Israeli Arabs
Israeli ArabsIsrael National News photo (file)

The popular nationalist Hebrew newspaper Makor Rishon devoted this past weekend's main editorial and a slew of debates in its magazine insert “Forum”, to a surprising initiative for preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state on Israel’s borders.

INN brings you the leading editorial (translated with permission) by Uri Elitzur , associate editor of Makor Rishon, well known publicist and head of Binyamin Netanyahu’s office during his first term as prime minister. 

We invite your opinion and will publish a selection of readers’ responses.

The Challenge of Inclusion: Annex and Survive

Not long ago, Shimon Peres was vehemently against a Palestinian state. Today, even Netanyahu supports the idea. A Palestinian state now is the worst possible scenario for Israel, and it will occur if we don’t have the courage to consider the following counter-proposal seriously: that is, a proposal that entails adding more than 1 million Arabs to Israel’s population.

Here are Shimon Peres' own words: (in translation)

“If a separate Palestinian state is formed, it will be armed from top to bottom. It will be a base for the most extremist terror groups, who will have anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, endangering not only passersby but every airplane or helicopter that uses Israeli air space, every vehicle on Israel’s major coastal highways.  It is doubtful whether territorial depth provides deterrence. But the absence of minimal territorial depth leaves a state without any deterrence. This option in itself makes attacking Israel on all fronts irresistibly tempting…demilitarization of the West Bank is a questionable antidote: the problem is not the agreement to demilitarize, but whether the agreement will be honored. The number of agreements broken by the Arabs is not less than the number they have kept.”(“This Time Tomorrow”, Jerusalem 1978/ page 255.)

I did not quote this text to ridicule President Peres. It is common knowledge that until about 15 years ago, there was an across-the-board consensus against a Palestinian state. Ten years ago, the Labor party would not agree to put the idea on its platform. Today, everyone is for it. From Left to Right. Yet every word that Peres said is as true as it was then. Nothing has changed, except for Peres himself.

And Sharon. And Olmert. And Tzipi Livni. And Netanyahu. In short, everyone. In the Israeli political system, there is an overwhelming majority—from Chaim Oron (Meretz) to Netanyahu, including Foreign Minister Lieberman—that supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in principle.

In the international arena, there is not one politician who thinks otherwise, including Israel’s best and warmest friends.

How did this happen?

The answer is that time has run out for the temporary solution. Those on the right of the political map have always been asked what alternative they have to suggest, and they have never responded with the simple and self-evident answer that the present situation is the alternative.  What is now is what should be. Is there anything simpler than that?

Not only didn’t Netanyahu say that, neither did Yaalon, nor did Yitzchak Shamir. All the Israeli right ever said for years is that there is no one to talk to on the other side. It’s not the result of faulty public relations. The fact is, that a democratic country ruling over an entire population that lacks civil rights can only be a temporary solution. And the famous saying that there is nothing more permanent than something that is temporary rings well, but is itself only true temporarily.

They are Afraid

Now that 44 years of ‘temporariness’ have passed, it is time to give a better answer than “not now”.

Everyone who realizes that Israel must continue to rule permanently in Judea and Samaria, if only to prevent the establishment of an armed and hostile Palestinian state, must realize that there is a heavy price involved: the annexation of the territory and all its residents. That means adding 1.25 million or 1.5 million Arabs to Israel. This price causes panic in Israel, causing Shimon Peres to be ready to agree to almost all the things he vehemently and eloquently disagreed to in the past. Everyone else, from Left to Right, follows in his footsteps. Lieberman suggests an interim agreement, as if he can delay decisions for somewhat longer. Perhaps a little bit more time can be gained, but the time for avoiding decisions has run out.

The result is that only one plan is on the table, and Israel has retreated from all its red lines under each and every government. Because when Israel says that separation is a matter of life and death, and the option of annexation causes total panic, there is nothing left about which to negotiate. You cannot bargain about prices with a customer, if your time is up and you admit that you have no other choice but to sell.

