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Photo: Hagai Nativ
Martin Sherman
Photo: Hagai Nativ
Why J Street jeopardizes Jews
J Street backs two-state vision without taking daunting outcome into account

J Street is a dangerous organization – it is dangerous because prima facie it appears quite plausible. However, its policy proposals for American appeasement and Israeli retreat harbor grave consequences for both countries.

 

It makes little difference whether J Street’s intentions are sinister or sincere, or whether it is motivated by malice or myopia. For it is the substance of its proposals - not their motivation - that makes J Street such a grim threat to the Jews and the Jewish nation-state.

 

Indeed, J Street seems committed to method rather than outcomes. Why else would it insist on persisting with failed policies - both vis-à-vis Israel and Teheran?

 

The Iranian theocracy has proved itself resolutely immune to finger-wagging and moral suasion. Yet J Street insists that - contrary to all available evidence - some yet undiscovered diplomatic formula exists to convince Tehran to abandon its nuclear endeavor. But perhaps more than anything, J Street is associated with its unequivocal endorsement of the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, apparently seduced by an idyllic vision of "two-states living side-by-side in peace and security.”

 

Before analyzing its political feasibility, one ought to address the indisputable security significance such a solution would have for Israel, if implemented.

 

A Palestinian state established on the hills overlooking the 1967-frontier, in any configuration even remotely acceptable to even the most moderate Palestinian, would command virtually all the nation's vital infrastructure systems, installations, and major populations centers in the coastal plain. Without exception, they would all be in range of the kind of weapons used today from territory transferred to Palestinian rule.

 

This is not an expression of political preference - but a factual consequence of topographical elevation and geographical distance. It reflects an ominous prospect which can no longer be dismissed as "right-wing scaremongering," for it articulates precisely past precedents that Israel has encountered on its northern and southern frontiers. Along its eastern frontier, however, the concentration of vulnerable civilian and high-value strategic targets would make the consequences of such an eventuality far more serious.

 

In this regard it must be remembered that the Gaza disengagement conveyed an unequivocal message to the Palestinians that no quid pro quo on their part is required. If Israel is confronted resolutely enough, it will concede everything for nothing - effectively nullifying the chances of reaching any mutually accommodative arrangement. But even if even a Palestinian leader of standing could be found, willing to risk de-legitimization, demonization, and death by agreeing to such a perfidious arrangement with the Zionist entity, there is little reason for optimism.

 

For if such an agreement is not to critically compromise Israel's national security and Israelis personal security, it must be verifiable, enforceable and durable.

 

What about regime-change?

The accumulated experience over the past two post-Oslowian decades has underscored the difficulty of achieving the first two. Prudent projection underscores the improbability of attaining the third.

 

As the Gaza debacle demonstrates, without a permanent, pervasive presence of the IDF there is no way of restricting the flow of armaments into the Palestinian-administered territories or of ensuring that agreed limitations on weapons and forces will be honored. Moreover, even if the official Palestinian military adheres to the agreement there is no way to ensue that renegade forces will not violate it.

 

However, even if - despite the accumulating evidence to the contrary - it is possible to find genuinely peaceable Palestinian partners who would agree to implement J Street's vision of "two-states living side by side in peace and security," how could their continued incumbency be ensured? Even if J Street is justified in its belief in the sincerity of Palestinian leaders like Fayyad and Abbas, nothing could be more dangerous than basing such a far-reaching proposal on person-specific configurations, whose durability is doubtful, to say the least.

 

Regime-change in the Palestinian context is not longer a theoretical possibility - it occurred in Gaza! What if it occurs again in the "West Bank,” as many knowledgeable experts warn is likely? And what if the "moderates" fall prey to the assassin’s bullet rather than the voters’ ballot? Or if they succumb to illness? What if, in any of these eminently feasible scenarios, the fruits of far-reaching Israeli concessions fall into the hands of an extremist successor-regime? What conceivable plan does J Street propose to prevent precisely such a situation from arising?

 

Both Operations Defensive Shield and Cast Lead show that when Israel reacts to protect its citizens from attacks, even after extreme restraint, the result is international censure and Israeli casualties. Why would J Street wish to create conditions which make a repetition of such instances almost inevitable? How does it propose dealing with the consequences of failure? After all, merely hoping dangers will not materialize is not a responsible policy for contending with them.

 

But even if - against almost impossible odds - it turns out that a verifiable, enforceable and durable demilitarized arrangement could be attained, thorny questions still exist. Who would be responsible for the national security of the demilitarized Palestinian state? Unless one assumes that it would be state devoid of any enemies in the most enemy-rich region of the world, it would clearly be entitled to some kind of defense. So will the Palestinians be allowed to forge defense pacts with other states - such as Iran or Syria? Or will the IDF be called upon to sacrifice its troops to repel possible assaults on the demilitarized Palestinian state? What is J Street's position on this?

 

Unless J Street addresses all these issues, and unless it produces a convincing program for contending with situations that would arise if it is proven wrong, it must resign itself to the allegation that J Street Jeopardizes Jews.

 

The writer is currently in LA as the visiting Israeli Schusterman scholar at USC and HUC

 

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