At a time when almost all politics seems polarized, there is a strange consensus around a failed policy, Caroline Glick writes in The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. The Israel Defense Force vet and Jerusalem Post columnist talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
CAROLINE GLICK: If they are committed to making the Middle East a more stable, more peaceful region, then they need to think about why it keeps getting less stable and less peaceful even though the United States has made peace in the Middle East a key goal of its foreign policy for a generation. If they care about peace between Israel and the Palestinians, then they need to ask why, after 20 years of a peace process, there is no peace. They have to consider why the two-state-solution policy keeps failing, and ask themselves whether there might, after all, be a better way forward. This book asks those questions. And it gives answers. They may not like to ask these questions, or want to accept these answers. But if they really care about making the Middle East a safer and better place, and if they really care about peace between the Palestinians and Israel, then they owe it to themselves to read this book.
LOPEZ: What is the single most important fact for anyone considering Mideast policy to know?
GLICK: That everything is changing before our eyes. Borders are changing. The way people view each other and the way they see the world and their places in it is changing. Old convictions are being replaced by new ones. In Israel, we see this most vividly among Israeli Arabs who are abandoning their radical leaders in droves and striving to integrate fully into Israeli society, including through vastly increased enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces. Trying to fix problems with the same tools that have been used for the past three generations is like trying to stop up a sea with a wine cork. New thinking is required today more than ever before.
LOPEZ: How has Washington “willfully trampled its own most cherished values” when it comes to the Middle East?
GLICK: The main way that Washington has done so has been by making the rapid establishment of a Palestinian state on the west bank of the Jordan River and in Jerusalem the most urgent goal of its Middle East policy. Such a state would be a racist state whose rulers demand that it be ethnically cleansed of all Jewish presence before they will even accept independence. To advance this end, successive U.S. administrations have rejected Jews’ right to own property in the historic heartland of the Jewish people in Judea and Samaria and in much of Israel’s capital city. Aside from that, the Palestinian state the U.S. seeks to establish will be led by terrorists who continue to support terrorism and indoctrinate their people with genocidal Jew-hatred marinated in anti-Americanism.
In other words, the Palestinian state the U.S. seeks to establish is an affront to the moral foundations of the United States, and contradicts all of America’s core interests in the Middle East.
LOPEZ: How does “the two-state solution treat the Arabs and the broader Muslim world as objects to be acted upon rather than as actors whose actions, beliefs, and choices determine their fates”?
GLICK: The two-state-solution policy assumes not only that guilt for the 65-year Arab war on Israel lies solely or predominantly on Israel’s shoulders but that all Arab-related conflict too can be ascribed to the actions of Israel. The idea behind the policy model is that the root cause of instability in the region is the absence of a Palestinian state, and that the absence of a Palestinian state is Israel’s fault.
Former president Bill Clinton put it this way: The establishment of a Palestinian state would “take about half the impetus in the whole world — not just the region, the whole world — for terror away. It would have more impact than anything else that could be done.” And the party that most international actors view as guilty for the absence of a state of Palestine is Israel. Israel is blamed for the absence of that state because, in the common line of thinking, it refuses to give up sufficient quantities of land to the PLO to satisfy its leaders.
Now, if Israel is responsible for the terrorism — not just in the Middle East, but throughout the world — then there is no reason for anyone to think about anything that happens in the Arab world. Everything regionally and internationally will be better if Israel just straightens up and flies right. This is a shocking negation of Arab agency and humanity. If Israel is to blame, then why think about the treatment of women and girls in Arab societies? Why think about the endemic poverty, the illiteracy? Why think about jihad, and Islamic doctrines that preach it?
In other words, the two-state-solution policy, which places most of the blame for the pathologies of the Arab world on Israel, also ignores the Arab world, and so only harms the Arabs — and the U.S., which is basing its Middle East policy on pure nonsense.
LOPEZ: How do you see realistically selling your one-state plan when everyone — even Israel — seems to have invested in the two-state approach?
GLICK: Because it is the only viable alternative. There will never be a two-state solution, because the Palestinians reject the Jewish state. So no matter how much time, effort, money, and prestige are devoted to advancing it, it will never happen. The only viable option, the only possible option for stabilizing the situation and bringing a peaceful future to Israel and the Palestinians is the Israeli one-state plan. People can pray to the Tooth Fairy as long as they like, but she will never help them, because there is no Tooth Fairy. By the same token, you can strive for a two-state solution from now until the end of time, but, barring a transformation of the Arab and Islamic worlds, it will never happen.
LOPEZ: How can any self-respecting Palestinian buy in?
