Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mr. Prime Minister, There You Go Again


As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues his effort to extract himself from his personal problems, he does what he can to turn Israel’s attention towards “peace negotiations.” As part of his campaign, he now states that only delusional people think Israel can keep post-'67 borders.

He does Israel no favor by conceding the size of Israel. This Prime Minister’s effort to ingratiate himself to the international community is exacerbating Israel’s larger existential problems.

World leaders are indifferent to the manner of solution of the Arab/Muslim-Israeli problem. They just want the problem off the international table.

Just as it would be fine with world leaders if Arabs conceded the establishment of a twenty-second Arab State, if Israel’s Prime Minister concedes Israel’s future, that’s fine too. Any resolution will do.

Besides being a weak negotiating tactic, consider how the Prime Minister arrives at his conclusion that Israel must shrink in size, and that only delusional people could question this inevitability.

Olmert’s current way of thinking—it was not always so—made its way onto the scene sometime in the last 20 years. It derives from this truism: Israel cannot survive as a Jewish state if it has too many non-Jewish Arab citizens.

But there is more that underlies the Prime Minister’s thinking than this.

He goes beyond the truism and into the realm of shortsighted speculation when he assumes that no Arab will ever move from Israel or the territories. It is on the basis of this assumption that he concludes that in order to keep its Jewishness, Israel has no choice but to be smaller.

Mr. Prime Minister, there are options to resolving the Arab/Muslim-Israeli problem other than making Israel smaller. Polls show that many Palestinian Arabs would be eager to move from Israel and the territories under the right circumstances. Consider:

What if a person’s move is voluntary? What if there are internationally sanctioned incentives to help make the decision the right one for one’s family and future? What if the surrounding Arab dictatorial regimes were pressured by the international community to be more accommodating of Israel and Palestinian Arabs? What if a properly sized Israel and Palestinian State were both stamped onto the map?

What if no one who didn’t want to move was forced to move? What if Arabs living in Israel could decide if they wanted to accept that they lived in a Jewish State--and those Arabs who decided not to accept that they lived in a Jewish State still stayed, but were granted citizenship of one of the twenty one neighboring Arab States that comprise 99.8% of the area surrounding Israel?

Yes, there are many options for the international community to consider other than the establishment of a non-viable mini Palestinian State and the forcing of Israel to be undersized. But no credible world leader will propose any such solution if the sitting Prime Minister of Israel publicly advocates the shrinking of Israel.

The Prime Minister ignores the ebb and flow of history when he concedes that Israel must withdraw to, more or less, what Abba Eban called the Auschwitz borders.

Just consider this 1988 statement from the “left of center” Democratic nominee for President of the United States, Michael Dukakis. “Israel needs room to breathe, and a return to the 1967 borders is out of the question.”

How far we have come is such a short time.

The failure of Jewish and Israeli media relations over the course of the last twenty years boggles the mind. It has taken only twenty years for “the right” to move more to the left than the left was back then. And “the left” is now off the chart in its anti-Israel view.

The world now sees the problem as one of Israeli oppression of stateless Palestinians rather than one of Arab/Muslim denial of Israeli Jews' moral right to have ample territory to thrive and contribute to humanity’s goodwill. The world does not view the problem as an existential struggle of tiny Israel to survive in the midst of hostile Arab/Muslim neighbors.

The San Francisco Chronicle—home of America’s left—is typical in its contempt for Israel. It runs pictures of frightened Palestinian women and children alongside articles that report on “Israeli military attacks”. Israel’s purpose of targeting those responsible for rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from Gaza is intentionally obfuscated.

And consider an unrelated headline from the Chronicle from March 2008. “Democracy’s First Day In Tiny Bhutan.” Lost on the Chronicle staff, I am sure, is that TINY Bhutan is 67% larger than Israel and the territories combined.

Don’t expect the Chronicle to be reporting on TINY Israel soon. Don’t expect the Chronicle to start its coverage with a dose of history or even a map of Israel’s hostile, non-democratic and NON-TINY neighbors.

And don’t expect anyone outside of Israel to challenge the wisdom of Prime Minister Olmert’s view. Olmert’s view, because he is the Prime Minister of Israel, is the ceiling of acceptable aspiration for Israel. If the sitting Prime Minister says a counterview is delusional, those offering such a view will be seen as delusional.

As with most people who agree with the Prime Minister’s vision of a two-state solution within the confines of Israel and the territories, the following question is derided and dismissed without answer: What if Israel can’t survive in the long run as anything other than a failed nuclear State in its pre (plus or minus) '67 borders?

It is from the false certainty that a larger Israel is unnecessary for the welfare of its citizens that the Prime Minister hurls the “delusional” barb at those who do not share his worldview.

This Prime Minister is shortsighted and plain wrong. It is not delusional to think that it is fair, just and beneficial to humanity that Israel’s final borders are larger. It is not delusional to think a larger Israel is necessary for the welfare of its citizens. There is plenty of room in the under-populated Middle-East for everyone.

It is however delusional, even if well intended, for Prime Minister Olmert to think that voluntarily shrinking Israel will lead to a golden age of true Israeli independence, peace and prosperity. Making Israel smaller and creating a non-viable Palestinian State will not benefit Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, the interests of peace, and/or humanity at large.

Until the day that the planet is no longer divided into nation-states, Israel must be large enough to thrive and be self-sustaining in global good times and bad; that is, in times of free trade and national retrenchment.

Palestinian issues must be addressed in a way that offers Palestinians better lives, rather than the creation of new arbitrary Arab State lines that flow from the ash heap of France and Great Britain’s 20th century imperialistic adventures.

I, myself, will continue to champion a long-term viable Israel. I have no illusions that this will come tomorrow. My hope for tomorrow is only that it will bring a new Prime Minister—one who has a deeper appreciation of the need for improved media relations, a better understanding of negotiation on the world stage, and a longer-term vision of Israel's place among the nations.

--David Naggar