There is No Plan B for Mideast Peace (and Why We Need One)

Stephen Walt thinks that the latest spat between Israel and the US is grounds for bringing back up a topic that very few want to discuss:  what plans/solutions/options remain if (and when) the two state solution fails?

His ideas on that subject (which are worth the read) are here.

Obligatory preface on Stephen Walt–I didn’t find his Israel Lobby book persuasive.  I do find his questions about the future of the two state solution very important and worth consideration.  (i.e. The second link above).

The Two State Solution, which as Walt correctly notes was only official policy at the extreme terminus of the Clinton administration, was officially endorsed (from the beginning) by George W. Bush (but never really followed up on) and is now the de facto position across the board, reflected by the Obama administration’s outrage over the recent Israeli decision to start construction on 1600 (1600!!!) houses in East Jerusalem.  East Jerusalem being of course at the center of the Two State Solution as the planned capital of the (hypothetical) Palestinian state.

The Two State Solution I believe is an extension of the earlier successes of US, Arab, and Israeli diplomacy–the so-called Land for Peace paradigm.  Israel gave back land captured in the Six Day War to various Arab states who in turn recognized the legitimacy of the state of Israel and end the state of war between the two countries.

This basic format worked in the case of The Camp David Accords with Egypt and formed the template for the later Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement, which President Clinton helped negotiate.  It’s also the deal that President George H. W. Bush offered (via Sec. of State Baker) to the Syrians (and by extension at the time their proxies Lebanon) and continues to this day to be on the table–which the Syrians have yet to take the Israelis up on.

This framework, however, worked because the states in question already existed as states.  Applying this model to the Palestinian process appears to have put the cart before the horse.  The failure of the Oslo Accords looms large in this scenario.  If you take a more pro-Israeli position, the failure occurred because the PLO/Fatah never really led in the fashion of true statesmen.  If you take the side of the Palestinians, Oslo failed because the deal offered was not a viable one that any group (including Fatah) could have claimed domestically as a win and thereby cemented their legitimacy.

In other words, the PLO wasn’t a state and therefore couldn’t negotiate under a paradigm presuming its existence existence as a state.  [Even PM Rabin more or less unilaterally declared the PLO the rightful spokespersons for the Palestinian Authority.]

Here is Walt on the options remaining if (as I believe looks increasingly likely) the Two State Solution dies:

There are only three alternative options at that point. First, Israel could drive most or all of the 2.5 million Palestinians out of the West Bank by force, thereby preserving “greater Israel” as a Jewish state through an overt act of ethnic cleansing. The Palestinians would surely resist, and it would be a crime against humanity, conducted in full view of a horrified world. No American government could support such a step, and no true friend of Israel could endorse that solution.

Second, Israel could retain control of the West Bank but allow the Palestinians limited autonomy in a set of disconnected enclaves, while it controlled access in and out, their water supplies, and the airspace above them. This appears to have been Ariel Sharon’s strategy before he was incapacitated, and Bibi Netanyahu’s proposal for “economic peace” without a Palestinian state seems to envision a similar outcome. In short, the Palestinians would not get a viable state of their own and would not enjoy full political rights. This is the solution that many people — including Prime Minister Olmert — compare to the apartheid regime in South Africa. It is hard to imagine the United States supporting this outcome over the long term, and Olmert has said as much. Denying the Palestinians their own national aspirations is also not going to end the conflict.

Which brings me to the third option. The Israeli government could maintain its physical control over “greater Israel” and grant the Palestinians full democratic rights within this territory. This option has been proposed by a handful of Israeli Jews and a growing number of Palestinians. But there are formidable objections to this outcome: It would mean abandoning the Zionist dream of an independent Jewish state, and binational states of this sort do not have an encouraging track record, especially when the two parties have waged a bitter conflict across several generations. This is why I prefer the two-state alternative.

None of those options look particularly promising.  I agree with Walt that of those options #3 would be the best, but does have the potential for serious problems and is also not very viable in my opinion.  Option #2 seems to be where we are headed at the current time and will only isolate the Israeli state further.  In fact, if it continues down the path of #2, the foundation of Israel as a liberal democratic society will be called into question–or at least will risk creating a doppelganger militarized autocracy (apartheid state?) on its backside.

The question I have with Walt’s formulation (in #3) is what exactly are full “democratic rights”?  The Palestinians, by Middle Eastern Muslim majority country standards, have one of the strongest small ‘d’ democratic cultures, along with Iraq (brought in by invasion) and Iran (prior to their internal coup and nullification of last year’s election).  It just so happens the West and Israel refused to recognize the results of their (by all accounts) free and fair election in 2006 in which Hamas won–an election that the US pushed the Palestinians to hold for what it’s worth.*  This refusal to recognize the results was on the grounds that Hamas was an illiberal group, which would have been a legitimate argument had the Palestinians enjoyed corresponding liberal rights .

So I think there could be and/or needs to be some thinking about a possible fourth option (somewhere in between 2 + 3).

The fourth option argues that in the end two states are still the best way to go.  In the interim, however, there is no Palestinian state with which to have an accord.  The advantage (among many others) of this view is that it routes around the whole “Whose to blame?” endless game that so hampers any forward movement on this question.

