Symposium: How To Deal With “The Deal of The Century”? – November 2018
Revelation of President Trump’s still under-wraps “Deal of the Century” to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict over Palestine is around-the-corner. What should Israel and its supporters do now, and when it comes out, for the Jewish homeland of Israel?
by Bob Yermus
There is likely not a Jew on the planet who does not have a solution for Israel’s conflict with the Arabs. Each one either has a way to end the hostilities, or believes that one particular person is the one who can bring about peace and security for the state of Israel.
Not surprisingly, I am no different. I believe, however, that we are not in a position to be proactive. To impose a solution now – even one with which I would agree – would be a major mistake. I think that for the most part, what our present government is presently doing is actually the appropriate strategy for now. We are maintaining a kind of holding pattern, not taking any action unilaterally, not giving anything up, and not demanding anything. When something happens, then we should respond.
One significant reason that this strategy is the most effective is that we as a people are in a period of flux and growth. In truth, we have been since creating the state. One does not have to have lived here to bear witness to the immense changes the country has gone through. Economically, socially and politically we are not the same we were when we first started out in this edition of Jewish independence. (I would add religiously as well, but that is a topic for another time.) Who we are is still a work in progress. This is clearly illustrated in the people’s attitude towards negotiations with the Arabs. Only die-hard/never-give-up the fight leftists are hanging on to the “two-state solution”. It is clear to most of us that it is no longer an option. Opposition in the Knesset is reduced to criticizing Prime Minister Netanyahu for alleged corruption, or that he is more concerned with politics than with security. There really is not a lot they can suggest as an alternative to the present situation. To be fair, that is to a large degree the situation. We realize now that what we hoped would work will not. What we do not know is what will work. Or, more accurately, we are not comfortable with the possible alternatives. We have for so long been working toward that elusive settlement-signing ceremony on the White House lawn. Anything else seems like failure, or is rejected with “oh, no, we can’t do that”. The truth is that this is actually a step forward. Realizing, finally, that the negotiated settlement is not possible is the first step toward a rational resolution.
The trick to making this strategy successful is, of course, choosing the appropriate response. The present situation in Gaza serves, for me, as a too vivid example of the wrong response. Hamas should be feeling the full brunt of Israel’s disproportionate military power and skill in a response to the last months of missiles and scorched-earth attacks in the south that takes no prisoners, and that minimizes casualties to our armed forces and Arab civilians. In that order. What happens after that – other than “the usual suspects” of condemnation of Israel in the press, the U.N., the European Union, and the Arab states – is open to speculation. We are, however, at war with these people. We should treat it as such.
In the context of the goal line for Zionism – to be a free nation in our land – when pressed with the question, “So what do you think we should do?” I have over the years answered that I favour what I call “the 23-state solution”. The Arabs have 22 states, we have one. They get to keep all of theirs, and we get to keep all of ours. No negotiations, no transfer of populations. I would say “no muss, no fuss”, but I am hardly that naïve. All sorts of issues would need to be addressed, and the best and brightest of Israel’s civil and Jewish law experts would be required to create a system that would make it work. I think there will be a lot of yelling and screaming, from those same usual suspects, and there might be some political and economic repercussions, but nothing long-term, and nothing we cannot handle. But that is only my speculation, not my guarantee. Needless to say, it also falls into the category of what would be a response to circumstances, not an applicable policy at this time.
Our drive to Zionism’s goal line should be one that we control, and while it seems counterintuitive that we should react instead of act, this actually allows for more control over the situation, and though it is also painfully slow, I think that the “respond and react” approach is most prudent.
Bob Yermus, born in Toronto, made aliyah to Israel in 1986. He has a B.A in Early Childhood Education and is presently working on a Masters in English Literature at Hebrew University.