THE HONORABLE THING TO DO
by Martin Sherman
The only proper thing for two-staters to do is to admit error, apologize for the vast damage they have wrought, and bow out of public life.
The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them. – Albert Einstein
This insight encapsulates the predicament that two-staters have inflicted on us. The problems that have arisen from the pursuit of the policy of two-states-for-two-peoples cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created those problems – i.e. by the continued pursuit of that policy.
Over the past several months, two-staters have been in a flap, displaying growing frustration and bewilderment over the refusal of reality to conform to their political prescription. Increasingly, their public statements show signs of despair and desperation, at times tinged with tones of panic. It is becoming evermore common to encounter expressions of what once would have been considered heretical musings, reflecting mounting doubts whether their formula for resolving the conflict is at all feasible.
One of the more outlandish responses to this spreading desperation was that articulated recently by Shimon Peres — who might well be dubbed "the-two-stater-in-chief" — at last month's Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.
Addressing a plenary session titled "Learning from Mistakes on the Way to Tomorrow," Peres seemed to advocate that we shouldn't.
Learn from mistakes, that is.
His recipe for attaining peace — which of course has worked so splendidly up to now — was to forget the past because "we can't change it."
Challenging his audience with the rhetorical question, "Can you correct the past?" he urged: "Focus on the future."
Ah, "the future" — that seductively fabricated illusion, fraudulently framed as the promise of serene tranquility, tantalizingly close at hand, and conveniently decoupled from the trauma and tragedy of the past.
For two-staters, it is the last remaining straw they have to cling to; the last card they have to play in the losing hand they have dealt themselves — and the nation.
Doomed to repeat?
Now while it is undoubtedly true that we cannot change the past, we definitely can learn from it. Indeed, we fail to do so at our peril. As George Santayana warns: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Peres seems reluctant to recall the repercussions of his own actions — and even more reticent to admit them.
Apparently impervious to the massive trail of death and devastation precipitated by the "peace process," of which he was the principal architect, he recounted to the conference how he sagaciously allayed Yitzhak Rabin's misgivings and convinced him to go along with handing over Gaza and Jericho to the homicidal regime of Yasser Arafat and his sanguinary cronies.
From Peres's demeanor, one might easily have concluded that the measures he initiated, and which resulted in the loss of life and limb for thousands of his countrymen, was an admirable deed to be emulated, rather than an appalling blunder to be avoided.
Given their abysmal record, it is understandable that perpetrators of two-state compliant policies should be loath to discuss the past, and keen to formulate a rationale to avoid such a debate.
But even making allowance for the inevitable cognitive discomfort two-staters must experience when confronted with the stark contrast between their deeply held beliefs and the cold facts of reality, Peres's formula for devising actionable policy takes the concept of public irresponsibility to a whole new level.
Reckless abandon as strategy
According to our esteemed president and Nobel peace laureate, the key to successful peacemaking is to ignore the risks, disregard the dangers, discount the threats, and dismiss the hazards that one may encounter in the pursuit of peace...
Indeed, the prescribed "Peresian" precondition for peace is to "close your eyes a little."
After all, he asserts, "You cannot make peace with your eyes open."
So that's it! The secret is reckless abandon.
All we need to do to attain the durable peace that has eluded us for so long is to throw caution to the wind. Forget who our adversaries are, overlook their intrinsic nature and past behavior, "close our eyes" and conjure up some virtual reality populated by cuddly, congenial Palestinians.
So it seems that flat learning curves are "in." Or rather learning curves in general are "out."
But for the gravity of the issues and the calamitous consequences they may entail, Peres's proposal would be comical — bordering on the buffoonish.
Yet despite its manifest absurdity, it seems to have a definite allure for some.
Indeed, total erasure of memory appears to be the only explanation for Gershon Baskin's latest column, in Tuesday's Jerusalem Post, "Is my Zionist dream dead?"
I am having difficulty finding societally acceptable terms to describe Baskin's diatribe against his country and his people.
The article is not only a deplorable mixture of misplaced alarm, partisan delusion and whining self-commiseration; it is incendiary, borderline seditious and distinctly Judeophobic — allegations I will not leave unsubstantiated.
