(photo credit: Associated Press)
Freezing growth of
Jewish settlements in the West Bank, on the assumption that
these lands will become part of a future sovereign Palestine, might
fair were the same principle applied in equal measure to Arab cities and
villages in Israel. Were Arabs forbidden to rent or purchase new land or
to expand their cities, it would be judged racist and loudly protested.
Arabs are Israeli citizens. Most of them had progenitors or brethren
in what is now Israel at the time of its reestablishment. And you know
what? Jews living in what may become a future Palestinian state would
the same native status and rights to citizenship in that state.
Jews really consent to be loyal citizens of a Palestinian state whose
established borders included them? Well, why would they be any less
loyal to it,
if they remain there, than Israeli Arabs (of which the corresponding
could be asked) are to Israel?
Surely, they would have as much of an
its stability as any other citizen. There is the long-standing
complication, of course, that Jews in a predominantly Arab country would
mortal danger – that is one of the true asymmetries in the Middle East –
knows what they would decide if the Palestinian state provided (not
provided) them physical security and equal rights?
question may be, the fact that the answer is at present unknowable
deprive Jews of fundamental rights to purchase or rent land
Wait, some may say: The Jews living in occupied
obtained their residence there via conquest, whereas Arabs living in
already there at its inception. Actually, the Arabs acquired their
supremacy through conquest followed by racist laws. Throughout the
occupation, not to mention the preceding millennia, Arabs were allowed
in Palestine/Israel while Jews, with few exceptions, were not. It is no
that Arabs there outnumbered Jews in the early 20th century.
seemed very peculiar and threatening to many Arabs when the British
allowed both Jews and Arabs to settle in Israel/Palestine, and they soon
British to put a stop to it. Now outraged that Jews are still allowed to
in the West Bank, from which Jews were evicted long ago and again in
are successfully pressuring US President Barack Obama as they
pressured Great Britain. It’s all very expected and ho-hum, as racism
traditionally is until challenged.
LEAVING ASIDE all mention of
of Israel, peace will come to the Middle East only when all Arabs with
to ruin such peace recognize the right of Jews to live there. The
terror, which existed in even greater proportions before 1948, are not
border disputes, Israel’s policies or even Israel itself. Aside from
bigotry, the fighting is over real estate.
Allowing Jews to buy
freely and live in peace on it, if it doesn’t ruin the neighborhood,
prices. David Ben-Gurion’s book My
Talks with Arab Leaders reveals the candid
statements of those leaders about why they opposed Jewish immigration,
within an Arab-dominated Palestine. He paraphrases Auni Abdul Hadi, a
Palestinian Arab, speaking in July 1934, shortly after Hitler took power
Germany: “Who can resist the insane prices [for land] paid by Jews?”
day, the right to private land transactions between consenting parties
for little in Middle Eastern politics.In a free market,
less power. Jews living on land in the Gaza Strip privately purchased
owners were evicted from it by the Sharon government, while the world
because they were Jews, and, on these grounds alone, apparently not
exercise their legal ownership. Arab political leaders loudly protested
influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union during the 1990s for reasons
had nothing to do with Arab-Israeli borders, and everything to do with
being Jews and not Arabs.
This is not to deny the difficulties of
tenants when real estate prices increase. This universal problem,
however, is hardly grounds for abolishing the freedom of property owners
it for a good price. If an Arab wants to sell his home and/or plot of
land for a
million dollars to a Jew who is willing to pay this much for it, what
anyone have to prevent these individuals from making the transaction?
freedom of private transaction between consenting individuals been
before 1948, there would have been no massive Palestinian refugee
problem. The cost of 10,000 brand new homes per year that would have
needed for Palestinians displaced by market forces (far less than the
home foreclosures in the US during the recent recession) would have been
billion or so per year (in 2010 dollars). This is ludicrously small
the cost of support for post- 1948 refugees. Most importantly, the cost
homes and land plots would have been truly minuscule compared to the
that land sales to Jews in Hitler’s shadow would have brought to the
THE POSITION that Jews are entitled to live anywhere is
slim hope for peace, because it confronts the underlying obstacle to
on. The last breakthrough for peace, Menahem Begin’s agreement with
(skyrocketing oil prices of the 1970s notwithstanding), followed Begin’s
innocent question to the world: Jews are allowed to live in London, New
Los Angeles, why shouldn’t they be allowed to live in the land of their
forefathers? The world did not have a good answer.
Begin a man of strength and principle, as per president Jimmy Carter’s
description, Sadat dramatically announced within months that he was
Jerusalem in search of peace. His recognition of Israel as a matter of
preceded any territorial negotiations, probably because he recognized
universal matters of principle are not bargaining chips, even if the
and details of their implementation are. This recognition did not end up
Egypt an inch of territory.(Of course, the knee-jerk expulsion
Jews from the Sinai cost Egypt billions of dollars in tax revenues.)
Jews want to fall in love, raise families, earn money, buy homes, sell
a profit and buy newer, better ones, and to pursue happiness – anywhere.
Obama considered how he is interfering with this process, on both sides,
ethnic restrictions are imposed, at his behest, on transaction of
When private individuals enjoy unrestricted rights to
private business, warmongering elements are neutralized. As
quoted by a
2009 New York Times article
about the improvement of the Palestinian economy and
security, Palestinian store owner Rashid al-Sakhel said, “For the past
years, a 10-year-old boy could order a strike and we would all close.
can threaten us.”
People also want physical security
and, in a region
with a history of violence, mistrust, numerical asymmetry and
will be hard to implement the ideals of unrestricted individual
freedom. But this is all the more reason to proclaim the ideals, while
negotiations for assurances, guarantees, checks and balances, etc.
Otherwise, there is little to negotiate about.
Peace, which surely must
accommodate Israeli Arabs in its equation, must also accommodate
Jews. And it must accommodate the inevitability of competition over
cannot eliminate such competition through negotiation, but we can choose
it will take place on the battlefield or in the free market.
is professor of theoretical astrophysics at Ben-Gurion University.