Once more unto the obvious.
Violent expansionist Islamism now constitutes a clear and present danger to world civilization, including and especially Islamic civilization.
Those who refuse to recognize this fact fall into several categories.
There are Islamism’s active and passive enablers, from European and American Islamic communities who endure and abet the Islamist presence to governments that, one way or another, think they can buy them off.
There are those who think that Islamism can be “contained” by minimal exertions of the coalitions of the willing, the not-so-willing, the willing-but and the can’t-we-just-pretend?
There are those who – we’ll revisit this item next week – spend their lives seeking an unearned moral stature and who find it in the most unusual places.
And finally, there are those who understand the danger fully, but view it only through the prism of their own self-interest.
Precisely because Islamism is now a global threat, the Arab-Israeli conflict becomes just one theater among many, and arguably no longer the most important. So the issue for Israel now goes beyond, “How do we take care of ourselves?” It’s “How do we fit into the serious global alliance that must someday form?”
Or perhaps a prior question might be, “What can we do to get this alliance going?”
One obvious answer: Clear the docket of the Palestine issue.
And now, on to the radical. I confess to no expertise regarding the situation, nor enjoy access to any special information. I simply raise a possibility to stimulate thought. I’ve no idea whether it could work. But my experience as an historian, journalist, former military officer and national security analyst, tells me that it’s worth considering.
We may never try it, but who knows where else the idea might lead?
Clearly, we can’t live with an Islamist Palestine. We should not tolerate Hamas. An independent Islamist Palestine would be surrounded by hostile neighbors, just as Gaza is currently surrounded. But what of a non-Islamist independent Palestine at the center of an island of comparative stability (Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Egypt) in the middle of this regional hell?
Islands have their uses.
Don’t expect it from Messrs. Netanyahu and Abbas, two stubborn men growing old together, locked in a mutual detestation far too precious and satisfying for them to give it up. Two men perhaps too comfortable with status quo.
But history suggests an alternative.
Europe endured well over a century of tangled civil and international religious wars. At one point during the French struggle, a small group emerged known as politiques.
The “politicals.” These were men determined to end the religious strife. Later, the term politique, never exactly a compliment, proved surprisingly salvific. It came to describe men such as Henry of Navarre: ruthless, cynical, and utterly determined to end the slaughter.
Henry, born Catholic, converted to Protestantism, then back to Catholicism in order to become King Henry IV. “Paris is worth a Mass,” he allegedly explained. But his real slogan, “A chicken in every pot,” showed less pandering cynicism than determination to leave his country better than he found it.
Could the Arab/Persian world produce sufficient politiques to make a difference? A generation of them, perhaps?
Could Palestine? As an initial example, perhaps?
Suppose Israel were to announce:
“This is our best offer. We’re ready to withdraw from about ninety-five percent of the West Bank. We’re keeping East Jerusalem and the established settlement blocs contiguous to our border. We’re prepared to offer an appropriate Palestinian government security guarantees, economic assistance and various other benefits. We do not ask a formal peace treaty, or even that you pretend to like us very much. We’re ready to talk about all kinds of things, if this works out.
“In short, here is your chance to build your own country. If you take the attitude, ‘Why settle for half of what we want when we can have nothing,’ Israel retains the option of unilateral withdrawal, plus a guarantee of ‘Starve if you like, but every time you shoot at us, we’ll shoot back with something bigger. Sometimes we won’t even wait to start shooting. Jordan might also be so inclined.’
“We’re ready to let your people go. Are you ready to let them live?”
World civilization can defend itself against Islamism. But it cannot save Islamic civilization from itself. Only the Islamic world can do that. If that’s possible, then perhaps it’s possible to conceive of an experiment in salvation:
An independent Palestine, run and supported and empowered by politiques, a generation of politiques ruthless enough to suppress their Islamists, cynical enough to accept Israeli protection and help (and maybe the help of the world), and idealistic enough to want more for their people than perpetual misery and war.
Next: “America Should Declare War . . . but against Whom?”
Then: Jim Webb for President. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him. You will. But would he be good or bad for the Jews?
Then: Back to the quest for unearned moral stature. Secular and religious. And whether that’s good or bad for the Jews.