Peter Beinart and the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg claim that Israel must evacuate the West Bank of Jews or be faced with an inevitable scenario in which they will either be forced to accept a one-state solution that means the end of Zionism or be branded an apartheid state. As I wrote in part one of this series, this is a false choice because the settlements would not prevent a two-state solution if the Palestinians were willing to accept one in the first place. In part two, I also pointed out it is wrong to assume that Americans would ever be willing to try to force Israel to risk the creation of a new Hamasistan in the West Bank without even a dubious promise of peace. They understand the Palestinian goal is not so much independence as it is to destroy Israel. But are Beinart and Goldberg right when they assume that the continuance of a standoff will eventually destroy the pro-Israel consensus and lead to a majority of Jews and non-Jewish Americans to view Israel as an apartheid state?
The South African analogy, so popular with leftist anti-Zionists and so feared by some liberals, is utterly inapplicable for a number of reasons.
First, as I wrote earlier, the Palestinians were given autonomy and a path to statehood. Were the Palestinians devoted to peaceful coexistence and desirous only of independence alongside Israel, they would long ago have attained independence. The security restrictions in the West Bank and the presence of the Israel Defense Force there is merely a function of the terrorist campaigns the Palestinians have undertaken, not part of a grand scheme to subjugate the Arab population. If there were no suicide bombings and other terrorist threats, there would be no checkpoints or security fence about which the Palestinians complain so bitterly.
It is not logical to assert that a Palestinian Authority that is able to operate its own broadcast and print media (which spews forth hatred and incitement against Jews and Israel with impunity) or has control over the civil government of the West Bank is a new version of South Africa. Nor is the existence of Jewish communities, whose inhabitants are constantly threatened with terror, an indication of apartheid. Many of those settlements would certainly disappear if the Palestinians would only consent to accept a two-state solution the Jews appear to want more than the Arabs.
So long as the Palestinians, now divided between Hamas and Fatah but united on their refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, are unwilling to accept Israel’s peace offers, they cannot play the role of South Africa’s blacks. Even at the United Nations, no bastion of support for Zionism, the PA’s bid for unilateral independence has fallen flat, because even the Europeans and much of the Third World understand that its up to the Palestinians to engage in the peace process if they truly want their own state. So long as the Israelis hold the door open to statehood, the South African analogy is untenable, especially because Arab citizens of Israel have full citizenship rights and representation in the Knesset. The Palestinian demand for a Jew-free state makes it clear it is they who are practicing racism, not the Jews.
The expectation of some observers that eventually the Palestinians will wise up and ask for Israeli citizenship so they can vote Zionism out of existence misreads the nature of Palestinian politics. While such a tactic might conceivably facilitate their fantasy about ending Israel, it also presupposes a willingness to engage in even a charade of co-existence as well as underestimating the influence of Hamas and Islamism that already rule part of the country — the Hamasistan in Gaza — without benefit of democracy or a peace deal.
Demographic predictions of Israel’s doom may or may not be exaggerated, but they are not enough by themselves to trump the fact that peace requires the Palestinians to make the choice for a two-state solution. If, as seems likely, they continue to stall while hoping eventually Israel’s friends will tire of them, they will find out that support for the Jewish state is not as superficial as they think.
Americans look at the Middle East and they can tell without a scorecard who are the democrats and who are the opponents of the values Israel and the United States share. Americans are not so simple minded as to be misled in thinking Israel can be blamed for Palestinian rejectionism. Their backing for Israel is so deeply engrained in the political DNA of this country that it cannot be destroyed by the empty rhetoric the South African analogy represents. Israel’s foes think they have time on their side, but they underestimate the patience and the intelligence of the majority of Americans who make up the pro-Israel consensus.
As difficult as the status quo may be, Israel can and must afford to wait until a sea change takes place within Palestinian society that will make peace possible. Americans will wait with them.