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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

January 15, 2003

Friedman Doesn't Add Up


Working backwards, let's start with the end of today's column "The New Math."
"But if there is no separation, by 2010 there will be more Palestinians than Jews living in Israel and the occupied territories. Then Israel will have three options: The Israelis will control this whole area by apartheid, or they will control it by expelling Palestinians, or they will grant Palestinians the right to vote and it will no longer be a Jewish state. Whichever way it goes, it will mean the end of Israel as a Jewish democracy."
It's funny how Israel's critics always see the end of a Jewish democracy in the Middle East. Never mind that twenty years ago Anthony Lewis raising the alarm that it was "five minutes to midnight" in terms of the Israeli presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Soon it would be irreversible and Israel would cease to be a "Jewish democratic" state. Still ten years later, Israel did sign a treaty with the PLO. So it wasn't irreversible then and it's not irreversible now. Additionally, it's a bit funny for Friedman to use a demographic projection to make his case. Demographics can only project based on current conditions. A large influx of immigrants would obviously change the projection. Still even assuming that Friedman is correct, Israel isn't under any obligation to cede every centimeter of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza to a nascent Palestinian state. The Palestinians have forfeited their right to any demands after ten years of bad-faith dealing with Israel; they will have to settle for a state or whatever on however much land Israel sees fit to give up.
"The settlers want to ensure either the de facto or de jure Israeli annexation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. And with no credible Arab or Palestinian peace initiative to challenge them, and no pressure from the Bush team, and no Israeli party to implement separation, the settlers are winning by default and inertia. Winning means they are making separation impossible."
Trapped in the above paragraph is an excellent observation, "...with no credible Arab or Palestinian peace initiative ..." That's the way it's been for the past ten years. Yes there were the Oslo Accords but the PLO/PA never observed their observation and the Arab niceness of the Oslo years was merely an act. The Arab world still can't accept a Jewish state in its midst and was waiting for the Palestinians to do what four wars were unable to do. That didn't happen because Israel may have an unhealthy hankering for peace; but it is not suicidal. Incidentally, is he acknowledging now that last year's Saudi Peace Proposal was never credible?
"And that explains why Ariel Sharon's all-stick-no-carrot crackdown over the past two years has failed to improve security for Israelis. When Mr. Sharon succeeded Ehud Barak, roughly 50 Israelis had been killed in the Palestinian uprising; today the number is more than 700 Israelis dead, and over 2,000 Palestinians. When I asked an Israeli defense official why all the killings and arrests of Palestinians had had so little effect, the official said: 'It's like we're mowing the grass. You mow the lawn one day and the next day the grass just grows right back.'
Then why is Mr. Sharon still likely to win the upcoming Israeli election?"
But why does the grass just keep growing back? Maybe because Arafat used his seven pre-Sharon years to stockpile weapons and encourage Fatah, Hamas and Jihad to organize their infrastructures. You need not be a right-winger or operating with hindsight to note that
"Contributing to this mood is the fact that Arafat is trying to maintain a situation where he
has control over a fluctuating degree of instability in the territories. His strategy is to sustain friction between Israel and the Palestinians, which also means sustaining a certain amount of terrorism. Despite Israeli demands for 100 percent effort on terrorism, the PA has operated a 'revolving-door' prison, it has refused to arrest local terrorist leaders, and it has even orchestrated violent street demonstrations and rioting against Israel. Arafat has demonstrated an impressive amount of control over this violence. Indeed, Arafat must keep the amount of violence he employs within limits as long as he himself is present in the territories, to demonstrate that he can control the level of violence. On the other hand, Israel must fear that Arafat might move out of the territories in response to a serious deadlock in negotiations and unleash a new intifada. Once he leaves the territories he has no incentive to keep the terrorists in check, and every incentive to foment violence to force Israel to cave in to his demands in return for reining in the troublemakers. In short, Arafat is concerned about the Palestinian cause-more than about the Palestinian people."
That's from Ehud Ya'ari back in early 1997; six years ago. Nor will complete separation and an independent Palestinian state necessarily lead to peace as Nadav Shragai recentlyobserved:
"What intelligence will be at our disposal in order to thwart terror attacks when we are no longer in the territory intended for a Palestinian state? Most terror attacks are thwarted today by means of this intelligence. What will be the extent of freedom of action and the military's ability to maneuver when the IDF and the security forces face a sovereign state, any infiltration into which will be considered by most of the countries of the world to be a blow to its sovereignty?
All the signs indicate that the Palestinians' motivation to see us destroyed is not waning, rather the opposite. Evidence of this is the continued incitement - with clearly anti-Semitic motifs - in the Palestinian textbooks and media, which, during the Oslo years, most of the public here chose to ignore."
(Thanks to Ted Belman's contribution to Israpundit for pointing out this article.) A Palestinian state is a significant risk to Israel. Friedman's protests of concern for health of Israel's soul are belied by his utter lack of concern for Israel's body.

Now we're at the beginning of the article where Friedman asserts
"You can understand everything you need to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today through a simple math equation offered by Danny Rubinstein, the Haaretz newspaper's Palestinian affairs expert. The equation goes like this: Suppose Israel discovers that 10 Palestinians from Nablus are planning suicide attacks. Israel says: If we can kill at least two, that will be progress, because only eight will be left. The Palestinians, by contrast, say: If you kill two, four more will volunteer to take their places, and you will be left with 12. So for Israel 10 minus 2 is 8, and for the Palestinians 10 minus 2 is 12."
"... everything you need to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today ..." is summed up by that paragraph? Gal Luft disagrees:
"True, terror persists despite the assassinations, and the policy does have shortcomings. What is less apparent is the profound cumulative effect of targeted killing on terrorist organizations. Constant elimination of their leaders leaves terrorist organizations in a state of confusion and disarray. Those next in line for succession take a long time to step into their predecessors' shoes. They know that by choosing to take the lead, they add their names to Israel's target list, where life is Hobbesian: nasty, brutish, and short."

Cross Posted to Doubting Thomas