Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Kicking Time Bombs Down the Road Never Really Works Out

Bad ideas for actions related to bombs.....

Generally when one sees a bomb just lying there merrily ticking away, it is never a good idea to run up to it and kick it and hope that by the time it goes off, you kicked it so far away that you are immune to the blast.

It is also never a good idea to yell at the Bomb and dare it to go off, you can sit there and taunt it, or curse at it, or scream "bloody murder" at it until you are blue in the face all you want. You can loudly proclaim that you are not afraid of the Bomb (and you might not be). But doing all of those things won't stop the Bomb from going off and when it does you probably get blown to smithereens.

Finally, one other piece of advice... It is never a good idea to stand next to the bomb and pretend that it doesn't exist. That helps no one. There it is, just sitting there ticking and you standing there just whistling away and minding your time is not going to do the trick. Pretending it doesn't exist, well that's never the best idea towards dealing with high level explosives particularly when they are active and sitting right next to you. In that vein, looking away from the bomb and focusing on everything BUT the bomb is going to do nothing relative to making that Bomb and it's impending explosion any less.

In Israel, what is the Bomb? The Bomb are the Palestinians and the rest of the world relative to the Occupation and the issue of settlements in the West Bank. 

This is how the top three major Israeli parties are looking at the next election. HaBayit HaYehudi (H.H.)(Jewish Home - Projected to be the Third Place finishers in the upcoming Israeli elections at least by today, , a party of Right Wing, Orthodox Religious Nationalists has decided that what they think is best is to run up and kick the Bomb. Their plan is best described as this... They want to take the part of the West Bank known as "Area C", where most of the Jewish population lives and completely annex it. The Palestinians who live there? They would become Full Israeli citizens with all rights and obligations of said citizenship.

THEN they want to take the remainder of the West Bank (Area's designated as "A" & "B" where most of the area's Palestinian population lives) and spend millions and millions of shekels building modern connecting roads to promote smooth passage of individuals and goods between Palestinian Parts of the West Bank. Not only that, but they say that also want to pour more money into building up the Palestinian economy and create prosperous economic zones for the Palestinians. Area's "A" & "B" would be considered an autonomous area for the Palestinians within Israel. The Palestinians living there would elect their own leaders, collect their own taxes and set up their own polity.

But you know what they wouldn't have? They wouldn't have an independent country. They would have an autonomous section of Israel and be subject in the end to the Israeli Government, but they would not have the right to vote in Israel. They wouldn't have the Rights enjoyed by many Israeli citizens and would certainly NOT have full civil rights. The flaws of this strategy are obvious.

There are many pitfalls of this from an Israeli perspective. Israel was born out of a need for the Jewish people after 2,000 + years of displacement to be a homeland and sanctuary for the Jewish people. FURTHER, it's founders envisioned a Democratic State based on Jewish principles of equality and fairness, principles enshrined in both the Torah and Talmud. This solution would just toss that completely out the window.

First of all, it would destroy Israel as a Democracy immediately and down the road as a Jewish State. Curiously for those that support Naftali Bennett and H.H. did they ever stop to consider what the destruction of Israel as a democracy would mean? Do they consider it worthwhile? Do they consider that in the best interests of the Jewish people. When the world through social media and increased technology is getting more and more democratic, do they understand that societies fail when they get less democratic. The founders of Israel saw this when they wrote this in the their Declaration of Establishment for the State of Israel:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants  irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
But let's forget the high mindedness of actually having ideals and striving to work through them. Let's look at the practical side of this. The Demographics of it all. Right now the Jewish Population to Non-Jewish Population ratio in Israel is approx. 75.4% - 24.6%. A very healthy Jewish majority for a Jewish State.
With the Habayit Hayehudi plan, that demographic shifts radically by adding 2.57 million Palestinians into the state, (which would only grant "citizenship" to 100,000 of them). This would create a major demographic shift in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan (not counting Gaza) to a ratio of around 56%-44% AND of that 44% a good 55% plus would be disenfranchised. How long would the disenfranchisement of almost half of an ethnic groups population in one nation based solely on that ethnicity, last in today's world?

