Peter Beinart has a new piece in the New York Times. He insists that he is a Zionist and supports Israel. But there is little truth in his analysis and a huge amount of fantasy in his prescriptions.
Beinart calls for boycotting Jewish communities (‘settlements’) beyond the Green Line, because he wants to end what he calls “undemocratic Israel,” where Palestinians “are barred from citizenship and the right to vote in the state that controls their lives.”
This is quite a step for an alleged Zionist to take. Ambassador Michael Oren has said that it
…places him well beyond the Israeli mainstream, the moderate left, and the vast majority of Israelis who care about peace. The call for boycotting all products made by Israeli communities outside of Jerusalem and beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines is supported only by a marginal and highly radical fringe.
But Beinart believes that the nondemocratic nature of the regime east of the Green Line delegitimizes all of Israel, including the democratic part of it to the west, and that continued Israeli control of Judea and Samaria will result in a worldwide loss of support for the state itself.
Unfortunately for his argument, he mischaracterizes the political situation east of the Green Line; actually it is already two ‘states’ and has been thus since 1994. The part where 97% of the Palestinians live is under Palestinian Authority (PA) administration and the residents are citizens of the PA. The rest, where all of the ‘settlers’ live is under Israeli administration, but has few Arab residents.
The PA issues passports, and if it gets around to holding elections, the citizens can vote. It has massive ‘security’ and police forces. It even has Olympic teams. Many UN members recognize ‘Palestine’ as a state.
Israel does not “control the lives” of the 97% in the PA areas — the PA does. What Beinart considers “systematic oppression” and “human rights violations” are Israeli security measures like checkpoints, bypass roads and the security barrier, which he sees as ethnically-based differential treatment.
On the other hand, it is possible to see them as a reasonable response to an Arab insurgency which is aimed at repeating the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Jordanians in 1948, and indeed extending it to all of Israel. It is possible to imagine them going away if the security problem went away.
In addition, Beinart mischaracterizes the nature of the Jewish communities there. They are not alien colonies on ‘Palestinian land’ as the Arabs and their supporters constantly repeat, and they are not ‘illegal under international law’ as the media like to say.
It’s not as though Jews never lived in Judea and Samaria until they became ‘settlers’, either. They were there before the Jordanian Army kicked them out. They were granted the right to live there by the League of Nations Mandate, which recognized their historical presence in the land of Israel long before that.
Beinart wants to ‘restore’ Israel’s legitimacy by surrendering Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria, mitigated by some small border adjustments. This is basically the same plan proposed by the Obama Administration and the EU. If ‘settlers’ don’t like it, says Beinart, “they should move.”
In addition to the fact that the Arabs will never view any Jewish state in the Middle East as ‘legitimate’, there are a few other problems with this this plan:
- It is essentially racist, in that it calls for establishing a Jew-free Palestinian state
- It violates international law (the Mandate) and the spirit of UN resolutions calling for defensible borders
- It sacrifices the well-being of Jews that live beyond the Green Line for the nationalist aspirations of Arabs
- It precludes Israel’s ability to defend itself, since it would make a Gaza-like terrorist entity of Judea and Samaria (only much worse strategically)
- It ignores the oft-expressed intention of the PA leaders to use such a state as a steppingstone to the elimination of Israel
Point 4 was underlined last week when Iranian-inspired terrorists fired hundreds of missiles into Israel from Gaza. Think about how much worse it could be if the high ground east of the Green Line could be used to launch short-range rockets directly into Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport, etc.
The Oslo paradigm of a two-state solution was discredited by the rejection of reasonable offers by the Palestinian leadership in 2000 — when Arafat chose war instead of statehood — and 2008. They continue to press their demands for 1949 lines, right of return for Arab refugees, no demilitarization, refusal to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, etc. as preconditions to negotiation. There is no intersection between the maximalist demands of the PA and the continued existence of a Jewish state of Israel.
Beinart’s plan to end the settlements by outside pressure only rewards the intransigence of the PA. Why isn’t he boycotting them (true, they don’t have any products or culture to boycott) until they agree to negotiate in good faith? Why pick on the settlers?
Of course, the PA doesn’t want a real peace. If you think that the Palestinian leadership — the PA, not just Hamas — just wants to “end the  occupation,” you simply have not been paying attention. Official Palestinian media (see here) are filled with statements to the contrary, as well as praise for the most murderous terrorists and vicious anti-Jewish lies.
Beinart says that “Boycotting other Jews is a painful, unnatural act, [but] the alternative is worse.” While he is very concerned about “oppression” of Arabs, he doesn’t seem to feel the pain of the tens of thousands of Jewish settlers — in the best possible case — who would be expelled from their homes if the two-state plan with swaps were actually implemented.
By insisting on a plan whose imposition would almost certainly mark the beginning of yet another war, by demonizing and punishing the Jewish ‘settlers’ who have every right to live where they do, by calling for a boycott because Israeli security measures constitute “oppression,” Beinart’s approach is anything but ‘Zionist’!
Update [Mar 19 2012 2213 PDT]: Rewritten for clarity.