Sunday, May 1, 2016

A very simple conflict - by Martin Sherman

The intractability of the 100-year dispute between Jew and Arab over the Land of Israel is rooted not in its complexity, but its brutal simplicity.

Martin Sherman..
Into the Fray/JPost..
27 April '16..

Until 1967, Israel did not hold an inch of the Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or the Golan Heights. Israel held not an acre of what is now considered disputed territory. And yet we enjoyed no peace. Year after year Israel called for – pleaded for – a negotiated peace with the Arab governments. Their answer was a blank refusal and more war... The reason was not a conflict over territorial claims. The reason was, and remains, the fact that a free Jewish state sits on territory at all. – Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, before a joint session of the US Congress, January 28, 1976

We will never recognize the Jewishness of the State of Israel. – Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, Cairo, November, 2014

One of the widely propagated falsehoods regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, and Palestinian-Israeli one in particular, is that it is an immensely complex problem requiring great sophistication and creativity to resolve.

Brutal simplicity

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The 100-year struggle between Jew and Arab over control of the Holy Land, extending west of the Jordan River to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, is in fact a very simple one.

But recognition of the stark simplicity of the conflict does not in any way imply that it is easy to resolve. In fact, it is the brutal simplicity of the conflict that makes a solution so elusive.

Any endeavor to obfuscate this unpalatable fact can only have – indeed, has had – gravely detrimental, even tragic, consequences, just as mistaken diagnosis of a malaise is likely to have detrimental, even tragic, outcomes. Any attempt to portray the conflict as “complicated” is not a mark of sophistication or profundity, but rather of a desire to evade the merciless, unembellished truth.

For the clash between Jew and Arab over the exercise of national sovereignty anywhere west of the Jordan is a classic “them” or “us” scenario, an arch-typical zero-sum game, in which the gains of one side are unequivocally the loss of the other.

No amount of genteel pussyfooting around this harsh reality will change it. No amount of polite politically correct jargon will soften it.

Essence of enmity

This reality is aptly conveyed by the introductory excerpt from Yitzhak Rabin’s January 1976 address to a joint session of the US Congress, when in his more lucid, pre-Oslo, period he succinctly diagnosed that the root of Arab Judeophobic enmity was not a dispute over any particular allocation of territory between Jew and Arab, but the allocation of any territory for Jewish sovereignty: “The reason [for the Arab refusal of peace and the ongoing belligerency] was not a conflict over territorial claims. The reason was, and remains, the fact that a free Jewish state sits on territory at all.”

Rabin’s assessment was valid then; it is valid today.

No matter what territorial configuration for dividing the land was proposed, it was invariably rejected by Israel’s Arab interlocutors – from the 1947 Partition Plan, through the far-reaching concessions offered by Ehud Barak in 2000, that elicited nothing but a massive wave of violence that lasted almost five years and left thousands dead and injured; to the even more dramatically pliant proposal put forward by Ehud Olmert and rejected by Abbas in 2008.

Clearly then, as Rabin identified, the roots of Arab belligerence vis-a-vis the Jews cannot be traced to any specific borders of the Jewish state – but to the existence of the Jewish state itself.

Not about borders, but existence

Accordingly we are compelled to the conclusion that the “root causes” of the dispute are:
• not about Jewish military “occupation” of Arab land; but about Jewish political existence on any land;
• not about the Jewish state’s policies; but about the Jewish state per se; and
• not about what the Jewish people do; but about what the Jewish people are.

Resounding affirmation of this came from the allegedly “moderate” and “pragmatic” Abbas himself, who in November 2014 told an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers that no peace accord with Israel was possible if this involved recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – see introductory excerpt.

This was no slip of the tongue.

Several months earlier, Reuters reported (March 9): “The Arab League has backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’... [and] endorsed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of Israel’s demand for recognition as a Jewish state.” The League issued a statement declaring: “The council of the Arab League confirms its support for the Palestinian leadership...

and emphasizes its rejection of recognizing Israel as a ‘Jewish state.’” Clearly, this should be a sobering message for all the self-professed Zionists who have so eagerly advocated that Israel adopt the Arab League Plan (aka the “Saudi Initiative”) – which calls for a return to the indefensible pre-1967 lines, division of Jerusalem, return of Arab refugees, and withdrawal from the Golan Heights – as a basis for peace negotiations and pan-Arab recognition.

Recognition? Really? As an un-Jewish state? How accommodating.

Resolute rejection of recognition

This resolute rejection of Jewish sovereignty, which increasingly has reflected itself in expression of revulsion at things Jewish, should be seen as the back drop to some recently reported – and revealing – incidents.

Thus following Abbas’s outrageous declaration last September that Jews have no right to “desecrate” the Temple Mount with “their filthy feet,” and his incendiary endorsement of the harassment of Jewish visitors by Arab hooligans, the allegedly moderate Jordanian government warned of “serious consequences” if the Jewish state allowed Jews to visit the site which according to Jewish religion is the most holy to Jews.

