Friday, March 29, 2013

I Don't Get It, Israel

OK, Israel, let's go through this whole peace thing logically.

First of all, the only possibilities are a one-state solution and a two-state solution, right? (We can assume that a no-state solution and a more-than-two-state solution are not possibilities.) Start with a one-state solution.

The version that Arabs, including Israeli Arabs, mostly favor is a "state of all its citizens," i.e., not a Jewish state. An overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis will be against this, so let's skip it.

The alternative is one Jewish state. Advocates presumably don't envision granting Israeli citizenship to the two million Arabs on the West Bank, so... I'm not sure what they envision. Possibly somehow expelling all the Arabs from the West Bank. That would be such a bloody process that it's not worth rational consideration.You think Israel's a pariah state now? You think even most American Jews will stand up for you?

Or you could continue the status quo forever, with two million people lacking basic freedom who hate you, and the army obliged to keep a lid on the whole thing. But why on earth would you want to? How many people in Israel really care deeply about who's in charge of Hebron?

If Israelis want to be, at some point in the future, a normal country, there has to be a two-state solution, meaning one Jewish state and one Arab state. Now, you may say that's not possible right now, because Israel has no "partner." Fine. But a two-state solution has to be the endpoint, whether it's next year or in five years or in fifty years.

What does that imply? It implies that at some point, next year or in five years or in fifty years, the Palestinians are going to get more or less all of the West Bank for a state. Can we imagine that this state will contain within it Israeli settlements, an archipelago of little islands of Israeli extraterritoriality? No, we cannot imagine that. How would they be defended? Is Israel going to set up checkpoints in another country?

Conclusion: If you're for a two-state solution, then you have to admit that at some point in the (possibly distant) future, the isolated settlements will have to go. But if they have to go eventually (say in ten years), what possible sense can it make to be building them now? It's just throwing good money after bad.

Conclusion: If you're building settlements, you're not serious about a two-state solution. You're not a "partner" for the Palestinians.

So the Palestinian Authority's refusal to enter negotiations without a freeze on settlement construction  seems completely reasonable. What would be the point? It would be like Israel negotiating over whether it has a right to exist. (Whether the PA's refusal to negotiate is wise is another question.)

Logically, then, it seems that there is no way to be for both a two-state solution and settlement construction. Note that this has nothing to do with Israel's security needs. One could make a security argument (though not a very good one) for Israel holding on to the West Bank. But that has nothing to do with settlements. The settlements add nothing to security; if anything they reduce it. Note also that it has nothing to do with whether the Palestinians are ready for peace negotiations, as long as you think that they will be at some point in the future.

To sum up, here are the logical possibilities as I see them:

  • One state that is not a Jewish state
  • One state that is a Jewish state, with expulsion of two million Arabs
  • One state that is Jewish state, with two million people under military occupation forever
  • Two states
It seems to me that settlement construction is consistent with any of the first three of these outcomes, but not with the fourth, two states.

So what gives, Israel? Are you for a two-state solution or not? I'm well aware, actually, that Israel is not a person and so cannot be held to the same standards of rationality as an individual. But when you say you accept a two-state solution and yet have coalition members who advocate, or rather demand, more settlement construction, you're behaving either illogically or in bad faith. I'm looking at you, Bibi Netanyahu.

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