It is an archetypical illustration of prejudicial political amnesia that would do the "Peresian" philosophy of "closed eyes" proud.
No blame is ascribed to the Palestinians for the failure to attain a two-state peace.
It's all the fault of the Jews — the blind, callous, egotistical Jews.
Actually, I tend to agree with Baskin's opening paragraph. He writes: "I am really quite concerned. I see a great disaster about to unfold. I simply cannot understand why people are not shouting, ‘Don't let this happen!'" For I too fear that we may well be on the cusp of "great disaster" and am a little puzzled at what appears to be inexplicable public complacency.
But from thereon we diverge into antithetical positions — with regard both to the nature of the impending disaster and the measures needed to avert it. For the potential for catastrophe is the direct result of the endeavor to implement Baskin's two-state idea and the land-for-peace doctrine on which it is based.
Recipe for calamity
For wherever the policy of political appeasement and territorial withdrawal has been implemented, it has resulted in unequivocal fiasco — sometimes almost immediately as in Gaza, sometimes after a few years as with the second intifada, and sometimes after a few decades as in Sinai.
This record of failure leaves Baskin unmoved. He still apparently cannot fathom why this has diminished the Israeli public's appetite for, and belief in, the twostate principle, with regard to both its feasibility and its desirability.
Throughout Baskin's column there is not a hint — never mind explicit mention — referring to:
- The indiscriminate Palestinian shelling of Israeli civilian population centers from Gaza after the evacuation of the entire area;
- The frenzied desecration and destruction of the synagogues left standing after that evacuation;
- The Judeophobic incitement in the official Palestinian media and school curricula, almost indistinguishable in its venom from the Nazi Der Stürmer;
- The Judeocidal declarations of intent calling for the destruction of Israel as the nation state of the Jews, in the founding documents of all the major Palestinian organizations — whether in the Hamas Charter, the Fatah Constitution or the PLO's Palestinian National Charter still posted on the website of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations;
- The bloody wave of Palestinian violence unleashed in response to Ehud Barak's unprecedented offers of territorial concessions in 2000;
- The Palestinian rejection of Ehud Olmert's even more radical offers in 2008.
Ignoring far-reaching concessions
But it is not only Palestinian rejectionism and propensity for violence that appears to have slipped Baskin's mind. So it seems has Israel's far-reaching willingness to make concrete concessions in the hope of reaching a peace agreement with the Arabs, including the Palestinians, ever since the 1979 Camp David Agreements.
After all, Israel has:
- Evacuated the entire Sinai Peninsula;
- Foregone its oil resources and strategic depth;
- Withdrawn unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, erasing every vestige of Jewish presence;
- Unearthed its dead from graveyards;
- Demolished settlements in northern Samaria;
- Allowed armed militias to deploy adjacent to its capital and within mortar range of its parliament; and
- Imposed a 10-month construction freeze across the "settlements."
None of these elicited discernible motivation among the Palestinians for reciprocal peaceable measures. They merely pocketed the concessions and moved on to their next demand.
Yet despite the weight of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, Baskin declares, "There obviously is no partner for this solution on the Israeli side," adding ominously, "soon there will be no partner for it on the Palestinian side."
But, of course, there never really has been any of the latter, except in the fevered minds of the obsessive two-staters such as Baskin for whom not capitulating to every Palestinian demand is apparently proof-positive of Israeli intransigence.
Yet there are far graver aspects to Baskin's article than his bias against Israel. Consider the following passage: "One million Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot be equal when they are always subject to be questioned about their loyalty. Of course they will be loyal to their own people when their own state is fighting against them."
Well, quite apart from the fact that the questions raised regarding the loyalty of the Arab citizens of Israel derive from their deeds and their declarations — particularly of their elected representatives — and not from any arbitrary discriminatory impulse of the Israeli authorities, the implications of the latter part of the excerpt are particularly serious.
