Letters to the Editor: Does Israel Need a Plan?
by Daniel Pipes
The following consist of letters from readers and a reply from Daniel Pipes.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes argues that a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come about only when the Palestinians, having been beaten to a pulp, finally surrender to whatever it is that Israel is willing to give them ["Does Israel Need a Plan?," Commentary, February 2003, available at http://www.danielpipes.org/1015/does-israel-need-a-plan]. This is the sort of cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face logic that is guaranteed to keep the issue churning well into the new millennium. It represents little more than a banal embrace of the morality of power.
To be truly pro-Israel is to come to terms with Zionism's embedded antagonism toward the "native population" and the century-old scheming to pry the natives from their land and otherwise disenfranchise them of their basic civil rights. To be truly pro-Israel is to help the country evolve toward inclusiveness, not only for the latest Ethiopian or Russian Jewish immigrant but for the Palestinian refugee or resident of Ramallah or Nablus.
To be anti-Israel, just heed Daniel Pipes: root for Jewish dominion and the defeat of the Palestinians.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes manages to criticize everyone attempting to find a way out of the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis, whether it is President Bush or his far-Left critics. Yet his description of the Bush administration's "road map" is fundamentally unfair.
Each successive draft of that document has been more sympathetic to Israel's approach and more consistent with the position of Prime Minister Sharon. Mr. Pipes ignores the fact that the road map is performance-based, providing at every juncture a test of Palestinian reform and commitment to ending violence. The other members of the Middle East "quartet"—Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations—might be better targets of his critique; the Bush administration has been careful to protect Israel from any egregious pressures.
Mr. Pipes describes the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), with which I am associated, as "impatient for the road map to progress," implying a strategy of appeasement and a rush to recommend Israeli compromises. The IPF offered an "on-ramp" to the road map as a suggestion for simplifying the document. Our approach rested on the assumption that an end to violence could be facilitated by American-led international monitors who would verify compliance with security reforms (a mechanism that Mr. Pipes derides as "plainly unworkable"). The monitors would remain "referees," observers who would not physically intervene to stop violence, lest they themselves become targets of Palestinian ire. In any case, the monitors constitute just one suggestion in a plan centrally targeting the issue of violence.
We are therefore mystified as to why Mr. Pipes writes that the on-ramp imposes no limits on the Palestinians and releases them from accountability. In our proposal, if there is no end to violence, nothing moves ahead. If violence resumes, other concessions promptly cease and the process is reversed. Our approach, if implemented, would save Jewish lives, stem Israel's economic crisis, and begin to enhance Israel's short- and long-term security. In such an altered environment, significant players on the Palestinian side who accept Israel's right to exist would be able to gain stature and influence.
Daniel Pipes offers nothing but continued conflict, and supplies no mechanism for testing Palestinian reform. We offer concrete steps that would force the Palestinians to end the violence and subsequently ease the plight of victims on both sides, without dooming Israel to endless bloodshed.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes speculates that if the Palestinians themselves were finally "convinced that they have lost," Israel's Arab neighbors would "find it difficult to remain rejectionist" toward the Jewish state. But he does not explain why this should be so.
More than a century has elapsed since the beginning of modern Jewish migration to Palestine. At no time in this period have Jews been seriously threatened by the violence practiced against them by indigenous Arabs. Rather, it has been the combined military might of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, et al. that has threatened Israel's very existence and has caused thousands of Jewish deaths.
The belligerence of the Arab states was never motivated by the goal of fighting "for" the Palestinians, as Mr. Pipes suggests. They have always fought for what they consider their own geopolitical interests.
BENJAMIN D. SHERMAN
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes is absolutely correct that the Palestinians and their Arab brethren have yet to come to terms with Israel's existence, that they have drenched themselves in anti-Semitism and poisoned the minds of their youth, and that unless and until they dispel the illusion of thinking they can destroy Israel there cannot be a true peace. This is fine as far as it goes. But Mr. Pipes cannot predict how long it will take for the Arabs to shed their hatred. It could take 50 or even 100 years.
