Ian Lustick, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, has written a valuable study concerning the changing relationship of Britain to Ireland (1834-1922); France to Algeria (1936-62) and Israel to the West Bank/Gaza (since 1967). This richly detailed and thoroughly documented book can be read on a number of different levels and therefore has much to offer to a wide variety of audiences.
On one level, Lustick uses the three case studies to explore how states incorporate additional territories and conversely how they relinquish control of all or most of the same lands. By utilizing a two-threshold model of institutionalization (and building on the work of others such as Antonio Gramsci and Stephen Krasner), he posits a theory to explain both state expansion and contraction. While the theory is developed from the three cases at hand, Lustick convincingly holds that it "has robust implications for explaining patterns of order and disorder associated with any large-scale discontinuity in the size and shape of states that does not primarily and directly result from war" (p. xii). To prove this, the author in chapter eleven applies his theory to help explain the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The framework could be equally applied to other societies with ongoing ethnic or nationalist questions such as Quebec's status within the Canadian federation. Additionally from a theoretical perspective, Lustick's book makes keen observations about the related concepts of democratization, state building and regime change.
Secondly, by employing the British and French examples, the study can be read for its insights into the contemporary challenges Israel faces with regard to the West Bank and Gaza. It is perhaps on this level that the book would be most appealing to subscribers of Middle East Policy. Lustick is the first to compare these three cases in depth. After reading his careful analysis of the lessons Israel could learn from the British and French experiences, one wonders why someone did not see the striking similarities long ago.
Chapters three through eight chronicle the British-Irish and French-Algerian histories. For London and Paris, altering the relationship with Ireland and Algeria created numerous dilemmas. As Lustick writes, the territories were physically close to the metropole, "too extensively settled by nationals of that country, too tightly bound by legal, economic, ideological and/or security-related ties, for decisions to be taken concerning their separation... without unprecedented risks of mutiny or civil conflict" (p. 48). In both, especially in Britain between 1912 and 1914 and in France from 1957 to 1961, the incorporation question pushed the metropolitan country to the brink of civil war and provoked constitutional and regime crises. As Lustick notes, "settlers, metropolitan conservatives and army officers made joint extraconstitutional challenges to legally promulgated government policies" (p. 332). Indeed, civil war was only forestalled in Britain by the outbreak of World War I. The opposing sides to the Irish question agreed to postpone debate during the course of the conflict. When the Irish issue resurfaced again, the question was transformed into independence for Catholic Ireland and exclusion of much of Protestant Ireland from Dublin's control. Regarding Algeria, debate over the colony's status was the contributing factor to the collapse of the French Fourth Republic in 1958. Civil war and/or military takeovers were only narrowly averted in France on three major occasions by the sheer will and charismatic leadership of President Charles De Gaulle (May 1958 at the Collapse of the Fourth Republic, Barricades Week in January 1960 and the Generals' Revolt of April 1961). In the end, Britain and France failed to absorb the territories for a number of reasons: 1) substantial parts of the metropolitan population saw withdrawal as necessary to avoid catastrophe; 2) nationalist sentiment, mobilization and violence challenged the colonial rule; 3) the economic, material and emotional costs of staying began to outweigh their benefits and 4) international pressures and attitudes (over colonialism and self-determination) made it difficult to remain. Even with these conditions present, both London and Paris found that only after fundamental shifts in the electorate created strong governments (not slim coalition governments)--and more specifically led to changes in the way parliament functioned-did withdrawal become possible. In Britain removing the veto previously exercised by the conservative, pro-Union House of Lords over legislation passed by the House of Commons politically reoriented the Irish question in 1911. Similar institutional changes occurred in France as well. They manifested themselves most visibly, of course, in the collapse of the Fourth Republic. Yet change was also evident with De Gaulle's organizational restructuring of the new Fifth Republic by shifting power away from the legislative branch toward a strong, almost quasi-monarchical presidency that institutionally made withdrawal possible.
