A Jewish state with an Arab minority

The conflict is not territorial in nature, but ideological.

By YONI CHETBOUN
November 3, 2013 21:50
3 minute read.
Settlers gather for prayer in Ramat Gilad

Settlers gather for prayer in Ramat Gilad_311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Two anniversaries came in quick succession here in Israel recently. One was the twentieth anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shaking hands on the White House lawn in front of Bill Clinton, having signed the Oslo Accords. The second was the fortieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, where yet again, hostile Arab armies invaded the Jewish state on the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar.

Both events share several common threads, but most of all those two events came at a time where the Israeli political leadership refused to entertain countervailing points of view. All elements across the Israeli political spectrum have been guilty of this, but none more so than the Right.

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The past 20 years saw the Right behave like a petulant teenager, saying “no!” to every initiative advanced by other parties. It is only recently that the Right is starting to articulate alternative possibilities to the patently failed two-state solution.

Let us start with an axiom: Judea and Samaria are an inseparable part of the State of Israel, and part of our national and historical heritage – in no way different from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa. Secondly, even if we were inclined to give away sections of our homeland, this would not herald the peace that we all hope for. Why is this? Very simply, the conflict is not territorial in nature, but ideological.

Thirdly, even if the prime minister and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were to announce an accord tomorrow, the Palestinian body politic is fragmented among Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Salafi elements whose values are in accord with al-Qaida. In addition, there are many secular, nationalist yet extreme elements that also wield influence.

That all these elements would be inclined to coalesce into one homogeneous, united and sovereign country is impossible. Furthermore, dissenting groups would not consider themselves bound by any agreement, and the Israeli public would remain at risk, both from the south west from a “Hamastan,” and from the east in a putative Palestine.

We must break out of the failed paradigms of the past. Consequently, without resorting to cliché or rhetoric, I offer the following plan, entitled: ‘A Jewish state with an Arab minority.’

1. A process of shared ownership: An agreement that builds on gradualism, reciprocity and most of all realistic expectations.

2. Israeli civilian law would be extended to Judea and Samaria. As part of this extension of civilian law, citizenship would be offered to all Arabs. Reduction of threat levels from Arabs in Judea and Samaria would be reciprocated with increased rights until Arabs enjoy full equality, including the right to vote for representation in the Knesset.

This would be bound up with a commitment on each individual to play a constructive part in Israeli society.

3. The demographic threat: In parallel to the extension of citizenship to the Arab population in Judea and Samaria, The State of Israel will aggressively incentivise aliya from the Diaspora to neutralize any perceived demographic threat. Funds previously earmarked for security needs would be reallocated to fund these initiatives.

The result will be a Jewish state with an Arab minority: The Arab population throughout the State of Israel will constitute a minority in a Jewish state, with full citizenship.

This initiative does not conform to the tried, tested and failed policies of the past two decades, yet retains a central premise held by all those who yearn for peace and stability, namely that Jews, Muslims and Christians can coexist in the same space without killing each other.

This will mean that those who have been at the forefront of policy implementation must have the flexibility to see past the righteousness of their intentions and muster the courage to secure the future.

In 1948, there was a heated disagreement between David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann as to whether independence should have been declared following the end of the British Mandate.

Weizmann was skeptical of the ability of the Yishuv to defend itself given the adverse demographics and counseled against. Ben-Gurion, by contrast, understood that when opportunities present themselves, they have to be seized.

In spite of the seeming insurmountable obstacles, we know who has been proven right. This is a similar opportunity, which we must not pass up. The stakes are just too high to fail.

The author, a Knesset Minister, is a Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and sits on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.


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