GLICK: According to the survey data I cite in my book, most Palestinians already do buy in. Fifty-nine percent of Palestinians oppose an Israeli withdrawal from the areas. Polls show that Israel is viewed by most Palestinians as the greatest democracy in the world. If the Palestinians were given the freedom to choose, I have no doubt that their verdict would bear out my contention. What does the PLO give them? A life of privation, political repression, and corruption in an area it rules through the law of the jungle and the jackboot. On the other hand, Israel is a pluralistic, liberal democracy with a first-world economy. To buy in, all they have to do is stop seeking its destruction.
LOPEZ: Why be so stubborn about Samaria and Judea? Why are these so crucial for Israel?
GLICK: It’s not stubbornness. It’s realism.
Judea and Samaria are crucial for two reasons. First, without these areas, Israel would be incapable of defending itself from external invasion, penetration by foreign terrorists, or penetration by Palestinian terrorists. A PLO state in these areas would also encourage millions of foreign Arabs to immigrate. These immigrants would be coming from U.N. refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon, and other hotspots that are run by terrorist organizations from al-Qaeda to Hamas and Fatah. They would not sit quietly on the border with an indefensible Jewish state. Indeed, they could enter Israel simply by traveling to a divided Jerusalem. It would destroy Israel.
And beyond that, Israel is the Jewish state. In an act of national will unprecedented in human history, Jews gathered themselves up from every country in the world and reconstituted their homeland after 1,800 years in exile. They were returning to Jerusalem, their eternal capital; to Hebron, the city of their patriarchs and matriarchs; and to Elon Moreh and Beit El. These areas, Judea and Samaria, are the cradle of Jewish history. Where is the justice in the demand that Israel walk away from these areas, and transfer them to the control of the PLO — which as I show in my book, denies Jewish history as a matter of course? What does it say for the future of Jewish self-determination if the world’s only Jewish state transfers the crown jewels of its national patrimony to an organization that pledges that it will never accept the Jewish right to self-determination?
LOPEZ: You point out that “between September 2000 and the end of 2009, Palestinians killed some 1,200 Israelis in terror attacks. . . . Over 70 percent of Israeli casualties were civilians.” Isn’t this history, though? Why is it relevant to a future negotiated settlement?
GLICK: These Israelis were murdered by terrorists operating under the protective cover of the same PLO regime that is in charge of the West Bank today. None of these PLO leaders have in any way, shape, or form sought to distance themselves from these war crimes. To the contrary, Mahmoud Abbas demands the swift release from Israeli prisons of all Palestinian terrorists. He hails them as national heroes and names schools and soccer stadiums after suicide bombers.
The only reason the killing stopped when it did was that Israel retook control over the Palestinian population centers from the PLO. Had Israel not done so, the number now would be much higher.
LOPEZ: Who was Haj Amin al-Husseini and why is he so important now, still?
GLICK: Husseini was the British-appointed Supreme Mufti of Jerusalem and the unchallenged leader of the Palestinian Arabs during the British Mandate for Palestine from 1922 to 1948. More than any other person, Husseini invented the Palestinian people and developed their national ethos. Both Yasser Arafat and Abbas have extolled Husseini as the paragon of Palestinian leadership. Arafat presented himself as the lawful heir of Husseini’s mantle of leadership.
The national ethos that Husseini invented was a wholly negative one. It wasn’t about developing a distinct Palestinian Arab culture or way of life. It wasn’t about building a Palestinian state. The Palestinian national ethos that Husseini developed was based entirely on seeking the annihilation of the then-nascent Jewish state and the Jewish people worldwide.
To this end, he became a Nazi. He participated in the Holocaust and he fused traditional Islamic Jew-hatred with annihilationist European anti-Semitism of the Nazi pedigree. This legacy now has developed deep roots throughout the Islamic world.
LOPEZ: How are demographic arguments dangerously misinformed when it comes to the future of the Mideast?
GLICK: Everyone from President Obama to the Israeli Left insists that the reason Israel has to give up territories it needs to survive to people sworn to its destruction is that, if it fails to do so, Israel will cease to be a democracy: Jews will find themselves in short order outnumbered by Arabs west of the Jordan River.
The claim is totally untrue, for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it is based on false data. In 1997, the Palestinians published a census claiming that Arabs would outnumber Jews west of the Jordan by 2015. But it was all a lie. They inflated the Palestinian base population by 50 percent and then assumed birthrates without peer worldwide, and mass immigration rates.
