Seminal, must read works exist in literature, philosophy, and political theory. For example, can one study the Cold War without having read George Kennan or discuss ethics without having read Rawls? In that vein, anyone who seeks to defend a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to have read Caroline Glick’s The Israeli Solution (2013).
Since Glick’s book is fairly recent, you are forgiven if you haven’t heard of it or haven’t got around to reading it. My hope is that this review will convince you to remedy that lapse.
The first part of this review covers Glick’s analysis of the two-state solution; her alternative is the subject of part two.
In part one of The Israeli Solution, Glick, who is a senior correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, examines the history and politics of two-state solution, focusing primarily on the U.S. since America with its military and financial resources is, for better or for worse, the central outside player in the conflict.
Why does Glick call a two-state solution an illusion, a false-hope, a chimera? From Jimmy Carter on, American presidents have viewed solving the conflict as the key to peace in the entire region––from North Africa to the Fertile Crescent. “[M]ost American policy makers,” Glick writes, “share the view that the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River would remove the principle cause of the violent extremism that afflicts the Arab and the larger Islamic world.”
Glick disputes that thesis. Rather than consider the possibility that Arab leaders have concerns other than their hatred of Jews, American leaders have blindly sought to pressure Israel to swallow untenable peace terms thinking regional peace would ensue. Hopefully, that blinder has been removed from policy makers’ eyes by the rise of ISIS, the civil wars in Yemen and Syria, and the global spillover of the Shia-Sunni conflict, none of which stem from the lack of a Palestinian state.
A Ninety-Year Failure
The two-state solution was invented as a response to the unwillingness of Arab leaders to live along side Jews who had returned to their ancient homeland. It has been presented as the basis for peace plans nine different times over the past nine decades, each one a failure. Worse, unquestioned adherence to this “solution,” has “weakened the U.S. position in the Middle East.” Each time the U.S. has put its reputation and resources into a two-state plan the outcome has resulted in the region becoming “less stable, more violent, more radicalized, and more inimical to American values and interests.”
Why hasn’t the two-state solution worked?
The primary reason the two-state concept has failed is, as Glick states, that the “two-state formula is based on the proposition that the root cause of the Palestinian conflict is Israel’s unwillingness to surrender sufficient lands to the Palestinians, rather than the Palestinians’ rejection of Israel’s right to exist and their continued commitment to its destruction.”
Take, for example, Yasser Arafat’s walking away from extensive and foolhardy concessions forced upon Israeli leaders by Bill Clinton, including agreeing to shared sovereignty over Jerusalem. How did Arafat respond to Israel’s willingness to give him most of what he demanded? He launched a war of terror whose toll over two years exceeded seven hundred killed and four thousand wounded.
Clinton devoted the last months of his presidency to trying to get the two sides to reach a final settlement at the expense of greater problems. Yet he failed to understand that Arafat never intended to sign an agreement that left the state of Israel in existence and only engaged in negotiations to strengthen his position at home and weaken international support for Israel.
Arab Anti-Zionism and World Politics
In Part I of The Israeli Solution, Glick reviews the careers of two men who played key roles in developing the notion of a Palestinian people as well as leading attempts to prevent the formation of a Jewish state (Haj Amin el-Husseini) and once formed to prevent that state from surviving (Yasser Arafat). Husseini allied himself with Adolph Hitler and spent the war aiding the Nazi plan to annihilate the Jewish people. No less heinous in his aims, Arafat turned to political warfare to cover up the terrorist campaigns he launched against Israel and its population.
To further his aims, Arafat turned to the Soviet Union, joining in their effort to weaken the U.S. internationally by defining the U.S. as a supporter of racist colonialism exemplified by the Jewish state. To label Jews the oppressor, Arafat and the U.S.S.R. sought to deny the fact that today’s Jewish population descended from the Jews of the Bible and reframe the historical and archeological record to undermine Jews’ claim to be returning to their homeland.
American leaders unfortunately overlooked Arafat’s role in field training would-be terrorists, including Nicaragua’s Sandinistas, Germany’s Red Army faction, the IRA, and Ayatollah Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guard. Arafat’s techniques included airplane hijacking, bombings, ground assaults, assassinations, and even surface-to-air missile attacks against jetliners.
Ironically, throughout most of his career Arafat paid little attention to the Arab refugees of the 1948 war or to those living under Israeli control in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and Gaza. Only after local protests erupted in those regions in the 1980s did he see the possibility of using Palestinians in his war against Israel. Sadly, the U.S. helped finance that war and even trained Palestinian Authority soldiers some of whom used their new weapons to attack Israeli civilians.
The Moderate Palestinian Leader
No discussion of the two-state solution would be complete without focusing on Arafat’s successor, current Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Some have tried to paint Abbas as a moderate and a man with whom a peace settlement can be reached. Glick destroys that chimera as well, showing Abbas to be cut from Arafat’s mold as a man skilled in the use of diplomacy on behalf of his ultimate goal, which is to destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas has waged war through the international press, the U.N., and NGO’s––while refusing to negotiate directly with Israel’s representatives. As an example of how little interested he is in a two-state solution, Abbas spat in the face of logic by petitioning the U.N. to create a Palestinian state along the very boundaries his predecessors rejected in 1947.
Amazingly, the U.S. has continued to put their faith in and finance Mahmoud Abbas despite his forming a political alliance with Hamas and despite Hamas’ having thrown the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza and killed or jailed many of its operatives.
As an aside, it is important to understand what distinguishes Hamas from the PLO/Fatah. While Arafat and his mentor Husseini were Arab nationalists first and Muslims second, the founders of Hamas are Muslims first and foremost. To them, Israel stands in the way of the establishment of Allah’s kingdom on earth, and like all infidel nations, including the United States, it must be eradicated.
U.S. Interests and the Two-State Solution
Unfortunately, many Americans believe the U.S. support for Israel is largely a function of sympathy based on the destruction of European Jewry. As a result, they overlook the extent to which Israel advances and protects U.S. interests in the region. Further, they fail to consider the consequences were Israel to be forced to retreat to indefensible boundaries by ceding all or most of the West Bank to the Palestinians.
An Israel reduced to pre-1967 borders would be vulnerable to being destroyed by jihadist militants attacking from Gaza and the hills of Judea. That would result in the U.S. being drawn into the conflict at who knows how large a cost in dollars and lives. Further, Israel would no longer represent the one stable, self-sufficient non-expansionist democracy in the region.
By giving in to those who use terrorism to advance their aims, the U.S., were it to force Israel to give up Judea and Samaria, would be sending a message to jihadists across the globe that the U.S. will not stand up to terrorism and will not protect its allies when push comes to shove.
For all those reasons, the U.S. must abandon support for the two-state solution. But what policy should it support in its place? That’s the subject of part two of my review essay as I examine Caroline Glick’s alternative.
* Because I read The Israeli Solution in digital format I cannot cite page numbers to the print edition.