Why Not the Status Quo?
Is the status quo in Israel sustainable?
Stephen Walt reads Aaron David Miller's essay on junking the peace process and asks a question similar to the one that I posed earlier in the week: if there's no peace process, how is Israel ultimately going to deal with the Palestinians? Walt, and indeed most peace process devotees, operate under the assumption that as there are increasingly more Palestinians under Israeli control it will be correspondingly more difficult for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic and, crucially, that it will be correspondingly more difficult for the U.S. to support Israel under those conditions.
As Walt sees it, there are three possible scenarios:
So here's the question I'd really like Miller to address: if it becomes clear that "two states for two peoples" is no longer an option, what does he think U.S. policy should be? Should we then favor the ethnic cleansing of several million Palestinian Arabs from their ancestral homes, so that Israel can remain a democratic and Jewish state? (By the way, that would be a crime against humanity by any standard.) Or should we then press Israel to grant the Palestinians full political rights, consistent with America's own "melting-pot" traditions? (That is the end of the Zionist vision, and may be unworkable for other reasons). Or should we back (and subsidize) their confinement in a few disconnected enclaves (in Gaza, around Ramallah, and one or two other areas in the West Bank), with Israel controlling the borders, airspace, and water resources? (This is the apartheid solution, and it's where we are headed now.) I fear that some future president will have to choose between these three options, and it would be interesting to know what an experienced Middle East negotiator like Miller would advise him or her to do then.
I don't think that these are the only options available (and the framing of them puts all of the onus on Israel when there are other actors in this drama) but for the sake of argument let's assume Walt's got the bases covered. Why does he assume that any of these outcomes would provoke some kind of crisis in Israeli-U.S. relations or even present a problem for a future U.S. president and his/her foreign policy?
In any of the above scenarios, Israel will justify its behavior as being consistent with its core security interests. Israel's defenders will - quite rightly - argue that the U.S. supports regimes with far, far worse records when it comes to populations under their protection. If our support of Israel is paying real strategic dividends with respect to U.S. security, as some claim, then is it really a big deal how they treat the Palestinians?
In all of Walt's various scenarios, the people and NGOs who are concerned with the living conditions of the Palestinians will continue to call attention to their plight. And the people who currently don't care, or who believe that the Palestinians have brought it on themselves, or believe our support for Israel is mandated by God, or by our own security interests, will likely continue to put those considerations ahead of statehood for the Palestinians.