The issue came up during a casual conversation with my brilliant and affable
colleague Yitzhak Noy, who monitors the international news media – dailies,
weeklies and monthlies – for Israel Radio. A master of monologue, he is on the
air every Saturday morning from 9 to 10.
“How do you explain the fact
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have failed to arrive at a peace agreement
despite the passage of 45 years since the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip in the Six Day War?” I asked.
“It’s because they refuse to
recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” Noy replied.
Noy’s prompt answer
brought to mind one of the last rounds of negotiation between the two sides
shortly after Binyamin Netanyahu had become prime minister.
conditions set by Netanyahu’s delegate was that the PA confirm its acceptance of
this fact of Middle Eastern life. The reaction was negative and the talks were
At the time, I thought that this demand was irrelevant if not
excessive. I asked myself, would a French negotiator demand that his
counterpart, whatever that diplomat’s nationality might be, must recognize
France as a French state? Since when does any national state need confirmation
of its ethnic makeup from a foreigner no matter who he or she might be? But with
the passage of time and constant exposure to the seemingly endless Arab-Jewish
dispute over Palestine, I had to admit that this issue indeed is
Israel’s definition of herself is embedded in its declaration
of independence, as the state of the Jews. Refusal by a projected entity that
not only would be its eastern neighbor, but also would include people who claim
the “right of return” to their families’ former homes in western Palestine (now
Israel) implies that the so-called two-state solution could eventually erupt in
This is one of the reasons why I must clarify the
alternative onestate solution
described in a recent column.
was not meant to promote the Palestine Liberation Organization’s concept of a
single Palestinian state in which the Jews would have no statutory national
status and certainly no constitutional authority whatsoever, if indeed its Arab
rulers agreed to let them stay.
My proposal presumes that the political
framework would be based on the one that already exists in contemporary Israel,
that the same principles would apply and that the enlarged state still would be
The main difference between today’s status quo and the
proposed alternative would be that the Palestinians of the West Bank would be
granted citizenship and equal rights.
One of the main objectives would be
to bring an end to the current stalemate in which the Palestinian Authority is
unable to transform itself into a sovereign Palestinian state as long as the
Islamic Hamas movement continues to rule the Gaza Strip, an area regarded as a
future part of that state’s domain since the Oslo Accords of 1993 if not before
them. This problem is all the more pressing inasmuch as Hamas is unlikely to
give way to the PLO which governs the West Bank.
Iran, for which Hamas
has been providing a strategic bridgehead, will see to that.
purpose would be to extricate the West Bank’s Palestinian Arabs from political
The fact that many if not most of them aspire to
self-determination and statehood does not relieve them of their post-war status
as “protected persons” who must be treated in accordance with the Geneva
Convention of 1949 – an international compact inspired by the bitter experience
of the Europeans whose respective countries were conquered and occupied by the
Germans during World War II.
In actual fact, Israel’s interpretation of
the 1949 Geneva Convention differs from that of the international community, but
even if Israel conformed to the prevailing view this would by no means bring
salvation or relief to the West Bank Palestinians.
It goes without saying
that 45 years of life in political and diplomatic limbo has been frustrating and
difficult for these Palestinians, while the constant responsibility for their
personal security and well-being has been a burden for the Israeli authorities.
One might therefore conclude that the time has come for a viable alternative to
be tried. De facto annexation by Israel may be just that
Admittedly, all this may seem to be academic if not
Even so, the lopsided situation that has existed since 1967,
in which Israeli nationalists and religious extremists have been able to
establish Jewish settlements in the West Bank and rank and file Israelis have
moved into the sectors of Jerusalem that were taken from Jordan in the Six Day
War, is a perpetual source of conflict.
The one-state solution which I
envision could provide an opportunity to mollify the Palestinians by allowing a
mutually acceptable number of 1948 refugees or their descendants to be
repatriated. It would not open Israel’s doors to the millions who claim refugee
status, but could have the effect of a goodwill gesture based on Israel’s
acknowledgement of the refugees’ plight and misfortune.
All this may be
nothing more than “pie in the sky,” however.
The Arab side might react by
adopting the old Jewish maxim, “When someone gives, take!” without drawing any
positive political conclusions and certainly without shedding the longstanding
rejection of Jewish statehood.
Jewish statehood is directly linked to
Jewish nationality, which is basic to any understanding of Israel’s raison
It is not for naught that the identity cards issued to Israel’s
citizens specify the bearer’s nationality (le’om in Hebrew) rather than his or
her religion. In theory, therefore, the State of Israel is not legally obligated
to support, encourage or promote Jewish religiosity, nor must it do this for its
Muslim or Christian citizens.
The fact that Israel grants substantial
financial aid to the various ultra-Orthodox Jewish institutions including the
Chief Rabbinate (Ashkenazic and Sephardic) is due to the political clout the
beneficiaries have obtained due to the state’s parliamentary system of
government and the consequent need for coalition regimes.
justification for the state’s recognition of the Jewish le’om can be found in
the fact that throughout the 2,000-yearlong Diaspora, Jews were subjected by the
non-Jewish majorities alongside whom they lived to violent persecution and crass
The logical conclusion drawn from this experience was
Zionism, i.e. that the Jewish people must have a state of their own in which
they will be able to defend themselves whenever necessary...hence, the
State of Israel.
This concept underlies the positive aspects of the
international community’s attitude toward Israel, including that of the United
States and to a greater or lesser extent France and Russia among many
To paraphrase George Santayana, those who ignore history are
liable to repeat it.The writer is a veteran foreign correspondent.