Israel Report

July/August 2003         

Transfer: A Moral Discourse

By Boris Shusteff - July 17, 2003
The issue of transfer - that is, relocating Arabs out of western Eretz Yisrael - to the present day remains very controversial. The main reason for this is obvious. The vast majority of Jews considers it to be immoral. The stigma of immorality attached to this subject is especially troublesome, because, according to many surveys, more than half of Israeli Jews supports transfer. Moreover, since the idea of transfer is considered taboo in Israeli society, it is quite probable that the actual number of its supporters is much higher, and people simply do not want to reveal their true opinions, afraid of being stigmatized.

While Israel prides herself on being a Democracy, the transfer idea, though supported by the majority of the people, is almost completely suppressed within the Israeli political conscience. In spite of the fact that its supporters can be found in many Israeli political parties, their voices are mute at best. The champions of the idea, Moledet leaders Benny Elon and Aryeh Eldad, discuss it mainly on the pages of internal party publications. No real discussion takes place within the mainstream Israeli media. It appears that the label "immoral" has been attached to the term "transfer" by default, without substantiation, simply based on the negative connotation of the word. Everything comes down to the idea that it is immoral to force people to move from their place of habitation without their consent. The opponents of transfer always ask, "Would you want to be kicked out of your home?" Without any doubt, this concern is very legitimate. And if the supporters of transfer cannot find a convincing response to it based on moral grounds, it becomes very difficult, and perhaps impossible, to defend the idea of transfer.

The inspiration to write this article came from a thorough reading and re-reading of an absolutely fascinating essay penned by Ruth Gavison, and published in the summer 5763/2003 issue of the magazine Azure. Gavison holds the Chaim Cohen chair in human rights at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and is a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. The essay is entitled "The Jews' Right to Statehood: A Defense." Gavison presents her arguments "framed mainly within the discourse of human rights," explaining that it is crucial to base the "justification of a Jewish state on arguments that appeal to people who do not share the beliefs of those Jews to whom the Jewish right to a state and to the land of Israel is axiomatic."

We are going to take a similar approach. It is self-evident that Jews who unwaveringly believe in the Torah do not need any additional arguments to support the idea of transferring Arabs from Eretz Yisrael. At the same time, a great majority of Jews, though they heed the Torah to a certain extent, still require justification for the transfer idea based on "universal moral grounds." Leaving aside the fact that these universal moral grounds are deeply rooted in Judaic values, which makes the Torah the main authority on the issue, we will give these Jews the benefit of the doubt. We will make an argument for the morality of transfer by making use of many of Gavison's points, which are "framed mainly within the discourse of human rights."

To begin with, we take as an axiom the statement that the Jewish people has the right to statehood and that the "existence of such a state is an important condition for the security of its Jewish citizens and the continuation of Jewish civilization." It seems fair to expect that this statement should not be questioned even by the most pro-Arab among Jews, for if they support the Arabs' right to statehood, they must likewise support this right for the Jews, based on the equality of fundamental human rights.

Ruth Gavison defines these rights as follows: "as human beings, we all have a right to life, security, and dignity as well as to national self-determination." However, while stressing that the rights to life, security and dignity are not dependent on anything, Gavison argues that the right to statehood is not constant. "It instead varies over time and according to changing circumstances." She states that the claim of self-determination "is not a matter of abstract rights talk. Rather, such claims must be addressed according to demographic, societal and political realities that prevail both in the Middle East and in other parts of the world."

The same approach must be taken with the issue of transfer. We must not look at it as "a matter of abstract rights talk." On the contrary, it is vitally important to take into account changing circumstances, demographic, societal and political realities.

One of the complicating aspects of the issue is the subject of a separate Palestinian people. It is easy to prove that the "Palestinian people" did not exist as any sort of distinct or cohesive group before the First World War. Even UN resolution 181, used today by a majority of liberal Jews to support the establishment of a Palestinian state, speaks only about Jews and Arabs and not about Jews and "Palestinians."

Nevertheless, we will assume that there is indeed a separate people that calls itself "Palestinians," and claims rights to self-determination in Eretz Yisrael, which it calls Palestine.

As Gavison explains, it is very important to understand, that exercising a people's right to self-determination "does not necessarily depend on establishing a sovereign state." In her essay, Gavison employs the two distinct terms "rights" and "liberties," introduced by the American jurist Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld. "According to Hohfeld, we may speak of liberty when there is no obligation to act or refrain from acting in a certain manner. A right, on the other hand, means that others have an obligation not to interfere with, or to grant the possibility of, my acting in a certain manner." Gavison explains that from the start of modern Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael, "as long as their actions were legal and nonviolent Jewish settlers were at liberty to enlarge their numbers among the local population, even with the declared and specific intent of establishing the infrastructure for a future Jewish state." At the same time, the Arab population "certainly had full liberty to take steps to resist this settlement, so long as they did not infringe on any basic human rights or violate the laws of the land."

It is necessary to re-emphasize the two extremely important conditions for exercising liberties: nonviolence and the legality of action based on the laws of the land. Gavison does not bring up the subject, but, technically speaking, she proves that Palestine at the beginning of modern Jewish settlement was "a land without a people." This is because it did not belong to the people living there. It was under the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire. The laws of the land were Ottoman laws, which largely curtailed but did not prevent Jewish settlement. Even more importantly, with the establishment of the British mandate, the laws of the land under British jurisdiction encouraged Jewish settlement on the land, thus supporting the Jews' liberty to settle Palestine.

Since the land did not belong to the locally resident Arabs, and Palestine was not a separate country with unique laws, the Arabs had no right to stop Jewish settlement. To put it differently, from the standpoint of universal morality and equality, Jews and non-Jews in Palestine were on a level playing field: the Jews were at liberty to settle the land and the Arabs were at liberty to oppose this settlement by nonviolent means.

It is worth pointing out that the Arabs were at liberty to settle the land, as well. Significantly, in contrast to the Arabs' opposition to Jewish settlement, the Jews did not object to Arab settlement. Thus, as is well documented in various sources, Arabs from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Bosnia, and many other countries established their residence in Palestine in numbers comparable to and even greater than the numbers of Jews who settled there.

Gavison writes that "changing conditions affect the balance of legitimacy, and therefore no claim to self-determination can be absolute." Since the Arabs in Palestine did not see themselves as a coherent national group and did not have a separate national identity (at least during the British Mandate), they made no effort to exercise their right to self-determination. They had allegiance to their clans or villages, but never progressed beyond this level. Meanwhile, without even trying to create a state of their own, they objected to the establishment of a Jewish one. By negating through violence the liberties of the Jews to settle in the land, they violated fundamental Jewish rights to life and security. Gavison writes,

"Violence clearly was a violation of the rights of the Jews. The violent resistance of the Arabs ultimately lent significant weight to the Jewish claim to a sovereign state, and not merely to self-determination within a non-state framework. From 1920s until today, one of the strongest arguments for Jewish statehood has been the fact that the security of Jews as individuals and as a collective cannot be secured without it."

It is precisely Jewish statehood that always was and still remains the bone of contention in relations between Arabs and Jews. All wars fought by the Arabs against the Jews were directed first against the creation of the Jewish state and then towards its destruction. Gavison points out that,

"The results of war [1948] brought an end to the symmetry between Arabs and Jews. Palestinian Arabs did not achieve statehood, and their communities suffered a major setback, while Zionism made a critical transition from having the moral liberty to establish a Jewish state to having a moral right to maintain it and to preserve its Jewish character."

While pinpointing the extremely important moment for Jews of transitioning from liberty to create a state to the right to have and maintain it, Gavison allows for two very significant inaccuracies. First, the very phrase "did not achieve statehood" is rather misleading with respect to the situation of the Palestinian Arabs. It implies that they were seeking statehood, and were somehow unable to attain it.

