Sunday, September 18, 2011

Israel Needs a More Realpolitik, Machiavellian Palestinian Strategy

September 18, 2011

A guest post by AKUS
Israel is missing a huge opportunity.
By objecting to the push to create a Palestinian state Israel is going to perpetuate the current situation rather than allow Abbas and his PLO cohorts to finally be exposed as the failed leaders they truly are.  Ironically, Israel is creating a situation in which it finds itself in bed with almost all “Palestinians”, who clearly oppose Abbas’ plan – even though, cynically, they should embrace his efforts.
When I say  “almost all Palestinians” this includes the gamut from Hamas in Gaza to the nervous Nellie’s living in East Jerusalem scared they will lose residency rights and Israeli benefits as members of this new “nation”, to the most basic “man in the street” on the West Bank. (See, for example, our friends at the Guardian slipping up with the following gloomy predictions from the West Bank:  Palestinian villagers sceptical about bid for UN statehood – in pictures).
The Guardian is going, of course, into obsessive overdrive over (a) the prospect of possibly seeing the UN General Assembly actually endorsing this foolish idea and (b) the hope that it will be a severe embarrassment to the USA, several European countries, and Israel, who have all decided to oppose the proposal.
However, I hold the following truth to be self-evident:
The more the Guardian is in favor of something, the worse an idea it is.
Clearly, therefore, what the Guardian wants for the Palestinians is the worst thing that could be imagined for the West Bank Arabs (Gaza is sitting this out).  In fact, the more their “friends”, such as the Guardian, push them forward, like schoolboys cheering on a fight at recess, the more the West Bank leadership should be concerned about the consequences of the ensuing political vacuum.
A recent contributor to the Guardian, Pankaj Mishra, writing from India (and drawing an inaccurate parallel between partition in India and partition in Palestine),  The west will not prevent a Palestinian state’s eventual birth, seems to want a Palestinian State while predicting its likely failure. Ideologically committed to self-determination and rather bizarrely seeing the Arabs on the West Bank as the last post-colonial hold-out, he pragmatically ended his article with the following perceptive comment:
Palestinian politicians remain hopelessly divided. And an independent Palestine might prove tragically unviable, quickly stumbling into the crowded ranks of “failed” or “failing” nation states.
(There’s more as he hops back onto the fence of “yes they should, but they are likely to fail”, but this is the larger point.  Of course, since he will not be a citizen of the failed statelet, its failure seems not to bother him much).
Nevertheless, this is the point. There will be no “Palestinian State” that includes the West Bank and Gaza, since they cannot even agree among themselves. Even on the West Bank, the Arab leaders are hopelessly divided, and have little support among the Arab population there.  Allowing the PLO leadership to set up their statelet positions them to finally have to actually deal with the responsibilities of governing – something, history has shown, which is far more arduous, and far less glamorous, than the role of celebrated victim.
So rather than opposing this fiasco, Israel should consider the benefits it will bring.
Let us look at some of the ways in which this can benefit Israel (and everyone else, since we have been taught by the Guardian to believe that this conflict, when solved, while bring peace and harmony to a troubled world):
1.  As a nation-state, Palestine will have to exist within defined borders. Since they cannot agree to negotiate on borders, it will be up to Israel to determine where the borders run. Unilaterally, it can have a freer hand to do so.
2.  The animosity between the “West Bank State of Palestine” (“WeBSoP”) and the unincorporated Gaza Strip will only increase between the two entities, weakening them with respect to Israel’s security.  
3. Since the “WeBSoP” will no doubt wish to provide citizenship to the Arabs it claims as “Palestinians”, this will have numerous unintended consequences:
a)  Those living in Jerusalem, which Israel claims as its own, enjoying all the benefits and none of the obligations of Israeli citizenship, will be asked to return (there’s that word again …) to their own country, perhaps returning as tourists, but certainly not citizens or permanent residents.
b)  Those living in Gaza will scarcely be able to claim that they are refugees since, if they wish to claim Palestinian citizenship, they will have a state, failing as it may be, of their own to which they could return (if Hamas lets them). If they refuse to claim citizenship, that will make “WeBSoP” look rather foolish if it claims to represent all “refugees”.
c)   As with Gaza, the Arabs claiming to be Palestinian refugees crowded into township in the countries bordering Israel will have to renounce their refugee status if they claim Palestinian citizenship. If not, why not?
Well, as it happens, they may have no choice – it appears that some of “WeBSoP”s future leaders want to keep them as stateless “Palestinians” – “Palestinians” in every way, except citizenship:
