The jury is no longer out on the two-state paradigm. Given the accumulating evidence, unequivocally demonstrating its folly and futility, Dershowitz must accept the unavoidable verdict of its failure.
Alan Dershowitz (Image credit: Government Press Office of Israel)
The idea of a two-state solution should be dead today, because unfortunately, a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would bring about Israel’s demise
Yuval Steinitz, currently Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructures, September 14, 2008.
Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Jews
Mahmoud Abbas, before the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council, January 14, 2018.
Prof. Alan Dershowitz has been a stout defender of Israel for years—often in distinctly inclement circumstances. For this, he deserves our commendation and appreciation. After all, as an acclaimed academic, he could have chosen a less a harrowing path to follow in the generally anti-Israel climes that prevail in the academic milieu which he inhabits.
Two ill-advised choices
Dershowitz however, made two other choices, which largely (arguably, completely) undermine his otherwise stalwart pro-Israel efforts.
The one was his ill-advised (two-time) support of Barack Obama—the first time, inexplicably, because Obama was a decidedly unknown quantity, the second time, equally inexplicably, because he decidedly was not.
The other is his dogged (the less charitable might say, dogmatic) support of the two-state formula—despite the accumulating mountain of evidence as to its folly, futility and failure.
With regard to his endorsement of Obama: As I have pointed out elsewhere, an eminently plausible case could be made for the claim that the Obama-administration’s policy —intentionally or otherwise—entailed laying the almost certain foundations for Israel’s demise—by paving the way for a nuclear Iran, under whose protective umbrella Islamist terror groups could operate with impunity.
On this score at least, Dershowitz no longer seems to have any illusions as to the man he voted for in 2008 and 2012. In a scathing interview on Fox News, he excoriated Obama’s betrayal of Israel: “...he will go down in history… as one of the worst foreign policy presidents ever. He called me into the Oval Office before the election and he said to me, ‘Alan, I want your support and I have to tell you I will always have Israel’s back’. I didn't realize what he meant is that he would have its back to stab them in the back…”
Endorsing Obama is “water-under-the-bridge”; endorsing two-statism is not
Just how badly Dershowitz’s appraisal of Obama was, can be judged from a 2012 Al-Monitor interview, “Alan Dershowitz Makes the Case for Obama to Jewish Voters”. In it, Dershowitz declared: “I don’t see differences between Obama and Romney regarding foreign policy, Obama will be better for Israel on Iran [!]”
But it was precisely Obama’s later weakness on Iran that greatly alarmed Desrhowitz.
Barely a year later, he described the emerging nuclear deal with Iran as a "cataclysmic error of gigantic proportions". Subsequently, he severely castigated the deal, charging that, in effect, it entailed giving Iran a “green light” for developing nuclear weapons, warning Obama that his presidential legacy could be similar to that of disgraced British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain.
While Dershowitz’s grave misjudgment of Obama should serve to instill considerable doubt as to the accuracy of his political instincts, his past endorsement of the man, who so utterly misled him, is essentially “water-under-the-bridge”—and little can be done to redress any damage it might have caused. This, however, is not the case with his continuing support for the fatally flawed formula for two-states as a blueprint for resolving the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian-Arabs.
Here he still has an opportunity to renounce.
The jury on two-statism is no longer out.
A quarter-century has passed since the two-state paradigm entailing the idea of establishing a Palestinian state in the territory liberated from Jordan (Judea-Samaria-aka “the West Bank”) and Egypt (Gaza) —until then widely considered borderline treason—became a center-piece of Israeli foreign policy.
Back then, with the heady—the less charitable might say “hallucinatory”—optimism that accompanied the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, there were proponents and opponents of the idea.
The proponents promised sweeping benefits, pan-regional peace and prosperity and an El Dorado-like “New Middle East” stretching from Casablanca to Kuwait. By contrast, opponents warned of dire dangers that would bring death and devastation on both Jew and Arab alike. Today, two-and-half decades later, virtually none of the benefits promised by the proponents have materialized, while all the dangers warned of by the opponents have indeed occurred.
Accordingly, it is clear that by any reasonable standard, the jury is no longer out.
The proponents of the two-state paradigm have been proved tragically wrong; while its opponents have been proved —equally tragically—right.
It is similarly clear that someone like Dershowitz—with his keen legal acumen—must now accept the weight of the condemnatory evidence, and relinquish his long-held position of support for two- statism.
The paradox of two-statism: Liberal support for tyranny
However, empirical evidence is not the only reason for professed liberal-democrats (and liberal Democrats)—such as Dershowitz—to reject two-statism. There are also– or at least should be – matters of moral principle.
Indeed, one of the most perverse paradoxes in the political discourse on the Israeli-Arab conflict is that the people who supported the two-state principle should have been its fiercest opponents.
As I have pointed out repeatedly, the two-state principle is, at once, immoral, irrational, and incompatible with the long-term existence of Israel as the Jewish nation-state –see for example here, here, here and here.
Liberal support for Palestinian statehood is particularly perplexing. After all, once all the moralistic rhetoric is stripped aside, support for Palestinian statehood is revealed as nothing more than a call for the establishment of (yet another) homophobic, misogynistic, Muslim-majority tyranny, which, in essence, will comprise an entity that will be the antithesis of all the liberal values allegedly invoked for its inception.
For there is little persuasive reason to believe — and two-staters have certainly never provided one — that the societal hallmarks of such a state would be anything other than: cruel gender discrimination against women/girls; ruthless persecution of homosexuals; vicious religious intolerance of non-Muslim faiths; and relentless pursuit and prosecution of political dissidents.
