1 Tevet 5775
Dominant 2015 Election Issue: Palestinians and One or Two State Solution
by Yisrael Ne’eman
Whether spoken about openly or not, the major election issue in 2015 is Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians. Most politicians are doing their best to avoid the issue, hoping it will go away. And as we will see, nobody has good answers. But the day of reckoning has arrived, placed on the agenda by the Palestinians themselves when they requested independence at the UN last year. The global community is behind them, Europeans included, getting on board just recently. There are both individual parliamentary resolutions calling for the recognition of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders (with possible land swaps) and the EU resolution calling for a Palestinian State.
When we put all of the Israeli political trash aside (from my last article) as to who and how the elections will be won we are confronted with the existential question of Israel’s continuation as the Jewish State. Yes, “To be or not to be?” if we are into melodrama. The basic issue is whether there will be a two-state or one-state solution. And if neither, then is the present situation sustainable? No options are positive, some could lead to disastrous results – so what is really being sought out is the answer containing the least damage.
The two-state solution was much more viable 20 and certainly 30-40 years ago. Nowadays there are over 300,000 Jews living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and another 300,000+ in former East Jerusalem. The PLO/Fatah Palestinians demand the 1949-1967 armistice lines with or without mutually agreed upon land swaps as the recognized state border between Israel and the new Palestinian State. Hamas is the dominant unrepresented political player in the West Bank, and officially or not these Islamists are the sovereigns in Gaza. They remain a constant threat to overthrow the Fatah led PA and Pres. Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. Next they demand Israel’s destruction. Hamas will forcibly replace Abbas & Co. if the Israeli army and the American led PA police force disappear.
Israel needs full security access to the West Bank in any final settlement and although in the interests of the PA as well, this is a condition to which Pres. Mahmoud Abbas may very well be unable to agree. Allowing Israel such involvement undermines his claims to sovereignty. Secondly and no less important, what is to be the future of the Jewish population in the Palestinian areas? Arabs live in Israel but according to the PA Jews will not live in the Palestinian State. They claim all Jewish settlement to be “illegal.” What they prefer to forget is that the West Bank remains a disputed territory. The West Bank may be occupied, but from whom? Jordan gave up claims in 1988 and was replaced by the PA under the Oslo Accords. According to Oslo the settlement issue is only to be agreed upon in the framework of a permanent status agreement. There never was an independent Palestinian State (one was declared only a year ago) so it is a disconnect to claim Israel took the land from the Palestinians.
– Even a Left/Center coalition will not agree to allow the PA to fully police its own territory. Everyone is cognizant of Hamas activities in the West Bank. The stakes are exponentially higher than with Gaza. Israel’s major population centers are within short and medium rocket range from the West Bank border regions. Neither will this same coalition be amenable to large scale evacuations of the Jewish population. Physically this may be downright impossible as there would be an overall rebellion throughout Israel. We could face civil conflict or worse.
– Much of the Right/Religious camp advocates the one state solution including annexation of the West Bank. This entails giving citizenship to the Palestinians since citizenship denial would make Israel into a form of an apartheid state. They claim the one state solution will make Israel safer since the enemy is no longer across the border. No so at all – the problem is only internalized and made worse. Palestinians who seek the destruction of the Jewish State will have Israeli citizenship with all the accompanying rights and privileges. Today’s average Israeli citizen will have the “honor” of supporting Islamic religious schools teaching fundamentalism and advocating Sharia Law while supported by the “Islamic Front” – the Hamas affiliate in Israel which already exists. And whatever state supervision is imposed to guarantee against anti-Israel or antisemitic antics will be rendered ineffective in whichever school, cultural institution or mosque in question – wherever and whenever attempted.
Demographically the Arab birthrate outstrips the Jewish (including the haredi population). At the outset there will be more than 45 Arab Knesset members (out of 120) and at least half will be Hamas. All will be against the “Jewish” State and it will only get worse as the Arab population becomes the majority. This spells the demise of Jewish independence and the end of Zionism. Only the coming of the Messiah can save the situation – but that is not policy.
– Lastly there is the continuation of today’s situation often advocated by the secular Right. As if we can go on like this forever. Here we kick the problem down the road a few more years. For those who hold democracy dear this prolonged policy only intensifies the contradictions of continuing partial rule over the Palestinians. The West Bank Palestinians have no national expression – meaning no state. Yes, they have a legislature in the PA autonomy, but such a creation is not a sovereign entity. Furthermore international condemnation of Israel is increasing and serious sanctions may not be long in following. The situation will prove unsustainable in the long run especially should the Israeli economy run aground.
Add to this that many Israelis have dual citizenship. Too much pressure and they will take an extended vacation. Israelis are always coming back “next year.” And let’s be honest, how many Israelis have close friends or relatives who once lived here but are now abroad indefinitely? For whatever “reasons”? (Hint: just about all of us – regardless of whether those living abroad are religious, secular, left or right.)
Bottom line: Let’s have some serious debate about this existential issue and stop burying our heads in the sand. It is about time we and our leaders discussed the essence of our being as a state/society and individually as Jews seeking to ensure our continued existence.