The Strategy of Israel was formed many years before the holocaust and has changed little over time. The goal was, and is, to create an ethnically pure state for Jews and to render the creation of a viable Palestinian state difficult, if not impossible. Israel does not rule out such a state, but its intention is that should one be created it would be dominated economically and militarily by Israel. Israel’s motives are clear. They may not be deemed honorable, but at least one knows where they are coming from. What is not clear is the extent to which they might be willing to compromise.
Makdisi depicts the Palestinian people as having the simple motives of just wanting to lead a normal life on the lands they have traditionally owned. The Israelis are characterized as tormentors who use arbitrary and suffocating "security" measures to make leading a normal life all but impossible. I have no doubt that that is true. The author gives many personal accounts of abuse and assorted harassments that the Palestinians must endure. However, he weakens his case by barely mentioning the incidents of Palestinian-originated violence and terrorism. It may be that the Israeli response is disproportionate and inappropriate for the actual threat. If he had presented an Israeli side of the story—and then proceeded to demolish it—he would have had more credibility in the eyes of the unfamiliar reader.
Makdisi says early on that he is in favor of a single-state solution. It is not until the end of the book that he discusses what that means and how he thinks that will come about. What he envisages is full right of return for the displaced Palestinians to a state where Jews and Palestinians would coexist as citizens with equal rights. This would be a state where the Palestinians would have a significant population advantage. He believes that a combination of public opinion and the types of sanctions, boycotts and divestments that were used against South Africa would be successful in forcing change. He goes on to say
I can only view Makdisi as either hopelessly naive, or transparently devious.
Curiously, Makdisi makes no mention of the Arab League, which should be his most dependable ally. The Arab league has bought into the two-state solution which Makdisi deems impossible. He also dismisses the Palestinian authority as a feckless and corrupt bunch of Israeli tools. Consider this view from a 6/29/2010 column by Tom Friedman in the New York Times.
"The most senior Israeli military people told me the new security force that Fayyad has built is the real deal—real enough that Israel has taken down most of the check points inside the West Bank. So internal commerce and investment are starting to flow, and even some Gazans are moving there."
Ehud Yaari, an Israeli author and policy expert, has similar concerns. He has written an article entitled An Interim Agreement for Israel and Palestine that appeared in the March/April 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs. He suggests that the two-state solution should be put into concrete now even if all the details cannot be ironed out until later. He fears that the two sides may drift further away from reconciliation if too much time passes. As the Palestinian Authority grows stronger, it may conclude that it is in a position to make greater demands on Israel than Israel is ever likely to accept. On the Israeli side, the majority of people are currently in favor of a two-state solution, even though that would certainly lead to a violent response from conservatives and settlers who would have to be moved. The longer the settlers reside in place and the longer the Israelis have to grow comfortable and secure behind their barriers, the less interested they will be in any traumatic accommodation. Yaari claims that the following offer was made and ignored by the Palestinian Authority.
This is a complex situation with no single obvious solution. However, there are obviously bad solutions, such as Makdisi’s concept of a single state.