Lauder’s lame lament

According to Ronald Lauder, Israel must be either perilously insecure or demographically untenable. This is an utterly false dichotomy.

Ronald S. Lauder (left), president of the World Jewish Congress, and Sivan Shalom, Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water, and Minister of Regional Cooperation, at a Nov. 21 conference at the United Nations on the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Credit: World Jewish Congress.
Ronald S. Lauder (left), president of the World Jewish Congress, and Sivan Shalom, Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water, and Minister of Regional Cooperation, at a Nov. 21 conference at the United Nations on the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Credit: World Jewish Congress.
Martin Sherman
Martin Sherman
Martin Sherman spent seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli defense establishment. He is the founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a member of the Habithonistim-Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF) research team, and a participant in the Israel Victory Project.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder made a bewildering claim this week: that Israel can only remain a democratic Jewish state if it agrees to establish what almost inevitably would be—if past precedent, prevailing reality and future projection are any criterion—a homophobic, misogynistic Muslim majority tyranny. This on the highlands overlooking Israel’s densely populated coastal plain, dominating its only international airport and abutting major transportation routes.

After all, there is little reason to surmise that once the Israel Defense Forces pulls out of Judea-Samaria, what happened before—every time Israel vacated territory—will not happen again.

Regrettably, Lauder seems to blithely ignore the catastrophic consequences that resulted from doing precisely what he proposes in Gaza, where the ill-conceived effort of trying to foist self-governance on the Palestinian-Arabs culminated not only in a grave security threat to Israel, precipitating three mini-wars, but also a grave humanitarian crisis for the hapless residents of that coastal enclave.

Endorsing a mega-Gaza on the fringes of greater Tel Aviv

As a result, not only Hamas and its murderous jihadi surrogates have weapons that can reach Greater Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport, but Israel is now compelled to construct a massive barrier along the 50-kilometer border with Gaza,  reportedly 6 meters above ground to prevent surface infiltration by terrorists; and 40 meters underground to prevent sub-surface infiltration via terror tunnels.

The construction of this barrier was deemed by IDF’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot as “the largest project” ever carried out in Israel’s military history.

There is, as mentioned, little reason to believe that if the IDF were to evacuate Judea-Samaria to facilitate the implementation of the two-state formula, the resultant realities would not follow the same path as Gaza. Significantly, the proponents of such evacuation, Lauder included, have not and cannot provide any persuasive assurance that it will not. Certainly, such an outcome cannot be discounted as totally implausible and hence must be factored into Israel’s strategic planning as a possibility with which it may well have to contend.

Accordingly, if Israel’s evacuation of Gaza gave rise to the need to build a multibillion shekel above- and below-ground barrier to protect the sparsely populated, largely rural south, surely the evacuation of Judea-Samaria is likely to give rise to a need to construct a similar barrier to protect the heavily populated, largely urban areas, which would border the evacuated territories.

Gaza vs. Judea-Samaria: The daunting difference

There would, however, be several significant differences.

For, unlike Gaza, which has a 50-kilometer border with Israel, any prospective Palestinian-Arab entity of the kind Lauder envisions in Judea-Samaria would have a frontier of anything up to 500 kilometers—and possibly more, depending on the exact parameters of the evacuated areas.

Moreover, unlike Gaza, which has no topographical superiority over its surrounding environs, the limestone hills of Judea-Samaria dominate virtually all of Israel’s major airfields (civilian and military); main seaports and naval bases; vital infrastructure installations (power generation and transmission, water, communications and transportation systems); centers of civilian government and military command; and 80 percent of the civilian population and commercial activity.

Under these conditions, demilitarization is virtually irrelevant—as illustrated by the allegedly “demilitarized” Gaza. For even in the absence of a conventional air force, navy and armor, lightly armed renegades with improvised weapons could totally disrupt the socioeconomic routine of the nation at will, with or without the complicity of the incumbent regime, which, given its despotic nature, would have little commitment to the welfare of the average citizen.

Faced with this grim prospect, any Israeli government would either have to resign itself to recurring paralysis of the economy, mounting civilian casualties and the disruption of life in the country or respond repeatedly with massive retaliation, with the attendant collateral damage among the non-belligerent Palestinian-Arab population and international condemnation of its use of allegedly “disproportionate force.”

But it is not only demilitarization that is largely irrelevant. So, too, is the alleged sincerity of any prospective Palestinian “peace partner.” For whatever the deal Lauder envisions being struck, its durability cannot be assured.

Indeed, even in the unlikely event that some Palestinian—with the requisite authority and sincerity to conclude a binding deal with Israel—did emerge, he clearly could be removed from power, by ballot or bullet, as the Gaza precedent clearly demonstrates. All the perilous concessions made to him, on the assumption of his sincerity, would then accrue to a far more inimical successor, whose political credo is likely to be based on reneging on commitments made to the “heinous Zionist entity.”

Accordingly, there is every reason to believe (and precious little not to) that any Palestinian state established in any area evacuated by Israel would, sooner or later, degenerate into a menacing giant Gaza-like entity overlooking greater Tel Aviv—with all the attendant perils such an outcome would entail.

