From the Editor

06.05.12

Sucker Punch

Alan Dershowitz wants Israel to freeze settlement growth in exchange for a Palestinian “return” to the negotiating table. (I say “return” because as I wrote a couple of weeks back, the Palestinians actually have been periodically negotiating without a settlement freeze over the last year). Good for Dersh. Post-Oslo, the real divide in organized American Jewry isn’t between people who say they support a Palestinian state and people who say they don’t, since most Jewish leaders now pay the concept lip service. The real divide is between people willing to ask Israel to do anything differently to keep the two state solution alive and people who won’t. With his op-ed, Dershowitz places himself, gingerly, on the other side of that divide from AIPAC.

So how can the Jewish right oppose Dersh while still ostensibly agreeing with his ultimate goal? In the Jerusalem Post, Yisrael Medad took a shot: He called Dershowitz a “freyer” or sucker. “Would you play chess in that fashion? Gamble even?” Medad asked. “The first thing the Arabs would do - and have done, always - is up the ante.” In other words, by freezing settlements, Dershowitz is giving the Palestinians something for nothing and thus removing their incentive to make the tough compromises necessary for a two-state deal.

I’ve heard this argument before: Daniel Gordis made it when we debated a while back at Columbia, and it confuses the heck out of me. Again and again, hawks insist that the Palestinians have no interest in a two state solution; that they have rejected—and will reject—even the most generous Israeli offers. Yet they simultaneously claim that if Israel gobbles up more and more of the West Bank, thus making future offers less generous, the Palestinians will be more likely to cut a deal. It doesn’t make sense.

I happen to think the hawks are right when they raise questions about whether Palestinians will make the concessions on refugee return necessary for a Clinton parameters-style settlement, especially now that America’s declining influence, Mahmoud Abbas’ legitimacy gap and the Arab world’s rising populism make it harder to foist a deal on an ambivalent Palestinian public. But it’s precisely because the Palestinian public is ambivalent about even a deal that gives them 95 plus percent of the West Bank that Medad and Gordis’s claim that they will become more compliant if Israel eats away more of their future state is so absurd. One might even say that by claiming they support the two state solution while supporting policies that drive nails in its coffin, Medad and Gordis are playing us for suckers.