My favorite quixotic Middle Eastern head of state, the Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution Muammar Gadhafi of the Socialist People’s Great Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (that’s his official title), published an Op-Ed in today’s New York Times that, true to form, fails to disappoint. Here are some interesting nuggets. Gadhafi writes:
- The basis for the modern State of Israel is the persecution of the Jewish people, which is undeniable. The Jews have been held captive, massacred, disadvantaged in every possible fashion by the Egyptians, the Romans, the English, the Russians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites and, most recently, the Germans under Hitler. The Jewish people want and deserve their homeland.
- A two-state solution will create an unacceptable security threat to Israel. An armed Arab state, presumably in the West Bank, would give Israel less than 10 miles of strategic depth at its narrowest point.
- It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land [of Israel/Palestine] and owned farms and homes there until recently, fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948 — violence that did not occur, but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians. They were never “un-welcomed.”
The crux of Gadhafi’s piece is that a two-state solution for these two mutually dependent peoples with legitimate claims to the same slice of land is not a viable solution, and the only way forward is for Israelis and Palestinians to share a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean — "Isratine."
Gadhafi has been peddling this idea for quite a while, and more intensely ever since the Western boycott of his nation ended shortly after Libya agreed to rencounce terrorism and its nonconventional weapons programs.
While Gadhafi’s concept ignores some fundamental pitfalls — most notably, that a one-state solution would fail to provide for the two most basic raisons d’etre for Israel’s establishment, preserving Jewish bodies (security) and Jewish souls (the Jewish state), since a one-state solution quickly would become majority Arab, and Arabs don’t have a very good track record preserving Jewish rights or lives — the mere fact that an Arab leader is willing to acknowledge Jewish rights to the holy land, recognize Israel’s security concerns as legitimate and think creatively about ways to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a model that other, more conventional Arab states would do well to follow.
Gadhafi may have given up Libya’s nonconventional arms programs, but he’ll be damned if he has to give up his unconventional ideas (or his all-female security team, but that’s a whole other issue).
James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal gets a hat tip for pointing out in his Best of the Web column that Gadhafi’s Op-Ed ignores Libya’s own history of Jewish persecution:
The Germans under Hitler are not the most recent persecutors of Jews. Many Israeli Jews are refugees from persecution in Arab countries since World War II (and Iran since 1979). Aside from Morocco, no Arab land has more than a handful of Jews left–and that includes Libya… In fairness to Gadhafi, he did not begin the persecution of Libyan Jews. But isn’t there some rule of journalistic ethics that should have compelled the Times to disclose to its readers that its author is the man who, in his own country, finished what Hitler started?
Adding to the bleak near-term prognosis for the two-state solution, the Times’ Steven Erlanger writes that, in the wake of the Gaza war, President Obama and his Western allies have a difficult choice to make about whom to support in repairing the Palestinian national schism and bringing the Palestinian Authority to a point where it is ready and able to negotiate a peace with Israel. The choice, writes Erlanger is:
Support a Palestinian unity government, as Egypt and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, want, or continue to isolate Hamas and concentrate on building up the West Bank as a political alternative to radical Islam…
Many Middle East experts are eager to hear whether the Obama administration will try to create a credible, unified Palestinian government that could negotiate and enforce a state-to-state relationship with Israel, the essence of the so-called two-state solution that has dominated peace negotiations…
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even some in Israel favor a national unity government that would enable the Palestinian Authority to be seen as at least notionally in charge of the rebuilding in Gaza. But even if the antipathies between Hamas and Fatah, which controls the West Bank, could be overcome, a deal would almost certainly entail early elections that Fatah might very well lose.
The Gaza war has been bad for Fatah, and its popularity is plunging. Hamas is feeling victorious after surviving the Israeli pounding and is unlikely to allow Fatah to restore its presence, even for an election, in an angry Gaza.
The essential issue, and not for the first time, is whether Israel and the West should engage Hamas as an indisputable fact, in the hope that Israeli military power and political reality will trump Hamas’s religious conviction that Israel must be destroyed, or instead continue to confront and isolate Hamas, in the hope that Fatah can somehow be resurrected or some third force be created around Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is seen as a more capable leader…
Yossi Alpher, the Israeli co-director of www.bitterlemons.org, a Web site that promotes Israeli-Palestinian dialogue online, said that if there were a unity government, there would probably be new elections. “Given Hamas’s political gains and Abu Mazen’s losses, Hamas could win them, and then they’d end up running not just Gaza but the West Bank, too, at least politically,” he said.