Two-statism: An anathema to liberal values
Just what an anathema a Palestinian state would be to anyone with Dershowitz’s liberal worldview is vividly illustrated in a recent Algemeiner article by Mitchell Bard. It reveals not only what is almost certainly to occur if a Palestinian state were to be established in Judea-Samaria, but has already occurred in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Thus, in the Bethlehem region, where “cemeteries have been defaced, monasteries have had their telephone lines cut, and [w]here have been break-ins at convents”, the Christian population has been reduced from 60% in 1990 to a mere 12% today. Elsewhere across the “West Bank” the Christian presence has been almost entirely eliminated by an openly admitted “ISIS-like culture” and now totals less than 2% of the overall population.
For Jewish freedom of worship, the future bodes ill.
Bard reports that “Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash…declared that non-Muslims should be barred from praying [in] the… compound, which includes the Western Wall.” Similarly, Tayseer Al-Tamimi, former Chief Justice of the PA Religious Court, insisted that the compound is “Islamic [and] Jews have no right to pray in any part of it including its western wall.”
What liberal could condone such realities?
Two-statism: “… compulsive temptation to attack Israel…”
However, it is with regard to its security implications, particularly in light of the past precedents in which Israel has relinquished land to Arab control, that the specter of two-statism has, arguably, its gravest impact. Indeed, it was none other the arch-architect of the Oslo Accords himself, Shimon Peres, who warned that setting up a Palestinian state would “in itself create compulsive temptation to attack Israel from all directions”.
Two-staters, such as Dershowitz, would do well to heed this grim prognosis. For as I have argued elsewhere, if the IDF were to evacuate Judea-Samaria, there is little reason to believe that it would not follow the same path as Gaza and descend into tyrannical Islamist theocracy. Indeed, the proponents of such evacuation have not—and cannot—provide any persuasive assurance that it will not.
Moreover, this “mega-Gaza” would pose a far greater threat to Israel’s security.
For, unlike Gaza, which has a 50 km border with Israel, any prospective Palestinian-Arab entity in Judea-Samaria would have a frontier of anything up to 500 km (and possibly more, depending on the exact parameters of the evacuated areas).
Moreover, unlike Gaza, which has no topographical superiority over its surrounding environs, the limestone hills of Judea-Samaria dominate virtually all of Israel’s major airfields (civilian and military); main seaports and naval bases; vital infrastructure installations (power generation and transmission, water, communications and transportation systems); centers of civilian government and military command; and 80 percent of the civilian population and commercial activity.
Security: Dershowitz’s perplexing position
On the security issue, Dershowitz has, of late, been expressing some decidedly perplexing positions.
Thus, in a 2015 Fox interview, he conceded that even if Israel ended its “occupation” [of Judea-Samaria] immediately, as it did in Gaza, the violence would probably increase rather than decrease. He remarked succinctly: "Look what happened when Israel left Gaza, there was far more violence, far more rocket attacks, more terror tunnels. So there is no relationship between the occupation and the violence. The violence is part of the unwillingness of many within the Palestinian people to accept the nation state of the Jewish people...."
This of course leaves us to ponder: (a) why Israel should relinquish any territory as the past precedent proves it merely serves as a platform from which to launch attacks against it; (b) given the admitted futility of territorial concession, what does Dershowitz propose?
As for the latter, in a 2016 televised interview, he suggested that Israel should remove its civilian presence for areas designated for a future Palestinian state, but leave the IDF deployed therein. But this, as I have pointed out repeatedly in the past (see here, here and here) would replicate precisely the same conditions that prevailed in South Lebanon, until the hasty retreat by the IDF in 2000. As such, there is little reason to expect that it would produce anything but a very similar outcome—a unilateral abandonment, without any agreement, of the territory, which would then become a fearsome arsenal, bristling with weapons aimed at the heart of Israel’s civilian centers.
Gaza: The ultimate indictment of two-statism
But even if one relinquishes a partisan pro-Israel perspective, and views the rationale and record of the two-state prescription from a purely Palestinian angle, the condemnation of two-statism is, if anything, even harsher—with the specter of “humanitarian disaster” hovering over the general population. For it has wrought nothing but devastation and deprivation for the common man in the Palestinian street, left awash in untreated sewage flows, with well over 90% of the water-supply unfit for drinking, electrical power available for only a few hours a day, and unemployment rates soaring to anything between 40-60%…
Indeed, in terms of sheer human cost, it is difficult to conceive of anyone that has inflicted greater harm on Palestinian society than avid two-staters, who, with gay abandon, submitted it to their ill-conceived venture, with scant regard for the ruinous results it would have on the Palestinian rank-and-file.
For by attempting to engage in “political alchemy,” by trying to create a “nation” where none existed, by disregarding reason and reality, by ignoring past precedents, prevailing processes and future propensities, they imposed a situation that made tragedy inevitable.
Abbas’s rant: Carpe diem and renounce two-statism
It is time for Dershowitz to resign himself to recalcitrant realities and renounce his support for the ill-conceived notion of two-statism—before he has occasion to rue his mistake even more than his ill-advised endorsement of Obama. Fortunately, he has been provided an honorable way to step away for his previous position by none other than PA president, Mahmoud Abbas himself, who in his recent rant wished ruin upon the house of the American president. After all, if this is the face of Palestinian moderation…
So Prof. Dershowitz, carpe diem! And renounce two-statism!
Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies