There is a guy named Dan Friedman who sends me (and numerous others) several e-mails a day. He is very, very right-wing, in his American politics and his views on Israel. I’m sure a lot of people dislike him, but he’s got a great sense of what’s important.
He often spots interesting things, like this Newsweek interview with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — another smart guy that a lot of people dislike — in which Lieberman talks about land swaps:
Newsweek: You’re talking about drawing a line so that how many Israeli Arabs will no longer be part of Israel?
Avigdor Lieberman: At least half.
N: Polls suggest that 90 percent or more of Israeli Arabs don’t want that.
L: You have 20 percent of the population that’s the Arab minority. You have 80 percent that’s Jewish. From 80 percent of the Jewish population, 70 percent support this idea.
N: So even if a resident of [the Israeli Arab town] Umm al-Fahm, for instance, doesn’t want to become part of Palestine, if a majority in the country says he has to, he has no choice?
L: He can continue to live in his property, his house, his land [and become a citizen of Palestine], or he can move to Israel.
The idea of a land swap is that borders should be determined by the populations living inside them. So rather than arbitrarily dividing the land according, for example, to the 1949 armistice lines, borders are drawn as much as possible to separate Jewish and Arab populations. Rather than evacuating hundreds of thousands of Jews from ‘Palestine’ — interestingly, no one ‘respectable’ ever talks about evacuating Arabs from Israel — they can stay where they are and become part of Israel, while heavily Arab areas presently inside Israel can become part of Palestine.
Obviously, geographic considerations like contiguity make it impossible to create wholly homogeneous states, so a practical solution would either involve some people moving or some toleration of the minority culture within each state.
For some reason — perhaps because it is based on the admission that Jews and Arabs really can’t live together — the idea creates revulsion on the Left. And it makes Arab citizens of Israel, some of whom would become ‘Palestinians’ livid. Not just because they can see how ‘Palestine’ works in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and want no part of it, but because it presupposes that Jews have rights to some part of the land.
The usual two-state solution according to the 1949 lines does not. Since hundreds of thousands of Jews will be removed from Judea and Samaria, while Arabs within the Green Line will stay put, it can be read as a victory, albeit incomplete, for the Palestinian movement. And as the Arabs understand it, a two-state solution also includes the return of Arab ‘refugees’ to the area west of the line. It does not imply that the Jews get title to anything and is always seen as a step to total victory.
But the swap idea is different. Inherent in it is the idea that the Jews and Arabs are dividing the land between them, and the Jews will get to keep their part. It is an actual solution, not simply a withdrawal on the way to surrender.
I find it remarkable that this idea is dismissed as politically impossible or even morally offensive, while the unstable and unfair option of dividing the land according to the 1949 line is the preferred choice of the Israeli Left, the Obama Administration, and Europe.
Of course, having said that, it’s probably the case that no further partition of what used to be called “Western Palestine” according to any lines would yield either a viable Arab state or a secure Jewish one. The single-minded concentration on this idea by most of the world shows that most of the world does not want a stable solution — rather, they want to be able to say “we did our best” in the event that Israel is lost yet again and the Jews return to their ‘natural’ condition as a stateless, powerless, dispersed and persecuted people.