The Brutal Simplicity of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Only by invalidating Arab claims to a “Palestinian” nationhood, can Israel legitimize its need (and right) to extend Jewish sovereignty over the cradle of Jewish civilization.  

"Peace Now" is a nice slogan but detached from realities. (Photo - Flash 90)

The most widely propagated and misleading falsehood regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict is, that it is an immensely complex and complicated problem, requiring great sophistication and creativity to resolve. In fact, quite the opposite is true. It is precisely its brutal simplicity however, that makes it so intractable and a solution so elusive.

Indeed, any attempt to portray the conflict as “complicated” or attribute it any “complexity”, is not a mark of sophistication/profundity. It is at best, indicative of a desire to evade the cruel unvarnished truth.

The fundamental parameters of the conflict and its defining outlines are so unambiguous and clear-cut, that the myriad of details/nuances that enshroud it have little impact on the manner in which it should be addressed. If one’s point of departure is that Jews should have political sovereignty, administered through a Jewish nation-state, located in the ancient Jewish homeland, then policy choices necessary to facilitate and sustain that objective, are incontrovertibly derived by a series of “political algorithms” through a process of almost mathematical deduction. 

It should be virtually axiomatic that to endure as the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel needs to be viable both geographically and demographically.

Accordingly, Israel cannot withdraw to indefensible borders, not only in terms of withstanding invasion but also ongoing attrition. This clearly dictates the parameters of the future frontiers to which Israel can afford to withdraw—and the impact this would necessarily have on any conceivable Arab interlocutor’s perspective on them as acceptable.

Furthermore, Israel must not merely initially retain—but durably sustain over time—a Jewish population, which comprises not only a numerical majority at the polls, but of sufficient predominance to ensure the Jewish character of the socio-cultural fabric of the country in terms of the conduct of its public life, the spirit of its national ceremonies and nature of its national symbols. This clearly dictates limits on the size of recalcitrant non-Jewish ethnic minorities who, not only do not identify with the Jewish character of the state, but reject it vehemently.

Thus, any policy that attempts to preserve demographic viability by sacrificing geographical exigencies (such as the two-state proposal based on the land-for-peace doctrine), will make the Jewish nation state untenable geographically.

Similarly, any policy that attempts to preserve geographic viability by sacrificing demographic exigencies (such as the one-state-of all its-inhabitants concept), will make the Jewish nation state untenable demographically.

Without defensible borders, no government of any state, can provide its citizens with the most basic element required of it by the social contract it has with the people—security. This is particularly true in the case of Israel, threatened, as it is, by an array of formidable threats no other country faces.  Sadly however, the extraordinary success the Israeli security forces have had over seven decades seems to have obscured that grim reality in the minds of many.

To defend itself adequately and at a bearable economic cost, Israel must retain control of the western slopes of the highland of Judea-Samaria, commanding the coastal plain; the eastern slopes commanding the approaches to the Jordan Valley; as well as the airspace above, and electromagnetic spectrum throughout them both. For a comprehensive study of Israel’s minimum security requirements security see here.

The physical parameters of these essential security requirements have unequivocal political implications. After all, they clearly obviate the possibility of establishing any self-governing entity with territorial parameters acceptable to the Arabs. Simply put – that which appears to be even minimally adequate for Israel, seems to be totally inadequate for the Arabs.

This leads us to the first chain of algorithmic-like reasoning which shows that Israel’s acceptance of the legitimacy of Arab national claims in “Palestine” has in effect laid the foundations for the assault on its own legitimacy. Although—due to the distortive dictates of prevailing political-correctness—this may appear counter-intuitive to many, the logic behind it is compelling and the conclusion to be drawn from it unassailable.

After all:

  • If the “Palestinian” narrative, which portrays the Arabs as an authentic national entity in Palestine is acknowledged as legitimate, then all aspirations, such as achieving “Palestinian” statehood, that arise from that narrative, are legitimate. 
  • Accordingly, any policy that precludes the achievement of those aspirations will be perceived as illegitimate. 
  • So, if the legitimacy of a “Palestinian” state is accepted, then any measures incompatible with its viability are illegitimate. 
  • However, in the absence of wildly optimistic, and hence irresponsibly unrealistic, “best-case” assumptions – any policy ensuring Israel’s minimal security requirements, will preclude the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. 
  • Consequently, any endeavor to realistically provide Israel with minimal security will be perceived as illegitimate. 
  • Therefore, by accepting the admissibility of a Palestinian state, one necessarily admits the inadmissibility of measures required to ensure Israeli security—and hence the inherent lack of Israel’s viability.

The inevitable conclusion therefore is that for Israel to secure conditions that adequately address its minimal security requirements, and hence its survival as the nation state of the Jewish people, the “Palestinian” narrative, and the aspirations that flow from it, must be invalidated. 

It is difficult to overstate the far-reaching significance of the need to invalidate this pernicious narrative. But, unless this is done, Israel cannot formulate —much less implement—any  policy that can effectively address either the Geographic or the Demographic imperatives—much less both of them. 

For it is only by invalidating the authenticity of Arab claims to a “Palestinian Arab” nationhood, and pursuant claims for statehood in Judea-Samaria, that Israel can legitimize its need (and right) to extend Jewish sovereignty over the cradle of Jewish civilization.  

Only by extending Jewish sovereignty to Judea-Samaria (and eventually Gaza) can Israel ensure who—and who does not—control these strategically critical areas, adjacent to the nation’s major population centers and vital infrastructure installations. Unless it can accomplish that, it cannot adequately address the Geographic imperative and ensure the fate of its citizens, with whose security it is charged.

Adequately addressing the Geographic imperative by extending Jewish sovereignty over Judea-Samaria and Gaza though, immediately raises the problem of addressing the other imperative, the Demographic one.

I have argued repeatedly that it would be impossible to incorporate the Palestinian-Arabs residents into the enfranchised population of Israel without critically jeopardizing the Jewish character of the country – see for example To My Colleague Caroline, A Caveat, Islamizing Israel—When the radical Left and hard Right concur; “Sovereignty? Yes, but look before you leap”  Decades of venomous Judeophobic incitement have made the prospect of forging Jew and Arab into a sustainable cohesive society so implausible, as to disqualify any such suggestion as an acceptable basis for future policy.

Accordingly, for anyone whose point of departure is that Israel should endure over time as the nation-state of the Jewish people, there is one conclusion. The only conceivable way forward which prevents Israel from descending into coercively imposing its control over an unenfranchised non-Jewish minority or forcibly ejecting it, is to significantly reduce the Palestinian-Arab population by economically induced emigration—i.e. by enhanced material incentives for leaving and commensurately enhanced material disincentives for staying.

The only way that such a policy can be implemented, without crippling international censure and sanction, is by a massive public diplomacy assault on the “Palestinian” narrative to disprove, discredit and invalidate it—for unless this is achieved, the Jewish nation state will eventually —probably sooner than later—become untenable either geographically or demographically, or both.

Can the “Palestinian” narrative be invalidated? As unpalatable as this might sound to some, for anyone committed to Israel’s ongoing existence as the Jewish nation-state, there is little alternative.

Contemplating other less challenging alternatives is little more than an exercise is self-delusion.  Hoping for the Palestinian-Arabs to metamorphose into more Judeophilic beings is a futile illusion — especially in view of the fact that most the discernible changes in Palestinian society seem to be in precisely the opposite direction.

In an article published over half- decade ago, I wrote of the need to invalidate the Palestinian narrative: “This of course is easier said than done. For rolling back the accumulated decades of distortion, deception and delusion that have become entrenched in the collective international consciousness will be a Herculean task. But the immense scale of the task cannot diminish the imperative of its implementation.

This is no less true today than before—probably more so.


Dr. Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

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8 comments on the article

  1. Lies, lies and more lies. No serious military man or woman would accept your analysis vis-a-vis the security situation on the West Bank. I have repeatedly railed against the Big Lie however, sadly, you and your devious forces seem to have the upper hand. Your arguments smell of racism. Fifty years ago, post-occupation, many great Israeli leaders predicted the Occupation would be our moral downfall. And you use convoluted nationalistic logic to try to justify it. The Jewish state is supposed to be “a light among the nations…” You spread darkness, Dr. Sherman, you and Caroline Glick and Melanie Phillips and Prager…Yigal Amir succeeded, tragically, and you folks have come out of the woodwork over the years to build up a narrative which in a sense justifies his actions. Yassir Arafat himself, our erstwhile implacable enemy and the bane of the Right…CAME TO THE RABIN RESIDENCE in the middle of the night to console Leah Rabin. The Palestinians since then HAVE WANTED TO MAKE PEACE. You keep lying…I will respond…and others. You impress merely the most extreme, unrealistic Right…American Jewry wants nothing to do with you. Alas, I am one American Jew living in Israel for nearly forty years. I served in the military in a combat capacity in the roughest of areas. I witnessed the ramifications of our actions. I even wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post in Sept. of 1988 predicting the first Intifada…Why did Bibi allow Israel to sell super-sophisticated submarines to the Egyptians…? And you talk about security…

    1. You appear to have a complaint Portnoy but since you have no facts with which to back up your argument, you appropriately resort to name calling and imaginary claims.

    2. Blair Portnoy, you write

      “…American Jewry wants nothing to do with you. …I served in the military in a combat capacity in the roughest of areas. I witnessed the ramifications of our actions.”

      How about those of the US and is Western Allies

      For example

      “LESLEY STAHL (on US sanctions against Iraq): We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima…. Is the price worth it?”

      MADELEINE ALBRIGHT (then-UN ambassador, later secretary of state in the Clinton administration): “I think this is a very hard choice, but… we think the price is worth it.
      – On 60 Minutes, May 12, 1996 ”

      Or for example

      PROPORTIONALITY AND HYPOCRISY,7340,L-3656420,00.html
      Why are military ops in Gaza, Kosovo judged by wildly disparate criteria?

      PROPORTIONALITY & HYPOCRISY: NATO IN KOSOVO VS. IDF IN GAZA JANUARY 26, 2010 By Martin Sherman 2009-2010 Hebrew Union College/University of Southern California Schusterman Visiting Israeli Professor of Security Studies and International Policy.

      Pray tell. How come all this and the tens of thousands – plausibly even far more – US committed civilian deaths in the later wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (under both Democratic and Republican admiration does not arouse the same “righteous outrage” among “…American Jewry [who] wants nothing to do with [Israel]”.

      Appalling double standards, anyone?

  2. Blair Portnoy, you write:

    “No serious military man or woman would accept your analysis vis-a-vis the security situation on the West Bank.”

    May I suggest you familiarize yourself with this:


    Complied by – among others:

    – Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Yaalon (Before he entered politics)
    – Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan
    – Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror
    – Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    – Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze’evi Farkash
    – Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel

  3. Imagine the lives saved injuries avoided money saved & safety achieved had Israel done what every sane country in history would’ve done, even in far lesser extreme circumstances, i.e., repatriate back to Jordan & (from Gaza) to Egypt the overwhelmingly genocidal mythical so-called Palestinians (OGMSPs). This remains Israel’s legal right. Repatriation was is & always will be the ONLY effective AND compassionate full & complete solution to the ongoing existential threat to the extremely tiny state of Israel posed by the OGMSPs. The Jewish people via Israel are the sole legal sovereigns of all of the land west of the Jordan River. See Legal Rights and Title of Sovereignty of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel and Palestine under International Law, by the late legal scholar, Howard Grief, obm,

    1. Moishe:

      You write: “Repatriation was is & always will be the ONLY effective AND compassionate full & complete solution to the ongoing existential threat to the extremely tiny state of Israel…”

      Indeed it is!!

      For the only non-coercive (or at least non-“kinetic”) approach that can ensure the long-term survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – see: RETHINKING PALESTINE: THE HUMANITARIAN PARADIGM

  4. 100 years of residence of two peoples on a narrow strip of land proved that Jews and Arabs can not and should not live in one country. Every nation must live in its own country. This is the essence of the UN decision on the partition of Palestine.
    ALL Jews were expelled from the Gaza Strip and from areas A and B.
    It’s time to ALL 6 million Arabs of Palestine to obtain the citizenship of the Palestinian National Autonomy.
    Only then will begin economical, political and physical separation between Jews and Arabs.
    Without this, peace in Palestine is impossible.

  5. Very good analysis of the situation but it lacks some suggestions to implement the inevitable solution demonstrated by the author, something I did described recently. The Arabs do have their history on our land. One of mere occupation , while we were prevented to return by the christian and moselm nations among which we were dwelling during out exile. And those who were still remaining on pour land when de finally returned, although they actively cultivated an hatred against the Jews out of incitation and despair, deserve à viable Arabe land for their repatriation. And that land is Jordan. With strong funding from all the powers involved, first and foremost the christian nations of Europe who prevented the Jews to return to their homeland during over 1600 years, and the moslem Arab countries of the Middle East, the naturel brothers of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, as well as Gaza. The latter should not suffer more than needed (I.e. less than the Jews expelled from these Middle East Arab countries, when not massacred) from the completion of the transfert, started in 1948 by the expulsion of the Jews toward Israel. Therefore, the condition for a viable economic an social situation is required for Jordan. The entity this created would naturally become a partner with its best neibour first: Israël. Inch Allah!