On Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech before the Brookings Institute’s Saban Forum. Kerry focused on the Palestinian conflict with Israel and sought to draw a distinction between the two-state policy model, which he supports, and the one-state policy model, which he rejects.
To justify his rejection of a policy based on Israeli sovereignty over areas beyond the 1949 armistice lines, Kerry raised a series of questions about what a one-state policy would look like. I answered all of his questions, as well as many others, in great detail in my book The Israeli Solution: A One- State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. I will do so again here, albeit with the requisite brevity.
But before discussing the specific questions Kerry raised with regard to the one-state model, it is important to discuss the nature of the policies Kerry described in his speech.
Kerry argued Israel should deny civil and property rights to Jews beyond the 1949 armistice lines, and ignore the building and planning laws of both Israel and the military government in Judea and Samaria in order to allow unrestricted Arab construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
Such steps, he argued, will advance the cause of peace because they will pave the way for an Israeli withdrawal from the vast majority of these areas. Such a withdrawal in turn will bring about the desired two-state solution.
Since the two-state solution is supported by the whole world, Kerry argued that once Israel withdraws from the areas, it will gain the support of the world, peace with its Arab neighbors as well as the Palestinians, and become more prosperous and happy than it is today. It will also secure its democracy.
On the other hand, Kerry argued, if Israel respects the civil and property rights of Jews and continues to enforce the law toward Arabs as well as Jews, and if it eventually applies its laws to any or all of Judea and Samaria, Israel will enter a state of perpetual war with the Palestinians and the wider Arab world. Israel will cease to be a democracy. Israel will be impoverished.
Israel will be isolated internationally even more than it is today.
If Kerry’s options were real options, then Israel would have a clear and easy choice, just as he argues it has.
But unfortunately, they aren’t real options. They are fantasies.
Today Israel has three options. As Kerry advocates, it can withdraw from Judea and Samaria and partition Jerusalem. But if it does so, there is no reason to believe that the outcome will be a Palestinian state, let alone peace.
Rather, it is far more likely that an Israeli withdrawal will lead to the establishment of a second independent Palestinian enclave that the Palestinians and the international community will insist is still under occupation, just as the Palestinians and the international community insist that Gaza remains under Israeli occupation 10 years after Israel vacated the Gaza Strip entirely.
Without Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, Israel will become a strategic basket case in an increasingly chaotic region. It will invite aggression from the Palestinians and from the east that it will be hard pressed to defend against.
Just as Israel is condemned for every action it has taken to defend against Palestinian aggression from Gaza, so it will be condemned for the actions it will be forced to take to defend itself from Palestinian aggression in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and beyond.
In other words, the so-called “two-state solution” is a recipe for war and expanded international isolation for the Jewish state.
The second option for Israel is to maintain the status quo. Today, Israel shares governing power in Judea and Samaria with the PLO. Sometimes the PLO cooperates with Israeli security forces, and sometimes it cooperates with terrorist groups.
The PLO rejects Israel’s right to exist. It uses every available platform to undermine Israel’s legitimacy and wage economic and political war against the Jewish state.
The advantage of the status quo is that under it, Israel has security control over Judea and Samaria. Consequently, it is able to prevent Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem from becoming strategically indistinguishable from Gaza, where Hamas is now openly collaborating with Islamic State forces in Sinai.
Israel’s third option is to apply its laws over all or parts of Judea and Samaria. The first benefit of this option is that it maintains Israel’s ability to defend itself against security threats emanating from the Palestinians and from the east.
Beyond that, under Israeli law, the civil rights of Palestinians and Jews in Judea and Samaria will be vastly improved. Israel’s liberal legal code is superior to both the military code governing the Jews and the Palestinian Authority’s law of the jackboot which governs the Palestinians.
Whereas the status quo invites and engenders politicization of Israel’s military commanders who serve as the governing authorities of the areas, the third option would end the politicization of the IDF. Generals would take a backseat to elected leaders and government ministries. Police would be responsible for law enforcement. Rather than deploy regular and reserve units to dispel rioters, police, who are better trained for such events, would be judiciously deployed in areas where they are most needed. The IDF’s operations would be limited to counterterrorism.
None of Israel’s actual three options will necessarily enhance its international standing. This is the case because, as we have seen, Israel’s international standing has little to do with anything Israel does.
But then again, by exhibiting strength, and forcefully asserting its rights, Israel may find itself winning the respect of some foreign governments that currently view it is weak and open to blackmail.
This brings us to Kerry’s questions about a one-state model.
Kerry asked, “How does Israel possibly maintain its character as a Jewish and democratic state when from the river to the sea there would not even be a Jewish majority?” The answer is easily. Israel will retain its strong Jewish majority, and its commitment to democracy, after it applies its laws to Judea and Samaria.
Kerry asked, “Would millions of Palestinians be given the basic rights of Israeli citizens including the right to vote, or would they be relegated to a permanent underclass?” The answer is yes, they would be given the basic rights of Israeli citizens, including the right to vote, and no, they would not be relegated to a permanent underclass.
Kerry asked, “Would the Israelis and Palestinians living in such close quarters have segregated roads and transportation systems with different laws applying in the Palestinian enclaves?” The answer is, no.
Kerry asked, “Would anyone really believe they were being treated equally?” The answer is that, as we have seen repeatedly, no matter what Israel does, and no matter what the Palestinians do, people like Kerry will always claim that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians.
Kerry asked, “What would the international response be to that, my friends, or to a decision by Israel to unilaterally annex large portions of the West Bank?” The answer, again, is that the international response to such a move would be about the same as the international response to the continuation of the status quo or to an Israel withdrawal. To wit, the response will be hostile to Israel.
Kerry asked, “How could Israel ever have true peace with its neighbors, as the Arab Peace Initiative promises and as every Arab leader I have met with in the last year reinforces to me as recently as in the last month that they are prepared to do?” The answer is that Israel can have true peace with the Arab world when the Arab world accepts the legitimacy and permanence of the Jewish state.
Kerry asked, “How will [Arab states make peace]… if there is no chance for a two-state solution?” The answer is that they will make peace when they decide they want peace and they rid their societies of Jew hatred.
Kerry asked, “How will the Arab street in today’s world let… [the two-state solution] go by?” The answer is that the Arab street doesn’t believe in the “two-state solution.” The Arab street wants the dissolution of Israel.
Finally, Kerry asked, “And wouldn’t Israel risk being in perpetual conflict with millions of Palestinian living in the middle of a state?” The answer is that Israel is at risk of perpetual conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole for as long as the Arabs hate Jews. The millions of Palestinians living within Israel’s borders constitute a far smaller strategic danger to Israel than the millions of Jew-hating Arabs, who have terrorist armies, perched on its international borders.
At the outset of his remarks, Kerry explained that as far as US Middle East policy is concerned, “Our goal, our strategy is to help ensure that the builders and the healers throughout the region have the chance that they need to accomplish their tasks.”
Sadly, this is neither a goal nor a strategy. It is the sort of platitude you’re likely to find inside a Chinese fortune cookie.
If Kerry is interested in an actual strategy, he can fork out 20 bucks and buy my book.