Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Dr. Mordechai Nisan, a retired lecturer in Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He continues to teach in other educational institutions on topics ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict, Islam, Israel, Lebanon, and Minorities in the Mideast. He is the author of the new book, Only Israel West of the River.
FP: Dr. Mordechai Nisan, welcome to Frontpage Interview
Thank you for having me.
Congratulations on your new book. What inspired you to write it and why did you write it now in 2011?
Nisan: Thanks Jamie.
There is a significant erosion in the world and in Israel itself of belief in the justice of Zionism and Israel as a legitimate Jewish state. I felt that the charges of racism and illegal occupation had to be met in a reasoned fashion, so I mobilized arguments on behalf of Israel’s cause. In 2011, we witness the Palestinian diplomatic campaign for statehood, and this idea focused on the territories of Judea and Samaria – what the world calls the West Bank. It is a grave threat to Israel’s welfare. My response is a timely and I hope effective defense of Israel’s national rights and explanation of her political and security predicament.
FP: What is the major theme of the book?
Nisan: The predominant theme is that Israel is justifiably in control of all of Jerusalem and the territories as a historical homeland and national space for fulfilling Israel’s development and growth. This converges with my argument against a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, a state that would destabilize the situation on the ground, catalyze tension and terrorism, radicalize the Arabs in Israel, demoralize Israel’s population, and raise doubts about the country’s stamina to face the Palestinian push to the sea. It is the Palestinian state idea that will excite popular Palestinian passions that Israel is on the way down and that the future is with the Palestinians.
FP: How does this book fit into the range of your other research and writing concerns?
Nisan: I have written on Israel from the start of my research with a focus on the Arab challenge to the Jewish state. So this book is a continuation and application of my thinking given the present circumstances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But my broader research concerns and writings, like minority peoples and Lebanon, have sensitized me to the fragility of small peoples in the Muslim/Arab dominated Middle East. As a small people in an Arab sea, the Jews of Israel will always face demanding challenges to preserve their identity and cultivate their resourcefulness in pursuing the modern Israel national venture.
FP: What do you make of Abbas? How is he different from the leaders of Hamas?
Nisan: Coming after the passing of flamboyant and legendary Fatah-founder Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas has to try and make his individual political mark. He has adopted the political discourse of peace-making with Israel, but without ever abandoning the essential Palestinian demands, like refugee return, which are designed to destroy Israel from within. Without any doubt, leading the Fatah movement, the PLO, and the Palestinian Authority, Abbas shares with Hamas the long-term Palestinian goal to destroy Israel. Hamas uses an Islamic idiom and a Sharia-based policy agenda, while the Abbas-run PLO/PA apparatus plays to the Western audience, media outlets, and the Israeli public. The deceiving and pugnacious Abbas is a far greater danger and threat to Israel than Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, a transparent enemy of Israel.
FP: The Palestinians have been offered a state many times – on many generous conditions. Why do they reject all the offers?
Nisan: The Palestinians rejected a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past because they considered it a capitulation to Israel’s existence and a refutation of getting all of Palestine. The revolutionary campaign in principle sets its political sights on Israel’s elimination more than on Palestinian statehood. Yet, in the 1980’s, Palestinians began to murmur sweet nothings that they would settle for a state alongside Israel rather than in place of Israel. It is all sand in the world’s eyes. The Palestinians believe in a staged-process to get Israel to withdraw and suffer domestic demoralization, while the Palestinian flag will arouse Arab nationalist and Islamic religious arrogance, gushing with visceral contempt for the Jews wherever the Palestinians wander around Israeli society – in the streets, the universities, and shopping malls. This Israeli-Palestinian conflict contains powerful cultural undertones that arm the Palestinians with the indomitable drive toward victory – not compromise or reconciliation at all.
FP: What do you think of the vote for an independent Palestinian state that might be coming up at the U.N.? What are the possibilities?
Nisan: A declaration by the UN General Assembly for an independent Palestinian state is assured; getting a vote through the Security Council is not in the political arithmetic of its composition. But it is important to appreciate the historic occasion when the broad international community is essentially united behind the idea of a Palestinian state – jihadist, Islamic, irredentist – in the heart of the Jewish people’s homeland. This world community – Europeans, Africans, Asians, and others – supports the peace-and-war strategy that the Palestinians conduct against the small state of Israel.
In reality, the world community is knowingly determined to undermine the territorial integrity and national resilience of the besieged Jewish state. The mantra of “Palestinian statehood” should not fool any decent person, government, or country. The world has basically gone sour on Israel, tattered and feathered as illegitimate and criminal in its essence and policy. I only hope Israel will have, beyond the requisite resources, the wisdom to do all that its interests demand, and against anyone who threatens its welfare.
FP: Does this book offer a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Nisan: It is somewhat presumptuous to confidently offer a solution, so I prefer to talk of a resolution or containment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The locus for some kind of conflict-resolution, perhaps not peace as an idealistic notion, is in Jordan, east of the river. There the majority Palestinian population has the right to affirm their national rights against the alien-origin and minority-based Hashemite monarchy. Kings have fallen in modern Mid-eastern history, like Egypt and Iraq, and the collapse of the regime in Jordan would be part of a historical process. This would not be a national calamity and it would, rather, offer the Palestinians in Jordan and elsewhere the opportunity for statehood. The river should be the border and the two-state solution – Israel west of the river and Palestine east of the river – can be implemented in a strategically sound fashion.
FP: Dr. Mordechai Nisan, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.