by Uri Elitsur
Those who support the establishment of a Palestinian state must answer the question: what is to stop the katyushas from flying out of there. Those who support keeping the status quo forever must explain how it would be possible to rule over a million and a half Palestinians who wouldn't have full rights as citizens, and not be considered an apartheid state. Those who support annexation must explain how it would be possible to grant rights of Israeli citizenship to a million and a half Palestinians without becoming a bi-national state. Surprisingly, it is the third option that is most practical.
Shelly Yachimovich put it well in her eloquent political speech: we've heard enough of the frightening scenarios. They didn't destroy us in '67; and they're not going to wipe us out now. We are strong enough to cope with crises and challenges. And then she slammed the prime minister and Likud with: you, the two-state camp, are bringing about the end of the Zionist dream. And this is where the son asks - "Excuse me Ms. Yachimovich, didn't you just now say that we should stop the horror stories?". We really must stop, on both sides. The state of Israel will not be destroyed if there are two states between the sea and the Jordan, and the Zionist idea will not die if there is one state from the sea to the Jordan. It won't be a rose garden either way, but as the head of the opposition said, we are strong enough to cope with dangers.
Thank heaven, we are indeed strong enough to cope with a Palestinian state. It will not destroy us and won't be the end of us. From time to time it will just launch grads at Tel Aviv, katyushas at Petach Tikva and here and there a few random scuds in the direction of Ben Gurion Airport. We are strong enough, and these things won't destroy us. From time to time, after 300 fatalities or after a shoulder launched missile takes down a jumbo passenger jet, we will have no choice but to send the IDF in for an incursion into the Palestinian state for some kind of Cast Lead or Polished Copper operation in order to win a few months of quiet for the residents of Gush Dan1. The world will condemn us hysterically and the campuses will boil over with anti-Israel demonstrations and Goldstones will write reports, and tourists will stop visiting, and the economy will enter a period of recession, but Shelly Yachimovich is right in principle, it won't destroy us and won't wipe us out. We are strong enough to stand up to the crises and the bloodbaths and horrible disasters.
The question is whether we have no choice but to endure these disasters, otherwise we will die, or whether we will allow ourselves to climb out of the bunker and discuss other options and their cost without hysteria or horror stories, and even to weigh the dangers and the price of each with a clear head.
In general, there are three options. One radical option is an armed and hostile Palestinian state established within the framework of the '67 lines. A second radical option is the annexation of Judea and Samaria to Israel, including its million and a half Arab residents. The "middle" option is continuing the present situation permanently. Each of the three options has enthusiastic supporters who try to convince us that their way will not cost anything, while the cost of the other two would be unbearable. They're all lying. The supporters of the Palestinian state indeed give the usual lip service and say that they are willing to pay a painful price for peace, but they don't mean that it will be a painful price to them, but rather to others. From their point of view, giving up Hebron or the Temple Mount doesn't only not hurt, it is sweet. Besides this sweet "price", they are convinced, and try to convince us, that if Israel retreats from all territories and a Palestinian state is established, it will not cost anything; on the contrary, Israel will only win wonderful bonuses as a result.
Old Arguments and Dead Ends
But the truth is that for anyone who is looking for a painless solution, all three of the options are dead ends. With the establishment of a Palestinian state there will almost certainly be katyushas shot at Petah Tikva and the danger of endless bloodbaths. With the unresolved continuation of the present situation, there is a danger that Israel will be considered an apartheid state. And if Israel annexes Judea and Samaria with its million and a half Palestinians, there is the danger of Israel becoming a bi-national state. So go choose between the three options when each one of them has a huge built-in danger. What can we do? We must choose. It's inescapable, we have to choose one of the three and deal with the price. What shouldn't we do? We should not delude ourselves and not peddle lies as if one of the three comes without a heavy price.