A Palestinian state has to be built first before a Peace Process can occur on the present model–since the current Peace Process model assumes the existence of a Palestinian state (which of course there isn’t one).  As everyone says, the outlines of the deal are accepted by all sides.  Everybody basically knows what the eventual 2 state deal will look–Israel back to pre-67 borders with some land swaps.  The problem is there is no way to get there from here.

There is a Roadmap for Middle East peace, but the road doesn’t actually exist as of yet.  What we need now is a (State) Construction Crew.

This is why I flagged full democratic rights.  Now what I’m about to say will be very controversial (and I’m just throwing out ideas here) but what if there were a smaller, more focused package of rights to begin within for the Palestinians?  (I’m guessing the first way this would work would be in the West Bank.)

The Palestinians wouldn’t be receiving full democratic rights within the state of Israel (option #3, i.e. bi-national state which as Walt says has inherent instability) but a larger package of rights within a state-let or demi-state.  Obviously, there needs to be a better term–something like autonomous region.  In the old days this may have been called a principality, but that won’t work in Arab culture because they still have kings throughout the region.

While there’s a definite part of me that thinks the international community should just declare a Palestinian state, there needs to be something to cushion the steep learning curve of citizenship and statehood and I don’t see much currently in existence on that front.  Again, anyone who wants to is I believe free with some validity to “blame” both Palestinian leadership and Israeli leadership for reasons why this cushion doesn’t exist.  Nevertheless, an endless argument about who is to blame “more”, however accurate, doesn’t help move the situation forward from its current seriously deteriorating context.

So since that option (option #5 I guess) is out of the question, we are back to this in-between-state-to-eventually-grow-into-a-Palestinian-state idea.

In this “zone” or “region” or whatever we’re calling it, the Palestinians are given:  1. freedom of economic access and 2. political rights.

This would of course require the buildup of political institutions (instead of more democratic proceduralisms) that foster classically liberal rights as well as increased access to markets.

This would require the dismantling of the settlements and over time the checkpoints.  In the meantime, however, it would mean Israeli (or perhaps joint Israeli-Jordanian if that were possible) security over the area.

This idea would likely bring howls from the left as it would be seen as “3rd class” citizenship for Palestinians.  Third class in relation to first class Israeli citizenship, (with 2nd class being the status of Israeli Arabs).  The howls from the (American-Israeli) right would criticize (I imagine) the Palestinians as a people incapable of building a state or ever living with Israel.

But compared to other countries in the region (minus Israel), this would be a major step up politically, economically, and socially for the Palestinian people. This would go in fits and starts.  It certainly would be no smooth, linear progression.  It might even require in the short/medium term taking away some “democratic” elements from the Palestinian political process, as excessive democracy (as in voting, not liberal values) can result in illiberal and destabilizing political movements.

Generally, the pattern in human history is economic rights–>political rights–>democratic expressions of political adjudication.

The ability for economic and political rights of course to be exercised requires “security” (or if you, like “security rights”) which lies at the nub of this whole problem for both sides.  For all of the “security”–in terms of less bombings–the settlements, walls, and checkpoints have created for the Israelis, it has made the country far more insecure relative to the rest of the world.  On the other side, the continued and increased insecurity of the Palestinian people leads to more security for old-line politicos like Fatah–more aid money flowing to their corrupt coffers, etc.

This is the negative feedback cycle that has to be broken.  The US I think is within its rights to be currently pissed at Netanyahu & crew, but that in the end isn’t going to get at this deeper issue.

* If it’s worth anything, my position on the time was that the election should not have been held and then having been held and with Hamas winning, the international community should have accepted the results and recognized the legitimacy of Hamas.

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50 thoughts on “There is No Plan B for Mideast Peace (and Why We Need One)

  1. Anyone who talks of 2 state solution is kidding themselves. Israel is never going to let a viable Palestinian state exist, no matter what they say. The only option I see is for the US to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state existing in the territory seized in the 1967 conflict.

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  2. The howls from the (American-Israeli) right would consist (I imagine) of not seeing the Palestinians as a people unable to hold a state or ever live with Israel.

    An extra negative in that sentence?

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      • Heh, those “stealth” editing sessions are supposed to be under the radar. Sorry if I stepped on any toes, Chris. I did find the post very interesting.

        As to the substance, I’m really not sure how you’d go about implementing your plan. But beyond the pragmatic barriers to adoption, I’m also suspicious of your teleological vision of economic and political rights. The First Intifada broke out after a period of economic prosperity and expanded rights/opportunities for Palestinians. I could easily imagine something similar happening in your autonomous “statelet,” particularly if a residual Israeli security force provides an omnipresent reminder of the Palestinians’ third-class status.

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        • good points.

          I could actually see it getting worse in the near term on my plan before getting much better on the far side. But the Palestinians need (I think) a AKP-like party in Turkey. Not that they are perfect by any means, but at least a step up. Hamas is supposed to be that party but really isn’t for a whole host of reasons.

          If the car is overheating (to use a horrible example), you take off the cap and the steam will come out. To this example…what is the political equivalent of the 30 minute waiting period to let the thing cool down? Is there any such possibility?