Israel has to decide whether to annex more than a million Arabs or to accept a Palestinian state under the most adverse conditions. These are the two options. If no one gets up and puts a suggestion for one state on the table, if Israelis are not able to weigh this option and its cost without going into hysterics, if they cannot rationally compare it with the cost of the opposing option, the result will be a Palestinian state. 

It will be an armed and hostile state, that doesn’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It won’t be demilitarized, it won’t compromise on uprooting all the communities in its territory and it won’t sign a peace treaty with Israel.  Israel’s demands and preconditions will erode bit by bit, just as the opposition to a Palestinian state did.

The number of Israeli Arabs is more or less equal to the number of Arabs in Judea and Samaria. If there are 10 Israeli Arab MK’s today, and if annexation of Judea and Samaria is a gradual process that takes place over 30 years, one can expect double the number of Arab MK’s at that point. This will not change Israel into a bi-national state.

If during those 30 years Israel passes Basic Laws that define Israel’s status as the state of the Jewish People, and if during that period there is a significant wave of aliyah, it will be easier to deal with the danger. It will be difficult. But the fear of putting the subject up for debate is out of all proportion, especially when the option of a Palestinian Hamas state from where rockets will be launched at Tel Aviv is much, much worse.

In general, fear is a very bad  adviser, and in this case it is  a repeat of the sin of 10 of the 12 spies in the Book of Numbers who told the Jews in the desert: "The people in the Promised Land are stronger than we are."

 Will we relinquish the land so as not to have to deal with a minority of 30 percent?  Let’s do just the opposite. Let’s keep the land and let’s not act precipitously. We have faced far more difficult challenges successfully.

The Palestinian State train has already left the next-to-last station and is traveling full steam ahead. If there were a last stop, nothing could stop that train from getting there. However, the State of Israel can still be saved from the Palestinian state disaster because there is no last stop in existence. Abbas doesn’t want to reach an agreement. The Palestinians don’t want the small state they have been offered, and to their good fortune, Obama has given them a perfect excuse for not accepting it.

This is the time to raise the option described above and debate it openly and fearlessly, as our “Forum” magazine does this week.

Another word on peace

Those who have named themselves “The Peace Camp” are not really interested in peace with the Palestinians. They simply want to be rid of them, and to put them behind some sort of separation wall (as if that were possible). However, there are those who really want peace between Jews and Palestinians. They are the reason I have added the next few paragraphs.

It has finally become politically correct to call our ‘friend’ Hosni Mubarak a corrupt dictator, and to admit that he wasn’t much of a friend to begin with. Everyone still says that the peace with Egypt is a strategic asset, but adds that its continuation is not clear. What has become painfully clear, however, is that the Egyptian masses do not find peace with Israel particularly attractive, and that the Egyptian elite and intelligentsia absolutely hate us passionately after 30 years of peace.

The peace with Jordan fares no better, and does not express the will of the people. This agreement is based on the will of a non-democratic regime’s interests, a regime which needs to preserve a cold peace with us in order to survive. If it ever becomes expedient for them  to end that peace, that is what will happen. We did not succeed, not in Egypt and not in Jordan, to get the people interested in peace, to develop trade relations, to attract tourism, work opportunities, to be allowed to enjoy a unifying humus and pita snack in Cairo or Amman with the locals.

The only Arab population that we live with in real peace, for the most part without hostility and hatred, is the Israeli one. Not everything is rosy within Israel between Jews and Arabs. There is much to improve here as well, and there is also cause for worry, but despite that, the fact is that Israeli Arabs were on the side of our enemies in the 1949 War of Independence, but today they are citizens who study with us, join us, live with us in peace.

And they don’t want to lose their Israeli citizenship. This is not because of negotiations or ceremonial treaty signings. Had we tried negotiations with the  Arabs living in the Galilee in 1949, we would still be at it. What brought about the only peace we have with an Arab population group in the Middle East was simply giving them Israeli citizenship.

Translated with permission from the writer, by Rochel Sylvetsky