Counterpoint: Sleeping with the enemy

Unless we shake ourselves of religious settlers' messianic worldview, we'll reach a point of no return.

daivd forman  (photo credit: Rabbis for Human Rights)
daivd forman
(photo credit: Rabbis for Human Rights)
As the occupation of the West Bank continues, more and more we hear the call for a single secular democratic state in all of Israel and Palestine. The reasoning for advocating this one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio is threefold: (1) the network of Jewish settlements weaving its way across the Palestinian Authority makes it impossible to establish a viable contiguous Palestinian state; (2) it is the only way to equitably deal with the disputed land of Palestine and Israel; and (3) it would end the ongoing conflict, whose continuation threatens to engulf the entire Middle East in a devastating international conflagration. The argument continues that the division of this ancient land into two sovereign states, one Jewish and one Arab, as determined by the United Nations on November 29, 1947, is no longer either relevant or practical given present political realities. Should the status quo remain, it is not too difficult to envision a time in the not very distant future when the UN will revise its original partition resolution and vote for a bi-national state to be equally shared by Jews and Arabs. If one were to ask the average Palestinian in Bethlehem, Nablus, Hebron or Ramallah, they would tell you that deep down they are proponents of a one-state solution. They know that the idea of a bi-national state sounds reasonable and moderate, but effectively such a state serves the goals of Muslim extremists who call for the elimination of any Jewish presence in the Middle East. The mantra of a secular democratic state is also echoed in European capitals. In some Christian liberal circles, the notion of Jews and Arabs living harmoniously together reflects a religious desire on their part to satisfy a sense of mutual justice for both peoples of the region. BI-NATIONAL proposals for a Jewish-Arab state have had their proponents within Jewish intellectual circles since the 1920s. In 1925, Martin Buber founded Brit Shalom, that proposed "a bi-national state in which Arabs and Jews will enjoy equal rights as befits the two elements shaping the country's destiny, irrespective of which of the two is numerically superior at any given time." Hannah Arendt thought there was great merit to the idea of one state. In 1948, she wrote: "A federated state could be the natural stepping stone for any later, greater federated structure in the Near East and the Mediterranean area. The real goal of the Jews in Palestine is the building up of a Jewish homeland, but this goal must never be sacrificed to the pseudo-sovereignty of a Jewish state." Albert Einstein also expressed sympathy for a bi-national state. After the 1947 UN partition plan demonstrated international support for a two-state solution, most of the opposition to the concept of a Jewish state, including that of Buber and Arendt, evaporated. TODAY WE have our own Jewish proponents of a one-state solution for two peoples. They are far more influential than the Ilan Pappes or Noam Chomskys and, unlike the Bubers and Arendts, their motivation does not stem from an ideology of ethical largesse, but rather is based on a biblical promise that the ancient Land of Israel is the sole and divine possession of the Jewish people. Of course, I am referring to the Orthodox settler community. While they would vehemently deny any consideration of a bi-national state, their theological outlook provides for just such a possibility. It is truly ironic that a segment of the population that heralds the idea of a Jewish state in "Greater Israel" would actually undermine the very Jewishness of that state, both morally and practically. Should Israel continue to follow the settlers' lead, what would be the logical outcome? The choice is stark: Either sacrificing Israel's standing as a democratic state, or extending full rights to the Palestinians, including political rights - an approach that would be unacceptable to the Jews of Hebron, Beit El, Shiloh, Tekoa, Emmanuel and Eilon Moreh. What dream world are these religious settlers living in? In 25 years, when there will be an absolute majority of Arabs in Israel and Palestine, even state-sponsored oppression would be unable to prevent a revolution among Palestinians and Israeli Arabs that would make our two intifadas look like child's play. While the world has turned a blind eye to our annexation of east Jerusalem, whereby we permit Palestinians to vote in municipal elections but not in national ones, the international community would not demonstrate the same indifference if such a policy was applied to the entire West Bank. The Palestinian/Israeli Arab revolt would gain support from even our closest allies, with the call for a secular democratic state serving as the new road map to Middle East peace. If we do not shake ourselves free of the religious settlers' messianic worldview, we will soon reach a point of no return. For too long, Israel's leaders have let this fifth column lead them by their noses by holding them hostage to the settlement enterprise in the West Bank. If we continue to submit to this stranglehold over the country, we will find ourselves not only in bed with advocates of a bi-national state, but also making love to Islamic fundamentalists, thus hastening the ultimate demise of the "third Jewish commonwealth."