An odd conjunction of paragraphs in Joe Klein’s latest, one silly and one profound:
The most frequent request, especially from the Palestinian side, is for the President to lay out a proposed two-state plan. One Israeli expert said that this doesn’t have to be the ultimate deal–state to state issues (like the right of return, or reparations, for some Palestinian refugees) can be worked out between the Israelis and Palestinians–but Obama’s proposal should resemble Bill Clinton’s parameters laid out in December 2000, including suggestions on borders, security and sovereignty.
While Israel would seem to have the whip hand in any negotiation strategy–it controls the Palestinian lands, Netanyahu has practically no domestic opposition, the Palestinians remain divided between Fatah and Hamas–the Israelis I spoke with think that some sort of accomodation with the Palestinians has to come soon. “Next year, 50% of all first-graders in Israel will be either Arabs or Othodox Jews,” a member of the centrist Kadima Party told me. “We have a serious demographic problem.”
The first paragraph is just silly. I don’t know who Klein’s “Israeli expert” is, but he doesn’t understand the basics. The entire point of the Clinton parameters was that it was a complete deal, with — almost — a complete end to the occupation (it wound up being about 98% of the West Bank) in exchange for the right of return only being implemented within the State of Palestine. The Israeli Cabinet accepted it, although whether it could have survived a vote of no-confidence is an issue; Arafat rejected it, and the rest is history.
At this point, the overwhelming problems are that the Israelis won’t give up settlements and the Palestinians won’t give up the right of return. No amount of massaging, negotiating, bridging formulas, new frameworks, or anything else is going to change that. I still believe that Obama should adopt Sari Nusseibeh’s brilliant suggestion to take the People’s Voice Accord and put it to a vote of both populations. But unless he wants to do that, there really isn’t much he can do to make progress toward peace. The Islamic interlocutors that Klein refers to as being so exercised about the Gaza situation are obviously not so exercised that they would actually take any political risks for a genuine two-state solution. It’s all just rhetoric, all over.
Which is why Klein’s second paragraph really gets to the heart of the issue. Anti-Zionists should not fear: in this case, demography is destiny. Within a generation or two, Arabs will outnumber Jews even within the Green Line: before then, we will see more educated and secular Israelis get out of Israel entirely (as they are beginning to do). If you believe Efraim Karsh, Arafat predicted this 13 years ago; in any event, he was frequently quoted as stating that his strongest weapon was “the womb of the Arab woman.” So in about 40 years, the Palestinians will have their dream of a united Palestinian state from the Jordan to the sea. Of course, by then, it will be an overpopulated, desperately poor, environmental disaster area. But it’s not clear that that will matter. Progress.