An open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The honorable Prime Minister Netanyahu;
At the outset I would venture to say that in my view Israel is getting dangerously close to a point of reckoning. Perhaps more accurately be described as a point of no return. The rocky instability of the Trump presidency coupled with the seemingly intentional chaotic and unpredictable “management” of his administration as well as the continued presence of dark clouds of frequent falsehoods and investigations and lack of trust (if not utter criminality) must ring alarm bells in Israel. The continued total reliance by Israel on the United States as the sole supporter and provider of military and economic aid as well as d diplomatic support in the international arena must be viewed as potentially dangerous. As a holder of an MBA Degree you must know that keeping all the eggs in one basket is highly undesirable.
A cursory review of the history of the US – Israel relations indicates that not always Israel enjoyed an unconditional American support. In fact, there were times when Israel was subjected to unfriendly and sometimes even belligerent American foreign policy. However, it must be said that during most of the past fifty years, America steadfastly supported Israel albeit with some reservations by various administrations. The Obama administration, in spite of the rhetoric emanating from Jerusalem and despite of its own reservations, remained a true supporter of Israel regardless of the actions taken by your government or by you. Nonetheless, the ascendance of Mr. Trump to the presidency created in Israel some expectations that the America support of Israel would be further enhanced by eliminating some of the cornerstones of previous administrations’ policy towards Israel and the Palestinians.
Your government as well as the majority of Israeli populace seem to believe that what appears to be a shift in the United States policies towards Israel is real and sustainable. Indeed, President Trump’s words during his campaign, his rhetoric during your visit at the White House and at other occasions, as well as in his speech to the joint Congress suggest some contrasting elements to the policies implemented during the Obama administration.
Of course, as you are well aware, Mr. Trump have not (yet) relegated the “Two State Solution” to the “ash hip of history”, as some of your government ministers were quick to assert. Mr. Bennett, in his self-assured style stated that the time has come to remove the “Palestinian flag” that flies over areas under the management of the Palestinian Authority and to “hoist the Israeli flag”. A powerful symbolic gesture that resonates well among the political right. He is not mistaken – the circumstances “on the ground” of more than half a million Israelis inhabiting numerous towns and villages (AKA settlements) across Judea and Samaria (AKA the West Bank) effectively preclude the establishment of a Palestinian state. In response to a specific question regarding the future prospects of such a Palestinian entity, you declared that you came to Washington to address “substance” not to deal with “emblems.” Although you avoided any elaboration, one must assume that the true meaning of the word “substance” is a solution that is at odds with your widely quoted “Bar-Ilan Speech” of 2009. As we all recall, in that speech you clearly expressed your commitment to the so-called Two State Solution in general accordance with the “Road Map” drawn by President George W. Bush.
You went on to state a commonly used falsehood that the Israeli settlements do not pose a threat to peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. But you clearly identified the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State” as an obstacle to peace. An argument may be presented regarding whether such recognition is at all necessary and even desirable. As you undoubtedly know, Israel’s Declaration of Independence issued by the People’s Council (acting as the Provisional Israeli Government) on May 14, 1948 enshrines the Jewish character of the newly created State of Israel by declaring it as “A Jewish State in Eretz-Israel, to be known as The State of Israel”. The text goes on to declare that the State of Israel “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
To the best of my knowledge none of the provisions contained in the Israeli Declaration of Independence had been so particularly challenged by any sovereign member of the United Nations, even though the very existence of Israel had been challenged and is continued to be openly threatened by Iran. Although the Palestinian Authority is not considered a sovereign state, it is a United Nations “Non-Member Observer State.” As such, it abides by the UN Charter that recognize Israel as a sovereign state pursuant to its Declaration of Independence. So why now, after decades of flourishing independence, your government demands the explicit and formal recognition of Israel by the Palestinians (but not by any other UN member) as a “Jewish State”? Why not demanding this explicit and formal recognition, say, by the United States? The answer is simple: this demand has been created by you with one objective in mind – to undermine and delay any possible entertainment of a sovereign Palestinian state.
I do not believe that a Palestinian sovereignty (as an independent state) is a realistic proposition. If it has ever been, its time has long gone. But my opinion is of no consequence, it is strictly a private matter based on my interpretation of the demographic, geographic, political and diplomatic reality. But your actions and the actions taken by your government are of grave consequence to the future of Israel and to the sustainability of the American support. I am sure that you and members of the government of Israel are aware of this potentially grim prospect. Anyone who believes that America will forever render its unconditional support of Israel is gravely mistaken. The sustainability question must be considered, and there is no person within the Israeli government who is more familiar with the American political system than you.
While I do not envision a significant diminishment in the American support of Israel any time soon, the uncertainties and unpredictability surrounding the current administration as well as the various investigations of potential improprieties must be seen as alarming. Some respectable and impartial American commentators (not makers of “fake news”) ventured to question the longevity of the Trump presidency, equating it in some respects to the criminally failed Nixon presidency. Even life-long Republicans begin to have some doubts. Moreover, the ultra-nationalistic views of some of Mr. Trump’s closest advisors and the seemingly unbridled influence they exert on him may not bode well for Israel.
Finally, as you are aware, the Trump administration will last only as long as the Constitution allows it to last. The next administration (even if headed by a Republican) is likely to formulate some different approach and policies which may have implications on its support of Israel. Israel must be prepared for any such eventuality. Actions taken by you and the current Israeli government, as reported by the Israeli press and media, suggest the absence of a serious debate regarding a long term and sustainable solution to the Palestinian issue. To the contrary, you and your government seem to believe that the Palestinians will accept an eternal relegation to a status of stateless people, a second class inhabitants in a land that is also their ancestral home.
You are well aware of the Israeli Declaration of Independence provisions regarding equality and civil rights. You know full well that annexation of the entire Judea and Samaria, as demanded by some members of your government, will, by default, create an untenable situation for Israel. The question of granting Israeli citizenship to the annexed Palestinian populace in a manner that ensures equality under the Declaration of Independence and with all other Israeli non-Jewish population (Arabs, Druze etc. who comprise about 20 percent of Israel’s population) will become acutely important since it will severely disrupt the existing demographic and political makeup of the primarily Jewish state.
You, your government and many in Israel may dismiss and utterly reject the remarks made by MK Ahmed Tibbi regarding his potential to become Israel’s prime minister as empty rhetoric, but such an annexation will create the dreaded One State Solution which will indeed threaten the Jewishness of the state.
Historically, American foreign policy and geopolitical interests accepted the formation of alliances with authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. These regimes, such as those typical to some Gulf States, are known for blatant disregard of human and civil right that are at the core of the American values, yet they are considered as important America’s allies. Moreover, many American business enterprises such as major energy companies, invest significant time and treasure to ensure that the US government remains blind, or at least silent, with regards to the human rights abuses. However, it is not at all clear that the same American “blindness” be unconditionally applied to Israel if the annexation of Judea and Samaria results in the creation of a government-sanctioned apartheid, namely the denial of citizenship, political and representation rights from the annexed Palestinian populace while the Israeli (Jewish) inhabitants of the settlements continue to enjoy these same rights. Any person, regardless of political inclinations can readily recognize this dichotomy.
Therefore, Mr. Prime Minister, it is incumbent on you and your government, now that the so called Two State Solution is as lifeless as ever to formulate an approach (what you may call “substance”) that will ensure the continued predominance of the Jewish character of the state. Kicking the can down the road by various tactics of delaying, evading and denial will not make the issue disappear or any less critical. In other words, it is time for Israel to clearly spell out what it wants, and perhaps just as importantly to ensure America’s sustainable support of that vision.