Thursday, April 24, 2014

  • Thursday, April 24, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
One thing that Jews and Americans have in common is the desire to find solutions to problems. It is almost a pathology - if problems exist, we are hopelessly optimistic that solutions also exist.

Usually the solutions offered to the Arab-Israeli conflict come from the Left - Israeli offering more concessions in exchange for presumed goodwill that never materializes, but is still assumed. Some solutions come from the Right as well and they are usually dismissed without a consideration.

There has been some attention given to Caroline Glick's "one state solution" plan that she unveiled with the release of her book, The Israeli Solution. The plan, if I may oversimplify it for this review, is this:
  • Israel annexes Judea and Samaria, but not Gaza. 
  • Arab citizens are given full rights across the board.
  • The demographic problems will not materialize because the population figures we have been given from Palestinian Arabs have been grossly exaggerated.
  • At most, Arabs would take up one third of the population.
  • Palestinians wouldn't have any viable options to counter this.
  • Arab states won't care enough to do anything about it. 
  • Europe might offer some severe economic and diplomatic responses, but Israel could survive them.
  • Americans and Israelis should embrace this plan since it solves almost all the problems.

The book is divided into three sections.

The first is a good overview of the history of the region and of the peace process. There is a lot of good research here and, if expanded, it could make a fine book on its own.

Glick is also at least as critical of George W. Bush's Middle East policy as she is of Bill Clinton's and Barack Obama's. After all, Bush was the first president to declare openly that the US goal was to create a Palestinian Arab state.

The second section details the plan itself, while the third discusses potential fallout.

This is an important book because it breaks out of the "two-state" straitjacket that Israel - and the world- finds itself in. It does not cower at the supposed demographic time bomb that seems to cause Israeli politicians to panic and make unilateral offers. It is crucial to have a smart, fearless voice on the right that tackles the sacred cows of the "peace process" and that expands the discussion beyond the boundaries that are considered acceptable by the conventional wisdom.

Unfortunately, the book is also flawed. Some might not find the flaws to be that bad, and I agree that the importance of having the arguments out there may outweigh the problems, but they bother me a great deal.

Glick brings a wealth of facts to support her position. Many are new to me and I hope to turn some of them into standalone posts. But sometimes she plays fast and loose with those facts, sacrificing honesty for her arguments.

For example, on page 184 she says something astounding. In 2012 there was a poll of both Israelis and Palestinians on how they would view an Israeli plan "to unilaterally withdraw from Judea and Samaria, in a bid to advance a two state solution." 44% of Israelis supported it with 49% opposed, but she says 35% of Palestinians supported it and 59% opposed it. "That is, the Palestinians were much more opposed to an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria than were the Israelis."

This seemed fishy to me, so I looked up the poll. The suggestion was not a unilateral plan to withdraw from all of Judea and Samaria, but only from the parts east of the fence (give or take.) In other words, the Palestinians weren't opposed to the pullout - they were opposed to any remaining land of the territories being in Israeli hands. The result is quite different from how Glick represented it, and this is most disappointing.

On page 212, Glick says without qualification that "ethnic Palestinians constitute 80 percent of the population" in Jordan. She gets this figure from Mudar Zahran, a writer I respect but one who has an agenda. The truth is that there have been no censuses in Jordan to determine how many Palestinians live there; most experts assume between 50% and 70%. 80% seems very high, and it really has no support except by Zahran's assertion, and he has an interest in inflating the figures.

Less important but still problematic are things like Glick's assertion (p. 145) that Palestinian law supports older Jordanian laws that forbid selling land to Jews on penalty of death. In reality, that is almost accurate, but the law as written is really aimed at Israeli Jews, not all Jews (there was another Jordanian law to make it very difficult to sell land to non-Arabs, making it effectively but not officially impossible to sell land to Jews. Still, accuracy is paramount.)

There is also an apparent typo on page 76 saying that European Court of Auditors determined that $27 billion in EU aid to the PA was unaccounted for between 2008 and 2012. The real number is $2.7 billion.

Some of these are minor quibbles but I expect a book of this caliber, making important and novel arguments, to be very careful in its wording and arguments. Unfortunately Glick is not as careful as she should be, forcing one to double check every fact.

Even in her main thesis Glick skates over facts a little too much for my taste. I am no demographic expert, but I know that there are some demographers who disagree with the rightist demographers Glick relies on for the bulk of her argument. Those criticisms are ignored and the demographers Glick relies upon are not given a chance to defend their position on a deeper level, which is what I would like to see. Betting the future of Israel on biased statistics is a bad idea no matter which way the statistics may be biased. I, for one, would love to see a decent academic debate on this topic, and this book missed an opportunity by not going the extra mile to dig deeper instead of uncritically only reporting one side.

This is a pattern throughout the book. Obviously, Caroline Glick has a viewpoint and no one can begrudge her the opportunity to showcase it in her book , but when she ignores evidence that contradicts her theses it weakens her points significantly. This is a real shame, because even small errors will be magnified by the Israel haters to delegitimize the good points she makes.

Finally, I have a problem with Glick's key argument. Even if we allow that her demographics are correct and 67% of Israelis would be Jewish under her plan, that is not as healthy a majority as it may appear.

Since Israel is a parliamentary democracy, one only needs a bloc of 51% of the seats in Knesset to rule. In theory, if all Arabs (33%) vote as a bloc, then they could form a coalition with a mere 18% representing Jewish far left parties - meaning that Arabs could be a significant majority of a ruling coalition!

Is it that far fetched that far -Left parties would jump at the chance to be in the ruling coalition - and would agree to, say, limit aliyah or replace Yom Haatzmaut with Nakba Day to appease the Arab majority?

Even with these criticisms (and I have many others - I especially don't think that she considers all possible reactions to her plan), I want to emphasize that this is an important book and one that is worth reading. You will definitely learn things you didn't know before.

More importantly, it is critical that the discussion of potential solutions are not limited to the artificial framework that the Western world has imposed on Israel.


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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