The practical outcome of this would be either civil strife or a mass exodus. Where could the population go in the surrounding area that would take them in and welcome them? Certainly the Israelis could make life so miserable for the Palestinians that they would want to leave, but, would that really be a long term solution? Continued oppression of people so that finally they want to just pick up and go? As Jews, we have been victimized in this manner throughout history. What would this to do to the original Zionist vision for Israel? I posit that this would eventually destroy Israel due to the fact that it would destroy one of the very foundations that the nation was built upon.

But there could also be civil strife. Generally, when you disenfranchise someone you create resentment that leads to both violent and non-violent resistance. Is this article justifying acts of terror against civilians? OF COURSE NOT! But, it does make it understandable that military targets and instruments of the maintenance of the Occupation would be targeted. Then what would happen? How could Israel allow it's soldiers and civil authorities to come under attack? This would most likely result in mass forced ethnic cleansing of the area, in other words forced evacuation. Is this something that the Israeli people would be ready to carry out. Forcing people from their homes in retaliation for them standing up for themselves. Would those who bravely carry on at their keyboards be the ones moving a family out of an area at gunpoint? 

But also, how would the rest of the world deal with this? Israel's back is already to a degree against a wall, however, support from the U.S. and E.U. (and by "support" I mean real support in terms of military and economic agreements) keeps Israel's economy moving and Israel at a qualitative military advantage over it's neighbors. What if Israel actually took the words of their hard Rightist supporters literally when they say things like this:
.... but in my opinion Israel should take the unilateral steps necessary to protect its security — and let the EU and Obama do their worst.
"Do their worst". Interesting. Well, how would Israel handle all trading agreements being cut off? How would their economy do with the E.U. closing markets in response to Israeli moves to annex 61% of the West Bank (land that is not considered theirs by the world community) and permanent disenfranchisement of almost 20% of all the people living in that area? Israel's economy would be shattered. How about if the U.S. also "did their worst"? Where would the Israelis get the money to build up Area's "A" & "B" and their H.H. road system to link the area? Can one imagine the security costs involved in a project like that? Of course, since the Jewish Home plan would run in direct conflict with American Foreign Policy and would force a severe strain on American diplomatic efforts to contain Iran in the area, I cannot imagine the American government kicking in any more of their $ 3 billion per year in loan guarantees.

Where then would Israel find it's military assistance, from Russia? They have no desire to do anything for Israel and never really have. From China? China is busy in the Gulf States and supporting Iran in the U.N., all while building up their guarantees for Oil. So where can Israel turn for it's own needs. It will have to fight Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt for control of the Natural Gas Fields in the Med. and it will have no large state sponsors to help. So sure - it's easy to sit in ones living room in the U.S. and challenge America to "do it's worst" (ask any nation that America does it's worst too how that worked out for them), but for the Israelis a loss of partnership with America and the E.U. would lead to one place. Masada. How did that work out for our people in the end?

As one can see kicking the bomb... is maybe not that great of an idea. At best one might only lose their foot, but in most cases one would lose their life.

Then there is the next option - The Likud Betainu option... This is both alternately ignoring the bomb and yelling at the Bomb, blaming the Bomb for being the bomb, talking about how it's the bomb's fault for being a bomb. All of that (of course) doesn't matter... the Bomb is still the bomb and it still will explode. What's even worse about the Likud-Betainu situation is that they simply have no solution. If the HaBayit HaYehudi plan has a flawed and fairly unrealistic solution, the Likud Betainu plan doesn't exist. Yelling at, cursing at, blaming the Bomb, doesn't make the bomb go away. At best it doesn't do anything but at its worst, it makes the bomb even bigger. It adds power to the resentment behind the bomb.

So in real terms what are we talking about? Israel faces a dilemma. What to do with the West Bank. In a debate for New Olim broadcast on YNET - the Likud Betainu Representative, in response to a question from Meretz about whether Likud was still committed to Prime Minister Netanyahu's Bar-Ilan Speech vision of Two States, simply blew the question off saying "Well, Abu Mazen doesn't want peace so really... what can we do"? (Paraphrased). Moreover, he went on dismiss his questioner as someone who is letting the Palestinians "determine the fate of Israel". Meanwhile, as everyone knows building in the territories continues apace and with the latest shift Right in the Likud primaries, the ascendency of the Feiglin, Danon wing of the party and the "purge" of the "moderates" (who really are not that moderate until they are looked at in comparison with Rightists in the Party) does nothing to produce a future solution that is really not that different from the Jewish Home vision. No one familiar with Israeli Politics could honestly see Moshe Feiglin, Danny Danon and their respective friends in Betainu and Likud agreeing to any sort of deal that cedes any parts of the West Bank (what they call Judea and Samaria) to the Palestinians to form a State.

Now, of course the Prime Minister has seemingly laid out a different program for a solution. He has floated a solution based purely on security needs where Israel annexes 50-60% of the West Bank, setting up a security zone in the Jordan Valley and around J'slem and Tel Aviv. This seems to be the path that the Prime Minister sees for the Occupation. Almost a de facto unilateral disengagement. Something that runs completely against the wishes of the U.S. and E.U. (who seek creative disengagement and an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis).

But more than any of this, Likud Betainu lacks any vision of what it is doing. What are it's goals for the West Bank? Does it want a Two-State Solution, if so under what terms? Does it want a One State solution? If so,  what will it do with the Palestinians in the West Bank. Do they become full citizens of Israel? Do they get rights, will they be enfranchised? How does the economy continue to grow while facing pressures from an increasingly unhappy and frustrated United States and European Union whose Arab allies grow more and more restless for a solution to this issue? And what of the economy here? How does the Israeli economy continue to grow with the government throwing more and more resources into the West Bank, both in shekalim and military personnel? There are real issues of social justice inside the "Green Line". What happens to the population there who see continuing failings in Education, Social Welfare and the like, seeing new settlements and housing being built in the Occupied Territories?

And as was discussed in prior section on the Jewish Home plan, do they think that the U.S. and European Union are going to continue to turn a blind eye to this? Well, in this case they really just don't seem to care. The arrogance of suggesting that they won't deal with a situation like the Occupation because somehow that suggests that the Palestinians are dictating policy to Israel is laughable. One cannot portray themselves as a leader if they are willing to simply ignore major challenges to both the Jewish Identity of the State or to the philosophical foundations of the nation because they feel like someone else is telling them what to do. The problem still exists and still must be dealt with.

No, trying to place blame all the while "kicking the bomb down the road" is no solution. It can only end in violence or strife. Israel might be able to win this fight in a military sense but what would be the price of such a victory? Would the price of a victory like this be more than the country could bear?

However, one cannot leave out the main opposition Avodah. Their approach has been to totally focus on issues of social welfare (which in my opinion is fine) but they have been like the person who stands next to the bomb and whistles while looking the other way, trying to ignore it. It is only lately where Avodah has had some vague mutterings about dealing with the Occupation based around the 1967 lines with some land swaps. Nothing concrete mind you, simply thinking that this should solve that issue. Their leader Shelly Yachimovich has long been a crusader for Social Justice in Israel but never has been much on dealing with the issues of the Occupation.

This approach can't work either. There are real security concerns for Israel that need to be dealt with. The Palestinians are not simply going to go away, and right now they don't really have any inclination of accepting much when it comes to Israel. Those security concerns NEED to be addressed. Israel cannot afford to "navel gaze" and be completely unaware of those surrounding her. So what is Avodah proposing? What are specifics of what they would like to see with regards to Israelis in the West Bank? How are they going to support massive social welfare plans while also financing an Occupation? They haven't really addressed any of these issues.

Sitting there and whistling is nice but it does nothing to solve the ticking time bomb at ones feet. Generally what happens is that the bomb goes off and while one floats up to heaven to get their harp and sing hosannas at the feet of G-d (sarcastic cartoon imagery here), they wonder... "What the heck just happened???"

DISCLAIMER FOR THE NEXT SECTION: I am not an Israeli so really, it's not up to me to pick their future for them, but, I care deeply about the country and as a Jew with family and friends there I do have an opinion of this. Take that for what it's worth.

So now that I have whined, complained, and debunked the three major parties what is it that I suggest the Israelis do? A side note here is that I have little tolerance and even less respect for those simply whine about a problem but make no suggestions or make suggestions that are not well thought out and based on both stupidity and hatred. SO I give you my suggestions knowing full well that I might be wrong but, at least I feel they are well thought out.

What do I suggest about this "bomb". Well, I suggest that Israel ceases it's needless agitation of both the Palestinians as well as the U.S. and E.U. (not too mention Russia). I suggest that they immediately cease any and all building activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem. I suggest they stop tossing shekels into projects that they may have to at one point abandon. Instead, I suggest they turn their money to projects that support existing infrastructure in communities in Israel and in some of the settlements. I suggest they use that money to start the development of the Leviathan Natural Gas fields, AND most importantly that they use some of that money to make needed improvements to the IDF (like equipment upgrades, housing and so forth).

Then I suggest that the Israelis immediately propose immediate negotiations with the Palestinian Authority regarding a permanent solution with the assistance of both the U.S. and the European Union. At the same time, I think it important that parallel to these negotiations, the Israelis talk to the West in terms of Mutual Defense treaties as well as NATO membership. In return for the freeze and a return to serious negotiations, I would suggest asking for security and economic agreements that assure economic and military cooperation for the next fifty years.

Prior to these negotiations with the Palestinians, I suggest that the Israelis lay out a series of terms that MUST be agreed too by the Palestinians in order to solve this issue. Basic border issues (I personally favor the Olmert Plan map), Recognition of Israel as the National State and Homeland of the Jewish People (which would in effect wipe out any claims to Palestinian Right of Return), and issues surrounding water and resources. These are all things that both the U.S. and E.U. have already de facto recognized. They are all things supported by the U.S. and E.U.

It should be noted that no one is here is fooling themselves by thinking that these are things that fit the Palestinians "end game". If they had their way, they would use any withdrawal as a stepping stone to the eventual destruction of Israel. There is no one in the world that actually thinks that a peace agreement on paper (without support of the major state sponsors) that led to a complete withdrawal of the West Bank with no security provisions built in, would last any amount of time without Iran or radical groups using that land as staging grounds for terror and war.

Of course,whether the Palestinians accept this (and it would be the best deal they would ever get) or not is almost immaterial. Why? Because at that point Israel can show both the U.S. and the E.U. that the Palestinians walked away yet again for a third and final time. As they say: "The forms would have been obeyed" and would have been seen in a very final manner. Imagine the Palestinians telling the world in no uncertain terms.. "No, we will NOT accept Israel as the Jewish State and National Homeland of the Jewish People, No we will not accept their security concerns, and NO we will not accept a reasonable sharing of resources based on size of economy and projected use". Now, if they did accept those internationally recognized facts and understood that this was the end of their conflict with Israel, that would be great. Everyone goes home happy for a while and that is that.

If however, the Palestinians held out for their maximalist demands, well they would just be "shooting themselves in the foot". They would immediately lose all support from both Europe and the U.S. They would be turning down a permanent peace deal that was offered. There would be no more EVER offered. To fight Israel, the Palestinians would also then have to fight not only an Israel with the latest military technology but an Israel backed by the full might and economies (by treaty) of the U.S. and the E.U. It is simply a war, they cannot win, not for a very, very long time.

The most powerful economies would be there to make sure that there were not boycotts in heavy consumer markets, they would be there to support Israeli energy claims (particularly if Israel were to strike "sweetheart" deals with the Europeans). Plus, with withdrawal and building up of security they would of course need U.S. and European aid packages to build infrastructure to make accommodations to the new situation.

What else could happen if they walk away... well then Israel can then take on a defensive posture and act unilaterally with regards to security concerns, leaving Palestinian populated areas and allowing for the Palestinians to create a contiguous homeland throughout the West Bank. Of course, any acts of hostilities (terror strikes or rocket attacks) would be considered hostile military actions by one nation against another and again, the Israelis could invoke Mutual Defense Pacts.

BUT all this has to come with Israel getting to the table, making the first step and unilaterally deciding to play the international game by NOT continuing the settlement venture and going along with European and U.S. negotiators. It would be an announced final settlement for the Israeli - Palestinian issue and the whole world could watch as the Palestinians signed their own fate - either to continue along the trajectory of tragedy and war which has not worked out ever, or towards peace and co-existence. It would be done in the full on world spotlight. Because in the end, the Palestinians would have a hard time walking away from a viable State to hold out for some Maximalist demands. Abba Eban and all that... I think the time has come when they might realize what they are up against and take the chance on Peace.

THUS... Israel in this case would end up "disarming" the bomb. They wouldn't kick it. They wouldn't yell at it, they certainly would not ignore it, but they would do what they do best. Deal with the threat and eliminate it.


  1. But didn't the Palestinian Arabs already turn down an Israeli offer along the lines of what you are describing? Twice, even? There was the Barack plan in 2000 and the Olmert plan in 2006.

    The Arab intransigence at that point did not result in the tidal wave of world support for Israel that you outline, so I don't see why it would if they tried it again.

    1. Good question fizziks.

      Yes the Palestinians did walk away from two very good offers, what I think is different is the nature of the negotiations and the brokerage. Timing and all that. I think everyone sees that the Israelis are willing to annex the territories and realize that if they don't get involved something very bad will happen.

      As for a "tidal wave of world support" happening. I don't think a tidal wave of world support would happen. I never said it would. What I did say is that the there would be official support from the U.S. and E.U. (who already support Israel for the most part). I think bringing them into the negotiations along lines they already support would provide the "diplomatic cover" that the E.U. needs to see a peace agreement into it's final stages.

      As for the rest of the world? Who cares. They wouldn't support Israel in any case, but my contention is that as long as the U.S. and E.U. are bound into both economic and military agreements with Israel the rest of the world will not have the ability to harm Israel.

      The fact of the matter is that I think there needs to be another attempt.

  2. (livosh1)
    Sadly, it is probably going to take a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians to change course. The current Israeli leadership will do nothing except point fingers at the other side, and use the other side's refusal to react favorably to empty gestures as an excuse to expand settlements and otherwise stick their heads in the sand about the consequences of their actions and inaction. In order for the Palestinians to let go of the so-called right of return (which is critical), they must be able to envision that doing so will truly advance the cause of an independent and viable Palestinian state. Plainly the current Israeli leadership clearly has no interest in ever seeing that happen.

    In the mean time, Israelis kicking the time bomb, as you say, is just pure insanity. The consequences are dreadful. If Israelis don't change course, (and dramatically so), I rather doubt that my kids' generation will have the same feelings toward, and relationship with, Israel that my generation has. That saddens me to no end.

  3. Yep livosh... this is where I despair as well... Particularly in the younger generations in the West.

    Justifying support for a nation where a significant part of the populace is disenfranchised no matter how bad the enemy may be is not something that plays well with today's youth.

    Of course the bigots and Couch Masada Warriors don't care about that, because well they don't have to live with consequences of their false bravado.

  4. While I don't have a problem with Israel suspending further housing construction in the west bank, I don't see how they can move the IDF out of the area. Especially in light of the Gaza and South Lebanon experience. If IDF left WB, it is likely Hamas will take over and then start shooting missiles at Israel from the west. So I can't see how Israel leaves the area.

    Also do your demographic figures above include just WB and Israel and not Gaza. I assume yes.

    1. Well I think they need to move the IDF out if they can come to an agreement where the Palestinians sign a Peace Treaty. If the Palestinians won't do that, then Israel can simply set it's security zones.

      IF the Palestinians shoot rockets from the West Bank (like Gaza) the IDF can always move back in. I will leave it at that.

      Demographic figures are just the West Bank and J'slem added to Israel's population.

    2. This is just unrealistic. When Israel left Gaza, the politicians said we can go back in if they shoot missiles. Well, that's not so easy, as we've seen, due to international pressure. Moving IDF out of WB is just not going to happen in the near future.

    3. (livosh1)
      Nothing good is going to happen in the near future, because neither side's leadership is interested in pursuing realistic terms for ending the conflict, and neither side's population is willing to choose leaders who are bold enough to make the grand gestures that are necessary to move the parties toward a viable two-state resolution. In the mean time, Gaza demonstrates that unilateral action is not the answer. Moreover, the consequences of unilateral action are not indicative of what would result from a negotiated peace treaty.

      If and when there is a mutual agreement for an Israeli withdrawal from the WB (and that does not appear to be on the horizon at the moment), the IDF will have to leave, plain and simple. There is no scenario by which the parties would agree to end the conflict with the IDF remaining in the WB.

  5. (livosh1)
    As to the bigots and couch masada warriors you refer to . . . who cares . . . no one with half a brain takes them seriously. But the people of good will -- on the right, in the center, and on the left -- they really need to think seriously about the consequences, 10-20-30 years down the road, of keeping their heads in the sand.

    1. I fear 20-30 years will offer great changes, not many to our liking. The consequences of what is happening now are dire.

    2. (livosh1)
      I think there is a real feeling among too many Israelis that the status quo can be maintained permanently. They're wrong.