutions often ride rough-shod over key issues, using language that ignores the substance of those issues and thus creates the ground for ongoing conflict. Solutions are often the result of one side winning a hot or a propaganda war and thus forcing the other side to surrender. Solutions are often treaties signed because one side won and the other lost. Which is why a solution is wrong for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Today, neither side in the conflict has a defensible outcome that the other side can live with. Israel requires defensive security and continued existence of some if not all Jewish communities in Samaria, Judea, and East Jerusalem. Further, security concerns militate against Israel’s giving up any of the Golan Heights.

No Palestinian Arab political leader can accept any solution under those terms. The current leaders of the Palestinian Authority and its constituent members could never enter such an agreement and return to their people without certain knowledge that their lives and the lives of their entire family would be at risk. Thus, they engage in a propaganda war on two fronts––one outside the middle east where they see how many lies they can get away with and one with their own people to see how many they can incite to kill Israelis in hopes that the Israeli left will capitulate as soon as it wins a majority in the Knesset.

Is there a way out? I believe there is. Let’s examine the conditions on the ground. An increasing percentage of the people living in the Arab communities in Judea and Samaria are dissatisfied with the old guard PLO/Fatah leadership. Promises have been made for decades, which have not been delivered. They look across the current boundary based on the 1967 war and see a prosperous country where Israeli Arabs are living good lives. In Israel nearly 2 million Arabs––both Christian and Muslim––have full citizenship rights, which means they get health care, education and other benefits while enjoying job opportunities that afford them much better living conditions than their relatives enjoy on the West Bank. Are things perfect? Of course not, but if Israel offered to pay five or even ten thousand shekels to Arab Israelis to move to the West Bank, very few if any would sign up.

Some young West Bank Palestinians have turned to violence to show their frustration with current conditions. That is evidence they don’t believe things are going to change without drastic measures such as giving up their own lives. They need an alternative they can believe in that offers them something their leaders cannot––namely, a future.

Israel can best combat terrorism on two levels––the current military and police presence and the way––a quiet propaganda campaign focusing their messages to young Arabs who live in the territories. If they don’t already do so, they need to tell the story of Israeli Arabs living a decent life in Israel who prefer living in Israel than any other place in the Arab world.

In addition, Israel needs to offer a free university education annually to 500 or 1,000 territory residents who qualify, and Israel needs to offer advanced health care for anyone living in the territories who needs special or emergency care.

Of course, the PA will threaten the families of anyone who takes up these offers, but it’s the offer that counts. It’s showing young Palestinian Arabs a way out of their currently hopeless environment.

Israel also needs to offer programs for businesses in the territories to gain assistance, including loans, to grow their businesses and to put more people to work. Again the PA will threaten any business that participates, but this is a propaganda war.

Today, the PA wants to control the entire economy in their territory. They want to control every university acceptance, every business license, everything that can be controlled. People must see these restrictions run counter to their well-being. Israel can show business owners and their families a way to a better life.

And, Israel needs to react stronger when falsely accused. For example, when Mahmoud Abbas said a (non-existent) rabbi’s council wants to poison their water, Israel must show it is already providing more clean water than is required. It needs to publicize that fact in the territories and the West so everyone sees each lie.

Israel must fight a propaganda war offering young Arabs a better way of life with real opportunities––education, health care, business assistance, housing and even jobs. At the same time it must fight a propaganda war in the west to explain why negotiated solutions will inevitably fail raising even higher the level of violence.

The only time an Israel government should ever sit down with Palestinian Arab leaders is after they say upfront they are dropping their demand that Israel leaves its 4,000-year-old homeland, dropping their “right of return” demand, and dropping territorial demands that include removal of Jews from the territories. That won’t happen with the current leadership, but perhaps an extensive propaganda campaign offering real benefits will do that job.

The day that happens will be proof a way has been found where solutions have failed.

Debate Lesson: Challenge the Assumptions

How an argument is framed often puts opponents on the defensive. When Barack Obama, for example, says the only alternative to his agreement with Iran is war, his goal is to back his opponents into a corner. Anyone who accepts war as the only alternative to his deal is stuck since no one wants war. A similar tactic is used by those who say you are a racist if you support Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. Let’s examine that argument more closely.

The racist argument assumes as fact the notion that Israel is “white” and that the Palestinians are a “people of color.” That concept is simply false. There are Jews in Israel who came from Africa, which should give Israel greater claim to being a “people of color” than the Arab Palestinians, but the underlying difference separating Israel and the Palestinians is religion, not race.

If those who say Israel’s existence is racist want to claim Arabs as a “people of color,” the proper response is to challenge the definition of that concept. Is it based on skin color? If so, that by itself is a racist notion. Isn’t the goal of civil rights movements to deny skin color as determining one’s destiny?

The other underlying assumption in the racist argument is the notion that it is Israel that is blocking the Palestinians from having their own state. Israel has as great if not a greater claim on the so-called occupied territories as the Palestinians. The Palestinians’ argument only makes sense if one is unwilling to go further back in time than 1967. That was the year Israel pushed Jordan out of Jerusalem, Samaria, and Judea (the so-called West Bank). Jordan had captured those territories in 1948 after the United Nations affirmed the right of the Jewish people to form their own state. Prior to 1948 those territories were part of the British Mandate which was set up after World War I to prevent chaos after the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled the entire region for more than 400 years, was defeated by the Allied Powers.

Of course, it all comes down to boundaries. Where would the Palestinians place their state? From the statements and writings of the PLO (Fatah) and Hamas, the answer to that question is they want the whole thing––not just the West Bank territories, but all of present day Israel as well. Does that sound like a two-state solution?

What therefore is the proper response when someone says you’re a racist if you support Israel? Attack the statement on both assumptions. First, explain that race has nothing to do with it. Remind them that Hebrew and Arabic are both Semitic languages that came from the same region. Then explain that neither Fatah nor Hamas want a two-state solution. If anyone’s a racist, wouldn’t it be the Palestinian leaders?

Eventually someone will ask, “What is your alternative?” If the United Nations wants to create a Palestinian state, they should do so, but not where Israel presently exists, nor in Jerusalem, to which the Palestinian’s claim is fraudulent, nor in Samaria or Judea, where Israel’s claim is stronger based on the League of Nations Mandate. They ought to create it in Jordan, which was originally part of Palestine and where many of the Arab people who call themselves Palestinians resided before 1948. Also, if Egypt is willing, Gaza, which already is a fully Palestinian territory, could be enlarged to include part of the Sinai desert.

A corollary to that solution would be for Israel to offer to those Palestinians who want to remain in the West Bank or Jerusalem the same deal non-Jews who live in Israel proper receive––i.e., full citizenship in the state of Israel. It is likely that a large number of Palestinian Arabs would accept that solution since Israeli citizenship would raise their living condition above what they are today under the corrupt Palestinian Authority. Those wanting to move would be allowed to do so, going to Gaza or the new Palestinian state in Jordan.

But the key lesson I hope people take away from this essay is not to be pushed into a corner when discussing world events by allowing your opponent to frame the issue in a way that you have no choice but to accept their position. Challenge the assumptions hidden in the way the argument is presented. When Barack Obama or the boycott Israel advocates present an either/or proposition it often means the facts are against them and the only way they can win the argument is by preventing a fact-based discussion, which is why the choice they want to give their opponents is no choice at all.