Sigmar Gabriel is right

Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians in the territories is reminiscent of apartheid.

A Palestinian woman argues with Israeli army soldiers as she is searched at a checkpoint during clashes in the West Bank Al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
A Palestinian woman argues with Israeli army soldiers as she is searched at a checkpoint during clashes in the West Bank Al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron
The population census taken last year clarifies that between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea the Jews have become a minority. Six-and-a-half million Arabs are neighbors to 6.1 million Jews. There’s no reason to believe this trend will change, unless the Israeli government and the settlers manage to bring about a severe humanitarian crisis leading to massive emigration to Jordan from the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The extreme Right yearns for such an outcome. It sees Jordan as the Palestinian state.
The humanitarian crisis is on its way. Without an agreement to divide the country into two states, Israel and Palestine, the Palestinians’ justified hope of liberty and dignity will remain frustrated. We will continue to see a deterioration in their condition, while Israeli Jews enjoy prosperity and personal security. This gap is determined by Israeli hegemony in all areas: security, economics, technology, politics, science and even Israel’s foreign relations, thanks in part to Germany’s historical commitment to Israel and the Jewish people.
In fact, since 1967, Israelis and Palestinians live in a de facto one-state reality. Israelis participate in parliamentary elections, and vote for a government that determines both their lives and those of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. For 50 years and counting, these Palestinians have been denied the right to vote.
In the first decade of the occupation, the world believed Israeli declarations that this was a temporary occupation, a deposit to be returned upon the achievement of peace. Over the past decade, all doubts regarding the true intentions of the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been dispelled: stagnation, slow annexation of West Bank territories; construction of thousands of apartments, exclusively for Israelis, in east Jerusalem and the settlements; deportation of Palestinian communities from their villages, and destruction of their homes.
Israelis can drive freely throughout the territories, while Palestinians need permits to travel. Israelis can build without limitations, while Palestinians are denied building permits. In west Jerusalem, Israelis enjoy modern, functional infrastructure, while east Jerusalem residents suffer acute neglect. Could it be that the government and municipality actually want the residents to leave in despair?
In Hebron, the second largest Palestinian city, there is strict separation between Jewish and Arab residents. A tiny Israeli minority enjoys free movement, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinians suffer from forcefully implemented daily limitations.
The form of government being created in the occupied territories necessitates this separation between Palestinians and Israeli settlers. Separation through military rule and systematic discrimination against Palestinians in favor of settlers. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel visited Hebron. As a friend of Israel he was shaken by the discrimination he saw, that it is undeniably reminiscent of the South African regime of apartheid before Nelson Mandela’s democratic victory.
The government in Jerusalem is deeply frustrated by the fact that a German leader is willing to criticize Israel publicly. All those familiar with the South African struggle against apartheid remember the international community’s pivotal role in creating the conditions for the victory of democracy. The international community has waited too long to criticize the occupation regime. We impatiently expect increasing public diplomatic opposition to the massive violation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, sending a clear message to the Israeli government and public that this situation must be urgently resolved: the occupation must end with a treaty leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. Such pressure is not hostile but rather a necessary precondition to help Israel free itself from the curse of occupation.
The author is a political activist, the chairman of The Political Work Forum and a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa.