In the path of Ben-Gurion or Azmi Bishara?

TWO STATES for two peoples could be considered Ben-Gurion’s legacy of pragmatism.

Former Balad MK Azmi Bishara (photo credit: TWITTER)
Former Balad MK Azmi Bishara
(photo credit: TWITTER)
The State of Israel is facing two choices regarding its future. Last month, US President Donald Trump said during a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I’m looking at two states and one state. I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
A single state would be made up of a mixed society without a Jewish majority. It would suffer from violent internal conflicts and tremendous social and economic tensions, and have a government mostly made up of Palestinian representatives.
The current situation in Jerusalem is a clear example of those prospects. In the last municipal election in the city, Mayor Nir Barkat was elected thanks to 106,316 votes. On the other hand, 210,000 Palestinian residents, already with voting rights, did not show up to vote out of hope for independence. What if they were to give up and choose to vote already in the next election, in 2018?
When I married Ahlama, my wife of 39 years, and recited “If I forget you, oh Jerusalem...” under the huppa, I had neither Isawiya nor the refugee camp of Shuafat nor Beit Hanina in mind. Considering the dozens of Palestinian villages annexed to the city following the Six Day War, I ask all the demagogues who raise the question of loyalty to, and love for, Jerusalem: Do you really wish for the mufti’s grandson to become the mayor of an eternally united city?
Whoever wishes, on the other hand, for the annexation of Palestinians without granting them voting rights is dealing with self-deception and delusion. The day the Israeli government determines to annex Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is the day it turns the Palestinian struggle from a national to a civic one. Should Israel face the same kind of protests that were witnessed in the US during the 1960s and in South Africa during the 1980s, it would wreak economic and security havoc, and entail a grave moral price.
In 1947, David Ben-Gurion, at the time president of the Jewish Agency Executive, courageously decided to accept the UN Partition Plan, thereby leading to the foundation of the state. Had Ben-Gurion been weak or cowardly, or had he given in to the pressures of the Right, there would not have been an independent State of Israel. Between the wholeness of the land and an independent Jewish state, Ben-Gurion chose the latter. That is also my choice.
Unlike our way, there is Netanyahu’s way, which inadvertently yet inevitably leads to the realization of the plan of Dr. Azmi Bishara, a former member of Knesset: a Palestinian- led single state.
The peace plan I present does not reinvent the wheel, but seeks to finally turn it decisively and in the right direction.
UNLIKE THE Right, I do not come with slogans – I come with detailed maps. The following is what Israel should do immediately:
• Acknowledge that the basis for a future peace agreement is based on the two-state formula and the 1967 borders, with 1:1 land swaps that would allow Israel to keep more than 80% of the settler population in place while granting the Palestinians a viable and contiguous state.
• Declare the intention of returning to negotiations at the point where peace talks last collapsed.
• Halt all settlement activity in isolated settlements outside the large settlement blocs, implementing an immediate plan for absorbing and compensating settlers wishing to evacuate their remote places of residence. This step is not intended to be strictly or even primarily a confidence-building measure, but rather an expression of the reality that there is no security, economic or moral reason for the continued investment of resources and a cultivation of hopes and dreams among innocent people in places we have no intention to keep. The settlers in those remote places deserve a positive horizon and a fair chance to plan their future. They must not be turned into bargaining chips in future peace talks. Naturally, such a moratorium would also strengthen Israel’s case for holding on to the large settlement blocs and clarify its commitment to the process.
• Present an uncompromising plan for security in the framework of an agreement. The plan would determine the extent and scope of security arrangements, including the demilitarization of the Palestinian state, the monitoring and safeguarding of the eastern border, the gathering of intelligence and a formulation of agreed-upon, real-time responses for dealing with crises.
• Forge a wide international consensus for concluding the Palestinian refugee problem and claiming that any return be realized outside the borders of the State of Israel.
• Demand that the world contribute to a comprehensive Marshall-type plan for a new Middle East. We must contribute to preparing the Palestinian infrastructure, in particular, for growth at a scope that leads to economic and social stability and eventual independence. Unlike the Right, on that issue, too, we come equipped with plans, and not only slogans.
Regarding the Gaza Strip, we must hold on to the formula of “rehabilitation for demilitarization.” Israel has an interest, as well as a moral commitment, to prevent deterioration toward a humanitarian crisis in Gaza around missing basic infrastructure. However, this would require a complete armistice on Hamas’s part, too.
TWO STATES for two peoples could be considered Ben-Gurion’s legacy of pragmatism. That is also the will of my late mother, who would urge me in Moroccan: “My son, why don’t you all get along together? In Morocco, we used to get along with them, and lived in peace and fraternity together.”
That is the Zionist vision, that is the will of my mother, and that is what I intend to pursue.
Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz formerly served as defense minister and deputy prime minister. He is currently the most veteran member of Knesset and member of its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. In December, he declared his candidacy for the Labor Party leadership. This piece is based on a speech given at the Peace & Security Council Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies .