But They are not Citizens – A Centrist’s Response to Dani Dayan

If ever an author tiptoed around an elephant in the room, hoping no one else would notice him, it was Dani Dayan in his recent NY Times op-ed. In this piece, Dayan argues that settlements, even outside the settlement blocs, are a fact of life that will not change. Therefore, he argues, the Western World and the Israeli left should think practically about improving the status quo instead of spending their time bemoaning reality.

Furthermore, Dayan argues, the conquest of the West Bank—or Judea and Samaria, whatever one calls it—was perfectly moral and in keeping with international law. It was the Arabs, Dayan correctly points out, who called for Israel’s Destruction in the first place and precipitated the Six Day War, in which the so-called occupied territories were captured.

Finally, Dayan argues that a Palestinian State geographically located between Jordan and Israel would become a “hot-bed” of fundamentalism and terrorism. It would be quickly flooded by Palestinians from all over the world and taken over by Hamas—whether by election or by force is irrelevant. At that point, he claims, Israel would inevitably have to take over the territories again, and both the Israelis and the Palestinians would end up in a worse position than that from which they started.

In stating that the settlements, even those outside the settlement blocs, are a fact on the ground that will be very difficult to dislodge, Dayan makes a reasonable point. In stating that the Six Day War was a defensive war that legitimizes the taking of territory, Dayan states, in my opinion, a simple (or not so simple) truth. In predicting that a future Palestinian State would most likely turn quickly to extremism, Dayan may very well be correct.

Putting it all together, Dayan believes that the above three points lead to an inevitable conclusion: Israel must explore a one-state solution.

I admit that I am an advocate of the Two-State Solution, and have suggested in a previous post (Revamping the Allon Plan) how I envision this. Nevertheless, I am certainly open to other views and even think that putting multiple solutions on the table is a healthy exercise. However, there is something missing from Dayan’s presentation that makes it something less than a solution. Dayan never addresses what this one-state will look like. Specifically, what is the end game for the Palestinians? Will they be citizens of the state? Will they have voting rights?

The question of the future rights of the Palestinians currently living in the West Bank is not a secondary issue, but is the central question to be addressed in any proposed One-State Solution. If it weren’t for the existence of two million Palestinian Arabs living in the territories, they would have been annexed and made officially part of Israel long ago, as was the Golan Heights, with the handful of local Druze given Israeli citizenship. But the numbers make this prohibitive, since with two million more Arab citizens, the Jewish majority would be marginal and in danger of being lost altogether over the next fifty years.

This is the elephant in the room, and is not addressed or even touched upon in Dayan’s piece. Instead, Dayan focuses on issues like economic success and freedom of movement for the Palestinians. Certainly these are important issues, but they are not all that controversial. Virtually all Israeli politicians, and even citizens, want the Palestinians to be economically successful. Why not? In addition, no Israelis like the checkpoints with the inevitable humiliation of innocent Palestinians that occurs during the questioning and random searches for arms. If there were no fear of terrorism, the checkpoints would certainly be removed. I agree with Dayan that whatever one’s preferred ultimate solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict would be, granting Palestinians greater economic opportunities and freedom of movement, while not risking an upsurge in terrorist attacks, would be a desideratum.

But these are not the questions that make a One-State Solution so complicated. The ultimate question is: will Israel risk losing its identity as a Jewish State or does it want to form a quasi-democracy where West-Bank Palestinians do not enjoy the full rights of Israeli citizens. This is the issue that Dayan tiptoes around but does not address.

To be fair, Dayan is not the only advocate of the One-State Solution. There are Israeli politicians and other modern day intellectuals who do so, and attempt to address this question. For example, Rabbi Asher Lopatin has argued for a One-State Solution, where the nationality would be both Jewish and Palestinian. He argues for voting rights and the right of return for both nationalities, and for this dual-character to be protected by a national constitution. In an opposite viewpoint, Moshe Feiglin, the right-wing Likud party member and founder of the Jewish Leadership movement, has argued for all non-Jewish residents of Israel to have only human rights, but no civil rights – i.e. protection of the person’s and property under the law, but no power to vote.

I am sure there are other possible permutations as well, but these two examples underline what is missing from Dayan’s op-ed. Without addressing the issue of Palestinian civil-rights, one cannot begin to deal with a One-State Solution. However, just a quick look at the suggestions of Lopatin and Feiglin explain why Dayan tiptoed around this particular elephant. Giving all Palestinians citizenship endangers the Jewish character of the State; not doing so destroys the democratic character of the state. Since I find both of these possibilities intolerable, I advocate for a Two-State Solution. For those, like Dayan, who advocate a One-State Solution, it is incumbent upon them to offer a reasonable way to navigate the inevitable conflict between Palestinian civil rights and the Jewish character of Israel.

Zev Farber, Atlanta

About the Author
Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber is the editor of TheTorah.com and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute.