After Prof. John Mearsheimer’s lecture on the end of the two-state solution, in which the Prof. declared (my emphasis):
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.
Hussein Ibish found himself a little discouraged. Perhaps rightly so, Ibish found the lecture to representative of a defeatist mentality that sent the wrong message to struggling Palestinians; indeed, Ibish found Mearsheimer’s message to be dangerous. According to Ibish (a perhaps a bit of simplification here), the point of Mearsheimer’s lecture was to simply say that if Palestinians avoid justifying Israel’s future ethnic cleansing by committing grave acts of violence, Israel’s colonial policies will force the occupation and Israel itself to collapse (my emphasis):
I’m not sure I can imagine, short of a jihadist rant, a worse or more damaging message to a Palestinian audience than Mearsheimer’s conclusion:
“In sum, there are great dangers ahead for the Palestinians, who will continue to suffer terribly at the hands of the Israelis for some years to come. But it does look like the Palestinians will eventually get their own state, mainly because Israel seems bent on self-destruction.”
What is the take away from that indefensible assertion? Of course it’s that Palestinians don’t really have to do anything, except avoid the kind of violence that might justify massive ethnic cleansing by Israel, and simply wait for the Israeli project to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.
However, Ibish believes that Mearsheimer’s insistence that the one-state track has reached a permanent dead-end foolish. Asserting that Mearsheimer is not only overlooking a number of important facts specific to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ibish concludes that Mearsheimer is using his apartheid prediction to scare the American Jewry into supporting a two-state solution and pressuring Israel to make the sacrifices necessary for such a peace (my emphasis):
All I can say is that the Michel de Nostredame Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co-director of the Program on International Clairvoyance at the University of Chicago has a much better crystal ball than I do. But there are so many obvious and crucial missing elements in his analysis that it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that he basically doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Mearsheimer has spent the past few years mainly focused on elaborating how much and why he dislikes the pro-Israel lobby and the extent to which it has a baneful effect on American politics and policy. Frankly, I find it hard to read this speech as anything other than a continuation of that agenda, and I think the crucial sentence in the whole lecture is, “What is truly remarkable about this situation is that the Israel lobby is effectively helping Israel commit national suicide.” …But I detect something a little more in this remark, and it strikes me that this is the navel of the speech, so to speak, its probable starting point, the pointed jab he really wanted to make and around which he has constructed this entire, extremely shaky, argument.
Ibish concludes (again, my emphasis):
What Mearsheimer fails to see is that while it’s true that extremists in the pro-Israel lobby are assisting Israel in its journey towards oblivion by counseling or enabling permanent occupation, he is performing the same Kevorkian-style tender mercy for the Palestinians by counseling and enabling the abandonment of efforts to end the occupation. Telling the Palestinians that they are doomed for a certain, probably long, term to endure formalized apartheid and there isn’t really anything they can do to avoid that, but that in the long run they basically don’t have to do much of anything for their national project to triumph since Israel will inevitably self-destruct is about as unhelpful, unrealistic and disempowering as anything I can imagine. It’s been my long-standing suspicion that while Mearsheimer clearly doesn’t like the pro-Israel lobby, he doesn’t seem to really understand, or even care that much about the well-being of, the Palestinian people. That Mearsheimer is using them and their cause as a foil in his ongoing feud with the pro-Israel lobby, which he has been at odds with for so long he is starting to resemble, all but confirms this.
[tweetmeme] So, clearly there are some differences of opinion. Personally, I find myself placed somewhere in the middle of the two. As for Mearsheimer’s assertion that failure of the two-state tract will inevitably bring an apartheid state, I would say that, while possible and perhaps even probable, all-out apartheid is not a certainty. Like Ibish, I say that Mearsheimer ignored or overlooked other possibilities, but I would say that this was probably a intentional decision. I agree with Ibish that Mearsheimer’s talk, though ostensibly aimed at Palestinians and their supporters, was more geared towards the American Jews.
Thus, his decision to overlook other possibilities and to focus on the destructive nature of apartheid could be seen as a strategy to motivate American Jews to pressure Israel (or perhaps their American politicians) into making the painful, but necessary sacrifices for a two-state peace while the option is still alive.
Is this what Mearsheimer meant? Hard to tell, though it seems perhaps a little too Machiavellian for a lecture at the Palestine Center. Mearsheimer’s intentions aside, the future of Israel/Palestine presented by the Professor is possible and must be avoided.
Photo from Antilogic