Avrum Burg published an op-ed in Haaretz responding to the hysteria over EU parliamentary president Martin Schulz’s Knesset address. He gets in a few terrific zingers against Naftali Bennett and contemporary Israeli politics in general:
Naftali Bennett is one of the shallowest people I’ve ever encountered here…Give me Moshe Feiglin…but spare me this hollow charisma.
But what’s really interesting is this vision statement he presents for a future Israel. It’s quite breathtaking when you’re used to reading such pablum and hasbara from the vast majority of Israeli political figures. Burg, who in truth is no longer a mainstream political figure and so can afford to blue-sky such issues, has articulated ideas that follow on those of the Geneva Initiative, but go farther because they acknowledge the distinct possibility of a one-state solution. In fact, Burg implicitly no longer posits two-states as practicable or viable given current realities.
Here is what the future looks like to Burg:
* Every person who lives…between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea shall be assured equal personal, political, economic and social rights. These rights include: the right to protection and security; equal treatment without regard to sex, race, ethnic origin or religion; freedom of movement; ownership and possession of property; the right to bring a lawsuit to court; and the right to vote and hold elected office.
* The collective rights of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians – linguistic, cultural, religious and political – shall be ensured in every political setting. It is understood that neither side shall have exclusive sovereignty over any part of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (including exclusive ownership of land, exclusive access to natural resources, and so on).
* All remaining exclusive rights possessed solely by Jewish Israelis, including ownership of land and access to natural resources, shall be abolished. All resources – material and political – shall be redistributed on the basis of principles of affirmative justice.
* The right of return of the Palestinians is an integral part of UN Resolution 194. The implementation of this resolution shall take into account the existing reality. The moral and political injustice of dispossessing the Palestinians in the past shall not be remedied by creating new injustices.
* The new political institutions shall make democratic immigration and citizenship laws. However, Jews and Palestinians who live in the diaspora will be able to receive immunity in situations of danger (according to UN resolutions) and will have special status in the process of obtaining citizenship in comparison with any other ethnic or national group.
You’ll note the italicized passage, which is the only portion with which I take issue. Here, Burg has had a failure of nerve, perhaps because of his lingering allegiance to an Israel he once knew and cherished; or perhaps because he believes it will make this pill less bitter for the average Israeli to swallow.
Frankly, I don’t know what “the existing reality” is: that Israeli Jews control virtually all the land and shouldn’t be further inconvenienced? Reading a bit between the lines, I think Burg is articulating a bi-national state in which Jews live in Israel and Palestinians live in Palestine, but who have some form of joint governance at least in certain spheres. In this bi-national state, Palestinians would be able to exercise the Right of Return, but only to Palestine. It’s little different from the two state solution espoused by liberal Zionists, except that there would not be two sovereign independent states.
I don’t think Burg’s solution to the Right of Return will fly. Palestinians need to be able to return to the territory that is now Israel. There is a great deal of space to build new communities in Israel and to rebuild ones destroyed during Nakba. There should also be space in what are now the Territories if Jews wish to fulfill Biblical injunctions to settle the Land (what I call the Froman Plan, after Rabbi Menachem Froman z”l).
But I do think that aside from this flaw, the rest of this vision is compelling and an excellent place to start a dialogue about what could be. I only hope that there are Israelis outside of the usual leftist suspects who will begin taking this sort of plan seriously. It is, in the long run, Israel’s only hope.