Thoughts for the New Year.

I don’t know anything. So, here are my thoughts on a couple of issues.

Climate change is a grave reality. However, I doubt that people can entirely hold back (let alone turn back) global warming. Carbon-burning is central to the industrialization of developing-economies. There aren’t a lot of cheap and ready-to-use alternatives. Instead, there is going to be a long period of adaptation to worsened conditions. It is going to make environmentalists, intellectuals, and other “progressive” people very angry that there will turn out to be market-driven profit opportunities when statist restrictions might have provided more desirable outcomes.

In terms of foreign policy, Vladimir Putin is considerably more of an adult than are American leaders. Balance-of-power politics and spheres of influence are realities in world politics. Power and influence are not the single and permanent prerogative of the United States. For one thing, Ukraine is to Russia as Mexico is to the United States. (“Pity poor Mexico. So far from God, so near the United States.”) For another thing, Putin has tried to help the US out of a couple of ditches into which American leaders have driven it. Syrian chemical weapons and a possible solution to the Iranian nuclear problem are the key examples. All the while he has been vilified because he isn’t a democrat at home and he’s resisting the onward march of Western power around the borders of Russia.

In the Middle East we are witnessing a re-writing the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Iraq is fragmenting into Shi’ite, Sunni, and Kurdish enclaves. This fragmentation is being papered-over during the current emergency. The Shi’ites will never be able to repair their behavior during the Maliki period. Syria is going to fragment into Alawite, Sunni, and Kurdish enclaves. A Kurdish state will emerge. This new country will have trouble with both Turkey and Iran. Will Jordan or Saudi Arabia absorb the unstable and impoverished new Sunni micro-state in western Iraq?

The “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict isn’t. Israel cannot afford to have a Palestinian state created. That state would be implacably revanchist, regardless of whatever professions its spokesmen might make in order to obtain sovereignty. Over the centuries, many people have felt that the problems of the world could be resolved if only the Jews would die and stop bothering people. Well, the Israelis aren’t buying this line.

The United States gets much less from the US-Israel alliance than does Israel.

ISIS isn’t a serious problem. The enthusiasm for “jihad” among many Muslims is a serious problem. It is likely to be around for a long time. I’m not sure that it can be de-legitimized by Western propaganda. I’m not sure that playing military whack-a-mole with every new outbreak will solve the problem.

Much as I agree with the objectives being pursued by President Obama on some key issues, I don’t believe that he has the authority for some of his actions. The Supreme Court is likely to overturn the authority-grab carried out by the EPA. The immigration problem wasn’t/isn’t a crisis. It’s just a stick with which to beat the Republicans and an effort to keep Hispanic-American voters on the side of the Democrats. American liberals are going to rue the day that they celebrated his unilateral actions on coal-burning energy generation and immigration. One day, a Republican president will invoke the Obama example.

Two State of Denial Solution.

Creating the state of Israel was a mistake. It was an injustice for European settlers to create a new state on Arab territory without the consent of the Arab peoples. It would have been better to admit all the European Jews who survived the Holocaust to the United States. However, it was a mistake made more than sixty years ago. People often learn to live with awkward circumstances. People in the democratic, capitalist West came to accept the existence of the Soviet Union without wanting to take long, soapy showers with Communism.

In 1948 Israel’s war for independence created many Palestinian refugees in camps in Egypt’s Gaza Strip and the West Bank that was absorbed into Jordan. Had Egypt and Jordan so desired, they could have created a Palestinian state out of these territories. Thus, the “two state” solution initially failed because of the ambitions of predatory Arab states.

In 1967 Israel’s armed forces over-ran the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the course of fighting a preventive war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. In 1974 the UN proposed ending the conflict by creating two states, with Israel transferring sovereignty over the occupied territories to new Palestinian state. This became the accepted solution for the next forty years.

Late in his second term, President Bill Clinton worked out a peace offer from Israel to the Palestinians. Israel would transfer Gaza, 95 percent of the West Bank (eventually), and a big chunk of East Jerusalem to a Palestinian state. In return, the Palestinians would end the struggle with Israel and accept its right to exist, and also abandon the “right of return” for Palestinians displaced in the 1948 war. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) rejected the deal, insisting that Israel had to evacuate all of the West Bank, including Jerusalem.

In 2005 Israel ended its occupation of Gaza. In 2007, Hamas—the rival to the PLO for leadership of the struggle against Israel—seized control of Gaza. Hamas soon launched missile attacks on Israel. In response, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) battered Gaza until Hamas cried “uncle.” Then they clamped a tight blockade on Gaza meant to starve Hamas of military resources and to make life so miserable for the people inside the “world’s largest open-air prison camp” that they might re-think their support for Hamas. It didn’t work. Moreover, the “Arab Spring” rebellion in Egypt brought to power a government of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, so long-standing Egyptian border controls were relaxed. Hamas rushed to bring in thousands of missiles in preparation for a new attack on Israel. Hamas then began the war in Gaza in Summer 2014. That war put the final nail in the coffin of a two-state solution to the Palestine conflict.

The Palestinian situation on the West Bank soon deteriorated following Arafat’s rejection of the peace deal. Israeli settlements increased in number and size. This created “facts on the ground” that will shape any future peace negotiations. In sum, in any future peace settlement, the Palestinians will have to accept less than they were offered in 2000. Fat chance.

Israel is a small place, but Gaza is relatively remote from the centers of Israeli population. The West Bank in contrast, is close to these centers. A West Bank that came under Hamas rule would pose a mortal danger to Israel. There is little reason to think that the PLO could put up much more of a fight against a Hamas coup in the West Bank than it did in Gaza.

In addition, states have certain rights under international law. It would be impossible to impose effective disarmament on Palestine. It would be difficult for Israel to respond to terrorist attacks out of Palestine without bringing down a hail of criticism and international action.

Solving this problem is going to take a lot of new thinking, not old nostrums.

“Giving up on the two-state solution,” The Week, 12 December 2014, p. 11.