The menace of mass marches

In the past few days, a new danger, spawned by two-statism, has emerged in Gaza—the specter of mass marches of tens of thousands towards the fence separating Gaza from Israel. According to Ehud Yaari, an international fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the objective of such Hamas marches is “clearly an attempt to break through the fences, and they are ready to tolerate losses … ”

In another analysis of the planned march, Jonathan Halevi warned that the organizers have been “authorized to decide for the mob to break through the border fence between Gaza and Israel, and they have hinted at their intention to issue such an order.”

Halevi points out that the “national committee” for the “march of return” is led by one of the leaders of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and comprises various nationalist and Islamic organizations, including political movements such as Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

According to Halevi, the committee coordinates its activities with Palestinian organizations in Judea-Samaria that are planning to organize similar “marches of return,” whose avowed strategic goal is the realization of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendants.

Clearly, if such marches do take place, Israel and its military will be put in an unenviable (to greatly understate matters) predicament—having to choose between mowing down large numbers of (largely unarmed) civilians—and being inundated with international censure and possibly sanctions—or allowing frenzied mobs to overrun and ravage Israeli towns, villages and farming communities located close to the border, and to raze their homes, rape their women and butcher their residents.

Is Lauder seriously suggesting that Israel evacuate more territory to afford the Palestinian Arabs greater freedom to conduct such pernicious and potentially lethal rallies??

After all, for two-statism to work, the Palestinian Arabs will have to morph into something that they have not been for more than 100 years. There is, however, not a shred of evidence that they are likely to do so within any foreseeable time frame. To the contrary, as time progresses, such metamorphosis seems increasingly remote.

Lauder professes a deep love for Israel. So one can only scratch one’s head in bewilderment as to why he would urge “our beloved nation” to pursue a path that has proved so perilous in the past with little reason for it to be any less so in the future.

‘Capitulation to religious extremists’? Give us a break, Ron!

The second purported mortal threat that Lauder sees imperiling Israel’s existence is its alleged “capitulation to religious extremists” and “the growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora.”

As for Israel capitulating to religious extremism, Lauder charges: “ … the spread of state-enforced religiosity in Israel is turning a modern, liberal nation into a semi-theocratic one.”

On this, allow me, as a decidedly non-observant Jew, to blurt out: Give us a break, Ron!

After all, for anyone remotely familiar with the realities of Israeli society—the glut of seafood restaurants offering their fare on Friday nights, the congested highways on Saturdays, the throngs of shoppers flocking to the crowded department stores and coffee shops open on the Sabbath, the skimpy bikinis on crowded beaches over the weekend, the carnal content freely available in the national media—this is clearly complete claptrap.

Indeed, the overwhelmingly greater part of everyday life in Israel is such that most non-Orthodox Jews would feel entirely comfortable here. Any discomfort some might sense would probably be because they occasionally find some of it overly licentious, rather than restrictively puritan.

It is of course, true that Orthodox Jewry does have a monopoly of certain official and ceremonial aspects of Jewish life. But that has always been the case and is hardly an alarming new development, indicating that Israel is sliding from being a modern, liberal nation into a semi-theocratic one.

How the two-state dogma empowers religious Orthodoxy

Quite the opposite. The current situation reflects the outcome of the workings of Israeli democracy, not Israeli theocracy. It is the consequence of the power structure determined by free and fair elections, and not the diktat of some authoritarian high priest, ensconced by divine decree.

In this regard, little analysis is required to discover a crucial, but seldom recognized, truth regarding the socio-political realities in Israel. Virtually all the political power of the religious parties is a direct result of the political schism between the secular parties over the issue of two-statism. For it is only because of the intra-secular rivalry over the appropriate territorial dimensions of Israel that give the religious parties their hold over “the balance of power” and allow them to wring disproportionate political gains from their coalition partners—much in the same way as Avigdor Lieberman’s stridently secular Yisrael Beitainu faction managed to coerce Netanyahu into giving him the defense portfolio.

After all, not a single piece of religious legislation has ever been passed in the Knesset without overwhelmingly more secular MKs voting for it than religious MKs.

Accordingly, if Lauder wishes to break the power of the Orthodox factions in the Knesset, all he need to do is this: Urge the left-leaning secular parties to forsake the fatally flawed and failed formula of two-statism and the disproven land-for-peace doctrine on which it is based, to allow a unified secular bloc in the Knesset that could operate freely without “extortion” from the Orthodox parties, who would no longer hold the balance of power.

Simple really. Merely elementary arithmetic.

Lauder’s false dichotomy

Lauder presents his reader with a stark choice, claiming: “ … 13 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And almost half of them are Palestinian…If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy.”

He thus concluded: “To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution.”

Even without engaging him on his demographic assessments and projections, this is a wildly misleading representation of reality and an utterly false dichotomy.

For there is a way to retain Israeli democracy while avoiding the territorial peril entailed in the two-state formula, and the demographic dangers entailed in enfranchising the enemy.

This  is the Humanitarian Paradigm on which I have written frequently—and which entails initiating incentivized emigration of the Arab residents in Judea-Samaria through a comprehensive system of enticing incentives for leaving and daunting disincentives for staying.

I would urge Lauder to familiarize himself with the details of this paradigm. Indeed, I am sure he will soon discover (as I have shown elsewhere) that it is the most humane policy option if it succeeds, and the least inhumane if it does not. Perhaps then, he will be able to abandon his false dichotomy and adopt an alternative that addresses both Israel’s geographic and demographic needs—without forsaking its democracy.


Dr. Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

You can find more in depth articles on Israel and the Middle East @en.mida.org.il

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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