Significantly, the Jordanian warning came soon after Amman, under intense Palestinian pressure, recanted on its proposal to install security cameras to document events and monitor attempts to instigate violence on the Temple Mount, leaving Arab hoodlums free to assail Jewish visitors with impunity while accusing them of aggression and desecration.

Then, of course there was the impudent and blatantly Judeophobic characterization of MK Tzipi Livni as “so smelly” by a Harvard law student, one Husam El-Qoulaq, reportedly head of Harvard’s Students for Justice in Palestine.

The reported transcript (Ynet, April 22) of the incident dispels any doubt that the barb was an intentional slur: STUDENT: Okay, my question is for Tzipi Livni, um, how is it that you are so smelly? (panel looks confused) STUDENT: Oh, it’s regarding your odor.

MODERATOR: I’m not sure I understand the question.

STUDENT: I’m question (sic) about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.

Bitter fruits of pliancy

There is a bitter sense of irony in this incident involving Livni. After all, she has been arguably the most pliant of all mainstream Israeli politicians toward Palestinian demands.

The abuse she was subject to serves to underscore the bitter fruits of such pliancy and to reinforce the validity of the previous diagnosis of the sources of Arab opprobrium toward all things Jewish: It is not about what the Jews do, but what they are – Jewish.

Commenting on the incident, well-known scholar Robert Spencer aptly remarked: “One thing is certain: If the roles had been reversed, and a Jewish student had asked a Muslim politician why she was so ‘smelly,’ that student would no longer be at Harvard, and would be subjected to international opprobrium, while stories on ‘Islamophobia’ would be blanketing the airwaves and filling mainstream media publications.”

Too true.

Indeed, imagine the international outcry if an Israeli leader, say Benjamin Netanyahu, had declared that the Palestinian-Arabs were desecrating Judaism’s holy sites, say the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, “with their filthy feet” and called on the “settlers” to “defend it by all means possible...”

Just imagine...

Perilous parallels

Irrepressible optimists and indefatigable two-state advocates cling desperately to irrelevant historical precedents in which once implacable enemies have put their bloody past and inimical grievances behind them and forged lasting peace agreements that have permitted them to live in political harmony and economic prosperity.

In this regard, they frequently point to the cases of Germany and Japan, who were bitter enemies of the Allies in WWII, the largest conflict humanity has ever known, in which tens of millions perished, cities were devastated and economies ruined. Yet a few short decades after the cessation of hostilities, both were staunch allies and robust trading partners of their erstwhile foes.

These are dangerously false analogies. We should be wary of being misled by them and cautious of drawing misplaced conclusions from them.

Putting aside for the moment the innate and obdurate antagonism that Islam harbors for all that is not Islam, there are important differences in the geo-political structure of the situation prevailing in post-WWII Japan and Germany, on the one hand, and that facing Israel today, on the other.

First of all, both the Germans and Japanese were unequivocally defeated and signed documents of unconditional surrender, something the Arabs in general, and the Palestinian-Arabs in particular, have not been required to do.

Berlin is not Baghdad

Secondly, and arguably more significant, unlike any prospective Palestine state, which would be part and parcel of a larger Islamic world, Germany was not surrounded by a swathe of kindred Teutonic nations, nor Japan by kindred Nipponic nations, that, driven by a radical Teutonic/Nipponic ideology, strove continually to undermine the stability and legitimacy of any peaceable regime that foreign powers might install.

Overlooking this element was in no small measure part of the reason for the failure of the American attempt to set up amenable, democratically oriented regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. For unlike defeated Berlin (and Tokyo), Baghdad (and Kabul) and their environs were continually assailed by Islamic insurgents, financed and equipped from surrounding Muslim countries, imperiling any government not to their liking.

This is a lesson Israel will ignore at its peril.

For this is precisely the situation that any regime set up in territory evacuated by Israel is almost certainly liable to face – and precisely the predicament that Israel would have to deal with in the wake of such evacuation.

Sadly, the vast majority of proposals for resolution of the conflict do exactly that, and are totally unmindful of the repercussions their implementation are liable to foment.

If Hamas were disarmed...

Thus, one of the frequently aired proposals is for the disarming of Hamas.

Nothing could highlight more effectively the moronic myopia of these kinds of suggestions than the previous analysis. For in the unlikely event that Hamas could be persuaded to disarm, how would it defend itself against more radical – and armed – challengers that would abound in and from its Islamic surrounds? And to what avail would Israel endeavor to disarm Hamas, only to have it replaced by a more menacing successor? This confronts Israeli policy-makers with almost mathematical algorithmic logic: The only way to ensure who rules – and does not rule – Gaza is for Israel to rule it itself. Precisely the same logic holds for Judea-Samaria.

The only way for Israel to do this without “ruling another people” is to relocate the “other people” outside the territory it is obliged to administer.

The only nonviolent and humane way to effect such relocation of the “other people” is by economic inducements – increasing material incentives to leave and disincentives to stay.

Q.E.D. What could be simpler or more compelling?


Dr. Martin Sherman ( is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (

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