Saturday, May 7, 2011

Israel's Need for a Reality Check

(with a h/tt to Paul Woodward at WiC) . . . Daniel Levy (in Haaretz) has written eloquently - and bravely - about how, as the warring Palestinian political factions have embraced reconciliation, so must Israel's various factions come together in a kind of soul-searching in order to find a way forward.  The need to do so is urgent; as Levy notes, Israel's situation is deteriorating in the face of the protest movements shaking its Arab neighborhood. 

Levy outlines four possible paths forward - and if Israelis cannot bring themselves together enough to start down one of those paths, then, says he, perhaps the US can facilitate the discussion:
Perhaps, in an honest dialogue regarding our future, enough of a consensus could be reached to allow for the actual evacuation of at least 100,000 settlers, a withdrawal from the vast majority of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and agreement on a two-state border delineation (with equal land swaps ), even as other outstanding issues and a full end to conflict are left to future state-to-state negotiations.

A second option could be to build on the above, taking it in a more challenging direction - that of a full truth and reconciliation process with the Palestinians, addressing all claims. That would necessitate a difficult preliminary phase of Israeli introspection - are we ready to come to terms with the Nakba, with sharing Jerusalem's holy sites, and with being a fully democratic state, including for our Palestinian citizens?

If significant settler evacuation has become a red line that is impossible for Israel's political realities to cross, and alongside that a two-state solution is still preferred, then a third set of possibilities come into play. Israelis might develop a sufficient consensus that, while being unwilling to uproot fellow citizens, we are still willing to cede sovereignty over the '67 Palestinian territories. One might then enter into a negotiation over the rights and responsibilities of former settlers as residents in Palestine and what Israel would offer in exchange for these arrangements.

Alternately, we could pursue the two-ethnic-states model to its logical conclusion and call for a border that would be a modern-day version of the 1947 partition plan - and probably closer to a 50-50, rather than a 78-22, divide on the percentage of territory. This would be an intellectually honest platform for Lieberman's party.

If Israel cannot remove settlers, cannot engage in a genuine truth and reconciliation process, cannot cede sovereignty on the '67 lines to the Palestinians, or ask the United Nations to re-partition Palestine, then we must be honest and translate the existing one-space reality into a political plan for a one-state democracy - whether on the basis of a federal system, a cantonal system, a binational democracy, or a still more creative formulation. Perhaps just having such a conversation will help generate a governing majority for the more conventional two-state outcome, perhaps not. The more we avoid this conversation, the more we endanger our future in this democratizing region, and the more we entrench a reality of apartheid-by-stealth.

It is doubtful that such a conversation can evolve without an external impetus. It took Egyptian intervention to revive a serious Palestinian national dialogue. Is it too much to suggest that our American ally, apparently politically unable to lead a solution, could at least help lead a conversation?

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