by Matthew Iannucci
It must be frustrating being told what to do all the time by outsiders. Bear with me, though, my intentions are good. I want what will be best for Israel and beyond that I want it for selfish reasons. I expect to live at least part of my life here and I don't want my children growing up in a country that has not done all it can to create a secure and sustainable living environment for its citizens; the current situation is neither secure nor sustainable. I've been studying Hebrew and am ashamed that I still must rely on the fact that Israelis speak English. I intend to study until it is natural for me to speak Hebrew with native Israelis. So I'm not just an outsider, I'm an outsider trying to become an insider.
Here's what I have to say: The problem of the Israeli public is one of inconsistency. How can over 70% of the population be in favor of peace while a recent Jerusalem Post poll showed that a majority of Israelis believe that if Israel freezes settlement construction the Palestinians must also cease building in the West Bank. These two positions are mutually exclusive. Israelis need to wake up to some hard facts about peace, facts that exist aside from the daily injustice and humiliation the occupation causes the Palestinian people.
First, you, as Israelis, must realize the consequences - to Israel - of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state. In the territory of "Greater Israel," Israel has a demographic problem. The Palestinian birthrate is higher than the Jewish birthrate. Demographers suggest that by 2020 Jews will total only 40% of the population in the area of Mandatory Palestine Jews will be a minority within Israeli controlled territory. Let that sink in. At that point, if there is no separate Palestinian state, the situation will become one of a minority controlling the lives of a majority; it will be, de facto, an apartheid state despite the lack of racial motivation. As soon as the demographic balance shifts in this way, the Palestinians could legitimately call for equal rights in a bi-national state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Israel would face a choice: either agree and cease to be a Jewish state or resist and become an international pariah. In either case, the two-state option would no longer exist and after a few generations Jews would be but a small minority a new "state of all its citizens." The Jews would lose their hard-fought state. In the meantime, however, rather than waiting for the demographic advantage, the PA has continued to support and pursue a two-state solution. Israel, then, has literally no time to waste: Without a Palestinian state Israel will cease to be a Jewish one. Furthermore, a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians and the Arab world would hugely improve Israel's position vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear threat.
Second, you must understand what settlements are doing to the potential for a two-state solution, especially the current Israeli policy in East Jerusalem and the Holy Basin area. Settlement construction has changed the "facts on the ground" in the West Bank drastically, already challenging the territorial contiguity of what must soon become Palestine. Moreover, East Jerusalem is the key to a peace agreement with the Palestinians; without a capital in East Jerusalem there will not be a Palestinian state. Therefore, Israel's policy of "Judaizing" East Jerusalem, through the discriminatory allocation of building permits, evictions of Palestinians from their houses, and house demolitions is rapidly making impossible the possibility of a two-state solution. These policies also destroy Israel's credibility both internationally and amongst the Palestinian population, and frankly, in this world, Israel needs all of the friends it can get. National-religious messianic policies will bring Israel to a crisis. It must be made clear: the alternative to a two-state solution is no solution, bloodshed, and, eventually, even the end of Israel's existence as a Jewish state.
Third, understand that to love Israel, to really love the miracle that is Israel, is to create conditions that ensure its long term stability and security. Unfortunately, these conditions require painful concessions. Desperately holding on to land for historical and religious reasons does not translate to Israel's security, especially when it requires controlling the lives of over three and a half million Palestinians with their own national ambitions. Rather, the key for Israel is diplomatic legitimacy. Right now Israel has a problem of diplomatic legitimacy and a problem in international public opinion. Many people abroad view Israel as an oppressor and bully. But this situation is not impossible to change. Israel has one critical weapon with which it can combat this situation: It can be compromising and proactive in the peace process, promoting and allowing a peace agreement along the lines of a two-state solution, including a withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 borders. Israel can stop the disastrous settlement campaign and go above and beyond what is required of it by the international community. This will transform the international perception of Israel. Israel will cease to be the "bad guy" and, more importantly, if it does this, any Arab or Palestinian lack of cooperation or aggression will be condemned immediately and universally. Through cooperation, Israel will gain the full support of the international community. This must be Israel's priority. It will improve Israel's security more than any unilateral action can, including with regard to Iran, a country already more marginalized than Israel.
I understand, it is easy to be on the right. The right requires only a perspective of victimhood, which allows issues to remain black and white - "the Arabs will always want more land, they will never accept Israel's existence" - I say prove that you are right by allowing the concessions I suggest. If you do, and I am wrong, you will have created a situation where the international community has no choice but to back you up. To be on the left requires something much more difficult - self-examination. It requires the realization that perhaps there are multiple stories of victimhood here and Israel is not blameless, and I think accepting this fact is one of the hardest things a nation can do. So I understand staying on the right; it's easier, it's natural. But for you, for Israel, it's also incredibly destructive.