The two-state solution: A failed marriage

We have become so obsessed with the institution of marriage that we have forgotten its core essence as being the social and contractual expression of a healthy, harmonious relationship between two entities—whether nations or individuals—that leads to each side realizing its full potential.

September 19, 2011 19:23
Marriage caricature

marriage cartoon 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Marriage is a revered institution, especially for Jews. When we hear news of an engagement, our knee jerk reaction is to respond, “mazel tov!” without asking the difficult, unpleasant questions: Are the bride and groom really right for each other? Do they share the common values and goals, let alone the relationship skills that are crucial for a successful, happy marriage?

No one wants to ruin an impending marriage.  It’s a union that bespeaks of the continuity of life, the advancement of social order, the intermingling of new worlds to create a better one—ideally.

The Jewish community by and large responded with some caution, but mostly with optimism to a different kind of union: the “engagement” of the Israelis and Palestinians.Of course everyone knew the match didn’t grow out of romantic love. It was more like an arranged marriage of convenience with the international community acting as the over-enthusiastic, pushy matchmaker. As the developed state, Israel would grant the Arab entity the legitimacy and benefits necessary for it to become part of the family of nations.

The "engagement party" occurred in 1993 on the lawn of the White House when the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin placed the proverbial political ring on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s finger with the signing of the Oslo Accords. Much like the ketubbah—the Jewish marriage contract – the Oslo Accords held the promise of partnership which would ultimately lead to the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side, peacefully, with Israel. 

Mazel tov!

It's just unfortunate that the notion of “’til death do us part” was taken all too literally.

Yasser Arafat became a runaway bride when, in 2000, he rejected then-prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer of close to 90 percent of the territories Palestinians claimed to have wanted for their state. And playing the part of the bitter "ex," Arafat sought vengeance. Over the next few years, he masterminded the second Intifada against Israel with countless suicide bombings against men, women and children in buses, malls, restaurants, nightclubs, and even a hotel’s Passover seder.

But then America stepped in to save the day, acting as the couple's therapist who would be able to reunite the Israelis and Palestinians. It worked for a while, but eventually, Israel sensed it must slowly break-off the Oslo engagement.

So in the summer of 2005, Israel literally became “disengaged” from the Palestinians when it mobilized the IDF to forcefully evacuate 10,000 of its own citizens—known, pejoratively, as “the settlers”— from Gaza and Northern Samaria. But the break-up was entirely one-sided with Israel leaving the Palestinians on the curb and engaging in no serious face-to-face "custody" talks regarding issues such as the transfer of property, security cooperation, and border control.

Predictably, chaos ensued. Following the hasty retreat, Israel’s involvement in Gaza became fraught with increasing challenges. Until today, rockets and missiles are being fired from Gaza into the "ex's" territory; Israel's son, Gilad Schalit, rots in captivity; and activists aboard flotillas bound for Gaza smear Israel’s name. With Israel having abdicated its role as a buffer between Gaza and Egypt, the terrorist network has expanded into the Sinai, beckoning the re-militarization of the Sinai.

And yet, even as the relationship has proven downright abusive, international leaders still do everything in their power to save the marriage between Israelis and the Palestinians in the form of two contiguous states.

We have become so obsessed with the institution of marriage that we have forgotten its idyllic essence as being the social and contractual expression of a healthy, harmonious relationship between two entities—whether nations or individuals—complete in and of themselves, each possessing self-esteem, self-knowledge, self-respect, personal responsibility, ethical sensitivity, and a willingness to communicate civilly with each other when times get bad.

Palestinian society has proven that it does not possess the qualities indicative of a healthy state, let alone one that can partner positively with another. Textbooks and political charters promote the eradication of its partner; the governing bodies deprive their citizens of individual rights, even going so far as to condone the use of children as human shields and weapons; town squares are named after suicide bombers.

Sadly, the Palestinian self-image isn’t one based on self-love and self-acceptance; rather, it’s based on pity, victimization, need, emotionalism, anger and—even worse—vengeful hate and a desire to destroy "the other."

But it suits their cause to pose as the oppressed, battered woman - the natural victim deserving of sympathy. Physically stronger and wealthier, Israel is automatically cast as the bully who must be stopped from abusing the weaker sex.

Actually, Israel is the one that is the target of abuse. Under its current leadership, the Palestinian entity is more akin to a black widow - the calculating, manipulative femme fatale who exploits the idealism and sympathy of others to gradually destroy the partner she so vehemently despises. It seems that no amount of couples' counseling can rid them of their religious and culturally-inspired Jew hatred. But international leaders, Jews included, have become enablers of this hate-addiction, blaming it on Israel’s strength and wealth instead of the unhealthy values the Palestinians embrace.

The Palestinians are garnering even more sympathy by seeking independence through a unilaterally-declared state. Acting now as if they need a break-up and doesn’t want to bestow a get (divorce decree), their position has changed from the battered wife to the wronged agunah, a wife “chained” to her recalcitrant, abusive husband who refuses to set her free.

An official, public break-up at this point will be extremely messy. Any economic, political, or security cooperation that still exists will likely be severed, friends will be forced to take sides, and the thorniest issue of who gets what with regards to real estate and property will need to be worked out.

Yet over time Israel has proven itself the more mature, more capable custodian of the Land of Israel. Judging from the aftermath of the Disengagement, the Palestinians are currently incapable of sowing the land with the seeds of democracy, individual liberty, and human achievement.  Israel, on the other hand, has developed beautifully as a state, a healthy state, and one that Arabs should emulate, where all of its children - minorities included - have the freedom to realize their human potential, and it is this that should be the ultimate goal of any marriage.

The writer is the incoming Executive Director of the West Coast chapter of the Zionist Organization of America. She can be reached at [email protected]

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