Into the Fray/JPost..
18 March '16..
The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees... by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other – until one day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology. – Ayn Rand, 1965
In decades to come future historians will shake their heads in disbelief and bewilderment over how a concept so manifestly misconceived and moronic as the two-state prescription could ever become the dominant paradigm for the resolution of the conflict between Jew and Arab in the Middle East.
Disproven but never discarded
They will doubtless puzzle over the seemingly hypnotic power it had to eclipse every vestige of common sense and extinguish all traces of political prudence, leading statesmen, scholars and media pundits unquestioningly astray, as if mesmerized by its pied-piper allure, oblivious to the chaos and carnage left strewn in its wake.
In all likelihood, they will be even more astonished over how it managed to retain this status of dominance for almost a quarter-century – despite being repeatedly disproven, but somehow never discredited and certainly never discarded.
Admittedly, there are a few signs that recalcitrant realities are beginning to force cracks in the edifice of deceit and delusion built around the two-state “philosophy” (for want of a better word), and even some of its most ardent advocates are beginning to express heretical doubts, and even, heaven forfend, second thoughts.
Thus, for example, several weeks ago, The New York Times published an editorial, blatantly biased against Israel (no surprise there), titled, “The Fading Two-State Solution” (January 22). In it, it bewailed the fact that the possibility of a two-state reality may have been overtaken by events – Palestinian butchery and Jewish building – and “[t]ragically, it may already be too late for the... formula [of] two independent states, side by side.”
Dogged devotion to dogma
However, despite the plethora of discordant developments, numerous undaunted adherents still abound, clinging devotedly to the disproven doctrine of land-for-peace and its derivative, the two-state dogma.
Not unexpectedly, as evidence accumulates as to the infeasibility and inadvisability of the two-state endeavor, their arguments become more disingenuous, delusional and detached from reality.
A recent encounter I had, during an hour-long debate on an Australian radio program, highlights this sad evolutionary phenomenon. The debate, on whether the two-state solution is still viable, with a well-known figure in the Australian Jewish community, Johnny Baker, president of left-leaning Ameinu Australia and member of the editorial board of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC ), took place on David Schulberg’s The Israel Connexion, aired by the Melbourne-based station J-Air Radio.
I have chosen to contend with the contentions Baker raised in our debate for two reasons: Firstly, they have a generic quality to them and echo much of the positions articulated by other yet-unchastened two-staters. As such they have a more general relevance beyond Bakers personal views.
Secondly, and to Baker’s credit, he was a worthy adversary, and presented his case with commendable eloquence, fluency and even aggressive self-confidence. As such it deserves to be confronted and countered before a wider forum that extends to audiences beyond the J-Air listeners.
After all, eloquent formulation, no matter how articulate, cannot impart substantive validity or coherence to an argument, when no such validity or coherence exists.
Articulate non sequitur
In the interests of fairness, I urge readers to listen to the podcast on the J-Air website (The Israel Connexion Program 29 – February 24) to judge for themselves if I, in anyway, misrepresent or distort Baker’s arguments – with the caveat that this was probably not my best debating performance, which might partially be explained by me having the disadvantage of being on Skype, while my interlocutor had the advantage of being in the studio with the interviewer.
Baker prefaced his argument with a perverse non sequitur, claiming that since (in his view) the two-state solution is desirable, it must be viable, and hence should still be pursued – although he did concede it might not be feasible in the present inclement climate, or the no less bleak immediate future. Significantly, he gave no indication of how/why the situation is likely to become more amenable in time.
This perspective is both petulant and puerile: Just because you want it, you can/must have it? After all, alleged “desirability,” on its own, cannot transform the pursuit of an objective into being either prudent or practical.
Moreover, in light of the disastrous precedents, it is a distinctly bizarre position. It is a little like claiming that, since unassisted human flight is desirable, well-intentioned folk, wishing to free themselves of pesky earthbound restraints, should fling themselves off multi-storied buildings in the hope that – despite all accumulated evidence (and injury) to the contrary – somehow, in the future, the laws of gravity and aerodynamics will bend themselves to accommodate their benign desires. Merely because they were benign.
Evasive on security
Putting aside for the moment the question of why anyone claiming to have Israel’s well-being at heart would consider it “desirable” to have the runways of Israel’s only international airport – and thousands of kindergartens – within mortar range of a Palestinian state, and the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6) within tunnel reach of it, Baker was, to say the least, evasive on security.
So, despite his ardor for Palestinian statehood, he admitted that he would not stipulate, even in broad terms, what the borders of such an entity would be and how security problems that might arise from its establishment would be contended with.
Instead, in adhering to his two-state advocacy, he places implicit and unquestioning trust in the opinions several senior Israeli security experts have expressed in support of the two-state prescription.
This of course is a somewhat dubious tactic that is both intellectually slothful and disingenuous.
For it clearly is an attempt to dismiss opposing arguments, without having to trouble oneself with actually refuting them with sound counter-arguments. Thus, Baker arrogantly claimed he had “destroyed” my reservations regarding the dire security situation that might well arise from the creation of a mega-Gaza on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv, not by offering any attempted refutations, but merely by referring to the controversial Gatekeepers documentary, in which four former heads of the Shin Bet bewailed the evils of the “occupation,” without, to the best of my knowledge, specifying any practical political pathway to arrive at a workable alternative, any less onerous or risk-fraught.
