Sunday, July 1, 2007

Michael Oren's "New Paradigm"

Michael Oren, rightwing Israeli historian, had an op-ed in today's Haaretz, in which he proposed that Israel and the world forget about the Fatah party and the Palestinian Authority, and instead, give limited autonomy to the Palestinians in areas of the West Bank, with internal security (i.e., policing) controlled by a Jordanian-Palestinian force. There would be some sort of provisions for (elected?) councils that would meet with each other to consider issues of mutual concern. Somehow, I doubt that those issues would include land-expropriations, settlements, control of water resources, etc., not to mention, Palestianian security from the IDF and the settlers. After years of this arrangement (i.e., after the Palestinians behave themselves, and prove to Israel that they are no threat to its security, and they they known their place), only then can one speak of a lasting peace.

Now, Michael Oren is certainly entitled to his opinion, blah, blah, blah, but he is not entitled, as an historian, to write a bald-faced lie, and that is his assertion that the above constitutes a "new" paradigm. This is fundamentally the Israeli position at least since the first Camp David, and arguably from 1967. It is very close to the Begin autonomy plan (if there was such a plan), with a soupcon of Peres' Jordanian option. Gee, it even goes back to Golda Meir and King Abdullah. Central to all those plans was the denial that the Palestinians have an inalienable right to statist self-determination. There is no mention of the Palestinian right to live as a free people in their own land, the land of Palestine, to paraphrase Hatikvah.

Still, Oren's "new paradigm" might work under the following circumstances: Israel would announce its intention to help, together with the Quartet and the UN, the Palestinians to create a viable and secure state that would be as economically and militarily strong as Israel, and that would include an evaculation of all the settlements over the 67 border, the nullification of the annexation of Jerusalem, an admission of responsibility for the refugee problem, a release of all Palestinian prisoners. That help would be contingent upon an orderly transformation of the occupied Palestine to a liberal secular democracy, in which religious political parties (like Hamas) had a place, the abolition of the militias, etc. That would be a big carrot for people that are starving for freedom.

Sounds like a fantasy? No more than Oren's "new paradigm." The only difference between his and mine (neither of which has much likelihood of being adopted by the world) is that were Oren's to be adopted, and the Palestinian people would start blowing up Israeli civilians again, a lot of the world would find their actions justifiable as part of the resistance of an occupied people who have been told that they will not get a state.


Richard said...

The "new paradign" sounds suspiciously like the old 'Village Leagues' concept which was another failed attempt to co-opt "good" Palestinians" to take control of Palestinian society from the "bad" ones (at the time Fatah). That failed strategy then morphed into the one that created the Frankenmonster that would eventually become Hamas.

There's very little that is "new" in this conflict. MOstly just recycled in a new package.

Oren is a poseur as you correctly note.

Jerry Haber said...

Michael Oren sent me an email in which he wrote:

"True, neither the idea of regional autonomy nor the Jordan option are new. But in the Kuhnian sense, new paradigms are often cobbled together from old and given fresh forms."

I think that this is a misreading of Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn wasn't saying that new paradigms involve breathing life into stale ideas, or recycling dirty clothes (not an inappropriate metaphor for the Nine Days)