Encountering peace: The wisdom to limit our rights

Bennett’s victory is Israel’s death.

The West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra is photographed as seen from the former Jewish settler outpost of Amona. (photo credit: REUTERS)
The West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra is photographed as seen from the former Jewish settler outpost of Amona.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
All of the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. We, the Jewish People, have rights to all of the Land of Israel, from the River to the Sea. The Jewish People have a right to lay claim to the biblical borders of the promise of God to the people of God, extending all the way from the Nile to the Euphrates. No other people has laid a claim to this land for as long as the Jews. Jerusalem has not been the capital of any other existing people except the Jews in the entire history of the city.
OK. I have no problem asserting the rights of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel. It makes no sense, historically or even patriotically, as a Jew, to claim otherwise. But unfortunately, the real issue is not about rights. The real issue is the ability to act on those rights and the wisdom of recognizing that those rights are not exclusive.
Whether we like it or not, there is another people living on this land. I don’t think the government, which is considering annexing parts or perhaps all of Judea and Samaria, is going to seek also to annex parts of the East Bank of the Jordan River to the Greater Land of Israel. That was of course the slogan of the Betar movement, but no one really considers laying claim to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Republic of Iraq. But why not? We have the right to that land as well, and our rights there are no less than here on the west side of the Jordan river.
I imagine that some of the readers are saying that this is totally absurd, and it is. It is as absurd as the idea of annexing Judea and Samaria. It is as absurd as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu going to US President Donald Trump to coordinate or to get permission to annex parts or all of Judea and Samaria. Trump’s permission or agreement for Israel to commit suicide is as foolish as the plans for Israel’s suicide that the government is advancing. And that is what is happening. That is the meaning of the law just passed in the Knesset that legalizes the theft of privately owned Palestinian land for the benefit of Jews. That is what the expansion of settlements is leading to.
As a Jew, a Zionist, a citizen of Israel who believes in the idea of the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people, the settlement movement and the government have become the single most dangerous existential threat to me, and to themselves.
Whether you believe peace with the Palestinians it ultimately possible or not does not change the reality that there are millions of Palestinians living on the land between the River and the Sea and they are not going anywhere, nor do they want to be Israelis and live in a Jewish state. The conflict between Jewish nationalism and Palestinian nationalism doesn’t disappear because we wish it away or imagine that it doesn’t exist or that it won’t exist if we enact laws that remove their property rights wherever we want. The conflict will not go away if we move another half-million Jews to the West Bank, or even a million more. The nature of the conflict will certainly change though.
The Oslo process, based on the idea of partition historically supported in 1937 and 1947, was adopted by both sides, which without explicit agreement understood that its conclusion had to be two states for two people.
The breakthrough that enabled Oslo to happen was the adoption by the Palestinians of the recognition of Israel in the borders of the 1949 armistices lines (aka the green line). In doing so, the Palestinians essentially removed their demand for a state on 100% of the land between the River and the Sea and agreed to a state on 22% of the land, leaving Israel with 78%. That was the “historic compromise” that Yasser Arafat spoke about and signed onto in the Oslo agreements. The Palestinians never imagined then that they would have to negotiate over the remaining 22% and they never imagined that Israel would continue to build settlements on the parts of the land that they thought would become the Palestinian state.
The advancement of settlements may lead to the victory that Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett is working for – ending the two-state solution and preventing the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
Bennett’s victory is Israel’s death.
For the result of the final death blow to the possibility of partition is the creation of a binational state. There is no escaping this possibility. Even if Jordan becomes Palestinian and the Hashemite monarchy disappears, the demand for full democracy and full civil and human rights for everyone living under the authority of the State of Israel will not evaporate. There will be no acceptable “Palestinian autonomy” or as Netanyahu called it, “something less than a state.” Why would any Palestinian agree to that? Why would any Jordanian or Egyptian or Saudi or even any American agree to that? How could something less than full democracy and equal rights ever be acceptable?
We are presently facing the final standoff within the State of Israel between our citizens and while it is not a civil war, its consequences will be no less dramatic. For me the lines are clear and they are drawn – it is a fight for our survival as a people and as a state. It is not about Left or Right – it is about a democratic Jewish nation state or a binational state. If we lose and it becomes a binational state, the battle will continue between those who support Israeli apartheid and those who support real democracy.
That is not the battle I want to fight, but I will if I have to. I will continue to be on the front lines in the battle for our souls and for justice.
The author is founder and co-chairman of IPCRI – Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives. www.ipcri.org.