Thursday, July 21, 2016

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

Everyone knows that party platforms are just for atmosphere. They bind nobody to anything, and are quickly forgotten after the election. But I must say that the Republican platform plank on Israel – regardless of what one thinks of the candidate – is remarkable, including the very fundamental statement that “[w]e reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier…” as well as recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (and not, as in theDemocratic platform “a matter for final status negotiations.”)

And then there is what is not there. What has especially been noted is the absence of any mention of the so-called “two-state solution” (TSS), a consistent part of US policy since 1993.

Leaving it out today is not unreasonable. For the past 23 years we have been trying and failing to come up with a TSS acceptable to both sides, and as we shall see, there are good reasons for this. A partition of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean to create a sovereign Palestinian state is only one of numerous possible solutions to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Why should the platform of an American political party insist on one particular solution to a foreign conflict that ultimately can only be solved by the parties involved?

But Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who is himself neither a Republican, an Israeli nor a Palestinian, finds it ‘ominous’, a “dangerous turning point.”

Jacobs’ arguments are surprisingly weak. For example, he says,

But a one-state solution, the only alternative anyone has ever offered, allows the settlers to stay in place in their entirety, which perhaps is the intent of [David] Friedman [an adviser to Donald Trump involved in the platform drafting process], a strong backer of the settlements. This would subject Israel and the Palestinians to an endless cycle of violence.

I presume he is referring to the idea popularized by Caroline Glick and others that Israel should extend Israeli law to all of Judea and Samaria. One of the points in its favor is that one of the main causes of violence is precisely the Palestinian Authority, which incites murder on a daily basis in its media, official mosques, schools, and so forth. If it were removed there would be less violence, not more.

There is also the argument that the PA’s massive corruption is one of the main reasons for Palestinian unhappiness and frustration, and that the cause of peace would best be served by improving the daily lives of the Arab residents.

But in any event, this is not the “only” solution anyone has proposed. For example, Naftali Bennett, who presently holds the Education and Diaspora Affairs portfolios in Israel’s cabinet, suggested that Israel annex that part of the territories that are under full Israeli control under the Oslo accord (Area C), and leave the PA in control of Arabs living in the other areas. Area C contains the great majority of the Jewish communities and only a small number of Arabs.

There are still other possibilities. But Jacobs is stuck on this idée fixe that has held the Israeli Left and the American government in its grip for the last several decades, the TSS. 

Let’s look at some of the reasons that a TSS is unacceptable, even if such an agreement could be reached (don’t forget that far-reaching TSS proposals by Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were rejected by the Arabs as not giving them enough).

1.       Security, security, security. The topography of the region is such that the only way to protect Israel’s center from rocket attacks and to defend the country from invasion from the east is to control the high ground in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. This is a matter of brute geological fact, not politics. Recent history in Lebanon and elsewhere shows that no international force or guarantee can replace the IDF.

2.       Land for Paper. Nothing that is agreed upon with one regime, the PA, would be binding on any future entity that might take control of the area, such as Hamas or even Da’esh. As a matter of fact, the PA itself has systematically violated the Oslo accords that it signed, so even without a regime change there is no reason to trust signed agreements.

3.       National Aspirations. Mahmoud Abbas himself made it clear that in the event of the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories, he would immediately press claims against Israel “at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.” The PLO, which runs the PA, does not aspire to live alongside Israel, it wants to redress Palestinian grievances from 1948, including ‘return’ of millions of descendents of Arab refugees to Israel, not the Palestinian state. This is why Abbas has always vehemently refused to agree that Israel is the state of the Jewish people or agree to a formula of “two states for two peoples.”

Jacobs also reruns the demographic argument, that 

It seems axiomatic that the alternative to two states is one state, since the demographics indicate that in the near future, the majority of that one state would not be Jewish. Such a state would then either be a Jewish state that would cease to be a democracy and disenfranchise millions of Palestinian souls, or it would be a democracy and cease to be Jewish. 

There are several reasons this isn’t true. First, nobody is including the 1.8 million Gazans in any “one-state” plan. Second, the number of Arabs in Judea and Samaria is overstated by at least one million by Palestinian sources. And third, the Arab birthrate is dropping and the Jewish one is rising, so there will not be a demographic ‘time bomb’. If Israel were to annex all of Judea and Samaria today, the population of the combined state would be 66% Jewish (the current percentage within the Green Line is about 80%). I am not arguing that Israel should do this, just pointing out that it would not change the fact of the Jewish majority.

Finally, Rabbi Jacobs refers several times to “extremists on both sides.” I presume the Palestinian extremists are the countless terrorists who stab, shoot, blow up and run down Jews every day because they are Jews. And the Jewish extremists? They write slogans on walls and build illegal shacks on hilltops in Judea and Samaria. Yes, there is one in an Israeli jail now accused of firebombing a Palestinian house and killing three family members. Even if it turns out that he is guilty – and I am still doubtful about that – it will be one person, rejected by almost all of Jewish Israel and punished by its justice system, alongside hundreds of Arab terrorists incited by the PA, encouraged and, afterwards, venerated by their society.

Rabbi Jacobs is for coexistence. So am I, which is why I oppose creating a base for terrorism on our doorstep, and why I see the Republican platform as a breath of fresh air.

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