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Israel's Fate Hangs in the Balance: Is Benny Morris's new Assessment Right?

Benny Morris understands that for the Arab mentality, little has changed since 1948 and the creation of the Jewish State. The first reason no peace is possible, he writes,  “the one that American and European officials never express and — if impolitely mentioned in their presence — turn away from in distaste, is that Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called 'secular' and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews.” Morris continues:

"They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. History, because of demography and the steady empowerment of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the West’s growing alienation from Israel, and because of Allah’s wishes, is, they believe, on their side. They do not want a permanent two-state solution, with a Palestinian Arab state co-existing alongside a (larger) Jewish state; they will not compromise on this core belief and do not believe, on moral or practical grounds, that they should."

The truth, Morris believes, cannot be mentioned by our statesman, because if the Palestinian and Arab position is accurately stated, it means that “the Israeli-Arab conflict has no resolution apart from the complete victory of one side or the other (with the corollary of expulsion, or annihilation, by one side of the other) — which leaves leaders like President Barack Obama with nowhere realistic to go with regard to the conflict. Philosophically, acceptance of the rock-like unpliability of this reality is extremely problematic, given the ongoing military and philosophical clash between the West and various forces in the Islamic world.”

Instead of facing this truth and trying to decide what is to be done, our leaders continue on with the farce of always trying to resurrect a peace process that always fails, and will continue to do so in the future. Speaking as a historian, Morris argues the similarities with the era before World War II -- the age of “appeasement” -- are too striking to ignore. He writes:

"In this connection, our age, it may turn out, resembles the classic age of appeasement, the 1930s, when the Western democracies (and the Soviet Union) were ranged against, but preferred not to confront, Nazi Germany and its allies, Fascist Italy, and expansionist Japan. During that decade, Hitler’s inexorable martial, racist, and uncompromising mindset was misread by Western leaders, officials, and intellectuals — and for much the same reasons. Living in unideological societies, they could not fathom the minds and politics of their ideologically driven antagonists. The leaders and intellectuals of the Western democracies, educated and suffused with liberal and relativist values, by and large were unable to comprehend the essential 'otherness' of Hitler and ended up fighting him, to the finish, after negotiation and compromise had proved useless."

History, he clearly fears, might just this time actually repeat itself. Certainly, the comparisons are too striking to be ignored, a point that Pastor Hagee also pointed out in his speech. At this moment, Hamas is pledged to obliterate Israel as its very raison d’etre,  and while Fatah claims to be willing to accept a two-state solution, it insists upon the acceptance of what they call “the right to return,” without any exception. For Abbas and his comrades, this is non-negotiable. A few years ago, the group of journalists I traveled to Israel with met with Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator. He argued that everyone knows a two-state solution could be accepted overnight. But, he added, they will never -- and he emphasized this -- accept less than the state of Israel agreeing to the right of return of the Arab refugees who fled at the time of the 1948 war between Israel and the invading armies of six Arab nations.

Writing in the new issue of Commentary, Michael S. Bernstam points out that the term itself is a misnomer,  since “the permanent refugeeism of the UNRWA welfare state generates a particular ‘right of return’ claim — the argument that Palestinians should be given title to the land they occupied before Israel’s independence — that fuels perpetual warfare.” In fact, he argues, “First, it is not the right of return of actual refugees (as opposed to descendants) that was created by international conventions since 1948 to prevent deportations and to mitigate the conditions of concurrent refugees who fled the ravages of war. Nor is it the right of return of historical ethnic diasporas to their own nation-states that Germany extends to all Germans, Armenia to all Armenians, Greece to all Hellenes, and Israel to all Jews. Nor is it the establishment of new nation-states where there were none, such as the partition of British Mandate Palestine into the Jewish and Arab states or the partition of the British Raj into India and Pakistan. Rather, the claim of the Palestinian right of return is intended for one historical ethnic diaspora of the ­descendants of perennial refugees to repopulate another people’s existing nation-state, Israel.”

What they want, therefore, is nothing less than “a reconquest after a lost war.” Having been unable to gain that end by their decades long military actions, they now seek it through the policy of appeasement by the Western countries, and by channeling their goal to the aims of and with the help of Iran. Thus the right to “retake” what they lost is being mislabeled intentionally as the “right of return,” with the acceptance of the term by the United States and other Western powers.

As Morris writes, this is the “unitary” Arab state in old Palestine that they have sought since the 1920s, and which today so many of the Western elites, especially the British intelligentsia, now demand as the perceived “democratic” solution to the question of Palestine. As Morris addresses the “refugee” question, he too makes a similar point to that of Bernstam: “The Palestinian leadership is unanimous and resolute in insisting that the problem’s solution lies in the ‘Right of Return’: Israel, and the world, must accept the principle of repatriation and eventually facilitate repatriation. The idea that the refugees must return to their homes has been the ethos, the be-all and end-all of Palestinian politics and policy, since 1948. No Palestinian leader can or will ever abandon this principle, on pain of assassination, and none has.”

So we are no longer talking about the 700,000 displaced in 1948; when the Palestinians raise this issue, they are talking about what they say are the 7 million plus descendants who have been kept in UN refugee camps for decades, and are used as pawns by the various Arab governments, none of whom will ever let them become citizens of their own nations. If their demands were won, it would mean, Morris writes, that “Israel, with its 6 million Jewish and 1.5 million Arab citizens, would instantly or over a short time, become an Arab-majority state.” And that means nothing less than Israel’s destruction -- the very goal of the Arab nations, the Palestinian movement, and much of the Western left.

Morris proceeds to engage in what he thinks is the reality for the future of Israel, and it is, as the title of his piece suggests, quite bleak. I will let you read his dire and convincing prediction of the options open for Israel -- and none of them are good. This is his conclusion:

"No viable peace agreement is remotely in prospect. Neither is the emergence of a full-fledged Palestinian state. A unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is so problematic as to be virtually unimplementable. Yet continued Israeli rule over the territory and its people, obnoxious to most Israelis and to the rest of the world, raises the prospect of a bi-national state or an apartheid state, both of which most Jews regard as anathema. That, unfortunately, is where we’re at."

So what do we do? For a beginning, we must nrelentingly defend Israel and act to stop the new campaign to delegitimize Israel going on at present. We must also pressure the United States to prepare strong action, as it becomes clear the sanctions on Iran are not working, to militarily stop Iran’s progress towards obtaining a nuclear weapon. Such an act is in the interest of our country’s national security, as well as that of Israel.

As Pastor Hagee puts it, the canary has cried out, and it is now time to act.