However, it is not because anyone prevented them from doing so that the Palestinians Arabs did not "achieve" statehood in western Palestine in 1948, but simply because they did not seek it. This reinforces the fact that the Arabs in Palestine did not consider themselves a distinct people with a national history, traditions and goals. The only common ground that united them, or, to be more precise, united their leaders, was the desire to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state.

Furthermore, it is not even correct to say that the Palestinian Arabs did not attain statehood. They attained it in Jordan (77% of the territory of British Mandate). An overwhelming majority of Jordan's population consists of Palestinian Arabs, so Gavison is apparently referring only to Palestinian Arabs living in western Palestine (23% of the territory of the British Mandate) as having failed to achieve statehood. Regardless, in the end, it would be more appropriate to say that, as a result of the 1948 War of Independence, the Jews finally achieved parity with other nations by reestablishing their state.

Now that we have examined the situation during the time of Israel's creation, let us look at things as they stand today. The resurrection of the Jewish state and the events of the decades that followed have drastically changed the situation in western Palestine. Demographic changes in the region, with the Jewish state now home to over 5.5 million Jews, have made the Jewish right to self-determination unquestionable.

As Gavison puts it: "justification for the existence of a Jewish state. is stronger now than it was in 1947. because Israel today hosts a large and diverse Jewish community with the right to national self-determination and the benefits that it can bring."

Accordingly "today, Israel has not only the right to exist but also the right to promote and strengthen its Jewish character. Indeed, this dramatic shift in the validity of the Jewish claim to statehood is one of Zionism's major achievements."At the same time, despite the increase in the Arab population, the Arabs' corresponding liberty to settle in western Palestine cannot be translated into a right to self-determination in Eretz Yisrael.

Numerical growth in population is not by itself a sufficient argument for this. Especially since the Arabs' constant use of violence against the Jews continuously violates Jewish rights to life and safety. Thus, from the standpoint of universal moral principles, the Arabs are continuously weakening their claim to the right to self-determination on this land.

Gavison stresses that, "while we cannot ignore the history of the conflict, neither can we ignore the reality that has taken hold in intervening years." And this reality clearly demonstrates that nearly all Palestinian Arab activity during this time was directed against the Jewish state and not toward establishing institutions of Arab government, or planting any seeds for self-rule.

Just the last 10 years have seen an outrageous anti-Semitic campaign in the Palestinian media and educational institutions due to the Arabs' stubborn rejection of the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Violent murders of Jews have become the norm, supported by nearly 80% of Palestinian Arabs, as every poll consistently indicates. Hatred against the Jews has penetrated deep into the souls of several generations of Arabs to whom the Jews are constantly presented as nothing but ruthless murdering occupiers. Based on this, reward this sort of attitude among Arabs with statehood is plainly immoral. Remembering Gavison's postulate that the Arabs "certainly had full liberty to [act]. so long as they did not infringe on any basic human rights or violate the laws of the land," one must admit that the Arabs, incited by their leaders, have miserably failed to meet even this minimal standard.

Some may argue that the preceding arguments, though valid, only apply to "Israel proper" as defined by its 1948 borders. We therefore now turn our attention to the reality that has taken hold in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (to which we refer by the Hebrew acronym "Yesha"), the lands that came under Israel's control after the Six Day War of 1967.

Significantly, it is precisely due to Arab efforts directed toward Israel's destruction that the Jews have settled on the land that they gained in 1967, in addition to living in areas they have controlled since 1948. Just as significantly, there should be absolutely nothing a priori questionable about settling this land, since based on universal human rights, the Jews have exactly the same rights as the Arabs to settle in Western Eretz Yisrael.

This is supported by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in article 13 that "everyone has the right to. residence within borders of each state." Furthermore, article 2 states that for these purposes, the status of territories does not matter. "No distinction shall be made on the basis of the . status of the country or territory. whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty." Thus anybody who advocates the liberties of the Arabs to settle in the disputed lands of western Palestine must admit that the Jews have exactly the same liberties. Moreover, the laws of the land give preference to the Jews. The only existing legitimate international document pertaining to this disputed land, which is the League of Nations' 1920 San Remo Declaration, encourages Jewish settlement there. Israeli laws that apply to this area do not prohibit settlement, either for Jews or Arabs.

On balance, then, from the standpoint of international legitimacy, there is no distinction between most of Israel "proper" and the disputed lands of Yesha. In both cases, Jews gained the land after repelling enemy attempts to destroy the Jewish state. The land obtained by Israel in 1948 was not under anyone's sovereignty. The lands of Judea and Samaria, gained by Israel in 1967, were under Jordanian jurisdiction, which was not recognized by the international community, and was later waived by Jordan in 1988, thus giving it exactly the same status as the land acquired by Israel in 1948. A similar situation exists in the Gaza strip, to which Egypt made even less claim when it controlled the strip between 1948 and 1967. Therefore, if it is legitimate for Jews to settle anywhere inside the area designated by the 1948 armistice lines, it is similarly legitimate to settle in the areas designated by the 1967 armistice lines, adjusted based on peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.

The fact that all of the land now controlled by Israel has the same status is, ironically, supported by the Arab position as well. The Arabs typically do not distinguish between the Israeli conquests of 1948 and 1967. They consider the whole Jewish enterprise in Palestine, as Gavison puts it, "illegitimate at its core, since it was harmful to Arab interests and limited their control over the public domain." However, while recognizing Arab concerns, Gavison argues that they do not put moral obligations on the Jews from restraining their settlement in Eretz Yisrael. She writes:

"The claim that Jewish settlement harmed Arab interests is certainly understandable, and the fears that lay at its core were no doubt warranted. But did these fears place a moral obligation on the Jewish people to refrain from returning to their homeland?"

The equivalence in status of the lands conquered by Israel in 1948 and 1967 has another extremely important moral aspect that cannot be ignored. Namely, that it is immoral to reward an aggressor by restoring the status quo that existed before the aggression if the aggressor loses territory as a result. Since in both 1948 and 1967 the land was conquered in defensive wars, it is just as immoral to demand that Israel give up her rights to the land conquered in 1967, as it is immoral to demand that she give up her rights to land conquered in 1948. This effectively means that on moral grounds the Arabs have no chance whatsoever of transforming their liberty to live in western Eretz Yisrael into any sort of right to a state there.

But if the Arabs do not have a right to exercise self-determination in the lands of Yesha, we then have an extremely difficult situation with respect to those Palestinian Arabs already living there. It is obvious that the present situation is very volatile, constantly on the brink of explosion, and must be somehow resolved. This gives only two possible options: the creation of a separate state for Palestinian Arabs on part of Yesha, after Israel voluntarily relinquishes her rights to this land, or the transfer of the Arabs either to Jordan, where their brethren currently exercise their right to self-determination, or to any other suitable place in the Arab world.

Let us first put aside the transfer option and look at the possibility of creating a state for Palestinian Arabs in Yesha. Gavison, a proponent of this idea, gives the following substantiation:

"From a moral point of view, it is preferable to give the Palestinians national sovereignty over at least part of their homeland. In this way, the Jewish people's right to self-determination would not come at the expense of the corresponding rights of the Palestinians."

This statement is very questionable from the standpoint of historical accuracy and very difficult to defend on moral grounds. Eretz Yisrael was never a national home for any people other than the Jews. The statement that Eretz Yisrael is part of the "Palestinian homeland" is an exercise in political correctness and only confuses the issue. One would not, for example, entertain the idea of giving national sovereignty over a part of California to Mexican Americans, under the pretext that it is their homeland because several generations of them were born there. Meanwhile, one could argue that the Mexicans have much more right to California then the Palestinian Arabs do to Eretz Yisrael. At least for 27 years from 1821 to 1848 California was a sovereign Mexican land, a part of the Mexican state, while no Palestinian state ever existed in Eretz Yisrael.

