Aluf Benn – Israel’s Self-Destruction in ‘Foreign Affairs’

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1/   As editor-in-chief of Ha’aretz Aluf Benn can be described as immensely knowledgeable and politically left-of-center.  His essays are often quite thoughtful and informative.  But this isn’t one of them.    

2/  Throughout the essay his main theme is the attitude of Israel to the Palestinians.  Aluf Benn insists that Israel should:

  • finally come to terms with the Palestinians.
  • address the Palestinian issue.
  • chart a path to peace and dignified coexistence with the Palestinians.
  • not ignore the Palestinians and reject their aspirations.
  • listen to new suggestions of peace.
  • reach out to Palestinians.

3/   This seems an impressive program, but what does it mean to finally come to terms with the Palestinians?  What does Israel have to do to address the Palestinians issue?  How does Israel chart a path to peace?  Or reach out?  Without offering a single concrete, practical suggestion, the list is devoid of substance.    

4/   The suggestion that Israel needs to be open to new suggestions of peace, also seems a great point.  It would have been even better if he had mentioned what the new suggestions were.  Likewise, it demonstrates laudable humanity to say that Palestinian aspirations shouldn’t be ignored and their dignity should be respected.  ​But this ignores the stated aspiration of all hues of Palestinian leadership to wipe out Israel and that their dignity is expressed by the joyful triumph of murdering Jews. 

5/   Such characterizations are unpleasant to him.  They are completely outside his aspirations.   Yet even a cursory examination of PA attitudes shows that it:

  • refuses to accept a two-state solution as an end to the conflict,
  • adheres to the Palestinian National Charter which aims to conquer all Israel,
  • claims the whole territory from the river to the seathe ‘48 territories.
  • devotes zero efforts with its citizens to promote a peaceful solution,
  • devotes tremendous efforts, resources, energy and funds to attack Israel and murder Jews.

The case for the two-state solution

6/    Instead of an assessment of Palestinian aims, his method of dealing with them is simple.  Like the UN, EU and others, he ignores them – and then proceeds as if the Palestinian aspiration to remove Israel from the map didn’t exist.  But his vagueness and his omissions are fatal to the two-state solution.  He realizes, of course, that in the aftermath of 7th October the two-state solution is unlikely to get much of a hearing in Israel.  Yet without distinguishing the two-state solution from his new suggestions for peace, it seems that he still finds its logic strong and convincing.  

7/  This is understandable.  The clarity and simplicity of the two-state solution contribute to its attractiveness.  In essence, the concept is that two rival national groups claim the same territory.  This provides the logical, moral and practical basis for a win-win solution to the conflict by dividing the area into a state for Palestinians and a state for Jews.  

8/  Over many years, western supporters of this view have been unable to imagine any palatable alternative.  The justice of the two-state case appears so clear and morally conclusive to its advocates that all decent people should agree.  It seems scarcely believable that anyone could seriously disagree. This has elevated the two-state solution to the level of a holy grail, taken for granted and endlessly repeated as a mantra.  No further elaboration is required.  To think otherwise would shatter the entirely ideological view that a win-win solution to the conflict is possible.  

A winner-takes-all conflict

9/  All this points to the Achilles heel of those who hold this viewpoint: they only state their own aspirations for peace.  These are considered so self-evidently superior to alternatives that it is unnecessary to examine actual Palestinian aspirations.  

Instead, advocates of two-states make two foundational assumptions:

  1. the Palestinians will accept a West Bank-based state as an end to the conflict.
  2. the conflict is essentially a territorial dispute over land distribution rather than an existential battle.  

10/  This perspective supposes that the Palestinians really do want what the two-staters think they ought to want – a West Bank state.  Therefore, for Benn and many others it’s all about the ‘occupation’ of Palestinian lands, that is, the West Bank.  Unfortunately for this perspective, the real, actual, explicit  aspirations of the Palestinians are worlds away from Benn’s version.  

11/  But the unwavering Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state allows no space for win-win compromises.  This destroys the simplicity, ostensible justice and the attainability of the two-state solution.  Instead, we have a winner-takes-all conflict.  This transforms the issue into a question that advocates of the two-state solution believed could be avoided: who wins this all-or-nothing battle?  

12/  This is presumably why he, and so many others, fail to mention that the conflict existed well before the ‘occupation’ of the West Bank in 1967.  It also ‘slips his mind’ that the conflict existed prior to the existence of Israel.  Instead of recognizing these realities, he blindly plods on as if all previous opportunities for a Palestinians state hadn’t been rejected – not by Israel, but by the Palestinians.

Explaining Israel’s shift to the right

13/  Alef Benn is dismayed that Israeli public opinion has shifted to the right.  Yet his explanation for it is non-existent.  In reality, it is hardly a mystery.  It isn’t  derived from analysis of the Palestinian National Charter or the PA Daily Al-Hayat al-Jadida.  Nor is it the product of the philosophical triumph of right-wing ideology.  It derives from real life experience of an accumulation of horrific post-Oslo shocks: the second intifada, the series of rocket attacks and wars with Hamas 2007-23, and the savagery of October 7th.  Each one is another nail in the two-state coffin.

14/  The conclusion to all this is hard to avoid.  Confronted by the looming collapse of his Palestinian agenda, he buries his head in the sand by neither mentioning nor analyzing these experiences.  It is not Israel but Aluf Benn that is self-destructing – lost in a sea of faulty ideology, faulty understanding and wishful-thinking, without his aspirations having the slightest chance of success.  

15/  Justifiably deflated by recent events, Israel’s shift to the right, and the steep decline of support in Israel for the two-state solution, he perhaps senses it is a lost cause – or a seriously delayed cause.  Consequently, without a single specific or definite proposal, he offers no real resistance.  

Explaining Palestinian intransigence

16/  He is not alone.  The continued use of Abba Eban’s memorable 50-year old quip that ‘the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’ is instructive.  It marks a continued failure to see that the Palestinians do not want what Aluf Benn and other 2-staters think they ought to want.  If they did, their repeated refusals of a state would indeed be a mystery in need of investigation.  Yet after repeated opportunities, the perpetual Palestinian refusal to accept a state perpetually fails to attract analysis.  The quip seems to be sufficient.  

17/  But the Palestinian refusal is easily explained.  Their reasons are stated quite openly.  They do not accept a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state.  They want a Palestinian state instead of a Jewish state.  This puts their aspirations totally at odds with Aluf Benn’s aspirations.  

18/  Therefore, unless the Palestinians abandon their aim of destroying Israel, the two-state solution has zero chance of providing a peaceful solution to the conflict.  Instead, it will lead to its escalation as an eliminationist Palestinian state is bound to use its new status and power base to intensify efforts to destroy Israel.   

19/  Once this is realized, it is clear that the ONLY way to win the Israeli public to accept Palestinians is for Palestinians to accept Israel.  This is ‘der schwerpunkt’.  Without the second the first is impossible.  Therefore, berating those who do not agree with his approach to the Palestinians, as in his essay in Foreign Affairs, is bound to fail.  

A superior method to get what he wants

20/  Aluf Benn acknowledges that the prospects for a two-state solution may well be dead with the Israeli public for a lengthy period of time – maybe a generation.  This invites the question: what is to be done in this period?  It also invites a second question: how should those who favor a two-state solution react if the international community attempts to impose this on Israel?  Given that one or both of these circumstances are likely to occur, he offers only silence.  So here is my suggestion.  

21/  As editor-in-chief of Ha’aretz, he is in a superb position to promote the ONLY enterprise that can actually secure a peaceful solution.  This is to campaign to win the international community to persuade or pressurize the Palestinians to jettison the Palestinian National Charter and abandon their claim to the entire territory of Israel.  

22/  Only a sustained program to move the Palestinians away from their disastrous ‘rejectionism’ and to reconcile themselves to the Jewish state can create the framework for a solution similar to his own.  This requires a prolonged effort to wean the international community away from turning a blind eye to these realities and away from its toleration and support for those who explicitly declare their aim of destroying Israel.

A new campaign by Ha’aretz

23/  Currently, there is an apparently concerted international push to impose a Palestinian state.  If this were achieved, the Palestinians would have no need to engage in negotiations with Israel.  Nor would they have any need to jettison the chief cause and driving force of the conflict: their intention to eliminate the Jewish state.   We can be quite certain that such a two-state solution will be neither a solution nor peaceful.  Therefore, Israel and its allies need to pull-out-all-the-stops to prevent it.

24/  A campaign led by Ha’aretz to oppose this would have an immense impact in Israel and abroad.  The effect of such a campaign would demonstrate a more cohesive Israel and would add crucial weight to head-off this disaster.  At the same time, by focusing on the core problem that prevents a successful two-state solution, it would rejuvenate efforts to chart a path to peace he wants.  Without this it is unlikely that critical advances can be made in international public understanding that the basic problem to be overcome is the Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state and their continued intention to annihilate it.    

25/  This is a BIG enterprise.  It will require massive pressure from Ha’aretz and an immense amount of state and public diplomacy from the Israeli government.  Without this it is unlikely that critical advances can be made in international public understanding that the real cause and driving force of the conflict are the Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state and the continued intention to annihilate it.   Until this prospect is closed, a peaceful end to the conflict is a mirage. 

 

 

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