But it also has a certain delicacy, in particular in its openness to alternative histories, alternative political arrangements. “It is worth considering how the Middle East might have evolved had Arab rulers accepted the partition of Palestine,” [Ruth Wisse] writes. There would have been some voluntary shifts of population. Arab Palestine might have federated with Jordan. Regional priorities would have dictated new patterns of trade, commerce and development. Jews and Arabs who wanted to live in the other’s land could have traveled back and forth.
I’m not sure about the Palestinians federating with Jordan, but this basically seems right to me. The world would have been a much better place had the Arab states accepted the UN partition plan. But Kirchick runs with this observation in a weird direction:
Indeed, imagine how history might have changed had the Arab powers accepted the mere presence of a Jewish state in their midst. Devastating wars would have been averted, radical Islam would not have the appeal it currently does, economies would be on the rise. Why is the existence of Israel such a big deal, not just for the Arabs, but for gullible and guilt-ridden Westerners who insist that the Palestinian issue must be solved before any other Middle Eastern problem can be tackled?
The establishment of Israel was a big deal to the Arabs because of the legacy of imperialism. Similarly, many Westerners think progress on the Palestinian issue is vital to making progress on other issues in the region because this is a very big deal to Arabs. I don’t think friends of Israel do themselves any favors by refusing to recognize these basic facts.