On the other hand, what moral right do the Jews have to decide for the Palestinians over what part of "their homeland" they should be given sovereignty? If it is indeed the Palestinians' "homeland" it is they and only they who have the right to decide on what part of it they want to live. This sort of patronizing approach is quite clearly immoral in this case.

And last but most important, if we view Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian Arabs, we must not forget that they have obtained national sovereignty on the greater part of their homeland more than half a century ago - in Jordan. Thus the Jewish people exercising their right to self-determination in Eretz Yisrael by no means comes at the expense of the corresponding rights of the Palestinians.

As long as we are considering the issue of a possible Palestinian state, it cannot be discussed without touching on two other extremely sensitive issues: refugees and Jerusalem. The Arabs consistently demand part of Jerusalem as the future capital of their state and demand the right for all "Palestinian refugees" to return to their "original homes" in what is now Israel. As Gavison very well explains, Israel cannot allow Arabs to flood the country, as this will destroy the Jewish nature of the state. The Jews can refuse to grant this "right of return" (as well as demand that the Arabs fulfill certain other conditions) only because they were victorious in the wars that the Arabs have unleashed on them.

To put it differently, this is an application of the longstanding international principle of nullum crimen sine poena ("no crime without punishment." The Arabs certainly should not be rewarded for their aggression against the Jews by granting them fictitious "rights."

Moreover, is it moral to place an obligation on the Jewish people to refrain from having access to the holiest place for the Jews, the Temple Mount? Yet it is clear that this is exactly what will happen if the Arabs gain sovereignty in Jerusalem. Even now, when all of Jerusalem is under Israel's control, Islamic authorities prohibit Jews from accessing much of the Temple Mount. And what is so often called "Arab East Jerusalem" is nothing but the very same Jerusalem for which the Jews longed for 2000 years in exile.

It is clear, then, that the refugees and Jerusalem are two red lines that cannot be crossed if Israel is to remain a Jewish state. While the influx of Arab refugees will destroy the Jewish state demographically, the loss of the Temple Mount and other parts of authentically Jewish Jerusalem's Old City, will irreversibly corrode the Jewish soul of the state. The Jewish state without the Temple Mount is by definition not Jewish.

One more important point must be made - the moral implications of a Palestinian state in Yesha for the Arabs themselves. It is clear that for over 50 years, the Arabs' basic rights to life, safety and dignity have been unceasingly violated by their own leaders, with the explicit support of the United Nations and the international community. Arabs are kept in terrible conditions in the so-called refugee camps. All Israeli attempts to improve these conditions were rejected by Arab leaders, manipulatively working through the UN. One need only look at how many Arabs have been killed as a result of the Intifadas, irresponsibly provoked by Arab leaders, to agree that Arab rights to safety and life are utterly neglected. It is to these irresponsible leaders that the fate of the Palestinian Arabs will be handed, if a Palestinian Arab state is established in western Eretz Yisrael as a result of the latest Road Map peace plan.

The authors of the Road Map have not only seemingly failed to consider the moral implication for the Arabs themselves of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) but also completely disregarded other fundamental issues. One of them is the viability of such a state.

Already in the 1970s, Israeli Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi, an internationally known expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict, unequivocally proved in a series of articles that an Arab state created in Judea and Samaria cannot be viable. The main reason for this is that this state will need the support of Arab countries to survive. However, if this state is created without Jerusalem and if the "right" of the Arab refugees to settle in Israel is not realized, the Arab countries will not offer their support to this new artificial state entity. Perhaps they might recognize it on the surface, but they will never forgive the Palestinian Arabs for forsaking the common Arab demand for Jerusalem and the return of the refugees.

Another problem that cannot be resolved is based on the fact that the national ethos of the so-called "Palestinian people" has at its core a deeply ingrained belief that the Jews have forced their miserable fate upon them. This is the common denominator that gives the "Palestinian people" their identity and the only real glue that keeps them together.

If an Arab state is created in Yesha with the refugee issue left unresolved, the schism between different groups of Palestinian Arabs will only exacerbate the current situation. Undeniably, with the establishment of an Arab state in the disputed territories and the disappearance of the "return option," no Arab Palestinian leader will be able to suggest any satisfactory, practicable alternative to 3 to 4 million "refugees." Indeed, though, as we mentioned before, the return of the refugees is a red line which Israel cannot cross, it's nevertheless clear that finding some resolution of the refugee problem must preempt, or go hand in hand, with any discussion of a Palestinian state.

At the same time, the entirety of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which the Arabs demand for their state, encompasses only about two thousand square miles. It is roughly twice the size of Vermont, one of the smallest states in the US, which, with one million people, has the second highest population density of any US state. The current population density in Gaza is already 250% higher than Vermont's, and with a far inferior standard of living. Given the right and opportunity to settle in an Arab state created in Yesha, the Palestinian Arabs will certainly never exercise this right in large numbers. This is simply because no one will voluntarily move from a living situation that is already bad to one that is much worse.

This means that a huge fraction of the "Palestinian people" will remain in a state of limbo, with at least 3 to 4 million Palestinian Arabs retaining refugee status and remaining completely dissatisfied. No help is likely to come from neighboring Arab countries. To expect that they will voluntarily absorb the Palestinian Arabs living among them after so many years of refusing their integration is merely naive.

These countries have kept the Palestinian Arabs into these degrading conditions quite intentionally. There will be no new incentives for Arab leaders to deal with these unfortunate people, who are not even their citizens in the first place. This means that their plight will become even more pitiful, and their resentment will only grow, since Arab anti-Israeli incitement is unlikely to stop. It is not hard to predict that in such a situation, vengeful feelings will remain strong:

"the villains that expelled us from our homeland achieved safety, and we must continue living in hell?"

Just as Arafat's PLO was created in order to help "Palestinians return to their homeland," in this situation another Arafat will quickly emerge to create a new PLO (assuming that the old one ceases to exist) to demand rights for the refugees. His logic will be very simple: if it was appropriate to allow the return of the Palestinians to an area that was captured by Israel in 1967, it should be just as appropriate to allow the Palestinians to return to the area captured by Israel in 1948.

It is easy to conclude that the creation of a "Palestinian state" in Judea, Samaria and Gaza without resolving the issue of the "Palestinian refugees" is a certain recipe for disaster. We must answer, from a common moral perspective, why the fate of some of these people must be so much different from others? Why can the two million Arabs in Judea and Samaria (not counting "refugees" in Gaza) have their right to self-determination satisfied while 3 to 4 million others will not? To say that these 3 to 4 million Arabs have this right fulfilled, since they will be able to settle in Judea and Samaria does not work. By the same reasoning, it can be said that these people can exercise their right to self-determination right now in Jordan, the majority of whose people are Palestinian Arabs. There is no logic that can support the premise that the "right" to move into Judea, Samaria or Gaza to live in squalid conditions under a corrupt Palestinian leadership is somehow preferable to moving into Jordan, to live a relatively normal life. And if it is legitimate and sensible to relocate 3 to 4 million Arabs to Jordan, what is wrong with relocating 1 or 2 million additional Arabs there?

What is important is that no one has ever conducted any polls in order to determine which option the Palestinian Arabs themselves would prefer: Jordan or Yesha. While their leaders, certainly insist on the latter and more, demanding the right to return to Israel proper, the actions of the Palestinians speak volumes. Over a million Arabs living in Gaza did not even try to settle in Judea and Samaria during the height of Palestinian Administration in the 1990s, instead preferring to rot in the refugee camps in the hope that they will "return to their homes in Israel." Clearly, Yesha itself is not a major attractor. This indicates that the rhetoric from all sides calling for Arab sovereignty in Yesha does not reflect the real desires of the Arabs themselves.

How, then, can we make a judgment about the morality of the transfer option? The dictionary defines "moral" as "relating to, dealing with, or capable of making the distinction between right and wrong in conduct." So if something is right - it is moral, and if it is wrong - immoral. Is it therefore not absurd to use statements like "I want this and that" or "I want it here and now" as the chief measure of the morality of an issue? Yet, this is what objectors to transfer do when they claim that transfer is immoral because it goes against what the Palestinian Arabs "want" (and we have also already seen that it's at best unclear where exactly they want to live).

In order to truly judge the moral aspects of transfer one should ask: "Is it right or wrong to move people from their homes in this particular situation?" To answer this question, it is clear that the mere desires of some people to live in certain places are not sufficient in and of themselves for a moral judgment on the issue of their relocation. All other considerations must be taken into account as well. We can analogously ask if it is moral to relocate thousands of people living next to a volcano, in spite of their desires to stay put, knowing that an eruption is inevitable.

Obviously, the act of relocation would certainly be right, because it would save many lives, and therefore would be a moral action. It is noteworthy that if the stubborn volcano-dwellers remain where they are, they harm no one but themselves, whereas leaving the Palestinians where they are is likely to harm not only them, but the Jews living in Israel as well - therefore making transfer an even greater moral imperative in the latter situation. Thus, if the relocation of Arabs allows the resolution of the conflict between Arabs and Jews, it is certainly moral, since it is right and long overdue to bring the conflict to an end.

When we consider all of these issues, before insisting on the establishment of an Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, we must honestly answer what good it will bring to the Middle East equation. Even in the most optimistic scenario, it is extremely uncertain that it will indeed lead to any sort of stable or peaceful resolution of the conflict. Conversely, it is easy to answer what harm it will bring.

First, it will restore a state of great vulnerability for Israel, which will lose all of its strategic depth.

Second, the new Arab state itself will be not only unviable (see this author's article on "The Stillborn Palestinian State") but also will have no chance of gaining support from other Arab countries, since, as we have already determined, Israel cannot yield on the red-line issues of refugees and Jerusalem and give up its Jewish essence. And one must remember that it is not only Arafat and Abu Mazen who insist on the return of the refugees and demand part of Jerusalem. It is also Mubarak, King Saud, King Abdullah, Assad and all the other Arab leaders.

Third, the issue of "Palestinian refugees," will not move any closer to resolution, leaving 3 to 4 million people in a forlorn state without any hope for a better future.

Fourth, the real cause of the conflict, which is the failure of the Arab states to recognize Israel's right to exist, will not disappear. The Arabs will cling to it with tooth and nail, using as a pretext the same refugees whom they will keep in misery themselves.

Many of those familiar with the Arab-Israeli conflict maintain that international involvement is key for resolving the situation. Thus far, however, the involvement of the international community has only exacerbated the current problem. Instead of encouraging the resettlement of the refugees, an approach that has proved successful with about one hundred million other people all over the world, the UN, via UNRWA has only helped to keep the problem alive. The only Arab country that accepted the Palestinian Arabs more or less willingly was Jordan.

Even recently, after the 1991 Gulf War, Kuwait expelled 300,000 Palestinian Arabs, who found refuge in Jordan without a problem, which is quite understandable, since Jordan is a Palestinian Arab state. At the same time, it is unrealistic to expect that Jordan will voluntarily agree to accept millions of destitute people. The involvement of the international community is therefore simply a must, despite the poor track record up to now. And progress can only be made if major players, such as the US, EU, Russia, China, Japan or at least some of them, officially proclaim the truth that has been hidden for fifty years, namely that Jordan is the Palestinian state.

