In an otherwise thoughtful post, you say: "It was radically utopian, an almost text book example of imposing an abstract concept - a settled Jewish nation after so long a diaspora - on a land already embedded with an existing geographic, demographic, religious and cultural reality."
This was no more radical than what happened in Europe after WWI and WWII when political borders were re-drawn, dramatically in some cases, with no regard for populations. In fact, I would argue that Israel's founding was less radical because there was no political entity being displaced.
For centuries the area called "Palestine" - in fact most of the Middle East - was a backwoods section of the Ottoman Empire. Britain and France simply took over after WWI. There was a sizable population of Jews who wanted an independent homeland. It was Britain who divided the geographic area "Palestine" into two by chopping off 2/3 as Trans-Jordan and installing the Hashemite monarchy. The remaining 1/3 was intended to be split into Jewish and Arab entities and we all know how well the Arabs accepted that.
If you recall, all the way up to the Reagan administration, the West Bank was still recognized as Jordanian territory occupied by Israel. King Hussein should have just made his peace with Israel in the 1980s and taken the territory back. Instead, he decided to give it up for a "Palestinian" state. Why does no one ever question what Egypt and Jordan did with Gaza and the West Bank respectfully between 1948 and 1967?
A new Palestinian state, even within the pre-1967 borders, is not going to be very viable. It makes more sense for Israel and Jordan to negotiate a new border by splitting the West Bank between them. Until the 1980s the West Bank Arabs had Jordanian citizenship and a majority of Jordan's population is "Palestinian-origin" (meaning from west of the Jordan River) anyway. Gaza would still be an issue. Maybe it reverts back to Egypt or becomes a small state called Gaza. After 60+ years it is high time all of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria were disbanded and its residents absorbed as citizens of those fellow Arab states. If Hitler had conquered Britain and made it part of Germany in 1945, would you be clammering to reclaim your grandparents or great-grandparents home in England?
My point is, if you are going to perform the intellectual exercise of whether the creation of Israel was a mistake, it seems only logical that you should include the creation of Jordan and the creation of a specific Arab nationality called "Palestinians" (which was only done in the 1960s) as part of the debate.
It is true that Israel was, in 1948, primarily a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims. But few people, in talking about the Israeli-Arab conflict, or the Israeli-Muslim conflict, pause to consider that the exodus of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands in the 1950s and 1960s resulted in an Israeli Jewish population that was 50% indigenous to the Middle East, up until the time of the Russian migration in the 1990s.
Most westerners are unaware of this, and the Muslim countries are even more ignorant/in denial about it. They act as if Muslim countries were a paradise for Jews and other religious minorities in comparison to Europe. This may have been true at some points in history, but it is largely a self-congratulatory fantasy.
To the extent the Jewish exodus from Muslim lands is acknowledged (and it’s important to note that upwards of 98 percent of the Jews left places such as Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and other countries, where their ancestors had lived for thousands of years, and where they were part of the landscape prior to the existence of Islam), the party line is that they left voluntarily because they were Zionists. This is about as true as the allegation that most of the Palestinians left their homes voluntarily. Since when does 98 percent plus of a population leave a place their family has been for generations when they feel safe in their homes?
My husband comes from a large family of Jews who fled Morocco in the middle of the night, leaving their house and everything else behind, because they were tipped off that his grandfather was about to be arrested and killed. My husband’s aunts and uncles in Israel all married Jews from other parts of the Middle East, so I have relatives who originally hailed from every one of those countries mentioned above. Arabic is their mother tongue. When we go to family gatherings, our relatives are constantly laughing uproariously at jokes that fall flat in translation, and some great aunt or uncle will say to me, apologetically, “It’s much funnier in Arabic.”