I was reading this article which recounted a statement by an Israeli government minister, who declared his support for the one-state solution. No, he wasn’t a member of Hadash or even Meretz, he was a member of Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi, as ultra-nationalist as they come. But what really struck me was this language:
Kalfa, who is a member of the Israeli Knesset, told The Times of Israel newspaper that Palestinians should be treated equally and given the rights of complete citizenship in Israel as part of the one state solution. He also called for giving them the right to invest in infrastructure.
Renowned for his strong opposition of the two-state solution, he called for establishing one state on the whole area of ‘Israeli land” where all people, Arabs and Jews, become full citizens with equal rights.
This way, the extremist MK claims, Israel would distance itself from the accusations of marginalising Arabs and that it racially discrimination against them.
There is a reason why neither I, nor many other observers of the Israeli-Arab conflict, took these proposals by the far-right seriously. They appear to contradict every principle they should hold sacred. Most importantly, a Jewish majority in Israel. There is no doubt that if Israel absorbs the Palestinians from the Territories, they will become, if not immediately, then eventually a majority. Then the idea of Jewish sovereignty dies. The Jews will become just another ethnic group within a panoply of Israeli ethnic groups.
Indeed, if you read the entire Yisrael HaYom article, you’ll find plenty to make you wonder whether Kalfa’s ideas are sincere or even well thought-out:
“It is obvious that we cannot go the way of a two-state solution,” Kalfa told Israel Hayom. “I am in favor of one country for everyone. Palestinians? There has never been and there currently is no [Palestinian] nation.”
Kalfa, who was once a resident of Atzmona community in the since evacuated Gush Katif settlements, also provided an answer for his detractors who claim that Israel will no longer be a Jewish state if his suggestion is followed. “One way or another, the Jews will remain the majority in the state,” he said.
First, it appears clear that these far-right proposals intend to leave Gaza out in the cold. I haven’t heard of any far right advocate of this idea suggesting Gazans should be part of it. And if they’re not, it’s a non-starter. If the Gazans are included, then the new Palestinians citizens (4-million), together with the existing Israeli Palestinian citizens living within the Green Line (1.5-million), would be a sizable minority. If not now, then certainly within a short period of time, they’d become the majority.
That’s why I always believed this idea was some sort of feint or trick. Surely, they’re not suggesting full citizenship and equal rights? And some of the far-right proponents are suggesting a set of stages whereby the Palestinians would gain citizenship. That plan surely won’t fly.
But if there are no tricks involved, if the far right is willing to embrace all the Palestinians living in the Territories, then who are we to stand in their way? Let’s ditch the two state solution advocated now only by John Kerry and an increasingly embattled set of liberal Zionists and turn to a solution that, while complicated, makes far more sense.
Back in 2010, Moshe Arens (no left-wing radical, he) was one of the first to advocate one state. Though I detected an unwillingness to include the Gazans in his plan, it seemed straight-forward enough. He offered the Palestinians full citizenship and voting rights.
But I wonder if he doesn’t still believe he has a trick up his sleeve. As an Israeli-American friend with whom I’ve been discussing this warned:
Divide and conquer is a principle thousands of years old, and Israelis have practiced it with great determination.
Perhaps Arens and the far-right believe that the Israeli Jews, who’ve exercised democratic rights for decades, will be a much more coherent political force; while their newly-enfranchised Palestinian counterparts will be a splintered lot. This is, after all, entirely possible. The Palestinian majority may, for a time, maintain a variety of parties and political stances that prevent them from uniting to exert political control. If that were the case, Jewish parties might have more coherence and homogeneity.
But I’d guess that after a time, the various ethnic forces would coalesce into a more stable set of political agendas. Then Palestinians would take control. And then, I can’t see how the ultra-nationalists would be happy. But if they want to make such a proposal now, who are we to stand in their way?
In science, they say that the simplest solution is always the best. You may find another solution that is more complicated that works–but always stick with the simplest. Given Israel’s long history of rejection and intransigence in adopting the provisions of a two state solution, it appears the Israeli ultra-nationalists are onto something. And we should take note.