Tuesday, May 07, 2002
Arutz Sheva has an editorial in favor of transfer. It's worth reiterating why this will not be possible: because the Arab countries will not take the people. The only country who has accepted even the far smaller numbers of who fled in 1948 is Jordan. There were indeed numerous proposals for transfer prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, and similar tranfers of population were effected between various European countries after World War II, between Greece and Turkey after independence, and between Pakistan and India after partition. In no case was the tranfer bloodless; over a million lives were lost in the Indian/Pakistani case. But in all cases, the country receiving the transferred population was willing to accept them as their compatriots. That simply isn't the case with the Palestinians. Moreover, the Palestinians show no desire to leave, which was not the case with many of the mutual transfers cited as precedent, where, in many though certainly not all cases, people were eager to leave their homes to join their homeland.
The situation of the Palestinian people is extremely difficult to resolve. Israel is willing to cede the bulk of the territory, including all the population centers, in exchange for peace and normal relations. It's willing to make this trade with any of its neighbors or with a newly created state. It has had no takers for these offers. It's true that any Palestinian state created in the territories would be a practical dependency on Israel and/or Jordan and Egypt. That's an unavoidable fact of geography. The alternative to a Palestinian dependency is a Jewish dependency (or worse), and the Jews are under no moral obligation to surrender. Swaziland is also a practical dependency of South Africa, as is Luxembourg of its European neighbors. Bosnia is a ward of the international community, as is Kossovo; neither is likely to be an independently viable state any time soon. The alternative to official independence but practical dependency is official dependency, a la Puerto Rico. Those are the choices, realistically.
This is why Palestinian nationalism is so disastrous. It really cannot find adequate expression without the destruction of Israel. Serious people who have looked at the conflict understand this, and understand that the question to be resolved is not Palestinian nationalism but Palestinian self-determination. Palestinians living in the territories need to be able to have practical control over their own lives, and need a political structure that supports this. If a technical Palestinian state helps achieve this goal, then it's reasonable to talk about it; if it is a hindrance, then it should be abandoned. Under Arafat, it has been a hindrance, because Arafat is still talking the language of maximalist nationalism, and always will, and this is a prescription for disappointment and disaster, which is all that Arafat has brought to his people.
Similarly, talking about transfer is a pointless distraction and I don't think Dick Armey has done any of us any favors by siding with Effie Eitam and the rest of Israel's radical right on this question. There is simply no way the Arab states are going to agree to take these people, nor is there any way they are going to agree to leave. Transfer, then, means forcible expulsion, a humanitarian disaster. It is something inconceivable except in a context like World War II which, thankfully, we are still not in, in spite of everything.
Of course, if the new government in Iraq wants to make any interesting offers . . .