I’m happy that Haviv Rettig Gur called me a friend and a good journalist, I agree with him on both, but I respectfully disagree with everything else he wrote in his response to my blog, originally titled “Israel: not Jewish, not democratic” and now, for clarity’s sake, called “Israel down the line: not Jewish, not democratic?”
My biggest concern is that Haviv seems to have misrepresented or misunderstood what I actually wrote. I know this happens a lot in politically charged, quick online journalism, so I think I’d better clear things up from my perspective.
Haviv starts his response to my article with this:
I won’t speak to any of the political issues he raises because it’s not necessary to do so. It’s the facts that I want to challenge.
And by doing that Haviv misses my point completely. Maybe it’s my fault for not making it clear enough, but what I wrote is that, like it has always been, it’s all about internal politics here:
The Palestinian ‘moderates’ won’t accept the maximum offer that an Israeli government can make, that’s how ‘moderate’ the current Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is. I also wrote that Israelis are going to vote in the most right-wing government we’ve ever had here, a government that will be unable and unwilling to make the kind of offer the Palestinians would refuse anyway. Those are facts, Haviv. Argue those too.
Next, Haviv says my piece “brings together in one place a lot of the present-day discourse on the left, a discourse that has the quality of an echo chamber.”
Haviv must be smoking some good shit if he’s pigeonholing me as part of the “left wing echo chamber.” I work hard every day to be loathed in that echo chamber, as well as the right-wing echo chamber.
Haviv again misrepresents what I actually wrote when he says “There is no measure by which Israel is growing less democratic.”
What I actually wrote is: “Looking ahead at 2013 and beyond, there are two distinct trends which I see that are coalescing into one unmistakable reality: Israel is not going to be either a Jewish or Democratic state down the line.” There’s six times I bolded stuff here so that Haviv reads what I actually wrote and understands that I said “down the line, looking ahead, trends…”
But if you want to be nitpicky about the state of Western liberal democracy in Israel now, I do think it is important to point out that many, many members of the next (likely) coalition are staunch supporters of reforming the makeup and functioning of the Supreme Court and the rest of the judiciary (powers of the Attorney General and State Prosecution) so as to be able to execute their political and diplomatic agendas without legal interference. Let’s talk down the line if and when these MKs and ministers get their way.
Next, Haviv says: “Israel will hold on to the West Bank until there is a deal that fulfills some minimal needs.” No my friend, the next Israeli government will try and hold onto the West Bank because it believes that much of it belongs to the Jews. And here, by the way, I agree with them, that places like Shilo, Beit El, Hebron, Eli and other such places of historical and cultural significance to the Israelis should remain in the hands of the Israelis (or Israelis should be able to live there under some sort of sane and secure arrangement) – not exactly the left-wing echo chamber, is it?
Then he writes: “Israel will simply unilaterally withdraw from much of the West Bank.” Now Haviv is on crack. There is no chance of a unilateral Israel withdrawal from anywhere in the next four years under a Netanyahu government, period. Double period.
Next, I wasn’t trying “to scare Israeli [leaders] with talk of a one-state solution.” I wrote that there is a” very, very small chance of a two-state solution” so we need to think about Israel not being a Jewish and democratic state – drop the illusion that a two-state solution will happen one day and deal with the facts as they are. And if that is scary to some, then they need to be scared out of their ignorance.
Haviv says that “some Israeli leaders fundraise abroad with talk of” a one-state solution. Alo, Haviv, listen to Moshe Ya’alon, Avigdor Liberman, Gideon Saar, Gilad Erdan, Yair Shamir, and Eli Yishai. These are not the Danny Danons, who fundraise abroad with “such talk.” These are senior Israeli policymakers and they’re all saying that there is no possibility of a two-state solution now, and probably not in the coming generation either. These are our policymakers, here, at home. They were elected and are going to be reelected. This is who the country wants. Haviv writes: “it’s simply not taken seriously by Israeli planners on any side of the political divide. It’s a rhetorical device, not a policy warning.” What are you talking about Haviv? This is Israeli government policy. Here’s what Moshe Ya’alon says:
Stop talking about a solution. Let’s instead talk about a path that we must follow, and that path is construction. We need to invest in education, infrastructure, settlement, science, and technology. This is the real hope. There is no partner for an agreement.
That sounds like policy to me, from our next defense minister.
Again, Haviv misrepresents what I actually wrote when he says: “On the Israeli Arab question: The piece mentions in an off-handed way that Israeli minorities – Muslims, Druze, Beduins, Christians, etc. – don’t have full citizenship rights as Israeli citizens.”
Here’s what I wrote, in context:
[T]he West Bank Palestinian, Arab Israeli, Israeli Druze and Bedouin birthrate staying as it is now, and well, let’s just say they won’t be converting to Judaism anytime soon.
If there is no two-state solution, and I don’t see any signs of it, then all the non-Jews between the river and the sea are part of the “Jewish state,” but they’re not Jewish, and they won’t convert, so in terms of real numbers, how Jewish will Israel be? That was my point, not the current state of civil rights that Arab Israelis have.
Haviv does it again:
There is nothing anti-democratic about Israel being a Jewish state serving the Jewish people, including its diaspora. As long as minorities enjoy basic inalienable human and civil rights and freedoms.
But what I actually wrote was that in the absence of a two-state solution there can be no way Israel can be Jewish and democratic – the numbers and the trends just don’t add up – unless of course “minorities enjoy basic inalienable human and civil rights and freedoms” like voting rights – which will make Israel democratic but not Jewish.
And finally, this:
[T]he word “Jewish” means something very different from what it means in South Africa, where Amir comes from.
Actually Haviv, I come from Israel, I was born here. I grew up in South Africa where “Jewish” meant the exact same thing as it does here: It’s whatever you and God agree between the two of you that it is.
Click here to read a rebuttal to this post by Haviv Rettig Gur.