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Reader comment on item: How Can Israel Win the Palestinian Conflict?

Submitted by David (United States), Jan 7, 2023 at 21:45

First, I would like to compliment the author for consistency. This was the position articulated by him years ago in an editorial at NRO. I had been under the impression that his position has since radically shifted. In an era when many people are prone to quickly shun prior viewpoints for one reason or another, it is gratifying to see someone who is not succumbing to this temptation.

I personally have a somewhat different view of the ways to resolve the conflict, although I hesitate to articulate them in detail at the moment. I'll just make a few observations.

1. It does seem urgent, for the purpose of advancing any solution at all, to resolve the issue of Gaza first. And it also seems possible, since Israel has no land disputes with Gazans in particular. Placing the strip under Egyptian rule again would seem, indeed, like a most worthy idea. Another idea, perhaps sure to come under greater objection from Cairo: double the size of the Strip to El Arish, which still serves the vital purpose of an entry and exit point insofar as air travel.

2. The Jordanian peace treaty cannot be assumed to be permanent, nor can the monarchy.

3. Regarding Ben Gvir and Smotrich, it would seem that the author's characterization of their opinions is more or less consistent with formerly articulated views from each, respectively, with the caveat that Ben Gvir has been promoting rather different ideas during his rise as a prominent public figure this year. His focus at the moment is primarily on security within the Green Line, and on the issue of security writ large, and he regularly pronounces "I do not anymore believe that Israel needs to expel all Arabs, just the terrorists..."
Understanding the author's position that a country cannot "achieve victory" over its citizenry, I beg to differ on this critical point. It would not be onerous for the terms of Israel's social compact with its Arab minority to include absolute prohibition on any effort on their part, to destroy the state. Insisting on this would certainly not be inconsistent with the prevailing norms in the region, but it would also not mark Israel as a particularly illiberal country. As has been often noted, democracy is not, and need not, be a suicide pact.

This itself, is very likely the central question regarding the entire conflict. I would venture to say that Israel can prevail over the Arab population in the pre or post 1967 borders under either of the main ideas promulgated as "solutions," provided that the majority that founded the country, remains united in a belief in its national purpose. This seems ancillary but I think it is the very heart of the current dilemma.

Regarding Smotrich, indeed he is taking some steps that would seem to pave the way toward an extension of sovereignty, although they are fitful and measured ones at the moment: removing the responsibility of the military over the residents of the area and transferring some authorities to respective government agencies. Part of the objective is to prevent the takeover of open space in the unsettled regions near the Jewish communities and in the Jordan Valley. I'll differ with the author as to the importance of these areas for Israel's security and future, adopting the view that they are quite important for a host of reasons.

In the name of prudence and additional contemplation, I will refrain from outlining my personal concept for how to resolve the dispute, except to say that perhaps some elements have not outright been rejected by the author when proposed by others in the past.

At the moment though, it is hard to overlook the situation in Amman. It seems likely that something is changing there, and the tone of the country's relationship with Israel will accordingly change very soon. So it appears at least to me, and I'd be curious for the author's observation. It would seem probable that Israel may need to erect a physical barrier near the Jordan River in the near future. Whether it is prudent for Israel to continue placing its efforts into the continuation of the current government there seems like an important question. It is not something I can personally answer, as I do not know the extent to which Israel is equipped to contend with the multiple security challenges that it confronts. It would seem, though, that change there will have dramatic ramifications. Perhaps Israel would be wise to begin working with Jordanian Palestinians instead of the Bedouin supported rulers. Ultimately they may be more willing to enter the arrangement the author seems to prefer, or could favor other ideas. I don't think that the developments there, however, can be ignored. I wonder if the author is implying otherwise? Namely that events will proceed as normal? It seems to me that the monarch is under enormous strain, and is also not an ally of Israel in any way. It is also beyond clear that he does not want the West Bank. He wants Jerusalem, without the remainder.


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Daniel Pipes replies:

Thanks for the compliment on consistency.

1. Trouble is, Cairo is not eager to take control of Gaza.

2. Agree.

3. How does a democratic government defeat its own citizens? Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

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