Baker’s claim that the majority of senior figures in the security establishment support the two-state formula is grossly misleading, for at least two reasons.
Firstly, arguably the most comprehensive and thorough publicly available study of Israel’s minimal security requirements was undertaken several years ago by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs headed by Dore Gold, currently director-general of the Foreign Ministry. The study was compiled by an array of former major-generals, brigadier-generals and senior ambassadors including ex-IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon; former-deputy chief of staff, head of National Security Council and head of Central Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan; former head of Military Intelligence Maj.- Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash; former national security adviser and head of Research and Assessment Division, Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror; the ex-head of the IDF Strategic Planning Division, Brig- Gen (res.) Udi Dekel; and former ambassadors to the US and UN Meir Rosenne and Dore Gold, respectively. Both Ya’alon and Dayan commanded the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal (the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit), which executed many of the IDF’s most daring and covert operations.
The study raised grave reservations as to the land-for-peace doctrine, and determined that to ensure its minimal security requirements, Israel must retain control of both the western and eastern slopes of the Judea-Samaria highlands, and the Jordan Valley, as well as the airspace and electromagnetic spectrum over the entire area of Judea and Samaria. These security exigencies clearly obviate the possibility of establishing any self-governing entity with territorial parameters remotely acceptable to even the most complaisant Palestinian.
Skating on thin ice
I am not aware of any document endorsing the establishment of a Palestinian state nearly as authoritative, thorough or comprehensive, to which Baker could refer in order to corroborate his position – just the usual banal platitudes and kumbaya exhortations as to the need for brotherhood and harmony, and how wonderful it would be if they could only be achieved.
But apart from ignoring well-documented opposition to the two-state principle by very senior security figures, Baker is skating on thin ice, placing implicit trust in political assessments by former Israeli military/security experts.
For, ever since the then-head of Military Intelligence Maj.- Gen. Eli Zeira assured the government hours before the Arab onslaught in October 1973, that the probability of an attack was “lower than low,” they have erred – gravely and repeatedly.
Indeed, as I pointed out in “Goofy generals galore” (February 2015), virtually every time top military figures have departed from their field of expertise and ventured into one where they have none, politics, they have been disastrously wrong.
In “Goofy generals galore” and “Intelligence failures and failures of intelligence”(July 30, 2015), I catalogue the long litany of mistaken political prognoses by senior security experts in estimating enemy intentions, especially when nonmilitary considerations outweigh military ones, and almost always when the bellicose intentions of the Arabs have been dismissed or downplayed.
‘Nor will there be any rockets’
Constraints of space preclude an exhaustive account of these misjudgments, which span virtually every sphere, from the assessment of Bashar Assad’s intentions and survivability, through Saddam Hussein’s designs on Kuwait, the strategic role of submarines, to Yasser Arafat’s desire for peace, to name but a few.
But perhaps the most dramatic illustration of how foolhardy it would be to rely on political predictions of military men is provided by assessments of two of the most iconic military figures in Israel’s history, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon.
Thus, Rabin, in a radio interview (July 24, 1995), disdainfully dismissed concern expressed as to the consequences of installing Arafat and his henchmen in Gaza: “The nightmare stories of the Likud are well known. After all, they promised Katyusha rockets from Gaza as well. For a year, Gaza has been largely under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. There has not been a single Katyusha rocket. Nor will there be any rockets.”
Ariel Sharon in a Knesset address (October 25, 2004) declared: “I am firmly convinced and truly believe that this disengagement... will be appreciated by those near and far, reduce animosity, break through boycotts and sieges and advance us along the path of peace with the Palestinians and our other neighbors.”
It is embarrassing to recall these wildly erroneous estimates and absurd assessments, and one can only wonder how comfortable Baker feels about relying on future appraisals from reassuring two-state advocates with impressive security credentials.
Messianic creed of two-states
It does, however, seem that Baker does have some gnawing apprehensions as to the security implications of a Palestinian state, for he stipulates that any agreement on it must give the IDF the ability to operate freely in it. A sovereign Palestinian state with a foreign military roaming its territory? How oxymoronic can you get – never mind the difficulty of locating a Palestinian who would dare be complicit with such a perfidious arrangement.
Baker tries to denigrate his opponents by designating them as “messianic.” Yet he urges us to believe in the viability of an entity whose borders he cannot specify, to be established in an indeterminate time frame, and whose alleged compatibility with Israel’s security is based on assurances/assessments of sources who have been proven consistently wrong.
Now that sounds a pretty messianic, faith-based conviction to me.
One can only wonder what has to happen to nudge folk like Baker into reconsidering their position. After all, their entire belief appears to be predicated on the hope that the Palestinians will at, some stage, morph into something “different.”
Perhaps they need to be reminded that waiting for your enemy to change is not prudent policy – especially if all signs are that the foreseeable changes are likely to be for the worse.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org).
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