This article originally appeared on the blog a Crazy Nation, and was reprinted in the Jerusalem Post
Jan. 12, 2010
by Joshua Reback, THE JERUSALEM POST
It's difficult to write this without being framed as some sort of fanatic. Either I should fall on the Left that advocates a binational state, or on the Right that can only see things through the lens of "Greater Israel." Both of these labels are presumptuous and have precluded debate about this issue. However, there is a way to reconcile these "extremes" and provide a reason to trend away from the two-state plan.
The Obama administration is trying to torpedo renewed discussion of this idea with a strained attempt to force two-state negotiations, while continuing the Bush administration's policy of building the PA's security apparatus. But an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank in any capacity would contract the country's defensive posture and invite encroachment from Syria, with no guarantees the already extant terrorist groups in the area would not grow and infiltrate a Palestinian state's security forces.
At this point, annexing the West Bank (without the Gaza Strip) would not hinder Jews' clear majority in a unified state. That does not imply that absorbing the territory immediately would resolve a plethora of security, social and religious issues. But to give the vote to everyone in the West Bank would create both a Jewish and democratic state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, sans Gaza. The question then becomes how the Jewish population intends to preserve that majority.
BUT BEFORE that can be answered, we need to remember why we should be concerned about it in the first place. This is a question that is seldom addressed, and its answers are seldom clarified by commentators. It was cited ad nauseam in the lead-up to the disengagement five years ago, but I am not so sure observers really understood why this issue was so important to Israelis.
Jews would instinctively bring up domestic security concerns. Israelis are especially cognizant of the pogroms in Europe and especially the Arab riots in 1929, 1936-39 and the two intifadas. Annexation evokes fears of anti-Semitic sabotage and civil war or pogroms if the government ever fell into the hands of a hostile Arab majority. This is a concern that no one can simply alleviate. Jewish sovereignty and qualitative ability to defend the Jewish world from attack are among the dozens of conceptual underpinnings of the entire Zionist movement. It is what justified one of the first global, collective gestures of affirmative action in modern history - the creation of an ethnically based country, the Jewish State of Israel.
The moderate approach in Israeli politics regarding a one-state solution would be to both annex the West Bank and push off the idea of official "binationalism." Such a state would have to remain a Jewish state, with a Jewish symbol on its flag - like an Islamic crescent adorns the Turkish or Pakistani banners - and maintain a Jewish majority (not plurality) in its territory.
This brings the whole debate back to the "big blue elephant" in the room - the need to increase Jewish immigration and the natural birth rate of Israeli Jews. These are not policies that Western democracies are expected to implement. But Western states do not exist for the sake of ethnic preservation against global instances of oppression, whether it be in Europe or the Arab world.
These policies are not radical to Israelis, and they are not radical to certain other ethnic states. And given the willingness to discuss population exchange and mass eviction during peace negotiations, they are not all too awkward to the likes of the Western powers, either.
Few Israeli politicians suggest this, because it assumes too many developments. Recently, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely alluded to it when she fielded the idea of giving citizenship to Palestinians. There seems to be no guarantee that a renewed push for aliya and reversal of yerida would bear fruit, or that Jewish families would decide to have more children.
BUT GLOBAL Jewish leadership has fought against such pessimism. Tens of millions of dollars are already spent every year on all forms of Jewish outreach - religious, cultural and political. Activists the world over urge the end of assimilation and absorption of mixed families into the greater Jewish community. The push is for far bigger and far more Jewish families by leaders and organizations everywhere. The State of Israel, the strongest Jewish organization in the world, should coordinate all of these efforts, stress the importance of the Land of Israel to all streams of Judaism and emphasize the centrality of the state to the modern Jewish world.
It is possible to enhance Israel's Jewish, democratic and defensive characteristics simultaneously. Israel's Jewish character and the preservation of minorities' rights and needs are reconcilable. It is a mixture of idealism and practicality, yet an objective approach, politically satiable and the optimal one to take.
The writer is a graduate of Rutgers University with a BA in Middle Eastern studies. He is currently a student at Yeshivat Hamivtar in Efrat.