A friend provoked this note by sending me a video clip of a speech by Professor John J. Mearsheimer before a gathering of the Jerusalem Fund. Mearsheimer is a University of Chicago political scientist best know for his publications with Stephen Walt (Harvard) on the Israel lobby in the United States. The Jerusalem Fund is a Palestinian operation that seeks its niche by sponsoring lectures and other cultural events in its home town of Washington, D.C. It may be aping the Jerusalem Foundation. Teddy Kollek created that in the 1960s. Since then the Jerusalem Foundation has created thousands of projects ranging from neighborhood parks to theaters, museums, and medical facilities that serve Jews, Arabs, and many others.
In this lecture, Measheimer reinforces his connection with the Palestinian audience by repeatedly using the term "occupied territories" (which largely disappeared from reality with the Oslo Accords of 1993) and the left wing four letter canard of "apartheid." A prominent element of his message is that Israel is doing what it can to thwart the two-state solution, and as a result Israel is likely to suffer the one-state solution where Palestinians acquire a majority. That is another part of the left-wing mantra, which skips over the process by which the heavily armed Israel, with its own allies in Europe and North America, would be required to accept responsibility for maybe four million Palestinians and untold numbers of relatives and descendants who might arrive from elsewhere.
"World opinion" is the club of Measheimer and other leftists, but world opinion has shown that it lacks a capacity to deal with nuclear armed North Korea and several other knotty problems, including stubborn Israelis. For those wanting to sit through Measheimer's lecture, read a transcript, or contribute to the Jerusalem Fund, they can begin by clicking on:
One can sneer at Measheimer's embedding himself in the Palestinian narrative, but there are several reasons to avoid the temptation.
His service as a tool of Palestinian politics is preferable to Palestinian violence.
The politics of Israel and its friends are not always more admirable. My category of Jewish junk is filled with the rantings of people who are mirror images of Measheimer and his friends.
It may be necessary to hold one's nose to get through the symbolism of Measheimer's terminology and ignore his politically attuned superficiality, but there are kernels worthy of attention. Most important is his message that Palestinian must avoid violence, and his uncertainty as to whether they can adhere to his prescription due to their their various factions and chronic infighting. He says that a return to anything like the most recent intifada may kill Palestine. It will cost them the support in western countries that they have acquired, and which is essential for achieving their state. It may also lead Israel to destroy whatever the Palestinians have achieved, and force the mass of Palestinians out of Palestine.
This is a message that Measheimer may have picked up from Israeli media. It is consistent with what we hear about IDF intentions with respect to Lebanon or Gaza. What those areas received in 2006 and 2009 by way of damage and casualties will be minor compared to what will happen if they violate the tense standoff that has prevailed in the north and south since those times.
It is not certain if this is simple bombast meant to keep the enemy's weapons in their hiding places, whether they are real intentions, and whether Israel's political leadership will order the IDF to do what it can do. It may be nothing more than verbal warfare meant to frighten. Or it may come to be if Israel's enemies act as if their own troops and munitions can be decisive.
Let me apologize for repeating my own favorite way of coping with this insoluble problem. My ideal is an autonomous Palestinian area, outside of Israel, without the status of a state. It would resemble the Kurdish area in northern Iraq, and the Basque and Catalonian areas of Spain. I know that those regions are part of Spain, and that Basques and Catalonians are citizens with the right to vote. The Palestinian non-state autonomous region would be different, more or less like the example Palestinians have already created in Gaza.
Will the world tolerate such an arrangement?
Perhaps after the Obama obsession passes from the scene. It appears that Arab regimes are more worried about Iran than the details of how the Palestinians care for themselves.
Would such an arrangement be permanent?
"Permanent" is a long time.
The friend who started this note by sending me the Measheimer video responded to me with a report from his travels in the Basque area of Spain. According to his sources, the older adults may speak Basque, but the younger ones speak Spanish.
He reminds me of the worry I have heard from Israeli Arabs, that their educated children have a better command of Hebrew than Arabic.
"Permanent" is too long for certainty.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem