Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mr. Netanyahu’s Vision for the West Bank and Gaza is, Among Other Things, Demeaning to Palestinian Arabs


The elections in Israel are over, and the political ugliness of forming a coalition is in progress. It is likely that Benjamin Netanyahu will succeed in this task and become the next Prime Minister of Israel. For Israel’s future, this is a better outcome than the alternative, Tzipi Livni.

In a recent speech at a convention of American Jewish leaders, Ms. Livni said, "we need to give up half of the Land of Israel." Her words were blunt, and stem from a desire, as she puts it, to head off international programs. She plays the hand Israel has been dealt, very weakly. (Parenthetically, how did she determine that the area West of the Jordan River designated by the British less than 100 years ago is the “Land of Israel”?)

A small, truncated Israel will leave the sole Jewish majority state vulnerable and overly dependent on other countries for its survival. And this will be so forever, or at least, until the present world order collapses. There will always be a next international program that must be headed off.

Ms. Livni’s two-state outcome within the confines of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, is untenable for Israel and Palestinian Arabs alike.

Still, I fear, as Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu will never say what needs to be said with regard to rightsizing Israel for an enduring future.

At the same convention addresses by Ms. Livni, Mr. Netanyahu said he does not want to govern Palestinians. This is laudable. But he went on to say that Israel had to maintain control of all borders, airspace and electronic traffic.

In other words, Mr. Netanyahu’s vision is of a Palestinian entity on the West Bank and Gaza that is less than a full sovereign state.

Understandably, this will be a non-starter for Palestinian leadership. So what’s the point of pushing for such a deal?

If neither the Livni approach nor the Netanyahu approach can work for both the sole Jewish majority state and Palestinian Arabs simultaneously, then what?

To the despair of many Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, the international community continues to insist that putting four pounds of potatoes into a two-pound bag is perfectly workable. The international community perpetuates misery, no matter how well intended, by pushing a two state solution in this limited space.

Unlike present-day politicians, I believe President Dwight Eisenhower would understand the situation on the ground immediately: He said: If a problem cannot be solved as it is, enlarge it.

The way the dispute is framed internationally—Israel/Palestine—is wrong, and as such, is insolvable. Even if borders are imposed by international force, long-term, the problem cannot be solved between Israel and Palestinian Arabs alone, and it cannot be solved within the confines of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Peace must be between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world. The path to true Israeli viability must be hammered out between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world.

Poorly conceived, self-serving, 20th century borders drawn by the British and French notwithstanding, there is plenty of physical room in the Middle-East for everyone. The Palestinian Arabs need a humanitarian solution to their problems. Creating a 22nd Arab state, a dependent beggar mini-state on the West Bank and Gaza, will not lead them to better lives. Trying to impose Mr. Netanyahu’s not-quite-a-state vision on Palestinian Arabs is delusional, dangerous and demeaning.

It is time for leaders throughout the world to insist that Middle-East land swaps involve all Arab states adjacent to Israel, and that also, resource and land rich Arab states be invited to accommodate and make sacrifices for their Palestinian Arab brethren.

Whether or not these sacrifices one day include the creation of Palestinian state in the region, it is time for Israel to be appropriately larger for all the reasons discussed in my book.

--David Naggar