I hope I’m wrong. I hope Secretary Kerry is able to effect a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Most Israeli Jews would welcome a two-state solution that protects Israeli security and provides the Palestinians with a homeland where they can rule themselves. I agree with this view. But, with the best intentions, the most brilliant of plans, and the most earnest willingness to work hard, neither Secretary Kerry nor anyone else will find a way to conclude a peace treaty. That is because the Palestinians will never accept any plan, no matter how reasonable it seems to the Israelis and the Americans.
In 1905, Naguib Azoury , a Maronite Christian, wrote what became the first significant analysis of the Zionist movement from an Arab nationalist viewpoint. The book, commonly called "Le réveil de la nation arabe" ("The Awakening of the Arab Nation"), includes a preamble with an apocalyptic appraisal of Arab-Jewish relations. The awakening Arab nationalism and the Jewish attempt to restore a nation in their ancient homeland were, Azoury claimed, destined to clash permanently until one of the movements permanently defeated the other. Azoury expressed the Arab view openly and perceptively. But his conclusion was simply not believed by the Jews, by the Americans, or by the Europeans.
Seeing the struggle through Azoury’s eyes, however, enables an understanding of why the Arabs rejected every peace plan offered to them. Any peace plan meant that Jews, as Jews, would have perpetual control over part of the Arab nation. But Jews, according to an Arab nationalist point of view, do not have any permanent right to any part of the land. And so, the Arabs have launched major wars, engaged in horrific acts of terrorism, led boycotts, taught hate to their children, and did all they could to destroy Israel. And so, reasonable peace plan after reasonable peace plan has marched onto history’s stage only to have the Palestinians in the audience throw tomatoes at it. The Arabs have been faithful to Naguib Azoury. The US keeps refusing to face history and keeps expecting that Israelis can, through concessions, find a magic way to make peace.
Misguided utopian fantasy
The United States intends to offer the outline of a peace plan, the first step on what could be the slippery slope of an imposed peace. This option is favored in John B. Judis’ new book "Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict." Misunderstanding both the Arabs and the Zionist lobby, Judis blames that lobby for preventing Harry Truman from having a US-imposed peace. Perhaps he means some federation with Jewish and Arab provinces. Of course, the Arabs would never have accepted any variation of such a plan.
The misguided utopian fantasy of an imposed peace, and the ongoing faith that a two-state solution will emerge because it is so logical to the West, so stunningly obvious to President Obama, prevents everyone from evaluating the gloomy options that do exist and deciding what to do in the face of Arab rejectionism.
Here are some of those Plan B options: Israel can try to maintain the status quo. Israel can make more and more concessions trying to find a formula for a two-state solution. Israelis clearly realize this is a very bad option. There is the unilateral withdrawal option, in which Israel voluntarily just leaves part of the West Bank, even though the experiences of withdrawal in Gaza and Lebanon were less than inspiring. There is the Jordan-is-Palestine option, an option Jordan completely rejects for obvious reasons. There is the three-state solution in which Jordan is responsible for controlling a Palestinian "state" in the West Bank and Egypt such a "state" in Gaza. Neither country wants such control, any confederation with Palestinian entities.
There is the one-state option with all Arabs and Jews having equal rights. The Arabs who favor such a resolution seem to believe that demography will eventually accomplish what bombs and guns could not. The Jews who favor such a resolution seem to think that the demography is not as forbidding as the Arabs claim and, anyway, the land is part of biblical Israel. Israel can annex parts of the West bank that are needed for security and not withdraw from the rest but keep troops there for defense.
There is still another option, one that, tellingly, Israelis have morally ruled out, and one that would cause considerable damage to Israel’s reputation. That unsavory option is to follow the logical conclusions of Naguib Azoury’s analysis and mirror the Arab approach by seeking to defeat the Palestinians permanently through such methods as forced emigration.
Put that starkly, it is easy to see why the US and others want a two-state solution.
We’re not going to get there, though, because the Palestinians will, end the end, perhaps after feigning to consider it, reject an American or Israeli plan or even an Arab plan that doesn’t include the "right" of Palestinians to return to Israel.
And so it’s Plan B time.
Lawrence J. Epstein served as an advisor on the Middle East for two members of the United States Congress.