Being an intensely emotional and morally significant issue to both sides, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict defies dispassionate, thoughtful analysis. Yet the conflict is not just a heart-rending story of homeland lost. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict poses very real challenges to global security, so the security ramifications of that conflict require the most careful analysis. [My thanks to Online Journal for first publishing this article.]
Five possible near-term futures for Palestine and Israel seem worth serious consideration:
1) Jordan Becomes Palestine -- the transfer of Palestinians to
2) Two States -- a sovereign and secure Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state;
3) Secular Democracy -- a single, secular state in which Palestinians and Israelis are equal before the law;
4) Bantustan -- a disarmed Palestinian Bantustan, next to Israel, that could in turn either lead to the destruction of Palestinian society or stimulate the desperate Palestinians to turn to a radical militia for protection; or
5) Catastrophe -- the longer the conflict continues, the greater the possibility of a catastrophe even worse than the current situation.
Each possibility leads, naturally, to further evolution. For example, if Palestinians are incorporated into
But limiting ourselves just to imagining the immediate next step already brings to mind some basic questions that, in the fog of taboo and denial and emotion, seldom receive the consideration they deserve:
- Which of these possible futures is the situation now moving toward?
- What is the impact of the current direction on the broader Western-Islamic confrontation?
The Current Direction. The first question would have been difficult to answer six months ago, but now seems trivially obvious: Obama has surrendered, giving up any sincere intent he may ever have had to change the course of
Supporting and disconfirmatory evidence need to be collected and assessed. Supporting evidence for evolution toward Palestinian Bantustan would include Washington refusing to hold Israel responsible for actions during attack on
Whatever the future course, we Americans need--for the sake of our own security--to understand more precisely, to recognize more honestly where the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, under (after all) our tutelage, is headed.
Impact of the Current Direction.
A full analysis would also require consideration of the national/global security implications of the other possible futures. For example, although two equal and independent states may be hard to reject as a goal on the basis of morality, creating a geographically, politically, economically, and militarily viable Palestinian state would clearly be an historic tour-de-force replete with security issues. Remarks here will be limited to the security impacts likely to flow from the rise of a Palestinian Bantustan.
Radicalizing Political Islam. Two alternative hypotheses can easily be stated concerning the probable Muslim reaction: 1) Muslims will give up, forget about
Empowering the Israeli Right. The tension with Palestinians is the foundation of the Israeli right’s hold on power. The rise of the Israeli garrison state and the decline of Israeli democracy can be expected to intensify as a function of the level of tension. The dangers of this trend are well described by Israeli thinkers such as Uri Avnery and Daniel Sokatch.
Militarizing Western-Islamic Relations. Logically, the general strategy for normalizing relations between the Islamic world and the West would be to bring to the fore as many areas as possible, especially areas in which the West has real and obviously desirable contributions to make: the heritage of evolving toward freedom, democracy, civil rights, and international law; economic support; scientific knowledge. The repression of
Stimulating an Islamic anti-Western United Front. If 9/11 isolated Muslim extremists and briefly opened the door (had
In sum, the region appears, with
Even assuming all the above hypotheses about the impact of U.S./Israeli Palestinian policy are true, one could counter that military might is what counts and that the effect will thus be minimal. Over the short-term, military might does indeed appear impressively effective, but the more carefully one looks at the results on the ground and their national security implications, the less impressive the military victories seem. The
One could also argue that economics are what count.
U.S.-Israeli policy on