Under such a scenario, Mr. Pipes's prescription fails to address the demographic realities that pose a parlous threat to Israel. According to Arnon Sofer of Haifa University, Jews will constitute just over 40 percent of the population living west of the Jordan River by 2020. By that time, Sofer estimates, there will be 15.2 million people living in the area: 6.4 million Jews and 3 million Arabs and other non-Jews within the pre-1967 borders of Israel and 5.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
These facts have not escaped the attention of the Arabs. As a writer for the London-based daily Al-Hayat observed:
We are capable of increasing the demographic threat against Israel, if we demonstrate the necessary determination. It is high time for long-term planning of the management of the Arab-Israeli crisis, whose life is still long. We must give the 1948 Palestinians the status they deserve, because without them, we cannot make Palestine again Arab.
This hardly sounds like an adversary even remotely contemplating coming to terms with "a sovereign Jewish presence between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea," let alone one that is likely to be "convinced that they have lost"—conditions that Mr. Pipes suggests as prerequisites for peace.
Mr. Pipes rules out the obvious answer of the "forceful removal of Palestinian Arabs from Israeli-controlled territories." As he writes, the "political price, both abroad and within Israel, would be incalculable, rendering this option more fantastical than real." But simply waiting the Palestinian Arabs out, as Mr. Pipes proposes, is problematic, too. That is why Israel in general, but particularly its political center/Right, has no choice but to formulate a plan that does not depend on the Arabs' benign acceptance of the Jewish state.
The Israeli Left and its American Jewish counterparts simply call for unilateral withdrawal to the pre-1967 dividing lines, ignoring the dangers inherent in what Abba Eban famously called "Auschwitz borders." In this they have the support of the European Union, Russia, and other members of the United Nations as formulated in the so-called road map for the creation of a Palestinian state. Of greater significance is the American commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state originally made by President Clinton and now cemented by the Bush administration.
Under these circumstances, it seems to me that Israel must put forward criteria for borders and population dispositions that will satisfy its security needs and national-religious historical rights. These criteria would have to include some kind of mutual population exchange between Palestinians and Israelis living in the disputed territories, so that Israel could widen its narrow eight-mile waist to perhaps twenty miles. Israel would also need to maintain sovereign control over areas of contiguity between a new Palestinian entity and neighboring Arab states.
This will entail not only yielding dozens of Jewish communities in the West Bank and Gaza but also relocating Palestinians eastward from such towns as Tulkarm and Qalqilya and northward from the Rafah refugee camp bordering Egypt. The new borders would also have to ensure Israel's sovereignty over major Jewish holy sites, including the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb. Finally, any new Palestinian entity would have to be demilitarized and barred from forming any military alliances with Arab states.
To stonewall, as Mr. Pipes seems to suggest, ignores the lethality of a Palestinian population that is both hostile and growing inexorably.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes's article is brilliant, yet it suffers from his refusal to follow the logical consequences of his own argument. Mr. Pipes maintains that the great conflicts of the 20th century were resolved either by the unequivocal defeat of one side or not at all. "[T]he wars between North and South Korea, Pakistan and India, Iraq and Iran, and Iraq and Kuwait have not ended," he writes, "for the losing side has interpreted every defeat as but partial and temporary."
It follows from this that Israel must militarily crush the Palestinians. His schema permits of no other option. But Mr. Pipes draws a conclusion at odds with his analysis. "What will help bring about this Palestinian change of heart," he writes, "is Israeli deterrence: maintaining a powerful military and threatening credibly to use force when aggressed upon." Mr. Pipes claims that deterrence "worked" from 1948 to 1993, ignoring the fact that the same genocidal hopes that are today held by the Palestinians were then harbored by Israel's Arab neighbors, who made war upon it in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes rightly demolishes many of the favored but flawed solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but his own recipe for peace relies on the false premise that Israeli "deterrence" worked in the period 1948-93. By any usual meaning of the concept, it did not.
When Israel decisively defeated its enemies, as in 1948 and 1967, the result was almost immediate border and guerrilla warfare, followed by all-out fighting within six or seven years. Israel's more equivocal victories in 1956, 1973, and 1982 actually yielded somewhat more peaceful and longer interludes before the resumption of open conflict. It is not clear that conventional victories have much deterred the Arabs. It is equally unlikely that defeating the Palestinians in the current war, even coupled with more accommodating American policies, will greatly reverse the trend.
