Labor and the “Roof of Zion”

The leadership of the Labor Party failed to show up at the most recent “Peace Now” rally in Tel Aviv. This was certainly not by accident. Nearly everyone in the Jewish world now recognizes that Hamas has become an integral component (if not the ascendant component) of the Palestinian national movement. This move by Labor toward the critical center will be permanent because Labor is pragmatic, and it understands that the old paradigm of the so-called two-state solution has finally died its agonizingly slow death. Now, any hopes Labor might have to regain political power must be based on a completely new paradigm that would have appeal across a broad centrist spectrum. And while the far Left fails to adjust, its once impressive peace minions have diminished to a few old, die-hard extremists and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. But Labor is not dead. It must plot its return based on a new plan and a new narrative. Labor’s new program must encompass a revolution in both Zionist and Religious Zionist thinking. For the party to capture the PM’s office, elements of even the enlightened Right must become comfortable with Labor’s new program.
It was way back in 2000 when Ehud Barak had offered PLO Chairman Arafat nearly the entire West Bank, only to be turned down. The centrist Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was equally as generous eight years later. He too was snubbed by Arafat’s weakened successor, Abu Mazen. Israel demanded security guarantees in exchange for territory, and the Palestinians offered promises, but little else. In the span of an entire generation, the hope for a lasting peace has finally evaporated into the certainty of a temporary truce (“hudna” in Arabic). The Hamas factor in Israeli politics has now so altered the landscape, that the PLO’s original strategy (of an Israeli withdrawal from the disputed territories) has now become out of the question.
The Likud can always characterize Labor as naive, but the “Roof of Zion” (peace) still needs to be built, and the far Right offers nothing but the status quo. But the status quo can’t hold. And of course the Palestinians are counting on the continuation of right-wing Israeli rule. Their strategy is to de-legitimize Israel and to force international pressure to exact a unilateral withdrawal from the territories. The Likud has no alternative to the two-state solution other than to continue to negotiate. But they don’t really believe in the two-state solution, and everybody understands this. Where is the new Likud plan? It doesn’t exist. Yes, a few on the far Right do advocate for an Israeli annexation of the territories. But do these people really want to hold a referendum on this issue? I doubt it very much. Bi-nationalism holds little attraction for anyone, Israelis or Palestinians.
So while Hamas offers its famous hudna (truce) in exchange for the complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories, Likud offers negotiations on a peace plan that nearly every Israeli has now become extremely wary of (including all of Likud). So how will the opposition Labor Party respond to the stalemate? There is really only one move left on the board — joint sovereignty between two equal states. This is not bi-nationalism, but an entirely different concept: condominium.
After the third Gaza war and the danger of the tunnels, withdrawal (even with “security guarantees”) is now completely out of the question. Politically, it is poison. Any Israeli withdrawal will not mean a permanent peace, only a temporary truce. Instead of peace, Israel will receive only the “Trojan Horse” of hudna. But on the other hand, the continued occupation of the Palestinian people only escalates the international pressure for Israel to withdraw. In order to break out of its isolation, Israel must offer the international community an immediate Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank with a capital in east Jerusalem. But the offer will come with a catch. Gaza must be demilitarized and the West Bank jointly administered by two equal states — Israel and Palestine.
At the same time, Israel must begin to pressure Jordan to open its political community to fair elections based on the concept of one person, one vote. Since the Palestinians who live in the historic geographic area of Israel-Palestine’s Transjordan are numbered in the majority, and since the PLO has always considered this territory to be a vital part of historic Palestine, joint sovereignty on the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) would also come with a Palestinian state east of the river. Israel, of course, would remain sole sovereign in all the territory it held previous to the 1967 war. Palestine could be militarized ONLY within designated territory east of Amman.
Israel cannot allow its political process to become paralyzed. It must be the party to the conflict in search of true peace, with security for all. It must brand Hamas as the aggressor and develop a narrative that places all political Islamists on the defensive. The Israeli Labor Party can be resurrected to fulfill this mission. Its dream of a two-state solution has been battered by events, but its intentions were originally noble. Ehud Barak was right when he said that Israel lacked a partner for peace. But that doesn’t mean it should give up trying. In fact, the quest for a genuine peace, both religious and political, is the only strategy that will keep the Jewish people united with both itself and its allies. The trick is to find a plan that will draw in the center-Left with the center-Right. Only joint sovereignty for the disputed territories can now hope to accomplish this task.
Maybe the Palestinians will reject the only plan left on the board, but they will do so at their own diplomatic peril. After Camp David, I never really believed that Arafat wanted peace. I drifted away from the Labor Party and attempted to offer my plan to both the settlers and Likud. My success has been limited to only my Jordanian component. But Jordan is not all of Palestine; it is only the eastern part. With a capital in Jerusalem, sovereignty east of the river and in Gaza, equality of nations on the West Bank, and a potential military in the far eastern desert, the Palestinians would be offered a real plan based on justice for both parties.
It is time for the peace camp in Israel to start thinking in terms of the vast Israeli center, even the center-Right. The two-state solution is dead, and only an integrative solution with a democratic Transjordan remains. Without this East Bank component, an integrated solution for the disputed territories of the West Bank makes little sense. There can be no joint rule without a place for Palestinian sole rule. And joint rule in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is the only way forward. Once again, my hope for the “Roof of Zion” rests with the Labor Party. May G-d give them the wisdom to move ahead with a new paradigm and a new narrative.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).