Going Left to Center – A personal journey

For a long time I have been a proponent of the Two State Solution (and I still am). I started with accepting the basic premises of the Israeli Peace Movement that land for Peace was the main ideal in any peace settlement. I penned a few pieces that advocated solutions presented at Taba based on Ending the Occupation and by Shalom Achshav. I really thought that in my heart, Peace between Israelis and Palestinians (and Arabs) in general was possible due to a philosophy that by simply granting dignity and working to find a “middle road” to some would get the same response in turn. When I lived in Israel, the Arabs (Palestinians) that I met there were generally folks just like most Israelis in the sense that they simply wanted to live their lives and get on with things in peace and quiet, as well as take care of their families the same way everyone else in the world wants to do.

I actually still believe that premise built into the last sentence regarding the average Palestinian family. AND while I still believe that the average Palestinian family just wants to be left alone to raise their kids, or go to work or do a hundred other things that don’t involve destroying Israel, their leadership and the activists who take their side have exactly the opposite agenda. So really, what I no longer believe is the first premise that simply by trying to meet people half way there could be a rapprochement of sorts.

Sadly, I have come to the conclusion (along with seemingly the majority of the Israeli population) that any peace solution has to be viewed through the lens of security and what will create the most defensible situation for Israel. I don’t believe that the Palestinians and their supporters / advocates, will ever accept Israel as it was conceived (to be the National Homeland and State of the Jewish People). It is not until very recently that I have truly come to this sad conclusion. I have always had hope, but, now… not so much.

Why is that? Well, I look at social media and I see what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza. I read Palestinian Opinion Polls and I look at a small but growing Jewish anti-Zionist / Self hating contingency. More than that, I look at the vilification of Israel in the International Community while seeing nothing of distaste for the extremism and maximalist demands of the Palestinians and Arab communities regarding this issue.

All of this leads me to the inescapable conclusion that as far as Israel’s security policy goes, any solution that would lead to peace should and would have to be substantial enough to ensure that the State and the Jewish people would not face any significant weakening in terms of security.

Where have I changed? Previously, I had espoused a division of Jerusalem (with Israel maintaining control of the Jewish Quarter, the Kotel (of course), the long standing neighborhoods built right after the Six Day War, and the corridor up to Hadassah Hospital and Har-HaTzofim). I thought that would be a reasonable place to meet. But no… It seems the Palestinians and their supporters would / will have none of that. So, that being the case, if they don’t want to meet halfway then too bad. They get nothing. I can now say that I do not support any split of Jerusalem. The only concession that I can see as reasonable (because in realistic terms it would most likely start a war if it did not happen) is that Al-Aqsa, still be run by the Waqf. This said, I do believe that the Arab areas of Jerusalem should have a certain amount of autonomy within the structure of a United Jerusalem but should ultimately be answerable to Israeli authority.

Where else have I changed? Well… I believe that any land swaps at all should be based purely on security considerations. I still do believe that the Palestinians should have their own State but, in my mind, Israel is under no obligation to sacrifice it’s own well being to establish said State. I believe that any Israeli plan that includes security considerations also considers resource security. After all, national viability is dependent in part on resource availability.

So, what does that mean. It means that Israel does need to be able to exercise military control over the Jordan River Valley and viable water sources. It means that the wall needs to remain as a permanent fixture AND be expanded to cover Israeli territorial interests (but only from a security perspective). It means that the Golan above the Kinneret is non-negotiable. It means that in the West Bank any Palestinian State needs to be a de-militarized one.

But it also means that the Palestinians have to have real responsibility for managing their own territory. That means that they have to take responsibility for the actions of militants within their State. If they can’t control the actions of their populace then those actions should be given all of the considerations of international incidents. For example, IF Palestinian militants decide that they want to shell Israel, then Israel has the right to now to strike back at the offending State.

I think that this also means that Israel as a more viable economic entity should reach out to the new Palestinian State and offer favorable trading terms and economic incentives tied to peace. Generally states that are in strong economic relations have less tension and thus will in turn create more of a secure atmosphere.

Does this mean that I support the continued settlement of the West Bank? The answer is no. I don’t support that because there is simply no way for Israel to incorporate the territory and remain a functional, Western Democracy. Now some people will say that they simply don’t care about remaining as a functional, Western Style Democracy and that is fine but personally I believe that goes against the foundations of the State as articulated in the Israel’s Declaration of Establishment.

Honestly unlike the Rightists, I simply don’t care about the theoretical what is “our land” and what is “their land”. I am not overly religious. I personally don’t let my religion dictate my politics. I care that an independent Israel exists as part of the historical area that was once “Jewish land”. That there is a functionable democratic state that is the National Homeland of the Jewish people, with secure borders is all that I care about.

I guess the big change is that I have always at least thought to take into account the wishes of the Palestinian Polity as necessary to the peace process. That said, I have to say that at this point and given their (and their supporters) maximalist demands,  I simply no longer care. There seems to be no indication that the Palestinian Polity or its supporters will ever accept the presence of Israel.

Really, until they do (accept the presence of Israel) on our terms, then honestly there is nothing more to say. They have rejected peace offer after peace offer. I hope that we keep making them offers even if they continue to reject them. I think it is always worth a try. However, I strongly believe that the offers themselves should be vetted through the IDF Command and if they feel in the long run that peace can be maintained… I say Kol Ha’Kvod.

So yes, I guess that moves me firmly out of the “Peace Camp” and into a Centrist position on this one issue. We all have different ways of getting to where we are going. At this point I think the Left has failed because of the fact that it simply is not looking at what the Palestinians are saying or doing in real terms. At the same time I think the Right fails us because they simply have no long term reasonable plans for dealing with the reality of the Palestinians or the international implications of their actions.

SO in the end, that is my move from Left to Center. Has anyone experienced something similiar. In other terms. What’s your move been?

About the Author
Jon Segall is creator of the blog The Progressive Zionist. Jon has lived in Israel and studied Israeli and American Policy in the region. Currently Jon, is re-learning Hebrew, and is an active practitioner of the Israel Self Defense Martial Art Krav Maga.