Right of Reply: Facing reality - thinking outside the box

Ignoring the situation because it might offend certain sensitivities is irresponsible.

Danny Ayalon 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Danny Ayalon 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
In his recent article "Ambassador of racism" (December 18), Larry Derfner denigrated me as a "racist" when discussing a plan I support called the "Population Area Exchange Plan." The importance of this plan is that it is a non-violent plan where no person, Jew or Arab, would be forcibly removed from his home. No one who knows me or has ever spoken with me would ever make such a ludicrous suggestion that I am racist. Let's stop with derogatory name calling. Let's stop with the divisive terminology as "leftist" or "rightest," "populist" or "intellectual" or "racist." Having tried the conventional wisdom of land for peace, having tried military might and economic sanctions and failed public relations programs, it is time to think outside of the box. Let's be courageous and examine issues and ideas from every angle. This is not the time to limit ourselves with political correctness, but rather to look at historical examples for precedents and context and rethink our strategy on building peace and security. The complexity and antagonism created by national boundaries are as old as time itself, and millions of lives have been lost in countless wars over borders. After centuries of wars, European borders have recently been set to accommodate ethnic realities and a division of nationalities in the name of peace and stability, unlike the explosive Balkan region. Much bloodshed in Africa could have been avoided if the borders had been closer to ethnic and tribal boundaries, as opposed to the colonists' superficially imposed boundaries. The first large-scale population exchange of the 20th century was in Cyprus with the respective Greek and Turkish populations. The results have been political stability and economic development, which has improved the lives of all involved. Likewise, in the aftermath of the 1930's Arab nationalist uprisings during the British Mandate era, the Peel Commission partitioned the land according to ethnic boundaries on the principle that there could be peace only if the populations lived separately. This holds true today more than ever. Gerrymandering and redistricting go on throughout the United States in order to segment groups for elections of their leaders. There are countless examples of nations moving borders, conferring and denying citizenship and giving preferential treatment to those of the national identity throughout history and up to the present day. Many of these policies were enacted simply because of the need for ethnic homogeneity. Israel's challenges are far greater than mere homogeneity. The Israeli Arab population is undergoing a process of Palestinization and identifies more and more with the cause of the Palestinians, viewing Israel as an enemy to be supplanted. This poses a serious security threat. This fact is not racist but is based on listening to what Arab-Israeli leaders are saying. In addition to the security threat, there is the question of demographics. Dr. Wahid Abd al-Magid, the editor of Al-Ahram's "Arab Strategic Report," predicts that "the Arabs of 1948 [Israeli Arabs] may become a majority in Israel in 2035, and they will certainly be the majority in 2048." Even Israeli historian Benny Morris claims that "if the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion will be justified." Rather than this extreme measure, I support a territory exchange with the Palestinian Authority. There is an established principle in international law that members of an ethnic or national group have a right to immigration and naturalization into the destination country considered to be that group's homeland. It is called repatriation or jus sanguinis, which is the basis for Israel's Law of Return and one of the cornerstones of Israel's raison d'etre. By claiming that the favoring of Jews would be "the end of democracy," Derfner ignores what it means to be the Jewish state. Israel is perhaps one of the most exposed nations in the world in seeking to balance its Jewish aspirations with its democratic ideals. There are many difficult decisions ahead, and the majority of the political spectrum is ignoring these complex issues. The old models of conflict resolution need to be reassessed. Merely belittling any suggested plan by using the term "racist" ignores the opportunities for creative and bold thinking out of the box. Ignoring the situation because it might offend certain sensitivities is irresponsible. It would be an abrogation of responsibility not to deal with this issue openly. Israel Beiteinu has the political honesty and the courage to tackle uncomfortable issues on behalf of the Jewish state, which allows Israel to look forward to a more secure future. Together, let's look at ways of creating new paradigms for the long-term security and future of Israel. The writer is a candidate in the upcoming national elections with Israel Beiteinu and a former ambassador to the United States.