Archive for November, 2014
A humanitarian solution for
Judea, Samaria and Gaza
Last week we held the third talk in our series on “Setting the Record Straight”. The guest speaker was Dr. Martin Sherman, well-known columnist for The Jerusalem Post, lecturer, policy adviser and political and strategic analyst. His subject was “Rethinking Palestine – what would Sherlock Holmes have said?” 90 people filled the hall at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
As the title of Martin Sherman’s talk suggests, it is a highly controversial subject. Rethinking Palestine, according to Martin Sherman, entails scrapping the two-state solution because, in his opinion, it has clearly proved to be a dangerous non-solution and indeed a recipe for catastrophe, both for Israel and the Arabs of Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank).
Martin Sherman quoted Major-General (reserves) Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National Security Council, who in 2009 had cautioned that, “The maximum that any government of Israel will be ready to offer the Palestinians … is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian leader can accept.”
Interestingly, 14 years before that, in his last speech to the Knesset before he was assassinated in 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said that Palestine should be an entity which is less than a state, which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.” He added, “The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.” He also said, “We have committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.” These are sentiments that today, in his Labor Party, would probably be met with angry calls of “right wing extremist!” How perceptions have changed!
To illustrate even further the shift in perceptions, Rabin’s associate in seeking peace, Shimon Peres, known to be even more willing to make concessions to the Arabs and still to this day urging the relinquishment of more territory, had concurred that the 1967 lines “constituted almost compulsive temptation to attack Israel from all directions …” and warned that “without a border which affords security, a country is doomed to destruction in war.”
Clearly, the desire to reach a peace agreement has been so strong in Israel, that it has brought about a willingness to concede more and more territory, but at the same time, a resolve has emerged on the other side of the political divide to prevent these concessions by holding on to as much territory as possible.
Martin Sherman says that two imperatives dictate the survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews: The demographic imperative and the geographic imperative. Geographically, the two-State Solution poses critical security dangers for Israel, because of the longer borders that would result from the various pockets of Jewish and Arab population concentrations and the proximity of Israel’s main urban and commercial centers, power stations, military headquarters, highways and airport to an entity that, despite the proposals for demilitarization, will undoubtedly be armed to the teeth and in all likelihood be summarily taken over by Hamas or a more virulent form of extremism.
On the other hand, the One-State Solution, proposed by right-wing groups posits serious and obvious demographic risks that will generate even more inter-communal turbulence and instability than now, and dangerously erode the Jewish proportion voting for the Knesset – heralding the possible end of Israel as a Jewish state.
To offset both these predicaments, Martin Sherman suggests something which at the outset would upset many people – funded relocation. Many people immediately make the accusation of: “Ethnic cleansing!” Or “Transfer!”
Martin Sherman builds up his premise in a neat modular form, comprising three humane components. Firstly, he says, “End the discriminatory treatment of the Palestinian refugees by abolishing the UN’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), or bringing it into line with international practice for all other refugees on the face of the globe. Every refugee on earth is under the auspices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – except for the Palestinians. For them a separate institution exists – UNRWA. Strange, but true!
If the universally accepted UNHCR criteria for refugees were applied to the Palestinian case, the number of “refugees” would shrink from close to 5 million to fewer than 200,000. That’s because refugee status, according to the UNHCR lasts only one generation, and a concerted effort is made to integrate the refugees under its care, into other host countries, where they are expected to eventually receive citizenship. Under UNRWA, once a refugee – always a refugee until … return to their original homes. i.e. Israel!
The second humane component in Sherman’s paradigm is to end discrimination against Palestinians in the surrounding Arab countries and abolish the prohibition they face of acquiring citizenship of these countries in which they have been resident for generations. In most of the Arab countries refugees from the wars with Israel endure grave discrimination, with severe restrictions imposed on their freedom of movement, employment and property ownership.
The third component that Sherman proposes is to provide generous relocation financing directly to the Palestinian breadwinners resident across the 1967 Green Line, so as to enable them to build a better future for themselves and their families in foreign countries of their choice.
Countering the claim that this would arouse great opposition by local Arab leadership and the rest of the Arab world, Sherman says the procedure would not require the agreement of any official Arab organizations or states in order to effect implementation. Since the envisaged compensation would be large enough to allow recipients to comply with immigration criteria in numerous countries – not necessarily Arab or Muslim – and since they would be coming as adequately funded private individuals, quite a few countries would be happy to accept them. All that it requires is for the individual family heads to accept help on an individual and private basis.
Countering the charge of “ethnic cleansing” or “transfer” Sherman claims that the number of international migrants today is approaching a quarter of a billion, and is growing rapidly. Although this is partially a byproduct of wars, political conflicts and natural disasters, it is predominantly motivated by economics. Why should Palestinians be uninterested such motivations and why would it be morally wrong to offer them a better life for themselves, while helping to lessen the turmoil in the region?
There is compelling evidence that a desire to seek a better life elsewhere is widespread among the Palestinians, even without the availability of generous relocation grants. Numerous opinion polls vouch for this. The sense of national pride that obviously prevails in Palestine society, would probably be marginalized if a generously funded exit to other lands was made possible.
As for the overall cost, according to Sherman, it is easy to show that the price of the proposed plan would be comparable to any alternative under discussion, involving the establishment of a new independent Palestine, developing its infrastructure, and presumably absorbing a large portion of a relocated Palestinian “diaspora” within its constricted frontiers.
It should also be remembered that for the prospective host nations, the plan has a distinct economic advantages. The Palestinian immigrants would not arrive as destitute refugees, but as relatively wealthy immigrants in terms of average world GDP per capita. Their absorption would bring significant capital inflows to the host economies – typically around a billion dollars for every 10,000 families given citizenship. Clearly it would be a long-term process.
In his talk, Sherman also discussed the issue of Palestinian nationhood, claiming that they are the only group whose manifest raison d’etre is the not primarily the establishment of their own political independence but rather the denial of that of others (Israel). The fact that Palestinians have shown they are capable of cohesive action against another collective does not prove they are a nation. Virtually their entire collective effort has been directed at an attempt to annul the expression of Jewish sovereignty rather than assert their own.
For over two decades after the Oslo Accords – despite more massive financial aid per capita and global political support than any other people, they have produced nothing but a deeply divided entity, crippled by corruption and cronyism and bedeviled by wars against their neighboring Jewish state and among themselves. The result is a dysfunctional polity unable to conduct even the semblance of timely elections, and a puny economy, comprising a minuscule private sector and a bloated public one, totally unsustainable without massive infusions of foreign funds.
Sherman says that In every meaningful aspect, the Palestinians claim to statehood has failed the test of history, as has the two-state endeavor.
Accordingly, the time has come for new, imaginative initiatives to defuse one of the world’s most volatile problems, one for which remedies hitherto attempted have proved sadly inappropriate.
Martin Sherman has a doctorate in political science and international relations and was a lecturer for 20 years at Tel Aviv University. He was a ministerial adviser in Yitzhak Shamir’s government and is the founder and head of the Israeli Institute for Strategic Studies. He has written books and numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of subjects.
The aim of this series of talks, called “Setting the Record Straight,” is to present the public with the information to understand more clearly the serious challenges that Israel faces, so as to counter the misinformation, ignorance and bias.
To see the video recording of the talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpCEBjkkoC0
Our thanks to Dr. Les Glassman for recording it.