The 20th Century was filled with utopian attempts to resolve the problem of evil. Karl Popper once said this was the century where human beings attempted to reach heaven but found themselves in hell. All the utopian attempts to resolve the problems of human existence merely made them worse. And so, according to Dr. Micha Goodman, communism did not make poverty disappear, but rather, deepened it. The cruel Saudi government, which severs the hands of thieves, has not resolved the crime problem, but rather, turned into a criminal itself.
The rhetoric of Israeli politics is trapped in the paradigm of “solving the problem.” The common perception is that there is a solution to the Palestinian problem, and the disagreement among the various camps is over the right solution. The hidden assumption is that the current situation is intolerable and history must be reengineered in order to extricate ourselves from the current state.
Yet just like we cannot resolve the problem of poverty, but are able to minimize it, and just like we cannot eliminate crime, but can minimize it, we should act similarly in respect to the Middle Eastern conflict. The question that needs to be asked is not how we can resolve the conflict, but rather, which of the terrible plans being proposed is the lesser of the evils. Therefore, according to the paradigm of “minimizing the conflict,” the best political situation is the current one.
Three problems make up the discussion on solving the conflict: Morality, demography, and security. The security aspect has to do with the question of defensible borders, yet the problem is that the 1967 borders would not enable us to defend the coastal plain. The demographic aspect has to do with the threat on the future existence of Israel as Jewish and democratic, in the face of the danger of annexing millions of Arabs. The combination of these two problems produces the following conflict: Israel in possession of the territories is a defensible country, yet it is not a democratic one, or alternately, not a Jewish one. This is compounded by the moral problem stemming from the daily and corrupting control over millions of Palestinians.
The Left’s two-state solution eliminates the demographic and moral problem, yet exchanges in for an unreasonable deterioration of the security problem.
On the other hand, the Right’s annexation solution may resolve the problem of borders, yet exchanges it for a deterioration of the demographic and moral problem.
In this context, the partial implementation of the Oslo Accords and the disengagement plan, despite the grave damages it causes to security and to Zionism, also brought some benefit.
The Oslo Accords were meant to lead the Middle East towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. However, the diplomatic momentum was curbed immediately after implementing the first phases of the agreement, and mostly before the arming of a modern Palestinian army. The implication of Oslo’s initial implementation was the end of Israel’s municipal and military control over 98% of Judea and Samaria Arabs, without posing an existential threat to Israel.
Most elements associated with the term "occupation corrupts" disappeared following the implementation of the first phases of Oslo. The IDF no longer controls Palestinians towns, and of all "occupation" trademarks only the roadblocks located outside the towns have remained. As it turns out, the roadblocks are not the symbol of "occupation," as the Left argues, but rather, all that is left of it.
At this time, the strategic mountainous areas vital for the country's defense are held by the IDF, while the areas populated by Arabs are controlled by the Palestinian Authority. It is difficult to imagine a more convenient reality for Israel.
On the other hand, the settlements seemingly created a demographic threat against the State of Israel's Jewish character. However, this statement is correct in respect to the period before August 2005. The disengagement from Gaza, despite all the ills associated with it, prompted the State of Israel to disengage from its control over and responsibility for 1.4 million Palestinians, thereby neutralizing the demographic threat for many years to come.
The Oslo plan was supposed to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Gaza disengagement was supposed to lead to withdrawal from Judea and Samaria as well. Both plans, despite being very dangerous had they been fully implemented, have benefited us by being partly implemented. At this time, Israel faces almost optimal conditions for continuing the struggle - without a demographic threat and without most of the elements of the moral problem, but in possession of areas that are vital in security terms.
Instead of thinking about how we should be changing the situation, perhaps we should be asking how we can maintain it. This indeed contradicts all the intuitions that have been implanted in us in light of the "paradigm of solution." The aversion to the current situation and the assumption that "something has to change" is premised on a perception of the existence of a utopian problem-free world. Indeed, we need to change, but not the world, but rather, our perception. It isn't the situation we need to modify, but rather, our attitude to it. Not because this situation is the best possible, but rather, because it's the lesser of the evils.
Ronen Shoval is the chairman of the Im Tirtzu movement