Those on the Israeli left are divided about the future with the Palestinians. One camp still desires to find common cause with the Palestinians, and the other says that this 67-year marriage must come to an end. One believes that marriage counseling is still possible; the other that only through divorce can there be a peace and security for both sides.
The violence we have witnessed in both Intifadas and in this recent wave of suicide knife-attacks has shown that the right wing direction has failed, that one state doesn’t work, that there can be no security without a political solution, that the occupation is unsustainable, that Israel needs to say ‘We are here, You are there’ and we need a permanent divorce.
Indeed, this violence may be the opportunity Israelis need to realign and make a political deal with the Palestinians.
In my taxi ride from Jerusalem to the Ben Gurion Airport, my driver, Mordecai (a 63 year-old descendent of Iraqi Jews), took me on a side road to avoid a traffic jam, and we passed by a maximum security prison that held about 400 Palestinian terrorists. Mordecai explained to me that the Palestinians are now controlled by the Islamists who do not believe that Jews have a right to be here, that they never will accept the state of Israel on “Islamic land,” that what they can accept is hudna (quiet) until such time as the Palestinians are strong enough to attack and destroy the state of Israel.
I have heard this argument before, most recently from Likud Knesset member, Benny Begin, the son of the late Prime Minister, who met with the ARZENU faction in the Knesset before the WZC sessions began last week, and eloquently explained why one state is the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He emphasized that Palestinian citizens deserve full and equal rights and that those rights should extend to all residents living in Judea and Samaria (i.e. the “West Bank”).
Yes, of course, there are Palestinians who believe that Israel does not have the right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people. PM Netanyahu made acceptance of Israel as a “Jewish state” a demand in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority sponsored by the United States in 2014. At that time PA President Abbas said that though the PA had already recognized the State of Israel, the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
At the time, I believed that Netanyahu was using this argument to make an agreement impossible. However, there is truth in his demand, and I have come around to the belief that a two-state solution requires the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish State of Israel that offers equal rights to all citizens of the state (Palestinians included) even as Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinians to a nation state of their own living in peace and security alongside Israel – peace, not hudna. (Note: Israel will always have to maintain military and strategic superiority over all its neighbors, including the Palestinians).
There are, however, many Palestinians who do not accept the Islamic view that the State of Israel is illegitimate, and particularly so many of those Palestinian-Israeli citizens who have lived in Israel since 1948. The danger of the status quo continuing is that Palestinian-Israeli citizens are becoming more and more identified with West Bank Palestinians under occupation.
There are, to be sure, many values that many Palestinians share with Israelis, and so the lines of conflict should not be drawn as Jews vs Palestinians, but rather as those who support a one-state option as opposed to those who want two states for two peoples. The latter is the only way, it seems to me, to save Palestinian-Israeli citizens as loyal to the state of Israel.
Simply and categorically said, we need a divorce and a two-state solution with lines drawn between Israel before 1967 with land swaps to include most of the large Israeli settlements in Israel, and a new state of Palestine in the West Bank and, eventually, including Gaza. Palestinians should, of course, have the right of return to Palestine and not Israel. Jerusalem will have to be shared as capitals of both nations with all appropriate security guaranteed.
Only after a divorce can our two peoples begin to rebuild relationships. At the moment, trust has been badly damaged. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there are enough Palestinians who agree with Israelis that the current violence is intolerable and the status-quo of occupation is unsustainable.