For it seems Baskin is endorsing — or at least condoning — support for the enemy in war. How else are we to interpret his acceptance of Israeli Arabs bestowing their loyalty on "their own people" rather than on "their state" when the two are effectively at war. It is hard to imagine how those who wish to cast doubt on the loyalty of Israeli Arabs could ask for any greater validation of their position than that provided by Baskin.
While I would, of course, prefer to reach some alternative conclusion rather than that Baskin is sanctioning, or at least tolerating, sedition among Israel's Arab citizen, I am having difficulty finding one.
Baskin waxes hysterical, bleating: "What do we do when partition is no longer possible?" Of course it never really was. There certainly is not — nor has there been — any format compatible with Israel's minimum security requirements that is acceptable to the Palestinians — except of course in the feverish imagination of career two-staters such as Baskin.
There are certainly Zionist-compliant alternatives to the two-state paradigm, as I have discussed in several previous columns, but which due to constrains of space cannot be elaborated on here.
Baskin, however, contemptuously dismisses any thought of other options, asking: What if they don't work/the Palestinians don't accept them? Surely Baskin has a commensurate obligation to inform us what happens if a Palestinian state were indeed established and — as would be quite likely — is taken over by radical Islamist elements, or even if the moderate non-Islamic regime cannot rein in its renegade elements. What is Baskin's "Plan B" once Israel has relinquished control of the highlands commanding its major population centers and vital infrastructure installations? What if the Palestinians do not suddenly behave radically differently to the way they have for the last hundred years? What if they rain down rockets, not on Sderot and remote southern agricultural settlements, but on greater Tel Aviv, Ben- Gurion Airport, Herzliya, Ra'anana, Savyon, Caesarea and Jerusalem? What then? What if what swept through Gaza, and more recently through Tahrir, Tunis and Tripoli, sweeps through Ramallah? Does Baskin care about the consequences for his country and his countrymen? If so, there is no hint of how he proposes to address them.
What is the tenor of Baskin's Zionism? He certainly seems to place scant weight on the issue of Jewish sovereignty. For him Palestinian sovereignty seems far more essential.
He writes: "The State of Palestine will never exist if it is up to Israel to decide.... I want to understand if there's a place left for me in this country. I want to know if my Zionist dream has any validity any more."
It would appear Baskin's "Zionist dream" is entirely dependent on the establishment, not of a Jewish state, but a Palestinian one — which he implies must be imposed on the sovereign elected government of the Jewish state, presumably by foreign powers. Or am I missing something here? Moreover, it seems that Baskin's "Zionist dream" cannot have "any validity" nor can there to be any place for him in the country unless millions of more Israelis are brought into the range of weapons being used today from territory handed over to Palestinian control.
That apparently is essential for his moral code. Without this, Baskin's vision of Zionism will crumble and Israel will, in all likelihood, no longer be a place for him.
The honorable thing
Baskin asks that we be truthful, and indeed we should. But so should he.
He accuses Binyamin Netanyahu of insincerity and deliberately sabotaging any chance of a two-state solution. So it would be extremely intriguing to know how Baskin would relate to Nobel peace laureate Yitzhak Rabin, who, in his final address to the Knesset delineated his vision of a permanent solution with the Palestinians far less generous than any of his successors — including Netanyahu.
Would Rabin's post-Oslo policies also invalidate Baskin's Zionist dream and undermine his sense of belonging in the country? The truth, for those who genuinely seek it, is that any two-state configuration is incompatible with any sustainable Zionist existence.
It is high time that the two-staters acknowledge this. Indeed, today the only honorable thing left for two-staters to do is to admit error, apologize for the vast damage they have wrought, and bow out of public life.
Dr. Martin Sherman served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli Defense establishment. He was a ministerial adviser to Yitzhak Shamir's government and lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations and Strategic Studies. He has a BSc (Physics an Geology), an MBA (Finance), and a PhD in political science and international relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and is the author of two books and numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues. Dr. Sherman is currently involved in establishing an independent policy center — the Israel Institute of Strategic Studies (a US non profit 501c3 tax-exempt entity). Contact www.martinsherman.net for more information.
This article was posted July 5, 2012 in the Jerusalem Post