The Arabs recognize Israel's fundamental strategic weaknesses in population, land area, natural resources, unreliable allies, and (in the Arab view) staying power. This undermines Israel's strategic deterrent regardless of tactical success. There are only two means of redressing this imbalance, both problematic.
One would be a full-fledged alliance with the U.S., to include the basing of naval, ground, and air forces in Israel (but not, as Thomas Friedman has proposed, the active policing of Israel's borders or disengagement lines with the Palestinians). The problems with this arrangement are that the U.S. would be reluctant to accept it, it would undermine Israel's self-reliance, and it would potentially obligate Israel to help carry America's water in other venues—say, Korea.
Another alternative would be for Israel to end its ambiguous nuclear policy. Becoming a declared nuclear power would probably bring international condemnation, calls for sanctions, and a regional arms race. Arguably, however, Israel faces these problems anyway. To succeed, Israel would have to ensure that its nuclear forces are invulnerable to a first strike and that they are overwhelmingly superior. Though this solution to Israel's strategic dilemma is not as desirable as an American alliance, it can be implemented by Israel unilaterally.
JONATHAN F. KEILER
To the Editor:
As Daniel Pipes argues, the Palestinians' dream of replacing Israel has driven their violent behavior from the beginning, and will do so for as long as they harbor the belief that terrorism can break Israel's will to survive. To achieve a Palestinian "change of heart," Mr. Pipes's chief prescription for Israel is a steadfast and "credible" policy of deterrence.
But reasonable as this sounds, it is by itself not strong enough to effect the desired transformation. The credibility of deterrence is in the mind of the beholder. As Mr. Pipes observes, a war-weary and peace-loving Israel fell for the Oslo deception, abandoned southern Lebanon to Hizbullah, made an astonishingly generous peace offer at Taba, and has often lapsed from its retaliatory policy. Why would the Palestinians not cling to the idea that Israel's recent tactical successes will yet prove ephemeral, especially now that the international "quartet" may again be riding to their political rescue? Deterrence presents a would-be assailant with prospective costs and benefits. But if Palestine in place of Israel is the prize, and if that prize appears reachable, what costs would be too great?
From now on, then, Israel must embrace not passive deterrence but active defense. The eminent military thinker Carl von Clausewitz saw clearly that the ultimate object in war—the subduing of the enemy's bellicose will—requires altering his expectations by placing what he covets beyond reach. To this end, Clausewitz prescribed a necessary condition: first destroy his military power, upon which his bellicose hopes depend. This is precisely the policy Israel is now implementing in rooting out the terrorist command structures and armories that receive sanctuary in the territories.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes is right to see a definitive Israeli victory over the Palestinians as a necessary condition for a genuine peace in the Middle East. But I am afraid it is not a sufficient condition. As Edward Luttwak has written of the current international order, "‘Peacekeeping institutions' commonly perpetuate war by freezing the processes that would exhaust it." Even if the U.S. and Israel did everything Daniel Pipes advocates, there are still the European Union, the Arab League, and the United Nations to support the Palestinians and prevent them from accepting defeat.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes's thesis is that the Palestinians must experience a "change of heart" before any peaceful resolution of the conflict can make headway. This is what the vast majority of Israelis are also waiting for.
But some serious obstacles stand in the way. The impoverished, powerless, and voiceless Palestinians will never be able to take a stand against the monolithic enmity toward Israel of the Arab world, equipped as these enemies are with unlimited petrodollars, control of the mass media, and cadres of organizers, recruiters, and leaders already deployed among the Palestinians. Even without the overwhelming fact of Arab hatred, the leaders of groups like Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad are never going to have a change of heart, no matter how ground down the Palestinians may come to feel.
Even if we assume that there is some level of suffering at which the Palestinians would say "enough," does Israel have the political will to inflict the level of damage that would be required to achieve this end? I do not believe so, especially as long as Palestinian attacks do not take the form of invading tank columns, flights of bombers, and waves of infantry.
