While the Israel body politic is busy procrastinating and finding ever more ways to delay any meaningful decision with regard to the country’s and the region’s future, reality is slowly but surely making this ever more difficult. The uncertainty and lack of patience that appears to have become the signature of the Trump administration puts a question mark on the resilience of every decision by the government that has any bearing regarding the liberated/occupied/administered territories and the settlements therein. Clearly, after meeting Trump, our prime minister has decided to tread very carefully. The new ostensibly Israel-loving US president seems to have achieved what his ostensibly anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist predecessor could only have dreamed of: A construction hiatus in the West Bank, at least with regard to anywhere outside the settlement blocks.
While that is no small achievement for a US administration, it is of course meaningless as long as Israel’s government has no intention whatsoever to leave those areas of the West Bank that are destined to become a Palestinian State at some point in the future under any agreement that is based on the two-state paradigm. Netanyahu may be grounded for the time being but that won’t keep him from playing every trick in the book to prevent any progress on the peace front, if there even is such a thing by now.
Not that Israel’s pitiful opposition has any alternatives to offer — only long range options of more of the same are being presented by Herzog and Lapid. Both seem to agree that after slugging it out for another 10 or 20 years, who’s counting, things will somehow start working themselves out. Of course only after we have taken all kinds of steps that everybody knows are unlikely to be taken for reasons of political expediency, like unilateral withdrawals or the removal of settlements. Amazing: What, I beg asking, is the difference between a government enslaved to the status-quo and an opposition promising us, by and large, more of the same for the next 10-20 years? Think of the bright side, at least there appears to be a wide ranging consensus in the Knesset: Status-quo forever…
But, as we all know (except of course, all those who are running the government and most of those in the opposition), status-quos are not. Everything changes, all the time. And things being left on their own, usually change for the worse.
So hear Oh Israel, these are our main alternatives:
- We can continue muddling along, possibly suffering an intifada here and there, now and then, or just individual acts of terror, including incoming Kassams around Gaza, every once in a while. At the same time we keep up the occupation, our international legitimacy continues to be challenged 24/7 and sooner or later, the economic price will start to be felt, boycotts and all. It took South Africa’s white leadership more than 20 years to comprehend the message of the international community but in the end, it got the message.
- We can try our very best to implement the 2 State Solution against all odds, as a lousy partner with a lousy partner, with the national trauma of disengagement and foreceful removal of 30,000 families from the settlements outside the fence looming, shelling out huge amounts of money for resettlement only to end up enclosing ourselves in our cozy little ethnocentric shtetl-ghetto with an air force which will soon enough cease to be a secular state if it even is one now. Oh yes, and bye bye to the start-up nation. At the same time we will gratuitously reduce the Palestinian economy to rubble creating a failed state open to subversion by terror groups that requires periodic cross-border intervention to protect our security. Gaza all over again. Cheerful thought.
- Or we can do something that will make a real change: We can restart the State of Israel, in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean (not including Gaza) as a state of all its citizens with Israeli nationality, to continue to be a home and refuge for the Jews with a 60/40 or bigger Jewish majority but also a state of the Palestinians of Eretz Israel, with all citizens having equal rights and voting for a bicameral Knesset after having jointly formulated a constitution protecting the rights of all citizens. Now that would be a challenge and a vision. Any politicians out there to go along with this? No takers so far other than MK Yehuda Glick but we at the Federation Movement will continue to push it.
Everybody must understand that the long term consequence of keeping large areas of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty or control, can be one thing only: The extension of equal civil and religious rights to all inhabitants of the area, as incidently it is called for both in the Balfour Declaration and in our Declaration of Independence. If we are not willing to give equal rights to Palestinians who live in all areas under our control on our own volition, we are bound to be coerced, earlier or later, into the form of government that is, for all intents and purposes the only real viable long range option for an Israel between the Jordan River and the Sea: A liberal democratic state of all its citizens. The earlier we start envisioning it, conceptualizing it and working on it, the better the outcome and the more likely its success.
The author is the Co-Chairman of the Federation Movement