To the Settler-Right: Over to You

West Bank Settlement, Courtesy: AP

Let’s just say that for now, you’ve won. There are over 500,000 settlers in the West Bank and in excess of 230,000 in East Jerusalem. A growing number live in areas that, as part of any future territorial compromise, cannot be part of Israel. Settlers essentially drive the Israeli government: the Left is too afraid to relocate for fear of the ‘Yigal Amir veto’, the Right supports the settle-ment enterprise.

Let’s say that the two-state solution is a dead duck. No government will uproot 40,000 families from the West Bank, so even if the Palestinian rejection argument were true (and I have dealt with this elsewhere), let’s say it’s difficult to create conditions on the ground conducive to a two-state solution. In any case, it’s far from clear that Netanyahu and his settler allies will be leaving office anytime soon, so let’s assume it’s on them to figure out what happens politically.

I want to know the following answer: what is your solution? When you face reality, you will have to answer to six conditions for a solution:

1. Palestinians exist. Whether you like it or not, they aren’t going to go anywhere or call them-selves Egyptians, Jordanians, or Tahitians. How will you permit them to determine their own destiny and enjoy equal rights as Israelis (including, among others, the right to vote and move freely within their country)?
2. Assuming your answer to (1) is that they are treated as equal citizens, how will you ensure Israel remains a demographic-majority Jewish state? Are you willing to give up a Jewish majority if it means keeping settlers? Given having an ethnic majority is the basis for national self-determination, what’s your solution here?
3. How will you deal with the issue of Palestinian refugees? Wishing the problem away or throwing tantrums about UNRWA isn’t going to help. Israelis believe Jews must have a state to return to and Palestinians believe the same of their diaspora, but neither believes the other has such a right of return. If it’s one state, how will you deal with this?

I don’t want to hear lazy excuses about a ‘cooling off’ period to ensure a Jewish majority as Netanyahu wrote of in ‘A Place Among the Nations’; we’ve had thirty years of cooling off since Oslo and nothing has changed. I don’t want to hear nonsense about how Palestinians are economic immigrants from Jordan; forget historical inaccuracy, you cannot just wish away national identity because you don’t like it. I don’t want to hear hairbrained twaddle about Palestinian clans living in enclaves; calling it the ‘Emirates’ just because the UAE is rich utterly insults a sane person’s intelligence.

I don’t want to hear about turning Jordan into a Palestinian state since Jordan is anyway an independent state and Israel isn’t going to force Palestinians away from land they associate with their identity. I certainly don’t want to hear about giving Palestinians the right to vote in Jordan; it is a mirror image of a Palestinian calling for one state where Jews would have the right to vote in ‘the country they came from’. I don’t need demographic projections that are anyway nonsensical, or ideas of a ‘West Bank-Israel federation’ that excludes the Gaza Strip when Gazans are very much part of the conflict. And forget about ‘voluntary emigration’, a thinly-veiled euphemism for ethnic cleansing.

The two-state solution acknowledges that Israelis and Palestinians do not share much national identity: while we can quibble over who invented hummus, neither side can reconcile themselves with the other’s national identity. So, just split the land in a way that ensures two viable, contiguous, prosperous states based on the 1967 line with reciprocal border modifications to absorb settlers. Refugees will return to Palestine, with a symbolic number absorbed into Israel and all receiving compensation; this will preserve the demographic balance to ensure a Jewish and democratic state, provide Palestinians a sense of restorative justice, and put an end to all claims against Israel from its creation to the signing of the deal. Jerusalem shall be divided on ethnic lines with a special regime for the holy sites to ensure Judaism, Islam, and Christianity can coexist in the complex city.

It’s not perfect, but that feeling is mutual: Palestinians must give up their claims on Haifa and Jaffa, much the way Israel must relinquish its claims to Hebron. But two-staters accept the trade-offs for what they are; unfortunate but necessary and much better than all alternatives. Some day in the future a confederal arrangement or freedom of movement can ensure Jews can freely live in Hebron and Palestinians in Jaffa, not as enemies but as brothers.

Many, present author included, will not give up on the two-state solution because there is no convincing alternative. But since it’s the settlers who have had power, in some capacity or the other since 2015; let them decide. To the Yesha Council, analyze the three parameters above. They aren’t unrealistic; they are the basic facts of life.

The truth is the settler-right doesn’t have answers to these questions. They believe everything will be resolved by a deux ex machina of some sort (the Smotrich-Ben Gvir crowd) or that Palestinians can be wished away altogether (not too different from the Bibi mentality). When we ask the real questions, what we get is a chorus of irate noises about how the world is unfair, and Palestinians don’t really exist as a people. None of them have a serious answer. Never have, never will. Get real.

About the Author
Priyankar Kandarpa is an ardent supporter of Israel's existence as a secure, moral, democratic state to fulfill the original mission of Zionists to ensure the Jewish people a truly recognized, legitimate place among the nations. He closely researches matters regarding the so-called 'Permanent Status' issues and the history of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. He studies History and Politics at the University of Oxford.
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