In a diary yesterday, I proposed a Middle East peace plan resting on the creation of a single binational state in Israel, to be called Israel, to use the Israeli currency, to have Hebrew as the official language, and to use the Israeli flag. It would also, however, annex the West Bank and Gaza, grant full citizenship rights to the Palestinians living there, and allow Palestinian refugees in third countries the right to return to Israel. There were some more details of my plan, and you can read them in that diary if you so choose.
Today's Ha'aretz contains two stories -- one news, and the other opinion -- which make it appear that my plan wasn't complete pie in the sky. In fact, it may be the only way to save Israel from the historical forces that threaten to destroy it forever.
On the other side, I'll show you what I mean.
A great surprise: The overwhelming majority of Israelis support a one-state solution. After years in which the binational solution was anathema, it has suddenly become apparent that this is the preferred solution. You don't believe it? Look at the opinion polls. Benjamin Netanyahu is again leading them. You don't believe Netanyahu advocates this solution? Listen to his words. Once again, Netanyahu "does not find" a Palestinian partner. The conclusion: Wait and do nothing.
Levy discounts the opinion polls that show most Israelis prefer a two-state solution, because by endorsing Netanyahu and his strategy of "waiting and doing nothing" the majority in effect endorses the creation of a binational state. That state, he writes, is "coalescing before our very eyes."
Levy goes on to note that Likud and Hamas are in fundamental agreement about how many states there should be. Their only difference:
one favors an apartheid state and the other an Islamic state.
Levy's pessimism runs deep:
All of the talk about the questions concerning the future of Israel is misleading. While Netanyahu is running on his favorite ticket, the danger of a holocaust emanating from Iran, a more acute question mark hovers over the declared character of Israel: Has it not already become a binational state? It will soon be divided into two equal halves, and later there will be an Arab majority. What is Israel if not a binational state? And what are 3.5 million Palestinians, who have already lived under Israeli occupation for 40 years, if not subjects of a state that has existed with the occupation for twice as many years as it has existed without it?
....Enough empty talk about "a Jewish state." There is no such thing. The fact that the Palestinians live under unequal conditions does not make them subjects of another entity. On the contrary, the state's control of their lives is immeasurably greater than its control over its Jewish citizens.
He goes on to wonder what will happen when the Palestinians become a majority in Israel, whether the Jewish minority will continue to abuse the non-citizen majority. He hints that the South African example suggests the outcome of such a state of affairs would be the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.
The news story in Ha'aretz discusses a recent report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which calls on Israel to:
to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their property and land in Israel and to ensure that the bodies responsible for distributing property, such as the Jewish National Fund, not discriminate against the Arab population.
This committee was established to oversee the implementation of the UN International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, a convention Israel signed in the late 1970s. Under its terms, Israel is expected to submit a report every two years, but its recent report was its first in nine years.
The committee had taken testimony from the Israel government, from Arab civil rights organizations in Israel, and from Jewish peace groups in Israel. In its report, it
recommends that Israel scrutinize its policy in a number of areas. Among them, it recommends that "the state party ensure that the definition of Israel as a Jewish nation state does not result in any systematic distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin." The committee also said it "would welcome receiving more information on how [Israel] envisions the development of the national identity of all its citizens."
In addition to calling on Israel to allow for a Palestinian Right of Return -- which has been a key sticking point in Arab/Israeli negotiations, leading in part to the breakdown of the Oslo process and the 2000 Camp David talks -- the committee did commend Israel for recent
positive developments, among them the ministerial appointment of Raleb Majadele and the High Court decision on the petition of the Ka'adans, an Israeli Arab couple, to buy land in the community of Katzir.
Can Israel sustain itself over the longterm as an exclusively Jewish state? The demographics of the Middle East suggest not, and the emerging international legal order is beginning to question the basic mechanisms Israel uses to keep itself Jewish.
A binational secular state is the way out. Make peace with your enemies, rescue the name, the language, the flag, secure Israel as a safe haven for Jews in the Middle East, and the country can be a beacon for generations to come.
Or, Israel can continue along its current path and be plagued by generations of continued war.