It is clear that with the coming Israeli elections on March 17 that Israelis have an opportunity to make an important choice. There are essentially two options and everyone knows what they are. Each carries risk. The question is, which will most likely secure Israel as a democracy and homeland for the Jewish people while restoring Israel’s credibility within the international community, and which will not.
Option 1 – A negotiated 2 states for 2 peoples end-of-conflict agreement with international and moderate Arab support that would create a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza alongside the State of Israel. The two states would have clear borders based on the 1967 lines with adjustments made to include within Israel the large Israeli settlement blocks thus embracing 80% of Israeli settlers into Israel. Land swaps of equivalent land would be included in the state of Palestine. East Jerusalem would become the capital of Palestine and the world would at last recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital. Security guarantees would be set for the holy city. The West Bank and Gaza would be demilitarized except for Palestinian police forces. All Palestinian refugees would have the right of return to Palestine and not to Israel with limited family reunification in Israel. Those Palestinians who wish to carry Palestinian citizenship and stay in Israel could do so, and the same could be said of Israelis who choose to live in the new State of Palestine. Each would be subject to the laws of the state in which they live. Israel would end its occupation of the West Bank and it would remove all restrictions from Gaza except for the importing of military weaponry. There would be no “Greater Israel” and no “Greater Palestine” in the future. Peace agreements would be forged between Israel and all moderate Arab and Muslim nations. There would be an end to the BDS movement against Israel as well as an end to all threats against Israel by the UN, the Hague and international criminal courts. UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) would be completely dismantled. The international community would assist the new state of Palestine in every way possible to survive economically. Gaza would be rebuilt. Gaza and the West Bank would be linked with a secure rail system thus enabling the Palestinians to move themselves and their goods freely between these two areas of the state of Palestine without having to pass through Israel.
Risks with Option 1 – There likely will continue to be sporadic terrorism against Israelis from Palestinian rejectionists and extremists that would have to be handled forcefully by both Israeli and Palestinian security forces working in tandem with each other, as they have been doing effectively in the West Bank. If the peace falls apart, there likely would be continued armed conflict. Israeli extremists who do not accept this agreement and act out violently against Palestinians or the IDF would have to be forcefully restrained, arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned.
Option 2 – The status quo continues with eventual Israeli annexation of the West Bank resulting in a one-state solution of the conflict embracing all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and including its 2.5 million hostile Palestinian Arab residents. Either these Palestinians would become voting citizens of the state of Israel in which case Israel will cease to be a Jewish state because the populations between Jews and Arabs will be equal, or they are denied Israeli citizenship and the right to vote in which case Israel will cease to be a democracy. Israel would continue to build more settlements everywhere with potential efforts to force or induce Palestinians living in the West Bank to leave their homes and live outside the state of Israel.
Risks with Option 2 – Increasingly, Israel will be internationally isolated and there will be permanent war. European parliaments are already voting to support a Palestinian state and that will continue. Strains between the United States and Israel will also continue with a clear possibility that the United States’ special relationship with Israel will diminish and evaporate. Should that happen, the pro-Israel American Jewish community will have an increasingly difficult time making Israel’s case before Congress and the President. Anti-Semitic attacks will likely multiply around the world against synagogues, Jewish community centers and institutions, and against individual Jews walking the streets. Israel will become a pariah nation and the Zionist dream of the Jewish state being the greatest experiment in the history of Jewish ethical living will be destroyed.
It should be obvious to anyone with his/her eyes open that time is not working in Israel’s favor. Despite recalcitrance by the Palestinian leadership and their abject failure to educate their children and societies for peaceful coexistence with Israelis, as well as many missed diplomatic opportunities to move forward towards a two-state solution, a new Israeli government that is committed to both Israel’s security and settling this conflict once and for all in a two-state solution (as the new party led by Labor’s Yitzhak Herzog and Tenua’s Tzipi Livni) may well open up new possibilities for partnership with Palestinian leaders who wish to live in peace side by side with the state of Israel in a state of Palestine. There are many such leaders but as the politics have become increasingly polarized, their voices have been stilled.
This is the time for the Israeli electorate to choose, and we ought to support those Israeli politicians who we believe are best capable of delivering a secure, Jewish and democratic future for the state of Israel.
Yes, the situation is complicated and dangerous.
Yes, there is enormous mistrust between the two sides.
Yes, there are extremists in each community (Israeli and Palestinian) who are making progress very difficult.
But, ein breira – there is no alternative except to keep trying and then to keep trying some more. There is too much at stake for the state of Israel and the Jewish people not to give our support to those who favor Option #1 above.