Palestinian Arabs and The Jewish Home party may seem like strange bedfellows but sometimes life offers truths that fiction would never dare propose. The Arabs might actually not think too badly of the solution to the conflict that has been offered up for consideration by The Jewish Home party. In contrast, our own left-wing Jews consider party leader Naftali Bennett a racist and attribute to him no other desire than to annex all of Judea-Samaria and freeze the Arabs in the territories into a permanent state of second-class status with no chance of gaining sovereignty over their own affairs. Serious attention to what Bennett’s party actually proposes, as opposed to what people think it proposes, may surprise some. Furthermore, when comparing what Bassem Eid says about the Palestinian condition and the desires of many Arabs living on the West Bank, we may find that Bennett is not so far out there.
I am relying here on an interview of Bassem Eid, conducted and published on TOI blogs by Fred Maroun, a Canadian originally from Lebanon. Bassem Eid is a Palestinian Arab and human rights activist who grew up in a refugee camp and, therefore, is not writing from an ivory tower but, rather, from personal as well as professional, on the ground, experience. When working with B’Tselem, wanting to report honestly on Palestinian infringement of human rights as well as Israeli, he was accused of being an enemy collaborator. Not willing to forfeit his values, he founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group and he continues to speak out about the need for Palestinian Arabs to acknowledge their part in the ongoing conflict between our peoples in order to move forward into a safe and prosperous future.
I will list below the points Eid raises regarding what Palestinian Arabs claim is best for them and show how that corresponds or does not correspond with the solution to the conflict offered by The Jewish Home party.
The majority of Palestinians are seeking dignity rather than identity. Dignity will never be achieved without economic prosperity. If you ask any ordinary Palestinians today what are the three priorities they are seeking, they will say: a job, an education system, and a health care system. Nobody is talking about the wall, the settlements, or a Palestinian state.
This seems to fly in the face of what the left is claiming and what the international community thinks the Palestinian Arabs want. Those apparently concerned with human rights issues regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict think that the solution lies in the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state. It seems nobody bothered to ask the very people that will be directly affected by such a state if that is what THEY want.
Therefore, opponents of Bennett, who vilify him because he does not see a Palestinian state in the future, may be the ones who are out of step with reality. Before you jump down my throat, please just read and consider what the Palestinian Arabs themselves are saying, according to Eid. If you want to dismiss him as a puppet of the Israeli right, that is your prerogative, but you need to wonder if you reject Eid because what he says is uncomfortable to hear or because you have evidence that he is an Israeli puppet/agent/whatever.
They don’t know exactly what they are hoping for, which makes their situation very complicated. If you take the issue of peace process since Oslo, the PA doesn’t know what they want from the Israelis. Do they want a state or do they want to trash the state of Israel? Unfortunately it looks like there are more Palestinians going in the direction of trashing Israel and dismissing it.
This is precisely what Bennett is saying and what politicians on the left either dismiss as rightist scaremongering or accuse Israel of having caused. If Eid is right, then we can certainly understand the confusion within Palestinian Arab society. Eid found that they are happy with the employment opportunities in the Jewish settlements, including settlement expansion because the Arabs are the ones building the homes, and perhaps suffer most from BDS when settlement businesses tank and they lose the jobs that come with Israeli salaries and benefit packages. On the other hand, they want to trash Israel.
It is likely that those who are happily employed are not the same individuals who want to destroy Israel. And this is what Bennett refers to when he suggests getting strict with the Arabs who want to trash the Jewish state and provide better services and opportunities for education and employment for those who want to work with it or within it.
Now let’s look at what Eid says many want when he gets them to stipulate their ideas of a just solution.
I don’t think that the Palestinians believe in the two-state solution. Most Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank believe in a three-state solution: one state in Gaza, one state in the West Bank, and the state of Israel. Alternatively, more and more Palestinians in the West Bank think that the solution is to go back to the pre-1967 situation when the West Bank was under Jordanian control. Palestinians want this because of the corruption of Abbas and his government. We the Palestinians in the West Bank still benefit economically from Jordan. The King Hussein Bridge is open 16 hours a day; large amounts of goods are coming in and getting out. Palestinians in the West Bank essentially have a confederation with Jordan.
Here is what The Jewish Home party is suggesting.
- Gaza will be disengaged from the West Bank and will be considered a separate administration area. Egypt will take responsibility for Gaza. (That is currently happening in a very natural way.)
- Area C, currently under Israeli control, will be annexed to Israel. Area C is where the great bulk of the Israeli settlements are located (350,000 Jews) and the Arab population is only about 50,000. The Arabs living in Area C will be offered full Israeli citizenship and, as such, they will receive all services offered to all other Israeli citizens.
- Areas A and B will receive total autonomy except for security issues. The IDF will be responsible for security. A major change to Areas A and B will be the creation of territorial contiguity, together with the improvement of the infrastructure and road systems and the removal of checkpoints. Israeli-Arab conjoint industrial zones will be expanded and increased in number. The final administration of Areas A and B will be determined in the future – and annexation to Jordan is not an impossibility.
I leave it to the reader to compare what The Jewish Home Party is suggesting to what Bassam Eid says the Palestinian Arabs themselves want.