Steven Den Beste is easily my favorite blogger. I probably agree with about 10% of what he says about Israel-Palestine, but the value of a powerful thinker to challenge your beliefs is immeasurably beneficial in clarifying one's own thinking.

As he mentions in today's entry on his blog, in private discussions I proposed a solution to the Middle East conflict that I initially came across elsewhere and which has really seized my imagination as a truly innovative approach.

The idea is a re-unification of Israel and Palestine, as a representative democracy. Currently Israel is not a democracy in the same sense as America, because citizenship is tied directly to ethnic and religious affiliation. There are Arab Israeilis but they are treated as second-class citizens, and the settlers and religious orthodox are in control of the domestic agenda.

An integrated state will have peace dividends down the road that the current cycle cannot. If anything, it's the carrot approach - restarting good faith negoitiations from where they left off at Taba, and ditching Sharafat - that is the only solution with any hope to offer the people
of Israel and Palestine. What Sharon is offerring instead is to create two sets of concentration camps - an angry one labeled "Palestine" with guns pointed inward, and a fearful one labeled "Israel" with guns pointed outward.

We shouldn't be thinking about "Israeilis" and "Palestinians" anymore. They are one set of scared people, living on random sides of a binary fence, whose rights to fredom and democracy are being subverted by their leaders and subjugated by the outmoded policies and notions of statehood that should have died with the Ottoman and British Empires. It's the year 2002 and there's only one game that has been proven to win, and that's OUR game - representative, equal democracy.

Steven misquoted me when he said:

... the true solution to this is not two states, but one which encompasses Israel as it now exists plus the West Bank plus Gaza, and within which all adults currently living there would become citizens and voters.

There are two things wrong with this. Aziz thinks this would end the violence by giving the Palestinians what they want. I don't believe it.

actually, I don't think that this would "end the violence". The pragmatic truth is, that the terrorists can never be pacified.

The truth is that the cycle of violence has been feeding the terrorists - as Steven points out in his excellent essay on terrorism. Violence only strengthens them - and Sharon has been god's gift to Hamas because his policies have ensured that they have a steady stream of recruits. That pool of recruits is non-zero, but finite.

If incentives are offerred to the Palestinian populace, then that pool size becomes static, because the fanatics will simply be unable to increase their recruitment. Then given their tendency to martyr themselves, the net number of fanatics becomes a monotonically *decreasing* function, towards zero.

The bottom line is that the militants are a fuse that has to burn out. It's in their best interest to derail peace, because conflict gives them power. But the peace can be brought about despite their efforts, if there is courage amongst the Israeili and Palestinian leadership.

the other thing wrong with reunification according to Steven is:

That's where we have to take the political reality of the Palestinians into account. Right now, a majority of them want to return to "1948 borders". In other words, they think that the struggle should end only when Israel ceases to exist. And the number of Palestinians professing that opinion is rising rapidly.

Steven also invokes Zimbabwe as an example of an oppressed majority driving out the former ruling minority in revenge. But what hapenned in Zimbabwe was because one man, Robert Mugabe, dominated politics in Zimbabwe ever since "independence". We are allowed to learn from history - it's clear that the one man who dominates Palestinian politics would need to be neutralized in order to prevent a replay. And there are many other leaders of Palestinian society who are willing to risk the anger of the extremists and provide moral leadership.

and what about the increased radicalization of the Palestinian people? The poll that Steven cites does indeed suggest broadly that Palestinians support suicide bombings against civilians. In their view, they certainly have been collectively punished by the IDF. But look more closely at the poll results, especially Q.11:

Q.11 What is your feeling towards suicide bombing operations against Israeli civilians, do you support it or oppose it?
 Total West Bank Gaza
 N=1179 N=739 N=440
Strongly support 38.8 35.6 44.3
Somewhat support 29.3 30.9 26.6
Strongly oppose 16.2 16.8 15.2
Somewhat oppose 9.8 9.2 10.7
I Don�t Know/ No opinion 5.2 6.8 2.5
No answer 0.7 0.8 0.7

The actual number of Palestinians in this poll who "strongly support" suicide attacks against civilians specifically is less than the majority. If you factor in those who "somewhat support" it, then that does rise to a majority.

The real concern is question 7:

Q.7 In your opinion, what should be the end result of the current
Intifada, is it improving the negotiation conditions for Palestinians,
ending occupation based on UN Resolution 242 and the establishment of the
Palestinian state or liberating all of historic Palestine?
  Total West Bank Gaza
  N=1179 N=739 N=440
Improve negotiation conditions for Palestinians 3.5 2.6 5.0
Ending occupation on basis of UN Resolution 242 and establishing the Palestinian state 42.8 40.7 46.4
Liberating all of historic Palestine 51.1 54.1 45.9
Other 0.6 0.7 0.5
I don�t know 1.6 1.5 1.8
No answer 0.4 0.4 0.5

which suggests that half of Palestinians want to "liberate" all of historic Palestine. The other half is willing to see UN Resolution 242 as an endpoint. While alarming, it's clear that there the entire society simply does not want to commit genocide against the Israeilis, if you consider the entire poll context.

The Palestinian population has been radicalized, especially by Operation Defensive Shield (as the poll itself points out in Q.15). But that hardly means that this is a permanent state of affairs, especially if they were to be offerred some carrots instead of Sharon's heavy hand. There are stories of hope. If the average Palestinian saw the peace process bringing actual progress instead of empty promises, the hostile fractions ion the poll could indeed be reconciled. And there are still a large fraction of the Palestinians who are not virulently opposed.

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