May 18, 2010

Mearsheimer on Israeli apartheid

Ok, I promise I'll shut up about Israel after this. But John Mearsheimer had a bracing lecture some time ago about the endgame for Israel in the next decade or so:
The story I will tell is straightforward. Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans -- to include many American Jews -- Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy. Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a "Greater Israel," which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa. Nevertheless, a Jewish apartheid state is not politically viable over the long term. In the end, it will become a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens. In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream.

[...]

There are two other reasons why there is not going to be a two-state solution. The Palestinians are badly divided among themselves and not in a good position to make a deal with Israel and then stick to it. That problem is fixable with time and help from Israel and the United States. But time has run out and neither Jerusalem nor Washington is likely to provide a helping hand. Then there are the Christian Zionists, who are a powerful political force in the United States, especially on Capitol Hill. They are adamantly opposed to a two-state solution because they want Israel to control every square millimeter of Palestine, a situation they believe heralds the "Second Coming" of Christ.

What this all means is that there is going to be a Greater Israel between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. In fact, I would argue that it already exists. But who will live there and what kind of political system will it have?

It is not going to be a democratic bi-national state, at least in the near future. An overwhelming majority of Israel's Jews have no interest in living in a state that would be dominated by the Palestinians. And that includes young Israeli Jews, many of whom hold clearly racist views toward the Palestinians in their midst. Furthermore, few of Israel's supporters in the United States are interested in this outcome, at least at this point in time. Most Palestinians, of course, would accept a democratic bi-national state without hesitation if it could be achieved quickly. But that is not going to happen, although, as I will argue shortly, it is likely to come to pass down the road.

[...]

What is truly remarkable about this situation is that the Israel lobby is effectively helping Israel commit national suicide. Israel, after all, is turning itself into an apartheid state, which, as Ehud Olmert has pointed out, is not sustainable in the modern era. What makes this situation even more astonishing is that there is an alternative outcome which would be relatively easy to achieve and is clearly in Israel's best interests: the two-state solution. It is hard to understand why Israel and its American supporters are not working overtime to create a viable Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories and why instead they are moving full-speed ahead to build Greater Israel, which will be an apartheid state. It makes no sense from either a moral or a strategic perspective. Indeed, it is an exceptionally foolish policy.
Mearsheimer touches on the real irony there at the end. If he's right--and I can't argue with any of his points--then the reflexively "pro-Israel" right is really helping the state commit seppuku. Where is the next Yitzhak Rabin?

UPDATE: Larison chimes in:
Nationalists here in the U.S. insist on uncritical support for our policies abroad because they see this as an expression of loyalty to their country “right or wrong,” and “pro-Israel” hawks insist on offering the same kind of uncritical support for Israeli policies regardless of their merits or their consequences.

Of course, nationalists typically have a defective understanding of loyalty and a distorted understanding of patriotism, and hawks have a similarly defective understanding of what constitutes real, effective support for an ally. Encouraging a government in its worst habits and instincts, remaining silent in the face of its abuses and focusing all of their energies on attacking dissidents and critics are not the acts of friends or supporters. They are instead the acts of the blindly loyal who ultimately contibute to the ruin of the state they claim to defend.

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