In the summer of 1995 I had the opportunity to “intern” with the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) in Jerusalem, a think-tank devoted to Israeli-Palestinian peace. I put “intern” in quotes because I never actually did anything constructive, as I was much more in absorbing-mode than in doing-mode. Most of the time I just read the volumes of the material available on the Arab-Israeli conflict at IPCRI’s office, then in an old Jerusalem home a stone’s throw from the Damascus Gate, and observed the staffers go on about their work. One of those staffers was IPCRI founder Gershon Baskin, a man with a big mind and a big heart.
I thought about Gershon today upon reading Professor Ian Lustick’s eye-popping and already widely-discussed op-ed in the New York Times titled “The Two-State Illusion.” In addition to shortsighted politicians with petty interests in the U.S., Israel and the P.A., Lustick argues that the two-state solution, or “illusion” as he puts it, still enjoys official political backing because of the career needs of a cadre of “peace process” professionals, though he is careful not to mention names. Lustick writes:
Finally, the “peace process” industry – with its legions of consultants, pundits, academics and journalists – needs a steady supply of readers, listeners and funders who are either desperately worried that this latest round of talks will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, or that it will not.
Reflecting on this particular assertion, I’m so glad I once got to meet Gershon Baskin and to see him in his element: I can say I have met at least one person in the “peace process” industry who does what he does not out of a love for mere process, but for no other reason than that he simply hates human suffering, and believes all peoples are entitled to peace and freedom.
Yet there are two far more worrisome aspects to Lustick’s NYT op-ed: He is entirely rational in his larger political diagnosis of the conflict, which will give him much street cred among those in the West who are Mideast truth-seekers with no pre-existing axe to grind with Israelis or Palestinians, and yet, his political remedy amounts to a full-scale erasure of the Jewish state.