As Israel has a democratic parliamentary system similar to those of Britain and France, the European experiences contribute much to understanding the past, present and future of Israel's involvement with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Lustick provides a rich and nuanced examination of the de-facto annexation in chapters one and two. Drawing on his previous work in For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1988), he then presents a particularly perceptive discussion of those in Israeli society who might "precipitate civil war rather than tolerate Israeli 'abandonment' of key portions of the national patrimony" (p. 31). This threat naturally poses challenges to the Israeli regime itself over whether any government would risk such a possibility by withdrawing from substantial portions of the territories. In fact, there are three major institutional worries currently facing Israel: 1) political defections from the governing coalition or party; 2) the formation by settlers and their supporters of a voting bloc in the Knesset on which governments are formed or felled and 3) what Lustick terms the "regime threshold," where a government becomes more concerned about civil unrest, violence and challenges to legitimate government institutions than anything else.
In addition to these institutional issues, one must take into account the psychological factors (i.e., is it possible for Israelis to view the territories as separate from Israel itself). The author addresses this question first by recounting the Likud governments' attempts to foster the very opposite view in Israel:
... Begin's governments undertook a wide-ranging, multifaceted campaign to encourage Jews to settle in all parts of the territories, encourage Arabs to emigrate from them, and strip as many legal, administrative and psychological means as possible from the pre-1967 Green Line (p. 356).
By depriving the old Green Line of all practical meaning, and by habituating Israelis to a country in which territories acquired in 1967 were no less accessible or attractive, no more dangerous or alien, than territories acquired in 1948, Israelis would lose not only the inclination but the ability to distinguish "Israel" from the "occupied territories." No formal declaration of "annexation" would be necessary (pp. 34-5).
Despite the tremendous settlement policy of the Likud governments between 1977 and 1984 [the 5,023 settlers in 1977 climbed to 44,000 by the 1984 elections (p. 11)] and the growing belief among Israeli "hawks" and "doves" and even many Palestinians that Israel's presence in the West Bank/Gaza was "irreversible," the perception shift did not occur. While there continues to be a core of firm believers in keeping control of the territories (just as there was in the permanency of the British Union or Algerie francaise), the hegemonic attitude of a "Greater Israel" does not exist among the larger Israeli public. A number of factors contributed to this sentiment. The intifada and the reemergence of Palestinian nationalism began to reassert the Green Line by the late 1980s. Economic concerns and the end of the Cold War also played a role. Corresponding to the Irish and Algerian examples (which Lustick compares to the West Bank and Gaza in chapters nine and ten), these changes legitimized public discussions of disengagement as a possible and credible alternative within Israel.
Lustick cautions that while the similarities are many among the three cases, there are also a number of key differences. The two most striking contrasts are: 1) neither the Algerians nor the Irish had the potential irredentist claims to territory of the metropole that the Palestinians in the West Bank/Gaza have regarding those areas in Israel proper now populated by more than 750,000 Palestinians (the so-called Israeli Arabs) and 2) the security implications for Israel in relinquishing control of the West Bank/Gaza are far greater than those of Britain in pulling out of Ireland or France in leaving Algeria. No Irish or Mediterranean seas separate Israel from the territories, thus Israeli and Palestinian destinies are forever intertwined. Yet, at the same time, other dissimilarities may make separation actually easier for Israel than for the other two. Israel, despite de facto annexation, never legally integrated the territories (except for Arab East Jerusalem) into the state. Second, unlike the other examples, Jewish settlers in the West Bank/Gaza would not be sacrificing a higher standard of living if they left the territories and returned to reside in Israel.
Lustick concludes that it is impossible to incorporate the territories into Israel. The question then remains for Israel, what kind of regime crisis, if any, will result from state territorial contraction? The book was written before the PLO-Israeli negotiations came to light and long before the Palestinian National Authority began operating in Gaza/Jericho in May 1994. Despite these developments, Lustick's detailed analysis of what the British and French regimes experienced gives the reader much to consider in regard to Israel.
Events in the Middle East since the completion of Lustick's work have perhaps made it even more relevant to the current debate than it would have been otherwise. For example, Likud statements on the possibility of reversing the PLO-Israeli agreement if they return to power; actions by the more militant settlers or threats of civil war can be more easily placed into context when they are compared to the French and British cases. In addition, the constitutional issues and the disproportionate powers of small political parties in the British polity and France's reluctance to negotiate with the FLN are useful in explaining the contemporary Israeli political scene. If anything, the British and French examples illustrate not only that the road Israel faces in the near future will be rough, but also what particular forms the problems will take. Lustick's book is highly recommended as a detailed map to guide the reader through Israel's state-contraction experience.