One-State: The Jewish Perspective
The biggest problem with the two-state solution is that it hasn’t worked yet. That approach, so far used with Gaza, Lebanon, and Egypt, has yet to bring lasting peace and realistically could be blamed for starting wars. So then, how can a deal with the Palestinians in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) bring peace? Looking at a map, it becomes obvious that it will be nearly impossible.
The West Bank is shockingly close to some of Israel’s key population hubs. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that terrorists in the West Bank armed with the right weapons could attack planes coming to the Ben Gurion International Airport. This is why Netanyahu has long called for a continued Israeli military presence along the Jordan Valley on the eastern border of the West Bank, to prevent any arms smuggling into remaining terrorists there. But that sounds quite similar to a military occupation that supposedly will end when a peace deal has been negotiated.
So, rather than tip-toe around the ongoing need for Israel to control the West Bank, some in Israel are calling for it to be embraced. The “one-state solution,” others might argue, would look too much like apartheid South Africa. They don’t want Israeli Jews to be a powerful majority dominating a disenfranchised Arab minority. But noteworthy proponents of the one-state solution actually call for Palestinians to receive full democratic rights. There are a couple versions of how this would work. Let’s look at the simplest one first.
The Partial Plan
The West Bank is divided into three sections, but only one segment—known as Area C—has notable Jewish settlements in it. In other words, much of the Jewish population in the West Bank live relatively close to the western edge of the West Bank. The Bayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) party sees the potential for gradually resolving the Israel–Palestinian conflict by first annexing the settlement zones, according to a website post by party chairman Naftali Bennett. The so-called settlement blocs are routinely kept in most “two-state solution” proposals, so while the Bayit HaYehudi approach is more extensive, the difference is more one of timing and degree than concept.
The annexation would then mean applying Israeli law to the territory. One candidate from the Bayit HaYehudi party, who spoke with The Mideast Update before the Israeli election in January, said they could then grant citizenship to the Arabs/Palestinians who live in the annexed territory. Ironically, this would grant those Palestinians better voting rights than they have now. As Israeli citizens, they would be permitted to vote in the next Israeli election, whereas under Palestinian rule, the area has gone years without full and recognized parliamentary elections.
In the plan, Israel would maintain military sovereignty over the rest of the territory in the West Bank. This would enable Israel to protect its borders and conduct crucial counterterrorism operations. It would also leave that territory essentially in the status-quo—quasi-autonomous Palestinian control, where a Palestinian government and court system run things locally but Israel maintains the military sovereignty. It’s the same framework that has been used for much of the last decade.
This, of course, is the primary difference with “two-state solution” supporters. The last thing they want is the status quo, hence their urge to develop a Palestinian state in the non-Jewish areas of the West Bank. The prospective success of keeping the status quo depends on who you ask. On the one hand, it has kept the peace remarkably well. Terrorism has plunged to the point that there were zero Israelis killed in the West Bank during the entire year of 2012. On the other hand, Palestinian unrest against their own government as well as support for Hamas and for violence increased towards the end of 2012, so perhaps the peace has a shelf life. Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership has become more and more aggressive in attacking Israel diplomatically over the situation.
All that being said, Bayit HaYehudi may believe in keeping the status quo for now, but that doesn’t mean that has to be the end result. The candidate who spoke with The Mideast Update noted that there might be ways to advance peace through dialogue with local Palestinian leaders—as opposed to their antagonistic top-level leaders such as President Mahmoud Abbas and others.
Furthermore, Israelis have long pondered the possibility that the Palestinians in the West Bank could form some sort of confederation with Jordan—which is predominantly Palestinian in nature but predominantly controlled by other Arabs. One model proposed years ago by former Israeli politician Benny Elon suggested keeping the West Bank under Israeli control but granting the Palestinians who live there passports sponsored by Jordan.
Lastly, Bayit HaYehudi chairman Bennett on his My Israel post called for improvements in economics and infrastructure that benefit the Arabs, while saying that “peace grows from below—through people, and people in daily life.” Really, there are two key concerns with the Bayit HaYehudi plan: how the international community will handle it and how long the Palestinians will accept the current state of affairs, since the plan doesn’t have a final resolution of the status quo in mind. A fuller version of the one-state solution does, however.
The Full Approach
Bennett isn’t the only one who has called for annexing portions of the West Bank as the answer to the Palestinian conflict. Another proponent is a former Israeli Consul General to the US and a liaison from Israel to the US Congress—Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger. A long-time advocate of the one-state solution, Ettinger challenges wholesale the fears of a demographic Palestinian takeover and therefore is not afraid of ultimately absorbing all of the West Bank Palestinians as Israeli citizens, aside from those who have engaged in incitement or terrorism against Israel. While the two-state supporters are panic-stricken over demographic predictions that call for the Palestinians to eventually outnumber the Jews, Ettinger says the trends are actually moving in the opposite direction.