As always, declarations alone are not enough, and must be followed by corresponding policy decisions. Once this is done, the road will be wide open for the "refugees" to settle in Jordan and the word "transfer" will lose its negative connotation, since the world community will be involved in a decent and honorable task - the transfer of Palestinian Arabs from the misery of refugee camps and the abuses of their leaders to a life of hope and freedom.

The participation of the international community will also be needed in order to shield Jordan from the rage of other Arab countries, which will be the major obstacle on the road to the successful resettlement of Palestinian Arabs. For fifty-five years the policies of the Arab countries have been aimed at keeping the Palestinian Arabs in camps in order to use them as a powerful weapon in the war against Israel. It is obvious that they will object to such a solution and the international community will need to demonstrate resolve and forcefulness to make this happen. Certainly this will not be a task of one month or even one year. A long-term plan must be developed to prevent the ruin of the Jordanian economy. Infrastructure and housing should be built up-front, and proper conditions should be established for the employment of future citizens. The construction boom that will precede resettlement, will positively resolve the unemployment problem currently being faced by Jordanians. This will also provide an opportunity for Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza to obtain employment. At the same time, if Jordan is officially recognized as a Palestinian state, the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza will be able to settle there as well. This means that the fate of two thousand square miles of land will automatically become a non-issue. The Palestinian Arabs will not need it to exercise their right to self-determination, which will enable Israel to annex it through a process of international recognition, thus obtaining the minimal strategic depth it requires, which will serve as the best guarantee of stability and peace in the region.

No one will argue that the resettlement of the Arabs will not be accompanied by substantial hardships, but is it not an honorable task for the world community to actively work to bring millions of people out of misery and give them real hope for the future? (Instead of clamoring for the emergence of a stunted and crippled state, knowing fully that this state will offer no chance for improving Palestinians' lives or bringing peace to the region.)

From the perspective of human rights, the alternatives are immeasurably worse. In order to create an Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it will be necessary to resettle nearly 500,000 Jews living there, including Jerusalem. This is because when Arabs speak of Israel abandoning "all the lands occupied in 1967," they mean Jerusalem too. The Jews that will have to be relocated are well established in the places where they currently live. It is utterly immoral and illogical to ruin people's lives based on "abstract rights talk." And precisely because the vast majority of the Palestinian Arabs haven't been given the opportunity to build lives for themselves anywhere, including Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it is possible to relocate them without great difficulty. The alternative is an ever-increasing number of poor and miserable people with no opportunity to create their own future. What kind of morality is it to multiply the number of suffering people, instead of decreasing it?

As Gavison stressed several times in her article, we cannot ignore the reality that has taken hold in the intervening years. The refugee problem, the misery of the Palestinian Arabs, the Jews living in over 150 locations in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are all the consequences of Arab attempts to destroy Israel. The latest indiscriminate terror war, unleashed by Arafat in 2000, has only added tragedy to both sides, while Jewish settlement on Jewish land has continued unabated in spite of the hardships. Since these attempts to destroy Israel have persisted for more than fifty years, it is critical that the vengeful ideas that have driven the Arabs' relations with Israel be abolished once and for all. This cannot be done through nice words or merely by signing agreements. Only facts established on the ground can make this happen.

Therefore, by recognizing Israel's sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the international community will send the clear message that the disputes over a meager 2,000 square miles of land, are finally over. It is ridiculous to believe that the Arabs, having 2,000,000 square miles of land, will settle all of their arguments with Israel, if they are given 2,000 additional square miles. At the same time, by recognizing Jordan as a Palestinian state, a path will be laid for the resolution of the refugee problem that has been a stain on mankind's moral conscience for fifty -five years. The alternative is simply a continuation of the old rule of enmity and hatred - an admission of the moral degradation of the human species.

Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.

Source: Freeman Centre

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