          An alternative which others have advocated (but which I don’t think will work) is that the “state-let” be simply brought into Jordan. The history of Jordanian-Palestinian intrigue is too fraught (and too close in historical memory) for that ever to work.

          I guess the other other alternative would be something like a Palestinian strongman–which Arafat in many ways never was.

          I don’t know, it’s an unbelievably difficult situation. My fear however is unless there is some outside the norm thinking on this one, the reality is that it will continue apace towards the destruction of any possible future Palestinian state. And to show my cards, blame would be on both sides for that state of affairs.

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          • How is it that “blame would be on both sides for that state of affairs” when the Palestinians have rejected Israeli offers of a Palestinian state out of hand so many times? The blame falls on the Palestinians, not the Israelis.

            Check this out:

            To insist on the imminent possibility of a two-state solution requires amnesia. Biden’s plea to Israelis to consider a withdrawal to an approximation of the 1967 borders in exchange for peace ignored the fact that Israel made that offer twice in the last decade: first, when Prime Minister Ehud Barak accepted the Clinton Proposals of December 2000, and then more recently when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert renewed the offer to Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas, says Olmert, never replied.Yossi Klein

            But, then again, I say that the blame doesn’t fall only on the Palestinians it falls on Obama as well:

            Obama is directly responsible for one of the most absurd turns in the history of Middle East negotiations. Though Palestinian leaders negotiated with Israeli governments that built extensively in the West Bank, they now refused to sit down with the first Israeli government to actually agree to a suspension of building. Obama’s demand for a building freeze in Jerusalem led to a freeze in negotiations.Yossi Klein</a

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            • Frankly Roque I don’t entirely disagree but alas the world isn’t fair. Israel is a modern civilized state and is expected to act like one. The Palestinians are a frenzied rabble and aren’t expected to behave better than that.

              Obama has not helped but the underlying demographic clock continues to tick. Israel needs to extricate itself from the Palestinians, the sooner the better and unilaterally if necessary. Yes I know that Gaza was a mess but in the long view the Israeli’s didn’t fare too badly from it. They’re clear of Gaza for the most part (if they would just stop hemming it in they’d be rid of it completely). Someone in Israel needs to wake up and start the painful process of extricating the country from the West Bank. Even if they can’t get the Palestinians to offer anything in return they still need to go.

              Imagine this scenario:
              The Israeli government begins painfully withdrawing from the Palestinian Territories slowly and painfully. One by one starting with the most isolated ones they begin uprooting and removing settlers. Program by program they start eliminating the economic subsidies that make the settlements thrive. The Israeli PM admits that he can’t reach an agreement with the Palestinians so instead he delivers an ultimatum; if the Palestinians and the Israeli’s can’t reach an agreement by the time the Israeli withdrawal is complete then they’ll keep whatever demographically and geographically workable portions of the bank they want and flip the Palestinians the bird. The Palestinians howl and gibber as is their wont and the settlers flip out. Meanwhile settlement by settlement the Israelis’ pull out. As the Israelis start getting more detached from the west bank how long before the Palestinians realize that their choices are to either reach a negotiated resolution or simply settle for what Israel chooses to give them? How much indignation could the world muster if Israel was slowly, publicly and painfully removing the settlers?

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  3. “If it’s worth anything, my position on the time was that the election should not have been held and then having been held and with Hamas winning, the international community should have accepted the results and recognized the legitimacy of Hamas.”

    The so-called international community did accept the results and legitimacy of the election. There was nothing else anyone could do. But that does not mean that anyone must “recognize the legitimacy of Hamas.” If a genocidal regime won power through the democratic process in any other part of the world, I’m sure you’d be calling on your government to withhold recognition. Why is Hamas any different?

    Without discussing your tendentious use of the term “apartheid state” to refer to Israel (which has been debunked time and again), your solution looks like the de-facto solution that you disparage as coming from the Netanyahu government. That is, without the demagoguery of calling Israel a racist nation—when its citizens include people of more than a hundred different nationalities, when Arabs enjoy more democratic rights within Israel than in any other place in the Middle East, etc etc—Palestinians must first establish a viable state before anyone can recognize it. If they do so, it won’t matter whether Israel wants to recognize it or not because the rest of the world will do so and Israel will have to follow if they want to avoid isolation.

    This is the core strategy of Netanyahu’s “economic peace.” And it is the core of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s strategy as well. Wikipedia says that

    “On August 23, 2009, Fayyad came out with a detailed working plan for the 13th Government of the Palestinian Authority for establishing the fundamental infrastructures of a Palestinian State, called “Palestine — Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State”, in which he detailed a two years working plan for building the infrastructures and institutions of the future Palestinian State, that includes, among others, building Government offices, a stock market, and an airport, developing the existing infrastructures, Separation of powers, Free market etc., with the purpose of establishing a “de facto Palestinian State”, based on the premise that the peace talks with Israel were faltering.

    If Fayyad and the Palestinians are successful, then a Palestinian state will come into being, even without any US “honest brokering.”

    This is the strategy followed by the Jewish state up to the UN partition plan of 1947. By then, the Zionists had established all the institutions of a viable state, including national defense. After the British withdrew it took only a matter of weeks for these quasi-state institutions to become state institutions. Therefore there could never be any question of the “international community” granting recognition and legitimacy to the new state of Israel.

