Whenever my Israeli friends and I discuss the idea of a confederation that would represent both Israelis and Palestinians, the inevitable objection emerges: “I don’t trust Palestinians; let them live there, and we live here, and this is the best for both of us.” I then ask, “Have you ever had any personal dealings with Palestinians? Has any Palestinian ever lied to you? Or stolen something from you? Do you have any reason to believe that Palestinians are inherently untruthful or deceitful? Is there a specific event in your life that proved Palestinians aren’t trustworthy?”
They usually scratch their head, try to remember a specific event—and can’t. Instead, they double down. Almost always, the answer to my questions is something along these lines: “I can’t trust the Palestinians to support a Jewish state.” Or “the Palestinians want to throw us into the ocean.“ Or “Look at what happened in Syria! They kill each other; what do you think they will do to us?” Or “Palestinians support terror.” These narratives come up so frequently that they must be addressed.
Palestinians are not Jewish and have no reason to support Israel as a Jewish state—just as Israelis have no reason to support a Muslim state. By definition, a religious state excludes those who do not subscribe to that religion. It is more realistic to expect Palestinians not to support a Jewish state than to distrust them for their lack of support. If Israel wishes to be a Jewish state, it must gain its legitimacy by justifying its need for existence without insisting that Palestinians support it as a Jewish state. To distrust Palestinians for not supporting a Jewish state is to endorse conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in perpetuity.
Do Palestinians want to throw us into the ocean? Are Palestinians incipient terrorists, ready to erupt into violence in the name of the Koran? These fears emerged only recently. In fact, Jews and Muslims lived in peace across the Middle East for generations, and it appears that Muslims, just like Jews, react more favorably to “the other” when they live side by side, and even more so when they live in a democracy.
Take Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis, who currently live in peaceful coexistence. Arabs participate fully in the Israeli political process; they have their own political parties and Knesset members. Many Arabs participate in Israel’s legislative and judicial process. Israeli Arabs are doctors, lawyers and professionals in many fields. Any patient going to the emergency room in any hospital in Israel has an almost equal chance of being treated by an Arab or a Jewish doctor. I heard on Israeli radio that many more Arabs donate body parts for transplant into Jews than Jews donate to Arabs or to other Jews. On a day-to-day basis in Israel, Arabs and Israelis interact with each other peacefully and pleasantly. They buy from and sell to each other and visit each other’s homes. They teach each other and learn from each other and attend universities together. Some Arabs even serve in the Israeli army. Many Arabs serve in the Israeli police force and routinely arrest Jews who are suspected of crimes. Arab judges regularly conduct trials where the litigants are Jews, and Jewish judges commonly conduct trials where Arabs are the litigants. Arabs hire Jewish professionals, and the reverse is true as well. Within the state of Israel, all aspects of civil society are mutual to Arabs and Jews. It’s true that some discrimination against Arab Israelis still exists, but the relationship between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis is far better than the relationship between Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It appears that whenever trust is the norm, Israeli Arabs and Jews get along fine. It is only when suspicion and isolation are imposed that violence and hostility erupt.
The Syrian analogy goes like this: “If Assad is capable of killing his own people, imagine what the Muslims would do to us.” This argument implies that all Muslims are the same, and they are hardwired to attack. At the end of the day we cannot live in peace with the Palestinians because they will someday (just like Assad) snap and attack for no reason at all.
The reality is that Assad, a ruthless dictator, is fighting for his life. He is facing strong opposition and using all the power at his disposal, including murdering his own people, to survive. This is not a phenomenon that’s unique to Muslims. This is how dictators react regardless of religion. Using Assad as proof that “all Muslims react similarly” is bigoted and racist and doesn’t even qualify to enter the arena of legitimate argument.
Does this mean that Israelis and Palestinians must remain in conflict forever? The answer to that question is no. It is possible to come up with a formula that will address the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians without forcing any of the issues that divide them. One such solution is a confederation. A confederacy makes it possible to expand democracy and build trust while at the same time maintaining Israel’s need to maintain a Jewish state. To see how the Israeli Palestinian Confederation would work, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POjypzcii_8