“Jewish demography in the Land of Israel benefits from an unprecedented tailwind,” said Ettinger, who notes that Arab demography is declining in many Muslim countries and among Palestinian Arabs. Speaking with The Mideast Update earlier this year, he said that the Israeli Jewish fertility rate as of the beginning of 2013 exceeded the birthrate in all Arab countries except Yemen, Iraq, and Jordan, which are nonetheless declining.
Ettinger said that even the secular Russian–Jewish Israeli community is witnessing a rise in fertility. He further notes the young population shows a convergence between Arab and Jewish fertility rates among women in their 20s and 30s—with Arabs trending below three births per woman, while Jewish women trend above three. This does not count Jewish immigration to Israel, known as aliyah, yet another means for bolstering the Jewish population.
While some experts have challenged Ettinger’s demographic arguments, Netanyahu, in a speech in February, said that Israel is probably the only westernized country with a natural population growth—unlike what is seen in Europe. Hence Israel’s population, including its Jewish one, is getting larger, not smaller. If Ettinger’s beliefs about the declining Arab birthrates are correct, then Israel has a bright Jewish future.
Ettinger, now the CEO of “Second Thought: A US–Israel Initiative,” said that one approach to the situation would eventually result in full annexation of the West Bank by Israel, but that it could be done in stages—starting with Area C. In that plan, he proposes gradually absorbing all the West Bank Palestinians who have not engaged in incitement or terrorism against Israel as Israeli citizens. Yet another approach noted by Ettinger is to maintain the status quo with quasi-Palestinian autonomy and Israeli military sovereignty in the West Bank, without any Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
While opponents will argue neither of these options will resolve the conflict right away and don’t placate the international community, the reality is that Israel’s physical existence is far more threatened by the two-state solution. And that’s because a key segment of the Palestinian society has a one-state plan of its own.
The Hamas Approach
The Hamas terrorist organization—which controls the Gaza Strip, has seen a rise in popularity amongst Palestinians and is being courted by Abbas to form a reconciled Palestinian government—spelled out their vision of Israel late last year: It disappears. The political head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, was quoted by the Ma’an News Agency when he spoke at a major rally in Gaza, “Palestine is ours from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land. We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take.” In other words, in Hamas’ plan, there’s no Israel.
Worse still, Meshaal was quoted by the Hamas’ military wing website as advocating violence as the means to achieving this vision. “The armed resistance is the real and the right way to liberate the land and restore the rights,” he said. The reality is that the same Hamas that has fired thousands of rockets at Israel is the same Hamas that is still a key part of Palestinian society. Even setting aside the troubling incitement in the West Bank—where terrorists are made into heroes and official media describe Israeli cities as Palestinian ones—there is no hope for a peaceful “two-state solution” that includes Gaza with the West Bank. And there is no “two-state solution” that doesn’t.
The Slow but Steady Response
So if Israel were to decide to go with a one-state solution, what is the best approach to take? Perhaps, moving things slower might reduce tensions with the international community. Instead of annexing West Bank territory right away, Israel could first increase the number of work permits given to carefully-screened Palestinians to allow for more interaction with Jews and build that ground-level peace Bennett espouses. Second, vast economic improvements and partnerships with Palestinian business projects could be used to further that peace and include the international community.
Then, after a period of sustained economic partnership, Israel could offer voluntary citizenship to Palestinians who have not participated in incitement or violence. Along the way, the Israeli government could foster and even build Palestinian towns in areas closer to Jewish zones to further intertwine the two groups. Lastly, annexation of some or all of the West Bank could be used to clear the legal ambiguities and enable the situation to fully flourish. Is such a plan perfect? Not in this imperfect world. But, in my opinion, the one-state solution is the “one solution” that can really bring peace.
Editor’s Note: Bridges for Peace is committed to the proposition that Israel has the sovereign right to self-determination, which includes settling disputes and determining borders, free from undue international interference. Therefore, we are committed to supporting the nation, regardless of which political party the Israeli voters have chosen to govern the country. We also recognize that the peace process is a hotly contested topic in Israel. While every Israeli that we have met has a deep desire for peace, there is much disagreement about how to obtain it. In the final analysis, as Christian supporters of Israel, we are trusting God to fulfill His promises. We unequivocally support Israel’s God-given right to exist as a Jewish state in their ancestral homeland, and will fight against delegitimization tactics, media bias, and anti-Israel propaganda in the international arena.
Source: Joshua Spurlock, The Mideast Update
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