    Until today, the Arabs/Palestinians have not developed anything comparable to what Israel developed back in the ’30s and ’40s. They have limited themselves to the “resistance,” with disastrous results. If Netanyahu and Fayyad are successful, then there will be two states on the old British mandate.

    However it is unlikely that they will be successful because Arabs and Palestinians do not want a Palestinian state on the West Bank. They want a Palestinian state on the whole of the former British mandate, as the Hamas charter states unequivocally. They cannot accept a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza because this implies acceptance of the state of Israel along side it. This they cannot do without betraying their core principles as Islamists.

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    • The supreme irony of Hamas’ success is that Hamas was in fact partially funded by Israel in its early years b/c Israel wanted a rival to the Arafat and the PLO.

      Also, let’s be honest, Israel treats their Palestinian population about as well as South Africa treated their black population. They want a pool of cheap labor that can’t create a viable state.

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  4. I’m not a historian, but this reminds me of the dilemma of how to end African colonialism.

    My experience is with Zimbabwe – my impression is that people recognized the inequity of a racial minority dominating the governance of the racial minority, and good people on both sides struggled with how to rectify that injustice.

    Some people wanted white rule in Rhodesia to phase out as the black majority became more capable of self-governance (effectively a transitional strategy, as you are advocating). Some people wanted white rule to continue forever, denying the humanity of the majority. Some people wanted to expel the minority rulers, and immediately begin self rule.

    In the end, the pace of change was too slow for the majority, and the desire of the colonialists to violently control the population long enough to somehow magically impose enlightened self governance didn’t last, so the minority ended up losing a war, and white rule ended.

    The fallout in Zimbabwe has been rough, since Mugabe has not been self-interested, and never transitioned out of office.

    I think that Mugabe’s rule is an object lesson in what the world should avoid in the establishment of a Palestinian state. But Rhodesia is an object lesson in how to not do the transition.

    We need some colonial historians to step up with their insights here.

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      • maybe they need a more south african style truth and reconciliation process. Undoubtedly SA has not been a total beacon of wondrous governance (see AIDS denial by gov’t) but overall it has not been Zimbabwe.

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        • I think a big part of SA’s early success was force of personality. The truth and reconciliation process was part of it, but having Nelson Mendela as the first president was too.

          I don’t know how you cultivate a Mandela without creating a puppet, unfortunately, but I do think the creation of a post-colonial state is a good question to consider in the context of Palestine.

          I’m also a bit concerned that your proposals for an interim Palestinian state may not give enough consideration to Palestinian actions, desires, or diversity. Suppose some Palestinians like the idea of a transitional state. What happens the first time an idiot launches a rocket into Jewish territory?

          I don’t think enlightened, patient transitions have been a common way to gain political power in history.

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  5. I generally agree with you Chris on most of your analysis. I disagree, though, on the idea of this interim Palestinian quasi-state. I don’t think it goes far enough. Personally I favor the idea of simply withdrawing unilaterally.

    The issue of course is that the Israelis are in a catch 22. Withdrawal from the west bank will be fractious and painful (and letting their right wing nutbars put down more roots doesn’t help). A lot of subsidies built into the government structure will need to be rooted out (imagine the US Agricultural subsidies but worse). A lot of Israelis will need to be pretty much evicted with the spectacle of soldiers pretty much dragging women and children kicking and screaming out of their houses. Were the Palestinians anything approaching civilized and were the settlers anything approaching sane; Israel could simply leave them there under Palestinian rule but we all know that would simply result in an internal war and a slaughter that no Israeli government would be able to sit by and watch.

    So the Israeli government that withdraws will have to do some painful expensive unpopular stuff. The only way in their parliamentary system that they can do this is if they are getting something in return. If the PM can say “Yes it’s horrible and painful but they’re right wing settlers and in exchange for removing them we don’t have to worry about our busses and pizza parlors getting bombed or our kindergartens rocketed.” Then the country will be willing to do it. But if they’re doing it and getting nothing but abuse in return the government will fall and the process will stop. That brings us to our catch 22. In order to withdraw and give the Pals a country the Israeli’s need to make a deal with that country but they can’t make a deal with the country until it exists and they can’t make it exist unless they can make a deal with it.

    The Israeli idealist peace camp was pretty much killed by Palestinian rejectionism, failure and violence that made it look like the “peacenicks” were willing to trade Jewish lives for Palestinian freedom. They were succeeded by the more pragmatic get the hell out team who were knocked out by the Palestinian rockets attacked which led to the Gazan invasion. I’m hopeful that with Bibi clowning around like a Hebrew George W. Bush that the left and maybe even far left camps will shortly revive and resume the unpleasant process of extricating themselves from the West Bank. The one thing you can say about these settlements; in theory you can always drag the people out and give them away.

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    • In terms of the withdraw though, you withdraw without any transitional governance and you have Gaza all over again. The West Bank has some more institutional structures, but not much really.

      At the end of the day I don’t think Ariel Sharon really cared about a Palestinian state. My cynical take would be he had a kind of “let them sink or swim, I don’t care which” attitude. My really cynical side would say he thought if he get the Israelis out, world opinion would move back more in their favor if the Palestinians did in fact “sink” or violence erupted out of their zones to Israel. Obviously that didn’t happen.

      Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan….keep going down the list. Gaza/Palestinian territories. You go into a place heavy, blow stuff up, round up/kill some baddies, and then leave, it tends not to solve anything.

      Extrication from the West Bank (and East Jerusalem) would be so so so much harder than the Gaza and as you say given what happened after the Gaza pullout is politically unfeasible at this point.

      You wrote:
      That brings us to our catch 22. In order to withdraw and give the Pals a country the Israeli’s need to make a deal with that country but they can’t make a deal with the country until it exists and they can’t make it exist unless they can make a deal with it.

      It’s the last part of that equation I’m asking about. Do you have to make a deal with before making it exist and thereby squaring the circle? Or could it be otherwise–build it and then recognize it?

      I think there is a way to do that, though it wouldn’t be easy and probably is a long shot politically (on either side), but what other shots are currently left? Except the inevitable real gun shots that are going to keep coming?

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      • In principle no, you don’t have to make a deal with it to make it exist, in political reality I think yes you need something. Israel in the 90’s might have had the romantic principalism necessary to go in, root out their settlers and drag them kicking and screaming back to Israel proper but between their exploded children and the mess that happened after Gaza they just don’t have that wide eyed optimism any more. I just don’t see any Israeli government being able to make the case unless they’re getting something from the Palestinians in return; a renunciation of the right to move back to Israel proper, a concrete resolution against terror, a promise not to shoot rockets at Ben Guiron airport from their new country, recognition that Israel exists and is going to continue to exist. Something needs to be given quid quo pro. The Israeli’s have too many wing-dings in ascendance and their idealists are too tarnished and discredited now to do it without making some kind of deal.

        Now Sharon, a brief note on Sharon, I don’t know if it’s fair to ascribe any negative motive in particular to him for his historic reversal on Gaza. I think it’s bordering on unjust to accuse him of wanting to seal the Palestinians into unrepresentative ghettos while he lies helpless and near dead in some nursing home. Only his God (if she exists) knows exactly what the canny old coot intended now.

        That said I’d say that the mean old bird probably was ready to say “lets cut em loose and let them figure it out for themselves, they sure as hell aren’t going to let us figure it out for them.” And I’d say there’s a lot of merit to that position. Frankly the worst think Israel could do to Hamas would be to stop controlling their seaport, airspace and Egyptian border. What excuse would they have for being a cesspit of a government then?

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        • I’m a three-state solution man, myself.

          I agree with you absolutely about the control of the seaport, airspace, and borders. (If they really wanted to slaughter the Palestinians, they’d say “we will allow any Palestinians who want to immigrate to Egypt/Jordan to do so!” and watch what those countries do in the following couple of weeks.)

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        • So alright, this one may seem a little out of left field, but a thought.

          The “state-let” of Palestine is taken over as a protectorate of the United States. It gives it a kind of Guam/Puerto Rico status. With the proviso that it has a time limit (5-10 years, possibly earlier if it develops quickly enough) to be granted statehood.

          This would require the US military to give security to the area. I realize that would cause some problems, (some major problems even), and could up the level of various people wanting to cause terrorist attacks in the US and/or now against US forces in the region.

          But a potentially “hearts and minds” development project, neighborhood policing would be a vast improvement (I think) over the checkpoints, the Israeli draft putting young soldiers in the worst possible position for them to be in (i.e. policing) and being seen as one-sided in favor of the settlements.

          The US then trains the locals Palestinian security forces, controls the air (for Israel’s protection).

          Then you are beginning to see the outlines of a state coming into view.

          The Israelis wouldn’t go for a UN peacekeeping force in the region (and I feel them on that one). Such a deal would need UN approval however. Now I realize that has about 0% chance of occurring, but the US would be the only ones that the Israelis would I think trust.

          But I think it could possibly and creatively answer your point that the Israelis need some political win in return for dealing. The win would be not dealing with the demographic disaster facing them, including the forecasts of autocratically ruling over such a huge population (without political rights).

          The Israelis might be forced to deal anyway in the form of an Iranian nuke.

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          • It could certainly work though I doubt the US would be willing to put their soldiers in harms way like that. I agree 100% that Israel in the grand scheme of things benefits by separation even without any quid pro quo. Their possession of the territories is slowly killing them. Some people argue that the Arabs and Palestinians are so recaltrant on peace primarily because they can see that in the very long view they’re winning with things as they are. I continue to hold out hope that the Israeli center and the left is going to recover their bearings and force their country to take their medicine and extricate themselves from that predicament.

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          • How about getting the “human shield” supporters of Palestine, like Rachel Corrie was, to “shield” Israelis against suicide and unguided missile attacks? Human rights organizations would simply place their members, human rights believers that they are, into Israeli cities, exposing themselves to death and exposing the Palestinians to international condemnation every time.

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          • So we’d colonize the Palestinian territories?

            Let’s say that a suicide bomber blows up an IED that he has strapped to himself and kills some soldiers, maybe injures a couple more. What response do you think that the US forces in Palestine ought to do in response?

            Let’s say a group of handmade rocket grenades are regularly fired at a US force advisory camp. Only a few US advisers are even injured by these rockets. It’s really not much of a big deal… but how do you think that the US advisers will react?

