Monday, August 07, 2006
The Grand Fantasy
Subject: The Grand Fantasy
The Grand Fantasy
By Steven Plaut
"O power of fantasy that steals our minds from things outside, to leave us
unaware, although a thousand trumpets may blow loud�what stirs you if the
senses show you nothing?"
-- Dante Alighieri, "Purgatory," cto. 17, l. 13-18, *The Divine Comedy*
Over the past 14 years, Israeli diplomacy and defense policy have been
entirely based upon a bizarre fantasy. That fantasy is an imaginary
"theoretical" description of how the Middle East conflict can be brought to
It goes something like this. If Israel makes a "sufficiently generous"
offer to the "Palestinians", then the "Palestinian leadership" will
collaborate with Israel in ending the war by issuing a joint statement with
Israel, proclaiming that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been settled
once and for all. The PLO or whichever group will "represent" the
"Palestinians" at the time will announce that there are no longer any
outstanding issues of conflict with Israel. The proclamation will confirm
that all matters of disagreement with the Jewish state have been resolved to
Palestinian satisfaction. The Palestinians will announce that there is no
longer a state of war with Israel as far as they are concerned.
In this fantasy, this announcement from the Palestinians is the first step,
but also the critical means for disarming the entire conflict between the
Jewish state and the Islamic world. Once the Palestinians have announced
that they regard the war with Israel as over and done, then none of the Arab
or Muslim states would pursue armed conflict with Israel any further, or so
the theory argues. After all, the official reason for the Arab assault
against Israel has always been to assist "Palestinians". But if the
Palestinian leadership itself is proclaiming that it no longer has any
outstanding grievances or "issues" with the Jews and has made its peace with
Israel, then these other states would be forced to follow suit, fall in
line, and end the conflict.
Finally, because the Arab and Islamic worlds are stockpiling weapons at an
astronomical rate, including weapons of mass destruction, the proponents of
the fantasy emphasize the necessity of "striking a deal" with the
Palestinians as soon as possible, making it all the more urgent to extract
the grand pronouncement that all Palestinian grievances have been redressed.
In this entire fantasy scenario, it should be noted that the "Palestinians"
play the central and critical role in pulling it off. By buying them off
with concessions, Israel wins its magical pronouncement from the Palestinian
leadership, the declaration neutralizing the entire assault against
Israelby the Arab states and
Iran. Israel simply needs to be generous enough to coax the Palestinian
leadership into cooperation.
In the view of the proponents of this grand theory, there can be but one
solution, the elicitation from the Palestinians of that magical
pronouncement of the end to the conflict. And that can be elicited by
offering the Palestinians their own state everywhere in the West Bank, Gaza,
and East Jerusalem.
Today one needs to take a specially deep breath, so many years after the
Oslo "handshakes" and so many weeks into the war with the Hezbollah and its
sponsors, to grasp how entirely and overwhelmingly Israeli official
"thinking" has been captive of this fantasy scenario for so long, and how
thoroughly the entire Israeli political leadership has believed in it.
The fantasy may have begun as a misconception of Israel's far Left. But by
the beginning of the 21th century, it had not only captured the thinking of
the entire Israeli Labor Party, but also of most of the Likud, including its
entire "Kadima wing".
It boggles the mind. It is as if the leaders of an entire country rested
their political outlook on belief in astrology and magicians. It is like
trying to imagine Winston Churchill and FDR fighting off the Nazi beast with
The problem with the "grand concept" is that it is entirely erroneous,
completely unrealistic, and the chance of its being implemented has always
been zero. The entire "doctrine" is fallacious precisely because there is
no chance at all that the "Palestinian leadership", the critical players in
the "theory" who hold all the real strategic aces, will ever play along, no
matter how many concessions Israel makes!!
Let us be clear. The "Palestinian leadership" will never issue any such
magical pronouncement of an end to grievances, as per Israeli fantasies,
even *AFTER *every Israeli Jew has been tossed into the sea. Indeed, the
most absurd aspect of the fantasy is that the Palestinians themselves are
fully aware that Israel is basing its strategy upon it! Knowing that
everything depends on the Palestinians issuing the magical statement ending
the war and neutralizing the Arab states, the one certainty in this
uncertain corner of the globe is that no such a statement will never be
proffered by any Palestinians.
No set of Israeli concessions will ever be sufficient to "buy" the magical
pronouncement. The transfer of the entire West Bank and Gaza to a
"Palestinian state" achieve nothing, and neither would the transfer even of
the Galilee and the Negev to "Palestine". A Jewish state on both banks of
the Yarkon creek in downtown Tel Aviv would be an "intolerable infringement
on Palestinian rights" that would always make the end-of-conflict
declaration impossible to issue.
Indeed, no set of Palestinian misbehavior will ever be seriously punished by
Israel as long as Israel is captive of this end-of-the-conflict fantasy. Since
everything in the "theory" depends upon winning the Palestinian's good will
and eliciting the declaration of the end of the conflict, Israel must always
offer the Palestinians everything they demand, short of Israel's own
immediate destruction, while never undertaking serious reprisals against
Palestinian terrorism. But the doctrine will *STILL* fail, *precisely*because
Israel will NOT offer its own immediate destruction. No set of "generous
concessions" that leaves any Jewish state in existence in any set of borders
will be sufficient to carry the fantasy to its "end of conflict" denouement.
Moreover, since the Palestinians will never issue the magical "end of
conflict" pronouncement at the end of any rainbow Israel manages to concoct,
the Israeli strategy of appeasement will never produce the neutralization of
the conflict and the end of the war that Israeli leaders believe it will
The regular shrieks from the politicians and the media, about how time is
working against Israel and so is making the "end of conflict" pronouncement
all the more urgent, miss the point. The Arab world may well be stockpiling
arms and weapons of mass destruction for a final reckoning, but
Israelcannot sidestep dealing with those fundamental facts by means of
strategy of fantasy.
Israel needs to develop real-world policy for dealing with those real-world
threats, not wrap itself up in a cloak of make-believe.