There are increasingly more people who are giving up on a two states for two peoples resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are, instead, supporting a one state democracy that stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
In my view, this represents for the Jewish people a defeat of historic proportions.
The State of Israel was founded on the basis of it being a Jewish state that is democratic in character and affirms the principles of justice and equality for all its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike.
As time passes and the Jewish settlement enterprise continues and as the status quo is maintained a one-state reality becomes more probable. If that is the end result, the question remains as to what kind of state it will become.
The Arab and Jewish populations between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea including Gaza are nearly equivalent (5.5 million Israeli Jews and 5.5 million Arabs of which only 1.5 million are Israeli citizens and the remainder live under occupation in the West Bank or are ruled by Hamas in the Gaza Strip).
There are essentially three options:
- Two states for two peoples (Israel and Palestine) with established borders, Jerusalem as a shared capital, Palestinian refugees enjoying the right of return to Palestine and not Israel, Palestinian acceptance of the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel and Israeli acceptance of the legitimacy of the State of Palestinian, and assured security;
- A one-state democracy in which all citizens share equal rights including the right to vote in national elections and to serve at the highest levels of government;
- A one-state undemocratic Jewish State of Israel in which Arab citizens do not share equal rights with Israeli Jews.
The first option preserves the Jewish and the democratic State of Israel.
The second represents the end of Zionism.
The third ushers in a new form of Apartheid in which Israel ceases to be a democracy and risks further international isolation, the weakening of the American-Israeli relationship, and the alienation of large segments of world Jewry from Israel.
Yesterday (March 2, 2017) in the Israeli daily Haaretz there appeared an interview with Member of the Knesset Ahmed Tibi (of the Arab List). The interview offers a realistic glimpse into what a one-state non-Jewish democracy might look like (see link to article below)
A few highlights of Mr. Tibi’s comments:
“I belong to those who support the two-state vision, have fought for it and continue to fight for it. I think it’s the optimal solution for the existing situation. The international community wants it and the majority on both sides wants it, even though that majority is diminishing according to the surveys I see, among both Palestinians and Israelis. And with 620,000 settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and two separate judicial systems, there’s a reality today of one state with rolling apartheid.” …
“[In a one-state solution] We will annul the [Israeli] Declaration of Independence and in its place write a civil declaration that represents all citizens: Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze. The entire public. It’s untenable for a democratic state to have a declaration of independence that is fundamentally Jewish.” …
“That [the Jewish right of return] would automatically be annulled because the country would no longer be a Jewish state as it is today. The single state will not resemble the present-day State of Israel. It will be something different. Why should Jews be able to return here and Palestinians not?” …
“…With one, equal state, the State of Israel in its present format will not exist. All its symbols will change, and the narrative will be different. The unifying element in one state will be different from what it is today because it will be a state of everyone, not a state of the Jewish collectivity in which there is a tolerated minority that is thrown a bone in the form of gestures like new roads and the establishment of well-baby clinics. In an equal, single state, equality is a supreme value.”
Those who support the status quo in effect are supporting option #3.
According to American Middle East envoy Martin Indyk who spoke at the recent J Street National Conference in Washington, D.C., the status quo might seem to be sustainable in the short term, but in the long term “there will be an explosion.”
If that happens, the dream of the founding generation of the State of Israel will be lost.