Monday, January 27, 2014

Inching toward bi-nationalism?

PM Netanyahu's suggestion, reported in today's Boston Globe, that settlers may not need to be moved even if some of the land on which they sit may revert to Palestinian sovereignty, a suggestion rejected outright by Saeb Erekat, seems designed to derail the current negotiations. But what if Mr. Netanyahu is serious? Consider the fact that Israel did not expel all the Arabs from what became its territory in 1949. To this day, Israel includes a sizable Arab minority. Despite all the talk of "transfer," despite their second class status in a what is increasingly felt to be an ethnic rather than liberal democracy, these Arabs are nevertheless citizens of Israel. In recent months there has even been talk about persuading more of the Christians among the Arabs to join the IDF. If that's the case, why then should the future Palestine not include Jewish citizens. Members of Neturei Karta have long expressed a preference for living under Palestinian sovereignty since they regard secular Jewish statehood as blasphemous. And if the settlers want to live in ancient Judea and Samaria, which happens to be the modern West Bank, why should they not find an appropriate place there. It won't be easy and one can imagine why Palestinian society would not be eager to have them, but that's not a reason to not imagine it.

The result, however, would be two states in Palestine: one with a Jewish majority and one with an Arab majority; but neither one "ethnically cleansed" or exclusively populated by just one type of population. Now add to this a joint security regime, which would be necessary to protect these ethnic minorities, joint economic policies that allow for reasonable and beneficial development that is mindful of natural resources (including water) and of the needs of the tourism and pilgrimage industries, while maintaining religious and political autonomy for each of these sectors. Doesn't this look more like bi-nationalism than two states for two people? -- Has Benjamin Netanyahu seen the light? Are we seeing the return of the IHUD, seventy years after its founding? A vindication of Buber, Magnes, and Szold? I am putting some champagne on ice right now.

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