BEIRUT: Palestinian refugees will not become citizens of a new Palestinian state, according to Palestine’s ambassador to Lebanon.
From behind a desk topped by a miniature model of Palestine’s hoped-for blue United Nations chair, Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah spoke to The Daily Star Wednesday about Palestine’s upcoming bid for U.N. statehood.
The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, an issue that has been much discussed. “They are Palestinians, that’s their identity,” he says. “But … they are not automatically citizens.”
4.  Of course, there may be those (especially those comfortably ensconced as citizens of Western countries) who refuse to return to the likely poverty-stricken, failed statelet on the West Bank. They may have to decide whether they are Palestinians or citizens of another country, and in either case, stop claiming refugee and victim stat.
5.  Like any state, the “WeBSoP” will have to take responsibility for acts of aggression committed from its soil against a neighbor. Thus for example, Egypt has had to start dealing with Gazan terrorists infiltrating into Sinai, or arresting many in the mob that attacked the Israeli embassy. The “WeBSoP” Government will need to do the same or face the consequences.
6.  If the “WeBSoP” permits terror attacks into Israel, it can expect a full military retaliation from Israel just as any nation would respond to terror attacks on its people. So it might be more careful about permitting these actions. We have a few recent examples – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya (possibly  …) where various countries have responded rather forcibly to terrorist attacks. Israel would be in the new and preferable position of not being accused of attacking helpless refugees, but of responding to an attack on its people by the “WeBSoP”. Even Mr. Erdogan, who waxes eloquently about how the deaths of the IHH terrorists on the Mavi Marmara were “an act of war”, might have to concede the point.
7.  Since it seems clear that the leaders of the future “WeBSoP” intend it to beJudenrein and gays will not be tolerated, while Israel has a 20% Arab population and a multiplicity of religions and sexual preferences among its citizens, the claim of racism can be leveled even more justifiably at the future “WeBSoP” and the contrast with Israel’s liberal, multi-ethnic society will stand out even more boldly.
This is clearly the future “WeBSoP” as the Arabs see it:
BERLIN – The Palestinian envoy to the United States Maen Rashid Areikat said on Tuesday in Washington that the Palestinian Liberation Organization opposes the immediate presence of Jews and gays in an independent Palestinian state, according to reports in US-based publications The Daily Callerand The Weekly Standard.
8. With the founding of the “WeBSoP”, the UN can move to disband UNRWA and direct the funds and aid to truly needy communities around the world, such as Somalia and Darfur.  The “WeBSoP” will need to feed, clothe, house and employ its citizens like every other state. Its leaders will have to live off what they can extract, by fair means or foul, from their citizenry, rather than the foolish largesse of the international community.
9.  Finally, optimistically, the founding of the “WeBSoP” should, if we are to believe that the Israeli occupation is the source of all evil, immensely benefit the world and Israel:
a) A peaceful relationship, even if no warmer than that with Jordan or Egypt, should result.
b) Since we have been taught to believe that global Moslem hatred of the US (and Europe and Israel) is due to the occupation, removing the occupation should, at the very least, put an end to that justification if not the hatred itself. Of course, the experiences of the withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza show that those similar expectations were nonsense, but at least Israel’s opponents will have to stop beating that particular dead horse.
c) Israel will be able to focus on its internal problems now that it will be at peace with all its neighbors except the lot in Gaza and the other in Lebanon:
i. Dealing with the cost of supporting a largely unemployed ultra-Orthodox community and insisting that they fulfill the same duties and respect the law in the same way as every other community
ii. Diverting funds from security to improving education, medical care, etc., for its citizens
                   iii. Expanding its growing trade relations with the Far East
                  iv.  Reducing crime
                    v.  Becoming, finally, a truly normal state, albeit in a very abnormal neighborhood
Well, I am sure imaginative readers could add to the list. But the point is that Israel needs to think more in terms of Machiavellian realpolitik about its interests.
Israel should choose a policy towards the UN debate that, judo-like, uses the grandiose aspirations of a portion of the Palestinian leadership to prevail, rather than thinking in a linear, knee-jerk fashion about how to prevent them from doing what they want – which leads almost certainly to a scenario much consistent with Israel’s interests.