Keep Dreaming: The multi-state solution

Why work on resolving conflicts when, with so much less effort, we can simply make them disappear?

By
January 6, 2012 21:56
Ultra-Orthodox protesters demonstrate in Jerusalem

Haredi protest 480 2. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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What Solomonic wisdom. I don’t often find myself using superlatives in referencing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s attempts at conflict resolution in our region, but his recent suggestion that we put an end to the discord between the haredim and the rest of the population of Beit Shemesh by dividing the city in two is simply stupendous.

Not only would redrawing the municipal boundaries plainly eliminate any and every point of contention between the two sides, but it would also set a precedent for solving all the other problems plaguing Israel. This is one of those “Gee, why didn't anyone think of this sooner?” moments. What a breakthrough.

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Just consider the implications.

No more waiting for the end of the peace process to discuss Jerusalem. We can offer to cut it in half tomorrow and complete negotiations on the other irritating details in no time.

No more discomforting studies about the growing divide between Israel’s haves and have-nots. Those who don’t have the wherewithal to make a decent wage can be separated from the rest of us, eradicating those bothersome economic gaps we would otherwise have to contend with were we living in a mixed society.

No more glass ceilings. Those living below them can be informed once and for all that the floors above are off-limits and that they should stop even thinking about ending up there. No more pent-up frustration and an instant end to all that irritating whining.

No more having to endure the sniveling of the physically challenged. Move them all to a 100-percent wheelchair accessible corner of the country and get rid of those exasperating handicapped-only parking places everywhere else that prevent the rest of us from having reasonable access to shopping malls.

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No more gay parades on heterosexual avenues. Separate territories for normal people and queers, who undoubtedly will be content to dwell among their own in the bars and clubs assigned them.

No more parasites. One piece of real estate for those who believe God will protect them and choose to enlist in the army of the Lord, and another for those who believe God helps those who help themselves – or who, God forbid, don’t believe in God at all – and are prepared to bear arms in their own defense.

No more disruptions of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Those who dress their children as Hitler’s victims in a repulsive and disgraceful act of provocation could be banished to ghettos to fend for themselves, segregated from those who choose instead to honor the survivors.

In short, no more fretting over the problems of a two-state solution. We’re talking multi-state here. One for the hedonists among us with Tel Aviv as its capital, another for those who persist in believing in coexistence with Haifa as its hub, a third governed out of Sde Boker for die-hard Zionists who still believe in Ben-Gurion’s dream of making the desert bloom and other assorted pioneering fairy tales, and a fourth for those who would submit themselves to the rule of sundry rabbinical councils that will be permitted to bicker incessantly over what the Torah really requires of us, unencumbered by the annoyances of democracy.

After all, why work on resolving conflicts when, with so much less effort, we can simply make them disappear? Why demand that laws be enforced when it’s so much easier to create territorial cloisters where they simply don’t apply? Separation has been part of our tradition for as long as we’ve been proscribed from cooking kids in their mothers’ milk. A people that has had to build its kitchens to accommodate four sets of dishes should easily grasp the advantages of carving up our country into cantons.

Of course, doing so might be a bit easier if we were to excise the teachings of Ezekiel from our holy writ. There I was, sitting in synagogue this past Shabbat, all excited by the exquisite simplicity of our prime minister’s ingenious proposition, when the words of the haftara intruded upon my reverie.

”Behold, I am going to take the children of Israel from among the nations… and gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land. I will make them a single nation in the land… and one king shall be king of them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.”

Indeed the time has come to draw a line in Beit Shemesh, but not down the middle.

No, the line needs to be drawn on this side of the law with a thick red marker and anyone who attempts to cross it must be made to pay the consequences.

Ezekiel’s prophecy begins with the parable of the valley of dry bones, the remnants of our people resurrected through devotion to the divine spirit. But the national restoration that he foretold – which we have been privileged beyond words to behold – will only be fulfilled if we are able to come together as one people.

Take two sticks, he was commanded, and on one of them inscribe the names of the tribes of the northern kingdom and on the other the tribes of the southern kingdom. “Bring them close to each other, so that they become one stick, joined together in your hand.”

Ezekiel’s homilies emphasize individual accountability and the personal responsibility that each of us bears for the unity and well-being of the collective. They are as relevant today at the beginning of our redemption as they were 2,500 years ago at the beginning of our Exile. I can only hope that they were read in the synagogues of Beit Shemesh with the same earnestness with which they read in my congregation in Jerusalem.

The writer is vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of The Jewish Agency Executive. The opinions expressed herein are his own.

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