The Peace is Lost – But We Can Still Win the War

In the famous story of the Trojan Horse, the Greek army, having failed to conquer the city of Troy despite a 10-year siege, erected a wooden horse inside of which they hid a unit of elite fighters. The Greeks pretended to lift the siege and retreat; the Trojans in celebration pulled the horse into their city as a symbol of their victory. That night, the Greek soldiers crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the hidden Greek army.  Once the Greeks breached the gate, the Trojans had no chance – the Greeks destroyed the city, ending the war.

For over 50 years Israel has had to contend with its own Trojan Horse in the form of the Palestinians – the last 30 of which have been spent seeking a negotiated solution to expurgating them from our midst.  But as the blood-smeared pages of the Oslo Accords lay shredded on the graves of thousands of innocent Israelis, and as yet another vulgar spasm of violence is perpetrated against our citizenry, it is time to accept some brutal facts.

1. At least for now, the peace process is dead – The reason is fairly simple – the Palestinians do not want to make peace with Israel.

Former Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir once noted there are two kinds of peace.  He referred to the first as the “shared ideals” peace.  This type of peace is enjoyed by parties of similar values, ideals, and goals (think US/Canada), and rarely requires formal memorializing; the synergies of the respective populations make it self-enforcing.  The second type is the “absence of war” peace, essentially a formalized cease-fire of indefinite term.  The agreement likely resolves border and resource disputes and introduces other diplomatic and economic initiatives. It is in no way, however, a product of some bridging of the cultural void between the parties.

Clearly, a “shared ideals” peace cannot currently be reached with the Palestinians. Palestinian society is composed of three groups: (a) Those that hate Israel/Jews and manifest that hatred in the form of terrorism and other violence; (b) those that hate Israel/Jews and openly support the violent acts perpetrated by their compatriots; and (c) the remainder of Palestinian society, including its leadership, media and religious and educational institutions, whose silence (at best) or empathy (at worse) in the face of that violence makes them wholly complicit in its commission.  Some might find my characterization of the latter group as an overly broad brush stroke, particularly considering that it indicts what is likely the largest of the three groups.  However, a society is judged not by the acts of its radicals, but rather by its reaction towards those radicals. There is no evidence that the Palestinian leadership unequivocally condemns and rejects such violence (in fact all evidence points to the contrary), nor have we seen a Palestinian peace camp of any significance and strength that consistently and publicly preaches peace, tolerance and coexistence.  And for those who would argue that the majority is silenced by the their mortal fear of the rabid minority, consider how Arab society was so willing and able to overcome similar fears in the popular uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring in Bahrain, Syria, Algeria, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Morocco, with rulers being overthrown in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.

As for an “absence of war” peace, while Israel is a signatory to such an  agreement with both Egypt and Jordan, there is virtually no chance Israel could reach such a deal with the Palestinians; and even it did, Israel would have no reason to expect the Palestinians would or could guarantee its compliance.  In contrast to the foundations of the “shared ideals” peace, the success of an “absence of war” peace does not depend on the warmth between the two societies – success depends solely on the will and the ability of the respective leaderships to ensure its compliance. Unfortunately, unlike in Egypt and Jordan, those two basic elements have never been attributed to a Palestinian leader – Arafat had the ability to enforce a deal, but certainly not the will; and while one may argue whether or not Abbas ever had the will, it is clear that with the rise of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Qaida, and now ISIS, he certainly does not have the ability to guarantee compliance.

2. If they are not our peace partners, then the Palestinians are our enemies – As our enemy, the Palestinians will continue to attempt to attack our country, so long as they believe it is in their interest to do so. As sobering and disconcerting as that may be, it is no less axiomatic.

3.  The Government of Israel is duty bound to protect its citizens from such aggression, as it would from any other enemy –  While seemingly obvious, this has oftentimes been diluted or even waived in the name of preserving the diplomatic process of Oslo.  Now that the peace process has been rendered stillborn, the government is no longer hamstrung to make that lethal calculation.

4. In order for maximize its defensive prospects, the government must position the State of Israel and its military in a manner that best capitalizes on its strengths of deterrence and defense – Israel is certainly at its most invincible when its citizen-army can face the enemy, and most vulnerable when (as with the The Trojan Horse) the enemy is a Fifth Column attacking its citizen-civilians from within.  Therefore, we must establish a clear separation between us and the Palestinians, like we have with all other populations bordering Israel, friend and foe alike.

5. Israel will not remove the Palestinians from Yehudah and Shomron –   No matter what percentage of Israeli society may prefer it, the State of Israel cannot forcibly remove 2,000,000 people to Jordan or elsewhere, nor will the IDF kill them all. That talk may serve as a momentary balm to the inflamed passions of those who voice it, but ultimately it is ludicrous as a strategy to rely upon.

6. If we cannot force them to part from us, then we must force ourselves to unilaterally part from them – The principles of this concept were first articulated in the Allon Plan, drafted by Yigal Allon immediately after the Six-Day War.  Recognizing the competing imperatives of avoiding the demographic disaster of incorporating the Palestinians into the Israeli state and the need for defensible borders, the Allon Plan called for Israel to annex the western face of the Yehudah and Shomron mountains, as well as East Jerusalem, The Etzion bloc, the Jordan Valley and a corridor to Hebron (It was later modified to include the Ariel Bloc as well).  While Allon contemplated that the rest would become either Jordanian or Palestinian sovereignty, it is clear that Jordan would want no part of such a deal, which leaves the Palestinians as the only viable authority.

The devil, as always, is in the details.  While a modified Allon Plan would retain sovereignty over a significant majority (by some counts, over 85%) of Jews currently living in Yehuda and Shomron, the rest would need to be resettled within Israel’s new boundaries – of course, this would need to be handled in a far more sensitive and compassionate manner than the disastrous policy and strategy executed as part of the Gaza disengagement.  Similarly, those Arabs residing within the areas retained by Israel, mostly in Jerusalem, would have to either accept residency status or move to the new Palestinian entity. Considering there are about 300,000 Arabs in Jerusalem and, according to a recent poll, over 52% of them would prefer to remain in Israel under any deal, less than 150,000 Arabs would be required to leave (which is far more plausible than uprooting 2,000,000 people, particularly when now they would be moved to a recognized Palestinian entity). If we can be expected to move some of our citizens to disengage, we can move some of theirs as well.  This would have a marginal effect on Israel’s population – even if all Arab residents of Jerusalem would decide to stay, that would only increase the country’s population by about 3.5% – hardly the obvious social, religious, economic catastrophe  that would ensue from absorbing 4,000,000 new residents and giving them freedom of movement within all of Israel’s borders.

Let’s be clear – such a plan could likely lead to war someday with the PA or their successors. But, aren’t we at war now anyway? And right now, we cannot defend ourselves because they can walk freely in our midst, and we can’t punish them militarily because they don’t have a defined address. Over the last 20 years Israel has suffered almost 3 times(!) the number of casualties as a result of terrorism emanating from areas under our control than in battle (approx. 10,500 dead/wounded vs. 3,900); and yet casualties from terror drastically decreased following the disengagement from Gaza. There is a better chance of survival when facing your enemy on the battlefront than with your back to him while waiting at a bus stop or praying in a synagogue.

There is no perfect solution that will guarantee our safety.  But, there is almost 70 years of history to say that we as a nation are strongest and ultimately safest we are able to face our enemy on the battlefront, rather than on the home front.  After four wars in our first 25 years, we have not gone to war with Egypt, Jordan and Syria for the past 42 years – with or without a peace deal – because we repeatedly kicked them in the teeth, and thereafter maintained defensible borders.

We are not going to convince our enemy to be our friend – they clearly don’t deserve right now to be equal members of our society, and many of them don’t want to be anyway – they simply want to murder Jews and destroy the State of Israel. And even if someday they miraculously change their stripes and become a peaceful community, we would still not want to embrace them as citizens, as it would destroy the single most necessary element for Jewish survival on this planet – the preservation of the Jewish character and majority of the State of Israel.  And the concept of maintaining the status quo, quasi-governing a massive foreign population for tens, if not hundreds of years, is both impractical and against our collective ethos

Some may ask – but why give this away for nothing? Why not get something in return? The answer is simple; the only thing they can offer us in return is peace – but there is no one to talk to, no one to trust and no one strong enough to uphold their end of the deal. It would be a worthless piece of paper to us. And in a peace agreement, we would have to give up WAY more than what we can otherwise cede unilaterally.

Finally, this is no time to for chest-beating or digging in our heels in the name of pride.  We need to work within the current reality, not wish for a different one.  Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese general and military strategist said: “The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.”  It is high time we heed that advice and focus on the protection and good service of the State of Israel.

At this point, the peace is lost – but that doesn’t mean we have to lose the war as well.

About the Author
Joe Folkman is a graduate of New York University College of Business Administration and New York University School of Law.
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