Bibi Netanyahu’s response to the UN vote is nothing less than the manufacturing of an unmistakable Pyrrhic victory:
Israel plans to build some 3,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements in response to the Palestinians’ successful bid for recognition at the UN General Assembly this week, a senior diplomatic source told Haaretz on Friday.
According to the source, Israel also plans to advance long-frozen plans for the E1 area, which covers an area that links the city of Jerusalem with the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.
If built, the controversial plan would prevent territorial contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank, making it difficult for a future Palestinian state to function.
Paper, such as the UN vote upgrading the international status of Palestine, rarely competes with bulldozers, unless the drivers of the bulldozers recognize the authority of the paper in question.
Israelis as centrist as former Likud politician and Kadima Prime Minister Ehud Olmert supported the UN initiative. Staunch supporters of Israel in the US like David Frum recognized the conciliatory language in Abu Mazen’s (PA President Abbas’) remarks at the vote:
I am here to say on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestine Liberation Organization: We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peace-making. I say to them: Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity. Let us build the bridges of dialogue instead of checkpoints and walls of separation, and build cooperative relations based on parity and equity between two neighbouring states – Palestine and Israel – instead of policies of occupation, settlement, war and eliminating the other.
The state we want will be a state characterized by the rule of law, democratic exercise and protection of the freedoms and equality of all citizens without any discrimination, and the transfer of power through the ballot box.
Of course, Frum casts plenty of doubt upon the sincerity of these remarks and explicitly accuses Abu Mazen of hypocrisy, which is a bit rich when considered in context.
But that brings us to the Likud led government’s response, which commits to effectively bisecting the occupied West Bank of the Jordan from East to West. Netanyahu must have deluded himself into believing that Palestinians will settle for three bantustans (Gaza, West Bank North, and West Bank South) as their de-militarized state, with no control of their borders, air space, and water, and whose treaties and trade agreements with other nation-states are contingent upon Israeli approval. Or perhaps he really believes that if Israel holds on long enough, Palestinians will simply give up and go away. Maybe he really thinks they will fade from history and assimilate into other nations and cultures. History demonstrates that this is absurd, at least in the short term calculation of decades and centuries, spans more significant when measured in lifetimes. Ethically, to wish another people out of existence is an abomination.
Since neither Palestinian acceptance of a mockery of a “state” nor their historical melting away are likely or represent an ethically sustainablel wish, Netanyahu should expect Palestinians to hold him to Principle #5 of his Likud Party Charter.
ה. קיום משטר ממלכתי-דמוקרטי במדינה: הבטחת עליונות החוק, זכויות האדם והאזרח, חופש המצפון, חרות הפרט, שוויון זכויות והזדמנות כל אזרחי המדינה ומניעת כל אפליה על
.רקע מין, גזע, עדה, דת, מעמד או השקפה
The maintenance of sovereign democratic rule in the state: Assurance of the primacy of the law, human and civil rights, freedom of conscience, individual liberty, equality of rights and opportunities for all citizens of the state and prevention of all discrimination on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, class, or perspective. (translation mine)
Sounds enlightened, yes? Unbeknownst to most who only know Likud through its odious policies, it grew out of a movement that characterized itself as liberal, at least in the classical sense. If Ronald Reagan would be booted from today’s Republican Party, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, intellectual founder of this movement, might very well be shot out of a cannon by today’s Likud Central Committee.
If Netanyahu and his allies are going to scuttle all possibilities for a viable Palestinian state, they will do the same for a viable Jewish/Zionist state. For the demographic situation that keeps the internal conflict between liberalism and nationalism within Zionism at bay requires two states. One’s viability depends upon the other’s. I have been arguing for years, along with a handful of other Jewish Israelis and some Palestinian thinkers and activists, that the one thing that might change the trajectory of things here would be a popular movement among Palestinian non-citizens to apply for Israeli citizenship.
One of the key arguments against the apartheid analogy has some truth to it. The ANC didn’t want either to dismantle or separate from the Republic of South Africa, they wanted to join it. If stateless, occupied Palestinians were to demand full rights of citizenship in Israel, even the Likud would have trouble justifying a refusal. Israel would be faced with three possibilities: refusing and thus formalizing an Apartheid; instituting a two state solution; or granting these applications and the enfranchisement that they entail, which would enable either a process leading to a bi-national secular state or an agreement to divide into two states from within the Knesset (Israeli Parliament).
For the record, as I understand the central principle of Zionism to be full enfranchisement of Jews in Israel, not Jewish sovereignty that limits the enfranchisement of others, I would be quite happy in a bi-national secular republic with a constitution that recognizes the dignity of all the competing historical/national narratives of its communities, individual rights and liberties, and ensures that equitable distribution of resources does not depend upon demographic “superiority.” I bow, however, to the aspirations of Palestinians to build their own nation state. I may be skeptical that two ethnocratic nationalisms are better than one, but I don’t see myself in the position to dictate that to members of another national/cultural community.
And thus, I understand why an Israeli citizenship movement among Palestinians is unlikely. For many Palestinians in the territories, this would be a betrayal of their cultural and national identities and an abandonment of their historical narrative. But it would be a game changer. The question is, given the “facts on the ground” established by successive Israeli governments and crowned by this announcement to brazenly vivisect the West Bank, the final straw in rendering a Palestinian state unviable, what else is left?