            If Palestinians start explaining that US forces wouldn’t be dying if they’d stop stealing Palestinian land, how do you think that the US general population will respond?

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            • Colonization implies long term desire to control a territory which this wouldn’t be. I realize some people would call it colonization, but I don’t think (done properly) it would count as that.

              Undoubtedly there would be attacks. The point is what position you take from the beginning. Do you hang out on bases and then blitz in, blow a bunch of stuff up at the first attack, or are they more on the ground (with the famed 20:1 ratio beloved of COIN fans)?

              I realize this idea has nil chance of happening, but what really is the alternative? The bi-national state doesn’t have a shot in hell (with full equal rights for all) doesn’t have a shot because of the demographics. The Israelis are not going to unilaterally withdraw from West Bank as they did from Gaza. Way too many more settlers, way more embedding of the occupied territories and no politician could sell it after what happened in Gaza. So I think we continue to face this slow motion cleansing.

              Gershom Gorenberg’s book on the settlements is called Accidental Empire. I think that hits it on the head. You didn’t plan to have an empire (a real colonial empire) in your backyard, but now you do. As much as it’s unpleasant for many Israelis to stomach, the harder application of force in that Empire has brought them less violence. But now it comes at the cost of the rationale for the state of Israel in the first place and makes them face as PMs Sharon and Olmert stated, the possibility of a long term colonial occupation and repression of an ethnic majority (but socially/economically minority) population.

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              • If “colonization” isn’t a good term (and, yes, fair enough), would “occupation” be a good one?

                Please understand, I am looking at this through the lens of “how will this be discussed on signs?”

                I am cynical enough to believe that Israel would *LOVE* for us to do this. They would be tickled pink. I remember an old story in which a ferryman tricked a bad character into holding the oar of the ferry for a second then ran off, locking the bad character into being the new ferryman for however many lifetimes… Israel would run away like the old ferryman did.

                The Palestinians would say “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” and we’d see a Third Intifada.

                And then I start thinking about “and then what?”

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      • Prime Minister Sharon’s plan for unilateral separation, including withdrawal from Gaza, was based in no small part on demographics:

        Among the other considerations under which we operate, we must not ignore the demographics. It is impossible to maintain a Jewish and democratic country here, over the years, while ruling over millions of Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

        Similar thoughts have been voiced by PM’s Olmert and Netanyahu

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  6. As, I believe, George Will once noted, “There is a Palestinian state, it’s called Jordan.” If the Jew is to survive, he will drive his enemy away.

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        • Israel is a modern western country Bob. If they were ever to stoop to that kind of strategy for “defeating their enemy” then they would have truly lost their war with the savages around them and become everything they hated about their old oppressors. Having ceased to be a modern western country and being a small isolated economy entirely dependant on the modern west for support (which would end when they went mad) they would whither and sink into the social morass of their neighbors.

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          • The US will never stop supporting Israel. Regardless of what they do. Bob’s solution would suck for the Palestinians, but in a material (as opposed to moral) sense, it would work out fine for the Israelis.

            Rather than driving out the Palestinians by force, they’re more likely to simply make conditions sufficiently miserable that most of the Palestinians emigrate, and then annex the Occupied Territories.

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            • Why annex? All they (the Right) need or want to do is neutralize them. Annexation would just invite unneeded international condemnation for imperialism. Truly the religious crazies will have taken over the asylum if we see that outcome. Status quo is sustainable from their perspective. As long they don’t annex, they can always claim they aren’t denying anyone the vote in “their” territory.

              Neutralization, it should be said, could conceivably comprehend recognition of a “state,” if that were deemed the least costly way to achieve it (i.e. if U.S. policy shifts or world opinion becomes too onerous.) I’m sure strategic leaders there believe they can avoid being forced to accept anything remotely like a true competing state next door. They’re still multiple moves away from having even to concede the “state” much less a State.

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          • To second Bob Cheeks, “Defeating the enemy,” as in defeating the Palestinians should be the only goal because it’s the only path to so-called peace.

            Leave aside the fact that the “peace process” has not produced peace in sixty years. “Defeat” does not have to be a bloodbath or genocide, as Bob’s interlocutors assume. It can be completely “peaceful.” One important element of this defeat would be the US’s position. If it was to pressure the Palestinians to accept Israel on their borders, like SCR 242 states, then defeat would come quickly. If the US had allies on the SC, like France, to join in such pressure, then defeat would come that much quicker.

            “Defeat” for the Palestinians means that they can never hope to regain all of the former British mandate for Islam. Once they are defeated, the “world community,” and especially the Gulf oil kingdoms would be bound to support reconstruction of their state. In ten years it could be rather prosperous. Once that happens, nobody would be interested in a few yards of territory on the West Bank, who builds apartments in Jerusalem, or who does archeology on the Temple Mount.

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  7. Wondering, would that particular “Obligatory preface of Walt” still be necessary even if you did find the book persuasive? It’s hard to know what else would be obligatory about it otherwise…

    Also, what does it mean to say you find a “book” persuasive? That you could not find a single persuasive argument in it? Or that you found at least one unpersuasive argument? If it’s something in the middle, how is that anything but an arbitrary judgment on your part?

