Assymetrical Peace

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Problems with the land-for-peace formula

Without a Palestinian recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders there is reason to fear that a Palestinian state will provide a base for whoever rules it to be used in conjunction with others as a springboard for further attempts to destroy Israel.  The suspicion is that any Arab/Palestinian promise of peace would be a ploy to secure a better foundation for new assaults on Israel.

Decades of conflict and the consequences of the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 has added weight to these misgivings.   As a result, the fear is that the desired win-win solution becomes instead a double loss for Israel: a loss of land and a loss of peace.  That is, instead of an exchange of land-for-peace the real exchange is land-for-more-rockets.

This is reinforced by a severe imbalance in the ‘land-for-peace’ formulation.   In reality, the proposal is not an exchange of land for peace as claimed by its advocates but an exchange of land for a promise of peace.  This means that the 2-state solution is not as reasonable, equitable or as symmetrical as claimed.   Instead, the terms of the deal are asymmetrical: Israel gives up the concrete asset of land in exchange for a promise rather than for a reciprocal concrete asset.  In practical terms the Israeli concession could prove very difficult to reverse.  By contrast, it would be relatively easy for the Arab/Palestinians to renege on their promise of peace.

Therefore, the absolutely crucial question becomes one of the trustworthiness of an Arab/Palestinian promise.

The reliability of an Arab/Palestinian promise of peace?

Given the experiences of recent history such a promise would have to be very strong.  Yet unless there is Arab/Palestinian recognition of the right of Israel to exist, unless Israel has secure and defensible borders and unless the terror organisations are disbanded or destroyed, any Arab/Palestinian promise would be weak.   In reality, the prospect of a weak peace-promise is itself only a faint prospect.  It rests on the unlikely event that the current Arab/Palestinian leadership is prepared to abandon its desire to end Israel.  As yet they haven’t abandoned this and show no signs of doing so.

In any case, even if some Palestinian leaders were prepared to live with Israel, large numbers of Arab/Palestinians do not and want to destroy it.  Therefore, even if such a promise were to be forthcoming, powerful forces would not affirm it and would not feel bound by it.   As a result, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the probability of such a deal is slim.  At the same time, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the probability of it being peaceful is zero.  Thus, the 2-state solution would not end the conflict as assumed.

Where are the ‘2-state solution’ answers?

In other words, a central problem of the claimed solution is that it proposes to exchange a dramatic, fundamental and high-risk deed on the part of Israel for an indefinite and unreliable promise on the part of some Arab/Palestinians.  Yet the 2-state advocates seem unaware of these issues and provide no convincing answers to them.  The most obvious reason is that there is no satisfactory answer as long as the dominant Arab/Palestinian narrative remains intact.

However, a solution is equally obvious: following UNSCR 242 the Arab/Palestinians should abandon the aim of conquering Israel and come forward with very firm proposals for the security of Israel.  That is, they should recognise Jewish national rights, needs and claims.  Otherwise, there will always be the suspicion that any agreement, imposed or otherwise, will be unstable, temporary, dangerous and the source of new attempts to eliminate Israel.

No Arab/Palestinian proposals for the security of Israel

These Israeli suspicions are reinforced by the fact that it is now over 40 years since UNSCR 242 called for secure borders.  Yet where are the Arab/Palestinian acknowledgements of Israel’s security needs?   Where are their proposals for Israel’s security?  Where are the Palestinian proposals for dealing with the fanatics?    What proposals do they have to end the rockets from Gaza and so make it possible for Israel to end its semi-blockade?

Furthermore, where is the end to the officially sanctioned torrent of anti-Semitism throughout political discourse, in the media, education system and mosques of the West Bank, Gaza and throughout much of the Arab world?  Where are the concerted efforts to bring an end to the constant stream of propaganda that dehumanizes and demonizes Jews, delegitimizes Israel and preaches its overthrow?  Where is the end to the constant incitement against Jews and Israel?  Where are the initiatives of the Palestinian ‘moderates’ to support moderates in Israel?  Where are the clear, unambiguous and convincing assurances of Israel’s right to exist?

Without these measures it is hardly realistic to expect that Israel will unilaterally cease to seek its own opportunities for security or to further its claims.   In fact, in the absence of such proposals or any recognition of Israel’s security needs, Israel absolutely must look after its own security.    It has no other option.  Naturally, this has consequences.  For example, as long as the sovereign status of Judea-Samaria/West Bank remains disputed, it can hardly be a surprise that settlements are still being built in support of both security needs and Israel’s own territorial claims.  Claims that they should cease are in effect interventions in the conflict against Israel.

Threats to Israel

In reality, threats to Israel are ever-present.  At one end of the scale are the low-level but often deadly individual terrorist operations.   At the other end of the scale there is the potential nuclear threat from Iran.  Additionally, a Palestinian state based on Judea-Samaria/West Bank would leave an Israeli coastal strip of only 15 to 20 kilometres wide (10 to 13 miles) and in some areas even narrower.

The narrowness of this central area and its population concentration make it a very vulnerable target for a massive Iranian-backed Hizbollah rocket and missile onslaught.  Presumably Hizbollah commanders are preparing this now.    Additionally, this central region is overlooked from the higher ground of Judea-Samaria/ West Bank.  This exposes it to the threat of a simultaneous bombardment from a future hostile government of the ‘West Bank’.

The aim of such bombardments need not necessarily be to conquer Israel but they could disastrously disrupt the mobilisation of Israeli forces needed to combat a simultaneous conventional attack from a Russian or Iranian-supplied Syria.  This disruption would solve one of the greatest difficulties faced by any invader and give them an advantage never previously experienced.  It also has the potential to cut the country in half.  If this occurred in conjunction with a weakening of support from the US and/or attacks from a post-Mubarak Egypt the result could be catastrophic for Israel.

False expectations & high hopes

In sum, an Israeli withdrawal from the bulk of Judea-Samaria/West Bank would expose large areas of Israel to major dangers.  The central coastal region and the area to and around Jerusalem are too densely populated, too sensitive and too vulnerable for such a threat to be ignored.   Effective defence requires space for the mobilisation and manoeuvre of forces away from direct fire so that counter-attacks can be launched.

That is, the possession of defensible territory still counts as much as it ever did.  Yet the narrow coastal plain of Israel offers no strategic depth whatsoever for this purpose.  Borders that are not defensible are not secure.  Thus a major provision of UNSCR 242 in 1967 would not be realised.

Without Palestinian recognition of the right to exist as a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders, the conflict remains a zero-sum conflict rather than the supposed win-win struggle.  That is, it is not the conflict that the advocates of the 2-State Solution believe it to be.  Instead, it is a winner-takes-all contest imposed by the dominant attitude on the Arab/Palestinian side.

As a result, the asymmetry of the proposed 2-state arrangement unavoidably produces a far greater danger to Israel than the simplistic assumptions and high expectations of the land-for-peace formula acknowledge.  The inevitable outcome will be to greatly encourage those who wish to destroy Israel by providing them with a weaker and tempting target and thus new opportunities for conflict.

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