Ian Lustick has graced the op-ed page of the New York Times with Two State Illusion. Here’s the thrust of his argument:
All sides have reasons to cling to this illusion. The Palestinian Authority needs its people to believe that progress is being made toward a two-state solution so it can continue to get the economic aid and diplomatic support that subsidize the lifestyles of its leaders, the jobs of tens of thousands of soldiers, spies, police officers and civil servants, and the authority’s prominence in a Palestinian society that views it as corrupt and incompetent.

Israeli governments cling to the two-state notion because it seems to reflect the sentiments of the Jewish Israeli majority and it shields the country from international opprobrium, even as it camouflages relentless efforts to expand Israel’s territory into the West Bank.

American politicians need the two-state slogan to show they are working toward a diplomatic solution, to keep the pro-Israel lobby from turning against them and to disguise their humiliating inability to allow any daylight between Washington and the Israeli government.

His argument is that the two state solution is a delusion, but what makes his op-ed so offensive is that Lustick identifies the main obstacle to a two state solution and peace in the Middle East is Jewish nationalism, Zionism.

Now of course, in the first paragraph he identifies the true problem without acknowledging it. It is the corruption of the Palestinian Authority that makes peace impossible. (It is that and the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.)

Whether or not Israel always accepted the idea of a two state solution, Israeli withdrawals within the first few years after Oslo means that the vast majority of Palestinians live under Palestinian rule. The only remaining question is what borders that state will have, and the Palestinian refusal to negotiate in good faith since then (including the so called “Aqsa intifada,” which was run by Yasser Arafat) has been the main stumbling block to a final agreement.

It’s also important to note one player whom Lustick, left out of his analysis: Hamas. Does that mean to suggest that Israel would do well to negotiate with Hamas that is devoted to its destruction? Maybe he doesn’t say that here explicitly, but it’s an argument he has made in the past. In fact he wrote that Israel should accept a “hudna,” or tactical cease-fire with Hamas. Given how well previous “hudnas” were observed it’s not unreasonable for Israel to reject such advice.

Reading what I’ve written so far, you might conclude Lustick believes that “settlements” are the biggest obstacle to Middle East peace. But that doesn’t give him enough credit. Lustick is a post-Zionist. Lustick believes that Zionism – in other words, Israel – is the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

If you aren’t certain of Lustick’s views, read the paradise he writes about at the end:
In such a radically new environment, secular Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank could ally with Tel Aviv’s post-Zionists, non-Jewish Russian-speaking immigrants, foreign workers and global-village Israeli entrepreneurs. Anti-nationalist ultra-Orthodox Jews might find common cause with Muslim traditionalists. Untethered to statist Zionism in a rapidly changing Middle East, Israelis whose families came from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as “Eastern,” but as Arab. Masses of downtrodden and exploited Muslim and Arab refugees, in Gaza, the West Bank and in Israel itself could see democracy, not Islam, as the solution for translating what they have (numbers) into what they want (rights and resources). Israeli Jews committed above all to settling throughout the greater Land of Israel may find arrangements based on a confederation, or a regional formula more attractive than narrow Israeli nationalism.
He isn’t talking about the end of settlements, but of the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
(Elder of Ziyon mocks this vision.)

This isn’t something new for Lustick, who wrote Israel Needs a New Map for the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. That essay was effectively rebutted by Dexter Van Zile who observed:
Compared to virtually every other country in the region, such as Syria and Lebanon, Israel has been a runaway success. Zionism has worked while virtually every other ideology that has manifested itself in the Middle East, whether it be Pan-Arabism, Baathism, or Islamism, has been an astounding, and catastrophic failure.

Lustick’s problem is a simple one: He simply cannot see what is going on in front of him.
Nor is surprising that the New York Times would publish this. In March, the Times published an essay by Joseph Levine that argued that Jews, alone, are not entitled to nationalism.

Lustick isn’t just opposed “settlements.” He is opposed to Israel. He may couch his argument in fanciful visions of the future, but that is the reality of it. It’s important to note who applaud his op-ed.

They cannot argue that they are critics of Israel, but opponents of Israel.
There’s one more point about Ian Lustick that needs to be made. I will credit him for writing in a reasonable tone; it’s a quality that, no doubt, makes his unreasonable arguments palatable to some. However, he is an extremist.

He once argued that he supported an American invasion of Afghanistan, but not one that was too “bloodless.” Martin Kramer analyzed Lustick’s argument:
To borrow academic jargon, this statement can be “unpacked,” and if you unpack it, this it what you get: regret that American forces didn’t suffer some sort of Mogadishu in Afghanistan, so that the victory would not have seemed “relatively bloodless on the American side.”

There’s probably a valid if banal analytical point lurking behind this: military superiority is its own temptation. But there is something more sinister and cynical in Lustick’s remarks, because he’s stating a personal preference, not an analytical thesis. And the remark’s cynicism extends beyond possible American losses. For if a bit more American blood had been shed in a longer war in Afghanistan, it’s certain that a lot more Afghan blood would have been shed as well.
Ian Lustick, whether arguing against Israel’s existence or for more American military deaths is an extremist. He has found a hospitable home at the New York Times.

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