To put it in constructive terms, the supporters of the Palestinian state must answer the question: how can they ensure that a Palestinian state will not attack Tel Aviv with katyusha rockets. The supporters of continuing the present situation must explain how it is possible to continue to rule forever over a population that doesn't have rights of citizenship and still remain a democratic country. Supporters of annexation must explain how Israel can annex another million and a half Arabs, and give them full rights of citizenship, without becoming a bi-national state.
Every one of these three tasks is so difficult that it might perhaps be impossible, but surprisingly, the third appears the least impossible. A very senior IDF officer who analyzed the options was asked how he would keep the Law of Return in a democratic state which has 35 to 40 percent Arabs, he put it this way: when I look at the questions that I have no answers for regarding a one-state plan versus the questions that I have no answers for regarding a two-state plan, I prefer to deal with the first group. To me it seems much more given to solution. As Shelly Yachimovich put it, it will not destroy us and not ruin us. If we are strong enough to deal with a Palestinian state and the resultant disasters, we are certainly strong enough to deal with 20 Arab Palestinian members of Knesset. Even with 30. It won't be easy or simple but it won't destroy us and won't put an end to Zionism.
Absorption of a million and a half, and perhaps even two million Palestinian Arabs into Israel in a gradual process spanning 30 years, would not necessarily result in our becoming a bi-national state. There are several steps that we can take to prevent it. The problem is that for 40 years, the disagreement has been between two different options - the Left recommending retreat to the '67 lines versus the Right wanting to continue the status quo. We haven't talked about the third option at all, or even thought about it. We had better start.
Today, even Netanyahu takes a stand very near to that of the Palestinian side. He imagines a demilitarized Palestinian state, which would be friendly toward Israel, that would extend a bit less than to the '67 lines. The difference between this and the plans of Shelly Yachimovich, Tzipi Livni and Yossi Beilin is minimal and marginal, which tells us that the whole so-called bitter argument between the political Right and Left is nothing more than letting off steam and an old habit. The Left has actually won some time ago, and there really is no argument. So? What's going on? The Palestinians don't want it! Tzipi Livni is convinced that they have already agreed to almost everything, and the only thing left to work out is the minor matter of the "right of return". How does she know? They told her. There is an Arabic expression for this: Nu, Shoin2. In Middle Eastern negotiations lots of things are said but when it comes to signing, it seems that it amounts to kalam faragh3. When it comes time to sign, the Palestinians will not agree to any bloc of Jewish settlement remaining in their state.Not even Ma'ale Adumim. They will not consent to disarmament and not agree to end the conflict.
The only realistic way a Palestinian state will exist is the radical one: an armed and hostile Palestinian state with borders based on the '67 lines, with no blocs of Jewish settlement, without East Jerusalem and without any peace. Even Israel would not agree to this, at least at this point. Not even Yossi Beilin, and so we've come to Rosh Ba-Kir4.
Instead of talking about the "doomsday alternative", in Yossi Sarid's words, or the death of the Zionist dream, in the words of Shelly Yachimovich, we need to stop frightening ourselves with horror stories and begin thinking creatively about the question of how Israel can absorb a million and a half Palestinians and nevertheless remain a Jewish and democratic state. It is possible. And perhaps after we start to think about it without panicking, and the argument is conducted in a totally new arena, between the supporters of annexation and the supporters of the status quo, it will become clear that this is precisely the part of the scale where the middle ground can be found.
1Gush Dan is the heavily populated area in the center of Israel
2Although the author humorously attributes the expression to Arabic, it is actually Yiddish, and means, more or less, "it's time to do it".
3"empty talk" in Arabic
4Rosh Ba-kir (literally, "head in the wall") is an Israeli game show where a contestant must pass through a moving Styrofoam wall by forming his body into the shape that is cut out of the wall. If he fails, he is swept into a pool of water.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav
For a totally different approach to the conundrum of the disputed territories and the two peoples, see The Palestinian Emirates, by Dr. Mordechai Kedar.
Source: Yoman section of Makor Rishon Hebrew Newspaper, Issue 826, pg. 4
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.