Questions for the Israeli Left

As part of the three weeks, a time when we are urged to listen to others, I am publishing questions that the Israeli Right has for the Israeli Left. These are questions that have come up repeatedly in conversations and I’ve tried my best to represent them.

I don’t think the Israeli Left will be able to win elections until it listens to these questions, and responds, even if sometimes the response is “I don’t know” or “There are three answers, depending which part of the Left you’re a part of, but our coalition’s position is that we will choose which of those three answers is best depending on new developments and facts on the ground.”

I’ve divided the questions into 7 categories:

1. Security

Let’s assume that, the minute there’s a two-state solution, 90% of Palestinians, if not overwhelmed with positive feelings towards Israel, will at the very least feel that avoiding war with it would be in the best interest of their newly nascent nation-state.

What about the remaining 10%, whose hatred and desire for violence won’t go away over night? How will a two-state solution protect Israel against violence from those 10%? What security measures will be put in place?

This feeds into the larger issues of borders and border crossings, which are two elements of security.

2. Final Status Negotiations

Usually, we say that questions like Jerusalem and the right of return should only be discussed later on in the negotiation process, after both sides have learned to trust each other. But this leaves open the possibility of negotiations breaking down half-way through, if both sides find themselves at an impasse. What measures are in place to protect Israel if negotiations break down towards the end, after it has ceded some territory and made some concessions to the other side?

How do you envision the negotiations process; what are the trust-building steps you will demand from each side?

Also: What are your dreams when it comes to the right of return and Jerusalem? You might -you probably will – need to compromise on your ideal position during the course of negotiations, but since most Israeli Jews see the Palestinian right of return as an existential and demographic threat to Israel’s existence, and since many feel strongly about Jerusalem, it helps to at least let them know what your ideal position is.

3. Territorial Contiguity

Understandably, the Palestinians want a territorialy contiguous state. Yes, Gaza and the West Bank have different cultures and were part of different countries (Egypt and Jordan, respectively) before 1967 – but once you go down the rabbit hole of history, you wind up fighting over who had it worse under the British Mandate, and then yelling at each other about the Crusades.

So let’s take it as a given that Palestinian nationality, like all nationalities, is a made-up construct, with no more or less a right to a state than any other nation: How do you create a territorialy contiguous Palestinian state without chopping Israel in half? If you envision two states connected by a highway/tunnel system under Palestinian sovereignity -what would that look like?

4. Disarmament

Do you envision a disarmed Palestinian state, and if so, how do you envision getting them to agree to that?
If your answer to this involves relying on the international community for security: Which countries will be involved, and what will the arrangement be? What will be the process for complaining or changing the arrangement if either side is unsatisfied?

5. The Right of Return

The right of return in its full form would wreak havoc in Israel. Not only would it tip the demographic balance, destroying the state’s Jewish nature, but also, Israeli citizens living in Yaffo or Haifa could be kicked out of their homes by the grand-kids of the people who lived there in 1948, causing mass dispossession of Israeli citizens -in other words, creating a new mini-refugee crisis. Without proper checks, Palestinians could falsely claim family connections to any Israeli apartment that looked nice, and move in.

So what balances will there be?

It is clear that the refugee issue is essential for Palestinians, so you will have to make some compromises.What will they be? A symbolic statement of guilt and allowing 100,000 Palestinian refugees into Israel? Financial reparations? If you’re not willing to give anything when it comes to refugees -what protections are you putting in place in case negotiations break down because of this issue?

6. Palestinian Leadership

Hamas is sworn to destroy Israel; the Palestinian Authority is full of incitement against Israel. So what makes you think you can trust them? Also, is it fair to Palestinians to further empower the two corrupt dictatorships that currently rule over them?

7. Settlements

The pullout from Gaza uprooted tens of thousands of civilians, but did not guarantee security. So this question really loops back to the beginning -uprooting citizens for peace might be ethical; uprooting citizens for no purpose is immoral. What will happen to the settlements? Will Jews be able to live in Palestine? If you plan on dismantling settlements -how will you do so, and what do you see are your responsibility towards the settlers who are forced to move? How will you help them to rebuild their lives?

Of course, it’s impossible to include every question, but I hope I have succeeded in summarizing the basic crux of the critique. I believe that, through internal dialogue, we can work together to find answers, and, eventually, we can expand the dialogue, to include the other side. Speaking, and listening, are the first steps in working together towards a peaceful future.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.