The two articles below are important reads if we are to understand the nature of the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians, and what it will take to break free of it, if indeed there is political will on each side to do so.
As a Zionist, I continue to ask, as does Tobin, how there can be a final settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict if the leadership of Fatah won’t recognize Jewish historical claims to the land of Israel. As a universalist who supports the right of every nation, including the Palestinians, to national sovereignty, I believe it is reasonable to ask how those Palestinians who remain in Israel can identify as full citizens in a “Jewish state” even though, according to law, they are entitled to equal rights of citizenship.
There needs to be a way to break this logjam, and perhaps, Sari Nusseibeh has come up with it. There is much in his article that disturbs me, but his suggestion that Israel should be characterized as a democratic country with a Jewish majority and a Jewish state religion, and (I would add) as the “Homeland of the Jewish people” as opposed to a “Jewish State” can be a way to move forward.
Certainly, Israelis do not want to be told who they are and what Israel should be. No one has that right except the citizens of the State of Israel. However, what Nusseibeh describes is already, in effect, the case. Israel is a democracy. Jews are the majority. And Judaism is effectively the state religion, though Christianity and Islam have equal rights to practice their religions unimpeded. If the distinction that Nusseibeh suggests (above) allows the Palestinians to sit down with the Israelis and negotiate an end-of-conflict resolution, I say Dayeinu – that should be enough for anyone who wants a secure and lasting peace with two states for two peoples sitting side by side. Jews give up nothing. Israel is what it is and will be what the Jewish people determine it to be. We can call it the “Jewish State” and I see no need to have the Palestinians do so if it means ending this conflict once and for all.
Regardless of whether some Palestinians still hold onto the preposterous dream of destroying the State of Israel, the fact is that Israel is going nowhere. And regardless of whether Israeli extremists maintain their preposterous dream of not wanting a Palestinian state to emerge, Palestinians are also going nowhere and statehood is an inevitability.
Israel will always have her enemies, but a resolution of this conflict that assures Israel’s security behind defensible internationally recognized borders is no small thing. Indeed, it is what Israel’s founders dreamed about. Should Israel and the Palestinians come to an agreement that ends the bloodshed and this conflict, everything in the Middle East will change, and (hopefully) for the better.
Sadly, history has shown this is more easily said than done (otherwise there would have been a settlement long ago), but I am an optimist. I recall President John Kennedy’s statement in 1962 relative to the former USSR and the threat of nuclear catastrophe with the United States; “These problems were created by human beings, and they can be solved by human beings.” Finding a way to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not beyond the pale of solvable problems!
The first article is by Sari Nusseibeh of Al-Quds University, who discusses the question of Israel as a ‘Jewish state,’ suggesting an alternative stipulation for peace talks that would ask Palestinians to ‘recognize Israel (proper) as a civil, democratic, and pluralistic state whose official religion is Judaism, and whose majority is Jewish’:
The second article is by Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary Magazine, who responds to Sari Nusseibeh’s discussion of the phrase ‘Jewish state,’ asserting that ‘the fact that Israel will be the state of the Jewish people cannot be questioned without unleashing the dogs of war that have doomed the Palestinians to tragedy during the last century’: