What does he really want? No one knows for sure, maybe not even he, himself. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he does not want Israel to become a binational state and that it will not become one. He says he still supports the twostate solution, but he has done nothing to advance it.
In fact, he has done much to prevent it from emerging at any time in the future.
We are reminded of his campaign promise that “no Palestinian state will be established on my watch!” His right-wing coalition partners want to annex Area C of the West Bank, comprising 62 percent of the territory.
Netanyahu hasn’t done anything to advance their program either, but they keep reminding him and the people of Israel that someone who supports a Palestinian state next to Israel cannot be considered to be part of the so-called “national camp.”
The prime minister is certainly not a stupid man, nor is he out of touch with reality – as far as we can tell.
According to reliable demographers (not the rightwing players with statistics) there is already a balance between Jews and Palestinians between the River and the Sea – with perhaps slightly more Palestinians than Jews even today.
The continued settlement building, the lack of any political horizon, the stagnant and even declining economy of the Palestinians are all part of the causes behind the current round of violence, at least that is what the Shin Bet and the IDF say. And while Israelis are under attack, Palestinians, the non-participating overwhelming majority of them, feel they are under attack. As a result of no political progress, years of failed negotiations and continued violence, today between the River and the Sea there is a very large majority of Jews and Palestinians who believe the twostate solution is not possible anymore. So what then? What do they support? It has to be clear to everyone, including to the prime minister that both peoples are here to stay. The Israelis are not going anywhere and neither are the Palestinians.
If the prime minister rejects the idea of a binational state, as do most Israelis, it is clear that there is no intention to grant millions of Palestinians citizenship and equal rights, including the right to vote and to be elected. I have heard right-wing people explain that since the Palestinians have their own authority and they elected it, and they have their own government ministries – education, health, welfare, planning and even a foreign ministry – the problem of no democracy and no rights is solved. The Palestinians can continue living with their Palestinian Authority and Israel can continue to control all of the land between the River and the Sea.
We don’t have to count the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza because they live under Hamas anyway, which rejects Israel’s right to exist – so everything is in fact okay, they say. The criticism of the international community against the so-called “occupation,” they claim, can be ignored because for one we all know that regardless of what Israel and the Jewish people do, they say, the whole world is against us because at their core they are anti-Semitic.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett tells us and the world that no one can occupy their own land and God gave us this land so how can we be an occupier in our own land, and anyway the whole world hates us because we are Jews. Everything is explained away by the knee-jerk anti-Semitism claim.
The problem begins with the fact that the whole world is not anti-Semitic – even the 28 states of the European Union, which voted to label settlement products, all strongly support Israel’s legitimate right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, Israel’s right to defend itself and strongly condemn Palestinian terrorism against Israel. But the 28 states of the European Union all oppose Israel’s control of the Palestinian territories, the construction of settlements in those territories and the prevention by Israel of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. This can hardly be defined as anti-Semitism. All anti-Semitism is illegitimate.
Criticism of Israel and its policies is completely legitimate. Taking actions against those policies is also completely legitimate.
While the prime minister fails to present any plan to prevent Israel from becoming a binational state, the binational reality is becoming permanent. The Palestinian struggle against the impossible reality that they are living will be rapidly transformed from their demand for a state of their own next to Israel into a demand for equal rights and real democracy. As the binational reality of Israel continues to exist with continued decreasing support for partition on both sides of the conflict line, the international community will abandon its own support for the two-stats solution and will define the reality in which millions of Palestinians are living under Israeli control without equal rights as the 21st-century version of a new form of apartheid.
No, it is not apartheid South Africa with its racial separation, but it is a country with separate, different and unequal forms of government – one for Jews and Arabs who are citizens of Israel and enjoy relative democracy and equal rights and one for Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel and are devoid of basic human rights and freedoms. This will not be tolerated.
But what the world thinks of this situation is way back on my list of concerns and what I believe should concern every Israeli citizen and every Jew around the world – the continuation and entrenchment of the binational reality is causing Israel to lose its Jewish soul. The moral code brought to the world by the Prophets of Israel - as our Declaration of Independence states written by our founding mothers and fathers: “Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex…” So prime minister, please tell us how Israel remains faithful to itself and its founding principles and continues to maintain this binational reality.
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.