Days after the election last November, I wrote:
The President isn't only about policies and laws and bills and strategy: The White House has a huge influence on American public opinion and how Americans view the world.On Wednesday, my prediction came true.
Americans will inevitably view the Middle East differently because no one that shares the Obama worldview will remain in the White House.
It will be shocking to the world the first time President Trump opines on the Middle East. But chances are that he will look at it without the obscuring clouds of years of lies about "settlers" and "Likud intransigence". If there is anything Trump loves to do, it is to burst the bubble of conventional wisdom.
...Maybe he'll ask, "Why, 23 years after Oslo, has the Palestinian Authority continued to teach hate on TV and in the classrooms?"
Maybe he'll ask, "If Palestinians want peace so much, why have they turned down every peace offer, and why did they respond to the Clinton plan with a war on Jewish civilians?"
Maybe he'll ask, "Why are people wanting to boycott the one country that does more for human rights than any other country in the entire Middle East"?
...These types of obvious questions - obvious to anyone who is not caught up in the previous narrative, that is - will create more positive change than any number of conferences or bills passed. The media will not be able to ignore the plain truths that they have been studiously ignoring for many years.
Not only because President Trump publicly said that perhaps the two-state solution isn't the ideal. Not only because he spoke out about Arab incitement, and not only because he pointed out Israel is amazing for what it achieves while under attack.
As I predicted, the entire narrative has changed.
The New York Times published an op-ed by Yishai Fleisher, a "settler" who has a radio show in Israel (and who presented at the Hasby Awards last year.) He explained why he and his fellow settlers have felt that the two-state solution has been dead for years, but more importantly he discusses five alternatives that Israelis are aware of but that the mainstream media has all but ignored.
The first option, proposed by former members of Israel’s Parliament Aryeh Eldad and Benny Alon, is known as “Jordan is Palestine,” a fair name given that Jordan’s population is generally reckoned to be majority Palestinian. Under their plan, Israel would assert Israeli law in Judea and Samaria while Arabs living there would have Israeli residency and Jordanian citizenship. Those Arabs would exercise their democratic rights in Jordan, but live as expats with civil rights in Israel.While it is unusual for the New York Times to publish something like this, from its perspective it is publishing a loony right wing rant so it can be called "balanced" against its usual Israel bashing, knowing that its readers won't take this seriously.
A second alternative, suggested by Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, proposes annexation of only Area C — the territory in the West Bank as defined by the Oslo Accords (about 60 percent by area), where a majority of the 400,000 settlers live — while offering Israeli citizenship to the relatively few Arabs there. But Arabs living in Areas A and B — the main Palestinian population centers — would have self-rule.
A third option, which dovetails with Mr. Bennett’s, is promoted by Prof. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University, near Tel Aviv. His premise is that the most stable Arab entity in the Middle East is the Gulf Emirates, which are based on a consolidated traditional group or tribe. The Palestinian Arabs are not a cohesive nation, he argues, but are comprised of separate city-based clans. So he proposes Palestinian autonomy for seven non-contiguous emirates in major Arab cities, as well as Gaza, which he considers already an emirate. Israel would annex the rest of the West Bank and offer Israeli citizenship to Arab villagers outside those cities.
The fourth proposal is the most straightforward. Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post journalist, wrote in her 2014 book, “The Israeli Solution: A One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East,” that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Jews are not in danger of losing a demographic majority in an Israel that includes Judea and Samaria. New demographic research shows that thanks to falling Palestinian birth rates and emigration, combined with opposite trends among Jews, a stable Jewish majority of above 60 percent exists between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean (excluding Gaza); and this is projected to grow to about 70 percent by 2059.
Ms. Glick thus concludes that the Jewish State is secure: Israel should assert Israeli law in the West Bank and offer Israeli citizenship to its entire Arab population without fear of being outvoted. This very week, Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, announced his backing for the idea in principle. “If we extend sovereignty,” he said, “the law must apply equally to all.”
Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, similarly advocates for annexation and giving the Palestinians residency rights — with a pathway to citizenship for those who pledge allegiance to the Jewish State. Others prefer an arrangement more like that of Puerto Rico, a United States territory whose residents cannot vote in federal elections. Some Palestinians, like the Jabari clan in Hebron, want Israeli residency and oppose the Palestinian Authority, which they view as illegitimate and corrupt.
Finally, there is a fifth alternative, which comes from the head of the new Zehut party, Moshe Feiglin, and Martin Sherman of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. They do not see a resolution of conflicting national aspirations in one land and instead propose an exchange of populations with Arab countries, which effectively expelled about 800,000 Jews around the time of Israeli independence. In contrast, however, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria would be offered generous compensation to emigrate voluntarily.
None of these options is a panacea. Every formula has some potentially repugnant element or tricky trade-off. But Israeli policy is at last on the move, as the passing of the bill on settlements indicates.
But now that the White House is publicly saying that perhaps the two-state solution isn't the best possible way forward, the mainstream media is forced to address the alternatives, even as they deride them.
AP published what would have been unthinkable a few months ago. Although it is skeptical and derogatory towards anything but the two state "solution" it has been forced to acknowledge that there are alternatives. So while it downplays them, it mentions some:
INTERIM AGREEMENTThe article also looks at versions of the "one state" solution, a version of the "Jordanian option," a partial unilateral pullout and the status quo. The analysis is flawed but that's not the point - the needle has moved and the conventional wisdom of the Obama White House and the mainstream media is no longer so conventional.
Many Israelis have concluded that a final peace agreement with the Palestinians is simply not possible because the Palestinians are asking for the moon as a result of a feeling that they hold the demographic cards. It is not just about territory: the Palestinians still in theory demand a "right of return" to Israel proper for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees living around the region and the world, which the vast majority of Jewish Israelis reject.
But perhaps a partial deal is possible whereby the Palestinians would not have to forego future claims but for now get their state on, say, 80% of the West Bank, with some sort of preferred access or new regime in the Old City of Jerusalem? Even the current nationalist Netanyahu government would probably accept such a thing, but the Palestinians have ruled it out, fearing the temporary would become permanent. To get them to agree would require massive global and Arab world pressure, and risks huge internal conflict among the Palestinians.
No matter what happens from today onward, this is a sea change in the dynamic, and suddenly more creative solutions - such as the one that Netanyahu seemed to suggest at the press briefing, of a more regional peace deal where the Arab nations benefit and the Palestinian issue is put in a more proper perspective - become more viable.