I admire Mr. Pipes's relentless pursuit of clarity about Israel's painful dilemma, but a valid analysis begins with accepting the hard truth that the Arab and Palestinian jihad against Israel is an unchangeable fact of life in the Middle East. Israel must figure out how to survive in the face of it.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes provides a masterful critique of the many plans and road maps that are being prepared to end the Palestinian war against Israel. He rightly calls for "inducing the Palestinians to surrender their murderous intentions vis-à-vis Israel." But what exactly should this entail?
The Palestinian Authority has turned thousands of its youth into weapons of mass destruction by poisoning their minds with virulent hatred of Jews and of Israel. What is needed is a massive program of de-jihadization, like the de-Nazification program after World War II. School books must be cleansed, summer camps must be used exclusively for sports and recreation, the media must return to reporting, and the mosques must eschew their venomous preaching. Only after these tasks have been completed can Israel feel that peace in any meaningful sense is possible.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes's analysis of Israel's current situation is apt, but his solution does not go far enough. The Palestinians have already been militarily defeated, in fact more than once since 1948.
When the Soviet Union existed to prop them up, Israel was always prevented from exercising the full powers of the victor and could not mold Palestinian society to democratic norms. But now, with no great power behind its vanquished foe, Israel should treat the Palestinians as the United States treated Germany and Japan after World War II. It must force the Palestinians to convene a constituent assembly, adopt a democratic constitution, and hold full, fair, and free elections. It then ought to be the guarantor of that constitution, much as the United States is the ultimate guarantor of German and Japanese democracy even today.
Whom the Palestinians then elect is their own business. It will not really matter. Such a leader will be constrained by the rules of the democratic game. This can be seen in a place like Turkey, where democratic elections produced an ostensibly Islamic government, but one that remains generally cooperative and friendly to both the United States and Israel.
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes is correct in his basic thesis, but he fails to mention another approach worth considering to foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Both Jordan and Egypt appear to be playing a constructive role in trying to damp down violence against Israel. To arrive at a temporary solution, I suggest that the U.S. and the UN ask Jordan and Egypt to assume joint trusteeship of the West Bank and Gaza for a period not to exceed twenty years. Israel would continue to have responsibility for the Jews in these areas and the land they occupy.
Neither Egypt nor Jordan will want to assume this responsibility. But with encouragement from the U.S., they may reluctantly agree. This will demonstrate unequivocally to the Arabs living on the West Bank and Gaza that Israel is here to stay and must be accepted, while also allowing them to live under Arab rule.
ALBERT H. SOLOWAY
To the Editor:
Daniel Pipes is one of the wisest analysts of the Middle East, but he is too quick to dismiss the possibility of "redirect[ing] Palestinian aspirations toward Jordan, a country that already has a Palestinian majority." The notion of "Jordan-is-Palestine is a nonstarter for many reasons," he writes, "of which the single most important is that neither the Jordanians nor the Palestinians show the slightest readiness to go along with it."
Yes, neither Arafat nor his successor should rule Jordan. But why not let Jordan and Israel—the states created from the Palestine Mandate—form a confederation, with the Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza remaining or becoming citizens of Jordan, but with autonomy, including voting in local elections? This cannot be done at present, but it should be negotiated as soon as the Arab states and the Palestinians demonstrate that they can live in peace with Israel.
EDWARD M. SIEGEL
To the Editor:
We are once again indebted to Daniel Pipes for illuminating some painful truths. His reminder that the great conflicts of the 20th century "ended because one side wholly abandoned its war aims" is important and timely. It is baffling to me why Europeans, who have stoically accepted the rearrangement of their own borders and the transfer of their own populations, nevertheless support Palestinian efforts to return to some pre-1947 status quo.
Mr. Pipes is also on target in calling for an end to "the cruel charade" of U.S. support for maintaining the refugee status of the Palestinians, and in urging Washington finally to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. President Bush should go further by making it clear that the U.S. has serious reservations about supporting statehood if the Palestinians prove unwilling or unable to curb terrorism. This has been implicit in U.S. policy; it is time for it to be explicit.
