Dr. Micah Goodman’s book, “Catch 67” asserts that both the Israeli Left and the Israeli Right are partially correct: The occupation of the West Bank poses a long-term existential threat to Israel, however, withdrawal from the West Bank also poses a security threat to Israel.
The Occupation is a long-term threat, because it will result in a situation either where the majority of people under Israeli citizens aren’t Jewish, threatening the state’s Jewish identity, or where a large segment of those under Israeli control are not Israeli citizens, threatening the state’s democratic identity.
Withdrawal from the West Bank is a security threat because it leaves Israel without defensible borders, because the Palestinian Authority’s trustworthiness is at the very least, unproven, and because the Palestinian narrative is about reclaiming the land that was lost in 1948 -meaning that control of the West Bank won’t quench their opposition to Israel.
So what’s to be done?
Goodman argues on giving up on the ideal of a peaceful solution-at least for now. Instead, he argues, we should focus on immediate steps to lessen the conflict and to decrease Israeli military control over Palestinians, while also protecting Israel’s security.
Israel can maintain control over major settlement blocs and the Jordan River Valley, while ceding the majority of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. This can be done in tandem with building a bridges and tunnel system to connect different part of Palestinian territory, as well as moves to help increase the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy in the world of international diplomacy. Goodman lays out a few different ways in which this plan can be implemented from “softer” versions, more palatable to the Israeli Right, to “harder” versions, more palatable for the Israeli Left.
The important thing however, is that this plan will not end the conflict. It will significantly decrease the number of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, without entailing significant uprooting of Israeli settlers, and without leaving Israel with indefensible borders. It will lessen the conflict and decrease the existential threat posed by the Occupation, while also protecting Israeli security. This plan does not demand that Palestinian leadership make grand statements or declare peace: It simply focuses on what Israel can do, even without a credible partner, to lessen the amount that it oppresses Palestinians while also looking out for its long-term security and existential interests.
I think the Israeli Left should get behind this plan. Why?
It’s clear that we have failed at selling peace to the Israeli public. It is also clear that our long-term goal involves ceding more territory than this plan envisions. However, if our primary concern is the everyday lives of Palestinians, as well as Israel’s long-term future as a Jewish democracy, then we must support a plan that takes immediate steps to improve the lives of Palestinians, as well as some measures to ensure Israel’s long-term existence as a Jewish democracy, instead of waiting until the opportunity to implement the perfect plan comes along. Certainly, this imperfect plan is better than the status quo.
Most importantly, this is a plan that we can sell to the Israeli public, because is not dependent on trusting the Palestinian Authority, does not claim to exchange land for peace, and does not give up on defensible borders or uproot major settlement blocs. So let’s work on selling this, even as we acknowledge that it is not our ultimate goal.
Part of politics is pragmatism; working together with the Israeli center for practical steps that can be immediately implemented does not mean giving up on the long-term dream, but it is certainly better than refusing to work on interim steps because those steps are not the long-term dream.
So let’s get busy. There is work to be done.*
*The book, “Catch 67” by Dr. Micah Goodman, is available from Dvir Press, in Hebrew. The book is brilliant, and apologies if in trying to simplify, in English, a book I read in Hebrew, I in any way misconstrued or failed to capture it properly.