The ultimate bottom line of the judicial upheaval that is being led by the Netanyahu government is to create the ability for Israel to annex the occupied territories without granting the Palestinians civil, political, and human rights.
The leading forces of this are, of course, those who take the name “religious Zionists” and are at the core of the Israeli settlement movement. Their distorted interpretation of Judaism provides them with the justification for destroying liberal democracy, which they wish to replace with their version of Jewish religious law.
For these distorted minds, their interpretation of the word of God that they have created is that the Old Testament is a land deed to the land of Israel, and the word of God to the prophet Joshua to destroy and eliminate the people of the land who were here before his conquest today refers to the other indigenous people of this land – the Palestinian people.
As I wrote last week, this distortion of a worldview has been victorious. They have won, at least for now. And if they continue to succeed, it will be the end of the vision that most Israelis share of a liberal, democratic Jewish state.
Seventy-five years of history have proven that Israel has never been, nor can it ever be, a liberal democratic Jewish state because it is built on the idea of Jewish supremacy in a reality where more than 20% of the citizens are Palestinian Arabs; if we include the territories under Israel’s de facto control, a majority of people living here are Palestinian Arabs.
Israel may have been a liberal democracy for most Jews, but it never was for most Palestinian Arabs – citizens of Israel or those living under Israeli occupation.
There was a lot of pushback last week when I declared that the two-state solution was probably dead. Anyone who knows the reality on the ground in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem can easily see that there is probably no possibility to enable a sovereign Palestinian state to exist.
Along with the vast land grabs and military control all over, there is little area that could be a sovereign Palestinian state. The stark oppression of occupation continues to support hatred and animosity of Palestinians toward Israelis that will take generations of peace and trust-building to enable a peaceful two-state solution.
The oppression of Palestinians is what leads directly to Palestinian violence against Israel today. But even those who recognize this assert that there is no other solution and that the two-state solution is the best solution.
It may be the best solution, but I challenge them to tell us how it is possible. Even under the best circumstances, during the Olmert-Abbas negotiations, Israeli annexation of 4-5% of the West Bank, with a 1:1 land swap with the Palestinians, would enable about 80% of the Israeli settlers to fall under Israeli sovereignty without leaving their homes.
But 20% would remain within the area of the Palestinian state, and those are the most hardcore ideological settlers – the same people who are pushing the judicial upheaval forward. They will not leave their homes and they will not agree to live in a Palestinian state.
Their life’s mission has been to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. They also represent those who use violence in pogroms against Palestinians, and those who would be most likely to take arms against Israeli soldiers and police who might be sent to remove them from their homes.
What is the future of Israel as a Jewish state?
WHY DO we need a Jewish state? So that we can express our identity within a territory that we control. What identity is that? Is it the haredi onslaught that is rapidly taking over the neighborhood of Kiryat Hayovel in Jerusalem, where I have lived for the past 32 years? Or is it the Jewish identity of multi-cultural Tel Aviv?
Who controls the shaping of the identity that we want to preserve? Is it the current Education Minister, with the trends in the ministry of increasing religiosity entering the curricula of secular Jewish schools in Israel? This is the same ministry that has always prevented Palestinian citizens from learning about their own identity, narrative, and literature.
Which Jewish democratic state do we want? Many people told me that we need a Jewish state because of the Holocaust. A European ambassador, who is not Jewish, said that we need a Jewish state because there are peoples who seek to destroy the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
I understand their fears and know the trauma of the Jewish people, but those reasons might have justified why the creation of Israel was a moral imperative after the Holocaust, but it does not justify what Israel has become and how Israel treats the Palestinian people.
Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the way forward, not nuclear bombs and periodic military operations aimed at winning votes and testing new military technologies that Israel’s military industries can then sell as “field-tested” weapons.
THE ISRAELI and world Jewish worldview regarding antisemitism is a falsely constructed reality. I am not denying the existence of antisemitism. I am saying that being anti-Israel, or being against Israel’s policies regarding Palestine, or even supporting BDS, are not always antisemitism. In fact, most of the time it is not.
But we have been played by the very same people who are currently shaping our reality and intend to convert Israel into a completely non-democratic state. Their success now will formally move Israel from a new form of an apartheid state into a full-blown apartheid reality. Not only will Israel be a pariah state from the view of the world, it will be a pariah state that probably half of Israel will not want to be part of.
Those currently fighting for Israel’s soul must look deep in the mirror and understand that what we are struggling for is not only to prevent the appointment of political justices in the High Court, or to prevent the corruption of leaders from appointing whoever they want, qualified or not.
It is about the genuine ability to be a real liberal democracy for the first time. It is about finally making a decision on the relations between Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Israelis, and about how we will live in peace with our Palestinian neighbors.
It is about demanding that we do away with the Jewish nation-state law and pass a constitutional law of equality of all citizens. If you want to protect our liberal democracy, then Israel must be the state of all of its citizens, where every citizen and every group of citizens has the same right to the same rights – including the right to express and foster their separate identity.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is a founding member of Kol Ezraheiha-Kol Muwanteneiha (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel. He now directs The Holy Land Bond and is the Middle East director for the International Communities Organization.