Sunday, January 8, 2012

Alexander Yakobson’s “Generous” Peace Offer

The op-ed in last Friday’s Haaretz by historian Alexander Yakobson offers a wonderful insight into the mind of the secular Israeli who considers himself a liberal Zionist.  In fact, I consider it must-reading for anybody who wishes to understand the sort of mentality that  has effectively killed the two-state solution from 1948 to the present. (I haven’t founded it translated yet into English; if somebody has a link, please send it to me.)

Yakobson’s piece was in response to an op-ed in the previous Friday’s Haaretz by writer A. B. Yehoshua, who was beginning to despair of a real two-state solution because of the difficulty involved in moving so many settlers. Yakobson responded with an idea that he had floated before, namely, that as part of a peace agreement, the army would withdraw to the 67 border, and the settlers would be allowed to decide if they wanted to stay in Palestine as Palestinian citizens.  After all, if the Jewish state has an Arab minority, why shouldn’t the Palestinian state have a Jewish minority? Yakobson didn’t repeat what he had written earlier, namely that  that most settlers would return after receiving some modest compensation “beyond the letter of the law.” –and that since the Arabs are known for making life impossible for the Jews in their midst, even the nuts who stay will end up coming back eventually under the law of return.

For a secular Israeli like Yakobson it’s all good:  The Palestinians get their land and get off the Israelis’ back; the crazy religious settlers can settle in Eretz Yisrael if they like, and if they don’t, they come back for only a fistful of shekels. Just think of the money we save!

The secular Israeli liberal  offers the Palestinian nothing that he himself wants and everything he can’t abide – the West Bank, which he never visits; the Palestinians, whom he would prefer not to worry about; and the religious settlers, whom he is ecstatic to part with. Which of his own interests does he sacrifice in the spirit of compromise? None..

And what about the Palestinians? Well after being powerless to stop their land from being expropriated and developed into illegal bedroom communities and cities for settlers who wish  them dead and gone, or at least, permanently subservient, they now are obligated by a treaty with the regional superpower to keep the settlements and settlers, who, presumably according to Yakobson, will turn into loyal Palestinian citizens without any irredentist tendencies.

Note that this “generous proposal” is from a man who opposes the return of any more than a handful of Palestinian refugees to Israel because of the threat to the security of the Jewish state.  He sees no security threat to the Palestinian state by  the religious fanatics he is so eager to get rid of. Not his problem, is it?

Can his proposal be made serious? Consider the following friendly amendments:

Settlers can remain as citizens of the Palestinian state, after they give up their Israeli citizenship, of course. But since they do not own the land they live on anyway, but rather lease it from the Israeli government, the Palestinian government  could move them to other places on the West Bank, after offering proper compensation.

In exchange for the Palestinians being forced to received hundreds of thousand Jewish “immigrants”, the Israelis would be forced to receive hundreds of thousand Palestinian “immigrants”, i.e., returning refugees. How many hundreds of thousands? Well, if a bit over half a million Israeli Jews are offered the opportunity to stay in the West Bank, and there are a bit over 3.5 million Palestinians living there now, then that works out to about 16% – and 16% of 5.5 million Israeli Jewish living within the Green Line would work out to 880,000 Palestinian refugees. Of course, you will immediately say that this isn’t fair – after all, the Jewish state starts out with 20% of its population Arab. Good point. Let’s assume, then, that the Arabs had not driven thousands of Jewish settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1948, and they constituted around – what – 5% of the total? So, you know, we’ll compromise on resettling 3/4 of a million Palestinian refugees in exchange for allowing the Jewish settlers to remain where they are. And half a million of them will be settled West of Jerusalem, the rest in the Galilee and the Negev.

I find that the problem folks like Prof. Yakobson is that they are pretty good negotiators when negotiating with themselves. They know how to figure out what is in their own best interests – a secular Israel which is culturally Jewish, with a few Rabbis and Arabs to give it some flavor. That’s why whenever they come up  with a plan, they are  always trying to sell it to the Jews. They never mention  the possible down-side for the Palestinians.

That’s what liberal Zionists have been doing from time immemorial.


pabelmont said...

The settlers were put in place "vi et armis" and are present illegally and should go (home). The Palestinian exiles of 1948 were denied re-entry to their own homeland and should be allowed to return.

Such is my view. And, to round it out, since the right of return to one's own country is a territory-based right, if Israel agreed to make itself smaller (than pre-1967), then the Palestinian exiles that returned to that (smaller) territory would be fewer and less a "demographic threat" (if they came at all), the rest returning to a (new) Palestine bigger than WB/EJ+G.

Just a thought on the likely legal meaning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UNGA-194.

Yariv said...

"Which of his own interests does he sacrifice in the spirit of compromise? None.."

Ah. So it is not a solution that minimizes the suffering of all people and the future friction that we seek; it's one where the liberal secular jew finally gets his comeuppance and suffers like the Palestinians have suffered.

Very enlightening.

Jerry Haber said...

Hey, Yariv...

The compromise doesn't have to be painful -- but it does have to be a compromise. And when you compromise, you give up something that mean something to you.

But maybe you think, like Yakobson, that only the Palestinians have to compromise. If you do, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn you may be interested in buying...

Donald said...

Say, I've jogged on that bridge. Always wanted to meet the owner and make an offer. I could trade you some land in Florida, dry half the year (until the tide comes in)...

It wasn't necessary to respond to Yariv--his comment was in obvious bad faith. Unless someone could really think that way and not see the unfairness? Naah.

Yariv said...

I don't see compromise as some lofty value in itself; if I want to continue beating my wife and she wants me to stop, we should not "compromise," but rather I should stop.

The relevant questions are what solutions are feasible, and which are likely to lead to lasting peace, and which cause the least injustice and suffering.

In that regard, uprooting however many thousands of settlers just for the sense of Israeli "compromise" makes little sense unless you feel like their pain makes up for the pain of the Palestinians uprooted in 1948 somehow.

(In reality of course the notion that the settlers can stay where they are is absurd - their idyllic little villages atop the hills overlooking Palestinian poverty would be a constant reminder of the occupation and draw justified resentment, and eventually there would be violence and public outcry in Israel and the government would intervene and we'd go down the rabbit hole again)

Devir said...

In my view, the time to talk about peace or end the"conflict" (as philistees çike to call it, as if there were a mere conflict between to sides of equal power )has elapsed. It was rhe Israeli side that left clear that nothing less than full unilateral sovereignty and statehood is worth fighting for.
Israel has clearly shown, during endless talks ( and criminal raids ) everything else is a diversion and only good to keep delaying ad eternum the real solution...
Only Palestinean satehood can grant peace and security to both sides.

evets said...

Yariv -

I agree with your response and happened to respond in the same way to a similar post of Jerry's a few months ago. The important thing is striking a fair, workable deal, whether that entails great or minimal sacrifice. It stands to reason that minimal sacrifice won't suffice. But mandating sufficient sacrifice is not the point.