In fact, Palestinians in the West Bank are having fewer children than Israeli Jews are (2.91 children per Palestinian woman and 3.04 children per Israeli Jewish woman). This is part of a wider phenomenon of collapsing birth rates throughout the Arab Middle East. The Palestinians are also emigrating on a massive scale. On the other hand, Jewish fertility is unmatched in the Western world and immigration rates to Israel remain high. Demography is an Israeli asset, not a liability. Beyond that, the real demographic threat to Israel is a Palestinian state, which, as I stated before, would encourage millions of hostile Arabs to immigrate to its territory and weaken Israel’s control over its borders.
LOPEZ: How does your Israel one-state plan remove “a financial burden from America’s shoulders”?
GLICK: The U.S. provides around $500 million a year to the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority. Were Israel to abandon the two-state-solution model and apply its laws to Judea and Samaria, the responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority would transfer to Israel. The U.S. wouldn’t subsidize the PA any longer.
LOPEZ: How has “the coherence of its counterterrorism strategy” been a casualty of “America’s continued fidelity to the two-state myth”?
GLICK: First of all, because it is hard for the U.S. to convince allies like Pakistan to combat terrorism when it is busy telling the world that anti-Israel terrorists should be accommodated and appeased. Why should Pakistan pay the price of capturing or neutralizing terrorists when the U.S. presses Israel to release Palestinian terrorists? Why should European states freeze funds supporting terrorist organizations when the U.S. presses Israel to release funds that flow to Palestinian terrorist organizations? Why should countries treat al-Qaeda terrorists as criminals when the U.S. tells us that Palestinian terrorists are expressing legitimate grievances and should be forgiven their bloody pasts? The U.S.’s unquestioning commitment to the two-state myth leads American policymakers to embrace Palestinian terrorists who they hope will form the core leadership of a future Palestinian state. The U.S. has come to view terrorism against Israel as acceptable, and seeks to reach an accommodation with Palestinian terrorists who target Israel.
Second, Israel is the U.S.’s most valuable ally in its battle against terrorism. Israel’s military is the most highly skilled, most experienced counter-terror force in the world. Israel understands more about the global terror nexus than any other country. And yet, in order to accommodate anti-Israel sentiment, the U.S. has sidelined Israel and failed to understand the vital role Israel can and must play in any overarching strategy to defeat the forces of terrorism worldwide. When forced to choose between terrorist-supporting allies such as Turkey (which assists Palestinian terrorist organizations like Hamas) and terrorist-fighting allies like Israel, the U.S. sides with Turkey. When you perceive your most important ally as part of the problem, then any solution you come up with is going to be fatally flawed.
Relatedly, the U.S. view of Palestinian terrorists as somehow distinct from their non-Palestinian terrorist brethren makes it all but impossible for the U.S. to understand the nature of the forces that use terrorism and their state sponsors. Without recognizing the Palestinian connection to all of this, you miss much of the point.
The PLO is the godfather and architect of modern terrorism. Its forces trained the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Beirut in the 1970s. It has deep and longstanding links to Hezbollah and Iran. This is the reason that Iran sent advanced weapons to the Palestinian Authority.
Hiding the Palestinian roots of international terrorism, including Iranian state-sponsored terrorism, indicates that the U.S. is willing to ignore key elements of the global terror nexus to promote political goals that center on appeasing terrorists. Moreover, it indicates that the U.S. fails to understand the informal but deeply embedded relations between terror groups and state sponsors of terrorism, and is therefore hard pressed to define a comprehensive counter-terror strategy that competently targets both.
LOPEZ: Why was President George W. Bush’s “faith in elections as a panacea for the social and political pathologies of the Islamic world, although well-intentioned . . . deeply misguided”?
GLICK: Because it ignored the nature of the societies in the Islamic world. Bush assumed that the people would choose liberal democrats. But liberal democracy has no roots in these societies. So they chose Islamists. And then the U.S. found itself faced with popularly elected, anti-American, totalitarian forces in state after state. Bush assumed the best about the people of the Islamic world instead of accepting them as they are. Elections are the last step in transforming a society into a liberal democracy, not the first step.
LOPEZ: What does it mean for the world if “the most popular ideology in the Islamic world is not liberalism but Islamism”? Is that too broad-brushed an assessment? How does one respond?
GLICK: It means that you have to think about how to change that, not wish it away. And in the meantime, you need to think about how to limit the dangers of Islamism, with the tools of political and economic warfare in the first instance. To change this situation you need to change the balance of power and the cost-benefit analysis of the man in the street. That means finding people who seek an open, pluralistic system and helping them to gain followers. It is a long, often Sisyphean task. And if you are not up to it, then you just need to stick to weakening the bad guys, the Islamists, not empowering them through snap elections.
LOPEZ: How is it that “the European Union would likely be the source of the angriest response” to an Israeli solution?
GLICK: Because the only truly unified European foreign policy is hostility toward Israel. That’s all they have and they aren’t going to give it up easily.
LOPEZ: As someone who has worked in the military, in politics, and in journalism, and who is raising children in Israel, what do you wish people of good will could know about Israel?
GLICK: That it is a wonderful, joyful, and optimistic country that brings out the best in its citizens and embodies the best values of humanity. And that is why Israelis are so fiercely protective of it.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained at his speech to AIPAC earlier this month, the reason that Israel is the U.S.’s only dependable and self-reliant ally in the region is that we sanctify life. And our enemies sanctify death. We will do what is necessary to protect our lives and we will do everything we can to prevent unnecessary deaths, even among our enemies, because that is simply who we are.
LOPEZ: In your mind, The Israeli Solution is best for religious liberty and democracy. How so? And, again, how can a Palestinian buy in?
GLICK: Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. It is the only country that guarantees and protects religious freedom. It is the only country ruled by a liberal code of law. A Palestinian can buy in because he wants to have freedom for himself and ensure a good, safe, free life for his children in a society that enables people to reach their full potential as human beings. There is a reason that Palestinians emigrate from Palestinian-controlled territories to Israel. It is the reason Israeli Arabs fiercely oppose any plans that would take away the protection of Israeli law and subject them to the tender mercies of the Palestinian Authority. For Jews and Arabs who want to enjoy religious liberty, democratic values, and human rights, there is no better place in the Middle East to live than in Israel.
LOPEZ: How has the Israeli one-state plan been successful already?
GLICK: While the two-state-solution policy has a 90-year history of failure, the Israeli one-state plan has a record of unvarnished success. In 1967, Israel applied its laws to the newly liberated areas of Jerusalem and provided permanent-residency status to its Arab residents and gave them the right to apply for citizenship. Forty-seven years later, Arab Jerusalemites are integrating into Israeli society in growing numbers, as more and more families send their children to Hebrew-language schools and seek to be full members of Israeli society. The same is the case with the Druze in the Golan Heights, where Israel applied its laws in 1981. There too, the Druze have the right to live their lives in full freedom. In both places the levels of anti-Israel violence have been low and manageable and most of the people who received Israeli permanent-residency status or Israeli citizenship have lived peaceful, good lives.
LOPEZ: Can Christian Palestinians be confident in the one-state solution?
GLICK: The only country in the Middle East whose Christian population is growing is Israel. Israeli Christians understand this. They see what is happening to the Christians of Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and beyond. And as a consequence, more and more of them are abandoning pan-Arabism and embracing their Israeli identities. There has been a 300 percent increase in Christian enlistment in the Israeli military over the past two years.
Since the PLO came to power in the West Bank in 1994, the Christian population has diminished steeply. Whereas Christians made up 60 percent of the population of Bethlehem in 1990, today they make up 12 percent at most. As I show in the book, the Palestinian Authority has been deliberately persecuting the Christians. And under Hamas in Gaza, the ancient Christian community is swiftly disappearing.
The difference between the outlooks of Israeli Christians and Christians living under Palestinian rule is stark. There can be no doubt that they would be prime beneficiaries of the policy.
LOPEZ: Not to veer off-topic, but what is Putin thinking and what can anyone do about it?
GLICK: Putin is thinking that under President Obama, the U.S. has abandoned its position of leader of the free world. As a consequence, Putin, Iran, and other aggressors feel free to advance their agendas unfettered by concern over how Washington will respond.
Since it is Obama’s withdrawal of the U.S. from its position of global leadership that has facilitated Putin’s aggressiveness, as well as Iran and its clients from Venezuela to Syria, only the U.S. can do something about it, by reasserting its primacy in global affairs and defending its allies and its interests.
As for America’s spurned and endangered allies, including Israel, they need to plan for the worst and develop the means of coping with the empowerment of these aggressors and plan to defend themselves in the absence of U.S. support, at least until Obama leaves office.
LOPEZ: What’s the most important point you hope readers consider and internalize and work with from your book?
GLICK: That Israel is America’s most important ally in the Middle East, that it is part of the solution, not the problem. A strong Israel secures and advances U.S. national security and American values. The U.S. should adopt Middle East policies that strengthen Israel and oppose policies that weaken Israel. The stronger Israel is, the less burdened the U.S. will be, because a strong Israel deters America’s enemies from attacking and is capable of defeating common foes when they do attack.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.