AMBASSADOR DONALD BLINKEN
DANIEL PIPES writes:
With the exception of Donald Blinken's endorsement of my ideas (for which I thank him), my respondents broadly divide in two: one group (Alan Goldstein, Steven Spiegel, Benjamin D. Sherman) takes issue with my thesis, and the other (David Schimel, Nicholas Stix, Jonathan F. Keiler, Michael Balch, Antoine Chiche, Alan Rauzin, Harvey Lithwick, Ervin Schleifer, Albert H. Soloway, Edward M. Siegel) takes issue with my policy recommendations. The former critics think I go too far; the latter generally find I go not far enough. Interestingly, the latter outnumber the former ten to three—an indication of how sentiments are moving in circles sympathetic to Israel. My replies will necessarily be very brief.
Alan Goldstein calls for "inclusiveness" for Palestinians in Israel. This sounds to me like a codeword for dismantling the Jewish state and replacing it with a bi-national Jewish-Muslim state. He is, in short, prescribing the end of Zionism.
Steven Spiegel emphasizes that the Israel Policy Forum's "on-ramp" proposal is strictly conditional: "if there is no end to violence, nothing moves ahead." Fine. But exactly the same sort of conditionality was supposed to be a premise of the entire Oslo process, and it never worked. Palestinian noncompliance sometimes delayed the forward momentum, but not once did it stop it. The record shows that such conditions are merely rhetorical.
Benjamin D. Sherman argues that Arab states have interests of their own, distinct from those of the Palestinians. Yes, but note the major change over the decades: before 1967, states in general wanted conflict with Israel; since then, they have wanted out. Once the Palestinians forgo rejectionism, I expect states will do likewise. Indeed, we saw something along these lines in the mid-1990's.
David Schimel is right about the demographic realities, but I stand by my assessment of transfer—that "the political price, both abroad and within Israel, would be incalculable, rendering this option more fantastical than real." Transfer is growing in popularity, as shown by the survey data I cite in my article, but its costs—outraging so many Israelis, Americans, and others—mean it will undermine rather than enhance Israel's security. As for Mr. Schimel's specific plan for a "mutual population exchange" between Palestinians and Israelis living in the disputed territories, I can only reiterate what I wrote in my article: "it is a mistake to discuss ‘final-status' issues—i.e., how things will look when the conflict is over"—until the Palestinians have definitively accepted Israel's existence.
Nicholas Stix states that "Israel must militarily crush the Palestinians." Maybe, maybe not. My article recommended only the broad lines of an American approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict (i.e., to seek a Palestinian change of heart) and intentionally steered clear of advising the Israeli government how to achieve that goal.
Jonathan F. Keiler finds me mistaken in asserting that Israeli deterrence worked during the years 1948-93. It did work to the extent that Israel was seen by its enemies very differently at the beginning and end of that period. In 1948, the Arabs assumed they could snuff out the nascent state; by 1993, they despaired of achieving this goal. That said, Mr. Keiler is correct that deterrence was not a complete success; rejectionism remained sufficiently alive in 1993 that the Oslo process could revive it.
Michael Balch and I quite agree that the Sharon government is following a correct policy. More broadly, we also agree that Washington should endorse an active policy of deterrence by Israel to encourage the Palestinians to experience a change of heart, and not just passively wait for this to happen.
While in accord with Antoine Chiche about the potential mischief of "peacekeeping institutions," I fail to understand his point; when Palestinians give up their intent to destroy Israel, those institutions can do only limited damage.
Alan Rauzin counsels despair: "Arab and Palestinian jihad against Israel is an unchangeable fact of life." But never say never; everything in politics changes over time. To extrapolate from the present into the infinite future is a mistake.
I endorse Harvey Lithwick's proposed "de-jihad-ization," though by definition it must follow, not precede, a change of heart.
Ervin Schleifer proposes good governance, a plan my article addressed and dismissed. While "certainly welcome in principle," I wrote, "it is less than desirable so long as the Palestinians continue to seek Israel's destruction."
Albert H. Soloway advocates a reversion to the pre-1967 conditions ("Jordan and Egypt to assume joint trusteeship of the West Bank and Gaza"); Edward M. Siegel calls for a Jordanian-Israeli confederation. Both strike me as simultaneously implausible and insufficiently ambitious. Palestinian nationalism cannot be put back into Jordanian and Egyptian bottles, and neither plan addresses Palestinian rejectionism.
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