Saturday, September 14, 2019

Consequences Intended and Unintended

If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is serious about annexing the Jordan Valley, and if he wins the upcoming election, what will be left to make a Palestinian state out of the West Bank will be completely surrounded by Israel. [1] It will be argued that this is necessary for Israel’s security. One wonders if invasion by Jordan is a serious concern at this point, but that is the only rationale that can be provided.

Of course, Israelis have been settling in the West Bank for a while now [2]; and it seems reasonable to conclude that Mr. Netanyahu has no real intention of permitting the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank at all. There certainly has been no progress toward that end under his stewardship, and there have been settlements. The most reliable gauge for any politician is his actions rather than his words.

So, let this be the presumption for the time being, that Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of permitting the creation of a Palestinian state. What will be the ramifications of such a policy? 

We shouldn’t expect that Israeli settlements will come to an end, and so there will be further encroachments into Palestinian territory. The area remaining for a future Palestinian state will get increasingly smaller. At the same time, the Israelis must be cautious about how much of the West Bank it annexes, because it doesn’t want to create an Israel with an Arab majority. It could simply annex and deny Palestinians the electoral franchise, but that would make the State of Israel an international pariah.

Thus, we see the strategy behind the Israeli settlements on the West Bank. It is to create a Jewish majority in the area, making it electorally safe for annexation.

The desire for a state with a Jewish majority has cogency. Rabid anti-Semitism exists in the world. The Holocaust was not so long ago, and Jews worldwide are rationally concerned that there are a good number of people who would like to see them exterminated. The Nazis who continue to exist against all logic and reason must be presumed to be cognizant of their own ideology. It is easy to see how many Israelis would look at international objections to their country’s activity in the West Bank as something to be confronted with a good measure of indifference.

At the same time, it cannot be denied that what is going on in the occupied territories is an affront to the republican paradigm. In the United States, at any event, we tend to have a presumption that the political leadership should be selected by those to be governed by them, no matter how poorly we effectuate that ideal in practice. But Palestinians in the occupied territories have no vote. Politicians don’t worry about those who can’t vote for or against them, and this reality has been manifested time and again in the occupied territories. 

Mr. Netanyahu’s apparent strategy is going run headlong into demographic realities. If a Palestinian state is not created, Israel is going to have to allow the voting franchise to all Palestinians, or it is going to be an apartheid state. But if it allows the franchise to Palestinians in the occupied territories it risks demolishing the Zionist vision. 

Thus, Israel must permit the creation of a Palestinian state, with enough land area; and it must do so before the patience of the international community wears out. The current situation, where millions are deprived of the electoral franchise, cannot continue indefinitely.