    I have no problem if people want to take to the pages of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen to trash the Walt-Mearshimer thesis. I’d prefer, however, to be able to go on believing that doing so as a preface to mentioning one of the professors’ names is not in fact obligatory here.

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  8. in the best of all possible world bro, yes, I wouldn’t have to put that in. Nor shouldn’t have to. Unfortunately my experience in this blogging world is that someone would come in, derail the conversation away from what I found to be his very insightful point on the status of the 2 state solution, and at worst call me anti-semitic (although I guess I got called all but that above anyway).

    I guess I was trying to say to someone who found his book on the Israel Lobby incorrect (or even questionable), that they should still be willing to listen on this point, regardless of their view of the book.

    Since Prof. Walt is a name that involves a controversy, (in an extremely controversial topic) I think it worth mentioning up front. But maybe you’re right that was unfair.

    It is true, that I found that he and Mearsheimer failed to persuade me of the central thesis of their book–that was what I meant by finding the book unpersuasive. I feel I gave it a open mind but again I could be accused of bias I suppose.

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    • I was engaging in some tendentiousness there, and was a bit hasty. Obviously ‘obligatory’ as you use it can also be read to mean, “for better or worse, I feel obliged to include this,” and I realize that. I was commenting on the unfortunateness that it has become obligatory to include a statement like that in order to discuss those individuals, even when not discussing the ideas it is obligatory to disassociate oneself from. And I appreciate that you share that sentiment.

      I would submit that the central problem with the book is actually that it is nearly impossible to state just what its central thesis is, and is not.

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  9. The simple reality is that, absent the accepted need for a Jewish state (as opposed to a state where Jews would be assured a place of safety — and realizing arguments can be made only the former assures the latter), neither of these peoples would have a terribly good claim to the exclusive territory each stands to come into in the likely two-state settlement plans on the table. Were it not for the extraordinary outside interest in this particular conflict, these two peoples in any other context would surely be under overwhelming international pressure to settle this dispute in a one-state scheme.

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    • Cynical alternative opinion: were it not for the extraordinary outside interest in this particular conflict the Israeli’s probably would have run the Palestinians out of most of the former mandate back during one of their wars and what little they hadn’t seized would have vanished into Jordan and Egypt.

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      • Upshot? Israel has to live with uncommon (i.e. not applied to non-Jews) scrutiny of its actions, otherwise it would have been free to use force in an unrestrained way? Maybe, it would still be genocide even if no one’s there to see it. If I get you right (and I might well not be), you’re not saying anything that helps Israel’s moral case any.

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        • I don’t know, I have mixed feelings on the matter. There isn’t a country on the planet that had an immaculate birth. Most of them just stretch back far enough that we don’t bother looking at the bones and dried blood that their foundation stones rest upon. So I wouldn’t say Israel has more or less moral case than any other country that is about.

          That aside they have to deal with things as they are now. Israel has both the misfortune of having to solidify their borders in modern times and the misfortune that international morality will not tolerate them doing it in the traditional manner (slaughter or ethnic cleansing). They’re also too small and too dependant on trade to be able to just flip us the bird and ignore our opinions.

          Moral case for the State of Israel? They have an unassailable one; they exist and no one can suggest with a straight face that they’d be permitted to continue to exist were they put under the power of the Palestinians. I just hope they wake up and get their religious idiots under control before their settlement crazed dingbats drag them into a demographic crisis that leads to a choice between surviving and remaining a civilized country.

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          • “Under the power” of an equal vote for one’s fellow man in an un-gerrymandered nation-state? The horror.

            Your point about the foundations of states is well-taken though. Normally, however, if one is going to take that route, one does it under one’s own power, and makes the consequences stick, accepting the moral reaction of the world, be it what it may. In the theory you’re suggesting, does the U.S. continue to associate itself with this actor?

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            • Michael, (Though I conceed that I’m flirting with Goodwin by bringing it up) considering the Jewish experience with being the outvoted minority in a voting nation state at the start of the last century I do not begrudge them their unwillingness to surrender themselves to a new one; especially if the majority is composed of Palestinian Arabs.

              If Israel goes that route I’ll be first in line to call for the US to stop associating with it. Frankly, though, my point was that the nature of their economy makes it impossible for them to do it under their own power.
              I reject the suggestion that they’re doing so now. They aren’t, at least not yet, and they have a way to go before they are. Yes their settlers are a serious problem and their PM is an idiot but settlements can be uprooted and PM’s can be replaced. The Israeli voters went into toxic withdrawal from peace initiatives and disengagement and they’re flirting with settlers right now. I’m optimistic that the antics of Bibi and the overreaching of the Israeli right wing are going to swing the pendulum around and revive the peace and disengagement camps of the electorate.

              If we could only use a time machine to match up the Israel of the 1990’s with the Palestinian Authority of Today. *sigh*

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              • I never suggested they were doing this now; you suggested they would have driven Palestinians out absent international attention. My point was that whatever you’d call that (I’d call it genocide or at least ethnic cleansing), saying that they’d go ahead and do it if not for the eyes on them doesn’t do much for their moral case in the present circumstances (which was not a denial of any moral case for their existence, though “We exist” is not that.)

