The online New York Times of 3 April 2011 includes a “diplomatic memo” entitled “In Israel, Time For Peace Offer May Run Out,” by Ethan Bronner.
My father forwarded me the link, which had been forwarded to him by a cousin. (This is what the virtual watercooler conversation has turned into, between St. Louis, Shaftsbury [Vt.], and Efrat.) The substance of the article is what most of my readers are probably aware of, a bid by Palestinian Arabs to have a state declared and recognized unilaterally by the UN General Assembly in September.
I have a number of observations about this scenario, none of which constitute certain prognostications. They’re just possible ways it could play out.
1) Israel rushes to cobble together a package of giveaways that are seductive enough to tempt the Arabs, including dividing Jerusalem (unthinkable for most Israelis, but play along with me here), freezing settlements (despite Bibi pledging 500 new housing units in the wake of the Fogel murders, but which I’m sure aren’t even on paper yet), and withdrawing to the 4 June 1967 lines (something which UNSC Resolution 242 doesn’t even require). Arabs accept graciously, end incitement, and live in peace and harmony until the End of Days. (Okay, that last sentence was my belated April Fool’s joke.)
2) Israel chooses to ignore the threat, finds the Automatic Majority in full swing in September, and loses de facto control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (I don’t mention Gaza here, because most Palestinian Arabs don’t even seem to be in control there either, unless they’re card-carrying members of Hamas.) The IDF is expected to withdraw immediately from its posts, roadblocks are dismantled, Arabs pass out candy, and call for open season on any settlers who haven’t packed their bags and decamped. Arabs give thanks for decades of settlement construction, since there are thousands of homes now available (or will be, once the settlers have been forced out or slaughtered in cold blood).
3) Israel annexes the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making the Arabs there citizens of Israel. Accepting the opinions of demographers who do not think this would be disastrous for Israel, and setting aside the outcry that might ensue from the rest of the world (though not, likely, from the Palis themselves, who would be guaranteed a higher standard of living in a few years, as well as better educational and job opportunities), this would end the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs (though not, likely, with the rest of the Arab world, who depend on this situation to divert anger and dissatisfaction from their own despotic regimes), make them subject to the same laws as Israelis, and end the legal limbo in which feuding Jews and Arabs find themselves out in Yehuda and Shomron. (I.e., state land would be state land, not up for dispute by Arabs thinking they can earmark it for a state of their own.)
4) Israel lets the whole thing unfold at the UN, repeats the disaster of the Gaza expulsion, and recognizes a Palestinian entity on its borders on Palestinian terms. This eliminates the hassle of governing hostile Arabs (or absorbing them into a single Israeli state) and holds the Palestinian entity responsible as any other state for acts of violence or aggression against another sovereign state, entitling Israel to go to war, if necessary, without the response of the rest of the world being, “Bullies! Pick on someone your own size!” (Okay, that last is a bit of a stretch, since generations of accepting Arab “victimization” won’t disappear overnight, even with statehood.)
None of these possibilities is particularly palatable, since none of them comes with anything like a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Drastic, one-sided, uncomplicated, utilitarian, perhaps, but never peaceful. But this, of course, is the whole point. Even if Israel could come up with a set of further concessions, why should the Arabs negotiate for what they can get for free at the UN? I can understand the appeal of a unilateral declaration at the UN: the ease of the Automatic Majority, the overall hostility to Israel which reigns there, the willingness by the major powers to recognize another terrorist state (since it’s not on any of THEIR borders), and a lack of concern that it still doesn’t solve the Palestinian problem, since Hamas has been abusing reporters who attempt to report on the demonstrations in Gaza calling for a rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah.
I think the UN got out of the peace business a long time ago, and this talk of creating another terrorist state on Israel’s borders (sealing it in between Hamas, Fatah, and Hizbullah) only makes it official. That is, unless peace is seen as coming at a very affordable price: the Jewish state.