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Not every tribe needs a state

Posted By Obadiah Shoher On February 26, 2010 @ 9:00 am In peace process | No Comments

Politics is shaped by natural forces of public sentiment. The Intifada did not start on Arafat’s orders, nor was he able to quell it. Likewise, Israeli public opposition to a Palestinian state is not a product of government propaganda. As Lincoln remarked, “You cannot fool all the people all the time.” After a short-term effect, propaganda dissipates; the Soviets learned that the hard way when their totalitarian propaganda machine proved useless against jeans, Cola, and jazz.

Israeli public views on Palestinian statehood are most evidently correlated to a single fact—Palestinian violence. When terrorism increases, so does Israeli support for distancing our country from the Palestinians. That’s the major reason behind Rabin’s lax attitude toward fighting the Intifada and Olmert’s passive response to Kassam fire from Gaza: the terrorism hugely benefited Jewish peaceniks. Now, with terrorism on the wane, a fearful public can afford a less accommodating stance toward Palestinian statehood, as polls indicate.

Whether the lull in terrorism is permanent cannot be predicted. Public mood erupts in a manner similar to the breaking of glass or concrete: the moment before the rupture, the surface looked perfectly clean, with the myriad spreading micro-cracks undetectable to the eye. Forces work in opposite directions. The passage of time generally dulls grievances, but continuous rubbing of hostile populations increases them. Economic development channels energies toward consumerist goals, but also allows plenty of spare time to engage in non-economic ideological activities. The Arab birth rate has peaked, and the proportion of youth—the backbone of radicalism—will be declining among general population, but plenty of unemployed youth are dangerous right now. Israeli security services have reliably penetrated terrorist organizations on all levels, but grassroots terrorism is growing, and it is inherently unpreventable—how can you intercept a good Arab worker who one day decides to drive his bulldozer at Jews?

The Intifada did not start in response to the Jibril deal, when Israel released 1,150 terrorists; two years passed from the infamous prisoner exchange to the uprising. Rather, the Intifada was a textbook case of spontaneous societal eruption. The current grassroots terrorism can erupt in an Intifada under two conditions: Palestinian society must be boiling hot, and Jewish reaction must be weak. The logic of uprising is similar in the West Bank and in the New York subway: the broken windows of Israeli cars and New York metro cars indicate the authorities’ powerlessness. Just as in New York, measures as mild as arresting passengers who jumped over the toll booths without paying signaled an end to criminal lawlessness, so in Israel the relatively mild measures of prosecuting the throwers of firebombs and expelling their families can prevent a new uprising. Just as in the New York subway cleaning the graffiti made a visible sign of the restoration of the rule of law, so would well-armed Israeli soldiers restore calm to Arab villages. Lacking traditional societal fabric, the occupied population longs for security, even if such security must be imposed on it, and thus it is a duty of an occupier to impose martial law, which is simultaneously just and harsh.

As time goes by, implementing a two-state solution becomes less possible. It is not even the issue that Palestinian leadership neither wants a backwater state, nor can restrain its militants from pursuing more. The Israeli establishment does not want the country to be inundated by Jewish right-wingers from the West Bank, a situation it dreads much more than it fears being inundated by Arabs. Most Jews in the West Bank are centrist moderates, but there are a significant proportion of true right-wingers. At present, the conflict with the West Bank Arabs absorbs their energies; but once evicted from the settlements, having moved to Israel, they will foment unrest and hostility toward Israeli Arabs and the ultra-left. Therefore, the establishment prefers to keep them semi-exiled in the West Bank.

Alternatives to a two-state solution exist. Besides the correct but unlikely expulsion of all Arabs from Jewish land, Israel can count on the failure of the Jordanian monarchy. The Jordanian monarchy will succumb to double pressure: politically, monarchy is an antiquated order, and demographically, Jordan’s Palestinian majority is not content with Bedouin dominance. A change in Jordan’s political layout will involve the East Bank falling to the Palestinians and Bedouins taking over the desert all the way to Iraq. Two Palestinian states are clearly too much, and the West Bank issue will be reduced to a border dispute with Jordan.

An Israeli confederacy is another option. The Israel-West Bank union was extensively discussed during the secret Oslo talks, but that option undeservedly fell into oblivion. As long as Israel is not obliged to support the West Bank financially, a confederacy is a viable option. Israel’s fear of foreign Arabs inundating the West Bank is unfounded: the Palestinians are more than anyone else interested in preventing themselves from being swarmed by immigrants. To that end, the Palestinians have demonstrated their sensibility and firmness in adamantly declining to take in any refugees now in Lebanon and Syria. Just to make sure, immigration policy could be left to the confederate government, where Jewish dominance is demographically assured.

Palestinian statehood is bad for Jews—and incidentally, for Palestinians.


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