Why is the Left Afraid of the One State Solution? A Response to Leah Susman; and a Question

Leah Susman asserts that the annexation of Judea and Samaria will bring the Zionist project to ruin. (T of I Top Ops 27/9/16)  In her view, shared by the entire Israeli Left, stretching Israeli sovereignty beyond the Green Line would flood the country with millions of hostile and potentially violent Arabs, transforming the Jewish State into an unstable bi-national State or an un-Jewish and nondemocratic apartheid State.

Though Leah and the Left are very wrong about this, they are not alone in their fear. The Right, secular and religious, shares this fear, despite the fact that it’s origin comes from the Left.

In a remarkable series of essays published in the Makor Rishon newspaper this past summer, Sara HaEtzni-Cohen presented all of the known plans associated with the secular and religious Right for ending the occupation. What she unintentionally revealed is that each and every one of these plans accepts as true the first great lie of the Left – that the annexation of the West Bank will flood the country with millions of unwanted and hostile Arabs.

The key here, of course, is “flood the country.”  After all, even after acquiring their blue Israeli identity cards and the right to vote in Israel’s national elections, the Arabs of the former West Bank will not literally “flood the country.”  They will remain where they are, continuing to live in their villages on the other side of the former green line safely out of sight from both the secular Left and the secular Right.  Even after annexation, “we will [still] be here, and they will [still] be there.”

But on the first Election Day following annexation our newly minted and mostly hostile Arab citizens will most certainly make themselves felt.  They will, it is asserted, by the millions, cast their ballot for some version of the United Arab List and vote the Jewish State out of existence.

But there is a big problem with this almost universally accepted scenario. It is predicated upon the corollary of the Left’s great lie:  That Israel’s identity as the sovereign nation-state of the Jewish people derives from the demography of its citizens, specifically, from the religious pedigree of the wombs of its women.

This is the great lie at the heart of the Gordian Knot of all contemporary Israeli politics.

The real truth is, by extending Jewish sovereignty to the borders of our Biblical patrimony, our national identity as the sovereign nation-state of the Jewish people would be instantly re-assigned from the personal religious identity of our now polyglot citizenry onto the Biblical pedigree of our territorial boundary lines. Israel would then be free to separate religion from the state and join the ranks of all truly modern western democracies without risking its identity as the Jewish nation-state.

With defined and delimited external boundary lines, Israel will be able to draw internal boundary lines. These lines will create regional, geographic affinities among Israeli citizens greatly reducing the political significance of sub-national or supra-national identities – ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious – and eliminating altogether their electoral significance.  In other words, if annexation is properly implemented and Israel is subdivided into multiple sub-national territorial and juridical domains, then the “high tide” of Arab solidarity will never arrive, not even on Election Day.

But inside the now defunct Green Line, Israel will be radically transformed by annexation, albeit not in the way that Leah and the Left currently believes.  The extension of Jewish sovereignty up to the Biblical boundary lines will not turn Israel into either a bi-national state or an apartheid state.  Rather, Israel will become an artificial state very much akin to the United States of America.

Politically, this transformation will be captured by the necessary jettisoning of our current electoral system of proportional representation in favor of a system based upon electoral districts.  Israeli democracy will no longer be defined by the principle of one-man-one-vote, which is anyway honored mostly in the breach.  Rather, it will be based upon American Federalism, which is rooted in the principle of minority rights and even of minority veto rights.  In Israel, just like in America, it will be possible to lose the popular vote and still win the national election.

More significantly, at least for the Left, annexation will drive the state out of the religion business.  Loyal citizens who serve in the Israeli army and speak guttural Hebrew with perfect diction will be honored for what they are:  Loyal citizens of the sovereign Jewish State.  But that status will neither validate nor vitiate their religious identity as good and loyal Jews.  For that, the Jews of Israel will have to choose to be good and loyal Jews:  Every citizen, in fact, will individually have to answer to God and not rely on the Jewishness of the state for his religious identity.

The political and religious consequences of annexation gravely threaten the secular Right and present the religious Right with a set of unprecedented challenges.  As such, I understand why they fear the one state solution, at least according to the reports filed by Sara HaEtzni-Cohen.

But Leah, can you please explain your opposition to annexation?  After all, annexation will lead to the Americanization of Israel satisfying each and every one of the Left’s legitimate political demands.

About the Author
Avi Berkowitz teaches history at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University, and serves as the Rabbi of the Minyan HaVatikim in the Rimon section of Efrat. He holds a PhD from Columbia University in International Relations, with a specialty in Middle East studies and received his Rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchick. Prior to coming on aliyah, he served as the rabbi of the Community Synagogue in Manhattan's East Village, taught history at the Ramaz Upper School, and was an adjunct Assistant Professor of political science and Middle East studies at CUNY