                And while I also understand their reluctance, nevertheless I’m not sure how pre-guaranteeing a particular ethnic voting makeup is supposed to keep them in good stead among world democracies. Demography happens; democracy is a choice.

                Can you honestly say if you were a Palestinian you would be interested in the thing that is on offer in a two-state solution?

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                • Sorry if I was unclear. My point was that in 1950 or 1960 if the worlds eyes hadn’t been hard upon them then perhaps the Israeli’s would have simply driven the Palestinians out of the whole region. I don’t suggest that it would have been moral. I do suggest that it wouldn’t have caused much ruckus. I do not think that they’d be right to do it nor would they be right to do it now.

                  In most cases demographics do happen but in Israel’s case they have a choice. If they insist on keeping themselves entangled in the west bank then inevitably they will be outnumbered and in a very short order too. Then in their own words the situation would be between loosing their Jewish majority or loosing their Democracy. But if Israel chose to separate themselves from the West Bank then the demographics change dramatically and they don’t face being outnumbered inside Israel within the near or middle future. Ironically in Israels case the very things the world wants them to do; separate from the west bank into two states; would also guarantee them the ethnic voting makeup they desire. The problem, as always, is with their right wing.

                  In answer to your question; honestly yes. But then again I’ve never seen eye to eye with people who criticize the offers that were made by Barack and Olmert. My understanding is that they were offered entirely contiguous states in the entire West Bank with land swaps for the bumps and sections of heavy Jewish populations. If Palestinians are genuinely desirous of a state for themselves why wouldn’t they want that deal? On the other hand if they’re more intent on doing damage to the Jewish state why would they accept it. I imagine the reality of their position lies muddled somewhere between those two poles.

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                  • The question is why or whether they would be interested in a state for themselves, knowing at this point what it would consist of (not what it might have done). You are eliding the question by saying that they should want it if they have interest in a state on that territory. That is the question. Palestinian nationalism is largely a thing of the 1980s and to some extent 90s. Since then, it has largely been a crutch for the U.S. and Israel’s efforts at peace. Whatever reason Palestinians once had to desire the state on offer has been long since spoilt by war and economic siege. I honestly don’t see what reason they would have to accept what they can now get. It would not even come with any guarantee of security from Israeli interference pursuant to “security interests’ — no Israeli government could ever take that off the table. Given the history, and given that the Palestinian “state” would be effectively demilitarized, the “state” would amount to nothing more than a voluntarily promise of nonintervention from Israel. The cumulative effects of economic isolation and sense that historical wrongs had only been institutionalized would guarantee eventual violence directed at Israel from the new “state,” and the cycle of intervention and retaliation would begin anew.

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                    • Well I hope your interpretation is incorrect because if, as you suggest, the Palestinians do not desire their own state but instead, in essence, desire dissolution of the Jewish state then they have a terrible valley of tears in their future. Israel has demonstrated that they are not going to just vanish because their neighbors want them to.

                      That being said even if you’re correct in their interpretation then the imperative for Israel of extricating themselves from among the Palestinians in the West Bank (unilaterally if necessary) becomes even more extreme. If Israel were to drag all of the settlers out of the west bank I am doubtful that any of the other grievances on the Palestinian list would retain sufficient traction with world opinion to harm Israel’s standing with the international community. It is the colonial activities of Israel’s present that are (rightly) the most odious aspect of the Jewish state.

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  10. http://arabism-islamism.webs.com/index.htm
    The twin fascisms that causes most massacres, wars, “conflicts” today:

    Arabism is racism (Arab racism)
    Millions upon Millions are/became victims of [pan-] Arabism which is the worst current form of racism in its gigantic proportions, like: Kurds Jews (not just in Israel) Berbers (the real natives of North Africa), Africans (not just in the genocide in the Sudan or in Egypt on native Nubians by Arab invaders – till today), Persians, etc.

    Islamism is bigotry (Islamofascism)!
    The Islamic supremacy that “works” towards its vision of “final Islamic domination on the entire planet”, from Middle east to Africa from Asia to Eurabia, from forced conversions, terrorism, & massacres in multiple countries (like: Thailand, Phillipines, China, Indonesia, Tunisia, Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon India, USA, France, Israel, Russia, UK, etc.) to propaganda, the war includes on Muslims who are not radical enough…,

    Let’s face it! that entire war on Israel & the Jews since the 1920’s by infamous facsist Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini who started the “genocide campaign” [and continues by the children, grand children of Arab immigrants into Israel – Palestine – now convenienently called “palestinians”] in a clear outlined declaration to ‘kill all Jews’, is nothing but out of pure Arab Muslim bigotry.

    Why does biased media blame Israel defenders from vicious Arab Muslims who use civilians when they attack Israeli civilians… so that their civilians (they prefer kids to) die then parade with the casualties as “innocent victims”???

    BTW
    While the Islamo Arab dictatorship (& real Apartheid upon the non-Arabs, non-Muslims) goes on…
    Israeli [ungrateful] Arabs won’t mention FAVORITISM by democratic pluralistic multi-racial Israel in: land, courts & universities, by the same token, the totalitarian & mullahcracy dictators of Iran with its Hezbollah thugs & militant “Palestine” anti-freedom forces cast their genocide plan under “freedom fighting.”

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