September 16, 2019

An audaciously simplistic plan

Caroline B. Glick, meet Ali Abunimah.

Glick advocates a one-state solution to the long-festering conflict between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs in “The Israeli Solution: A One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East” (Crown, $25), a much-talked-about book that purports to offer an alternative to the apparent dead end in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority for a Palestinian state. Glick boldly proposes to absorb the West Bank and its entire Arab population into the State of Israel, a notion that she describes as “fair, liberal and democratic.”

Abunimah, co-founder of a Web site called The Electronic Intifada and author of “The Battle for Justice in Palestine,” also envisions a one-state solution. “The remaining route to a just peace would be a historic agreement to … transform [Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs] into citizens of a common state committed to the rights of all,” Abunimah wrote in The New York Times.

Between these two points of view, however, is an ideological no man’s land. Glick dares to imagine that Israel will simply annex the West Bank and exercise sovereignty from the Mediterranean to the banks of the Jordan River. Abunimah, by contrast, envisions a Levantine version of the Mandela-era South Africa with “a legitimate, broad-based Palestinian leadership and an Israeli leadership that recognizes that Israel’s form of ethnoreligious apartheid must end.”

When Glick speaks of a one-state solution, of course, she has something very different in mind. In her audacious plan, “The Palestinian Authority will be dissolved,” “its security forces will be disbanded,” and “the Israeli military and police will assume full security responsibility for the whole of the country.” Arabs who suddenly find themselves living under Israeli sovereignty may apply for citizenship in the Jewish state, but “past or current membership in terrorist organizations, and past or current incitement to violence against Israel, should disqualify an individual from acquiring citizenship.” Those who are not eligible for Israeli citizenship will essentially live as resident aliens unless they decide to leave Israel.

Glick’s book is intended to change the minds of her readers through simple and forceful arguments, but simplicity is often accompanied by shallowness. To be sure, she draws on abstruse principles of international law to justify her position — an exercise that leads her to conclude that the Jewish people enjoy the right of sovereignty in the West Bank and the Palestinian Arabs do not — but I fear that Glick has not thought deeply about the real consequences of the dystopia she describes in such fanciful terms.

One of Glick’s arguments is that the number of Palestinian Arabs who would be legal residents of a greater Israel is smaller than supposed. Conventional wisdom puts the Arab population of the West Bank at 3.6 million, but she calls the census from which that number was taken “a fraud.” The actual number, she insists, is 2.47 million.  In Glick’s eyes, Israeli rule over 2.6 million Palestinian Arabs is much less daunting than rule over 3.6 million. 

What’s more, Glick devotes much of her book to reprising the long and troubled history of Arab-Jewish relations in the Middle East. “Palestinians from every part of the political spectrum have made clear through word and deed that they are uninterested in peacefully coexisting with the Jewish state under any conditions that would allow the Jewish state to survive,” she concludes. Yet, Glick somehow believes that those same Arabs who reject any form of peaceful coexistence with Israel — and whose enmity has repeatedly exploded into bloodthirsty violence — will somehow content themselves with the status of resident aliens in the expanded State of Israel.

Notably, Glick’s version of the one-state solution excludes Gaza. According to Glick, leaving Gaza on its own as a de facto Palestinian state will reduce the disparity between the Arab and Jewish populations of the expanded Israel that she describes. She also suggests that what the Arabs in Gaza really want is union with Egypt. But she is forced to acknowledge that “Gaza has been governed by the Hamas terrorist organization and enjoys a close relationship with Iran,” which is as close as she comes to admitting that annexation of Arab land by Israel will doubtlessly set off a firestorm with far-ranging and ultimately unpredictable consequences.

More often, Glick minimizes and dismisses the objections to her plan. She makes a distinction between “Palestinian civilizations and the Palestinian leadership in Fatah and Hamas.” Once Israel annexes the West Bank, she writes, “it is reasonable to assume that … the majority of Palestinians will register for Israeli permanent residency status.” She is not concerned that they will also apply for citizenship, but even if they do, “[T]he Jews would still maintain a solid two-thirds majority of the population of the State of Israel,” thus ensuring a Jewish electoral majority. And she believes that “[t]he Palestinians recognize that any mass terror attack they would conduct would cause Israel to take military action that would destroy their capacity to carry out further attacks in the future.” In doing so, however, I fear that she has ignored the classic Zionist strategy of paying attention to “facts on the ground.”

Nor does Glick persuade me that Israel will continue to enjoy the support of the United States, much less the European Union, if a unilateral decision is made to annex and absorb the West Bank.  She relies on “the 3,500-year political history of the Land of Israel” to argue that “the Jewish people’s rights to sovereignty over Judea and Samara — as with their rights to the rest of the Land of Israel — are overwhelming.”  By contrast, she judges the Palestinian cause to be morally, legally and politically powerless: “Despite their diplomatic power and their terrorist aspirations and capacities, the Palestinians are not in a position to independently scuttle an Israeli decision to implement Israeli law in Judea and Samaria.”

Glick notes in passing that her plan “will doubtlessly cause a host of difficulties for Israel,” but she insists that “it is a viable, realistic option, not a pipe dream.” Sitting at my desk in Los Angeles, it is not for me to say whether she is right or wrong, even if her book strikes me as a lunatic proposition that will drive Israel off a cliff. The decision must be made in Israel, and only with the advice of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which will be burdened with the task of keeping the peace in Greater Israel, and the consent of the mothers and fathers of the IDF soldiers whose lives will be at risk when they are forced to cope with a new intifada inside Israel and new conflicts on its borders and far beyond them.  

Does anyone, including Caroline Glick, really believe that it could be otherwise?