Back to Unilateralism

The Israeli press, as well as the Israeli public, are not impressed by the opening of direct negotiations slated for next week. It hardly makes any headlines here. And rightly so. The left tells us Netanyahu will refuse any reasonable peace deal, which is true. The right tells us the Palestinians will refuse any reasonable peace deal, and that too, we should remember, is true.

There are many, from Meretz all the way to Kadima who still believe the Palestinians are just about to sign a final peace accord. What they say behind closed doors, we are told, is that they now regret not accepting Ehud Olmert’s generous peace deal. But they have been saying – always behind closed doors – that they are ready for a full deal for the past 17 years. And somehow whenever they emerge from behind those doors, the deal evaporates.

So maybe there’s a simple explanation for all this. Maybe, it is not a coincidence but a strategy. Maybe, as they keep saying openly, they have not given up on the demand to return the refugees and their offspring into Israel itself (a demand which they call a “right” though there is no such right by international law for refugees, much less for their offspring); Maybe they really don’t intend to give up Jaffa; Maybe it is no coincidence that they refuse to recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in a state of its own.

And there may be a sound logic behind all this. If they still view Zionism as a colonial enterprise, and still believe Israel should not exist, the one sure way to destroy it is not terrorism. It is to refuse partition, and just wait. First, Israel is the only Western democracy that holds a large population devoid of political rights under its rule. If it holds on to the occupation the country’s legitimacy will keep eroding, till our friends too turn their backs on us. Secondly, without partition Jews will eventually turn into a minority in Israel.

Both the radical right and the radical left tell us all this is not as bad as it seems. There are those on the left who tell us that the so called “one-state solution” will create a bi-national, or a non-national democracy, in which both peoples can live peacefully. It takes quite a bit of self-deception, not to say downright dishonesty, to promote this view. One look at Gaza is enough to remember why.

The radical right has its own version of wishful thinking. There are those on the right who would supply us with alternative demographic data, designed to support their enthusiasm for further settlement. Yoram Ettinger is the most vocal among these and he tells us there is nothing to worry about. Demography, he believes, is in fact working in Israel’s favor. He and his colleagues rely on a study conducted in Bar Ilan University called “The Million Person Gap”.

Israel’s senior demographers were unimpressed. Professor Arnon Sofer from Haifa University called it a “politically motivated” study, which is nothing more than self-deception. Professor Sergio DellaPergola, senior demographer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, concluded that “juggling numbers” as the study does will not change the facts on the ground. He found it manipulative and scientifically irresponsible.

So perhaps it is time we look reality in the eye and face two basic facts. The first: contrary to what the left believes the current round of talks to open next week is but another way for two recalcitrant sides to stall. The second: contrary to the right’s beliefs, time is working against Israel. Our international standing is fast eroding, and we are turning into a minority in the land of Israel.

This is why it is time we drop the illusion of negotiations and start planning a unilateral move out of Judea and Samaria. Whatever its results, they would be far better than the alternative. Because if we do not achieve partition into two states, it would be the end of Zionism.

This piece was first published in Hebrew as an op-ed in Yedioth Ahronoth, on August 25, 2010.

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