FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is the Israeli Right a More Credible Peacemaker?

Nazareth.

A fascinating debate is entering Israel’s political mainstream on a once-taboo subject: the establishment of a single state as a resolution of the conflict, one in which Jews and Palestinians might potentially live as equal citizens. Surprisingly, those advocating such a solution are to be found chiefly on Israel’s political right.

The debate, which challenges the current orthodoxy of a two-state future, is rapidly exploding traditional conceptions about the Zionist right and left.

Most observers — including a series of US administrations — have supposed that Israel’s peace-makers are to be found exclusively on the Zionist left, with the right dismissed as incorrigible opponents of Palestinian rights.

In keeping with this assumption, the US president Barack Obama tried until recently to sideline the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyhau, Israel’s rightwing prime minister, and bolster instead Ehud Barak, his defence minister from the left-wing Labour party, and the opposition leader Tzipi Livni, of the centrist Kadima party.

But, as the Israeli right often points out, the supposedly “pro-peace” left and centre parties have a long and ignominious record in power of failing to advance Palestinian statehood, including during the Oslo process. The settler population, for example, grew the fastest during the short premiership of Mr Barak a decade ago.

What the new one-state debate reveals is that, while some on the right — and even among the settlers — are showing that they are now open to the idea of sharing a state with the Palestinians, the left continues to adamantly oppose such an outcome.

In a supplement of Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper last weekend largely dedicated to the issue, Yossi Beilin, a former leader of the ultra-dovish Meretz party and an architect of Oslo, spoke for the Zionist left in calling a one-state solution “nonsense”. He added dismissively: “I’m not interested in living in a state that isn’t Jewish.”

The Israeli left still hangs on resolutely to the goal it has espoused since Mr Barak attended the failed Camp David talks in 2000: the annexation to Israel of most of the settlements in the West Bank and all of those in East Jerusalem. The consensus on the left is that the separation wall, Mr Barak’s brainchild, will ensure that almost all the half million settlers stay put while an embittered Palestinian population is corralled into a series of ghettoes misleadingly called a Palestinian state. The purpose of this separation, says the left, is to protect Israel’s Jewishness from the encroaching Palestinian majority if the territory is not partitioned.

The problem with the left’s solution has been summed up by Tzipi Hotoveley, a senior Likud legislator who recently declared her support for a single state. “There is a moral failure here [by the left]. … The result is a solution that perpetuates the conflict and turns us from occupiers into perpetrators of massacres, to put it bluntly. It’s the left that made us a crueler nation and also put our security at risk.”

The right is beginning to understand that separation requires not just abandoning dreams of Greater Israel but making Gaza the template for the West Bank. Excluded and besieged, the Palestinians will have to be “pacified” through regular military assaults like the one on Gaza in winter 2008 that brought international opprobrium on Israel’s head. Some on the right believe Israel will not survive long causing such outrages.

But if the right is rethinking its historic positions, the left is still wedded to its traditional advocacy of ethnic separation and wall-building.

It was the pre-state ideologues of Labour Zionism who first argued for segregation under the slogans “Hebrew labour” and “redemption of the land” and then adopted the policy of transfer. It was the Labour founders of the Jewish state who carried out the almost wholesale expulsion of the Palestinians under cover of the 1948 war.

For the right, on the other hand, the creation of a “pure” Jewish territory has never been a holy grail. Early on, it resigned itself to sharing the land. The much-misunderstood “iron wall” doctrine of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the Likud’s intellectual father, was actually presented as an alternative to Labour Zionism’s policies of segregation and expulsion. He expected to live with the Palestinians, but preferred that they be cowed into submission with an iron wall of force.

Jabotinsky’s successors are grappling with the same dilemmas. Most, like Mr Netanyahu, still believe Israel has time to expand Israeli control by buying the Palestinians off with such scraps as fewer checkpoints and minor economic incentives. But a growing number of Likud leaders are admitting that the Palestinians will not accept this model of apartheid forever.

Foremost among them is Moshe Arens, a former defence minister and Likud guru, who wrote recently that the idea of giving citizenship to many Palestinians under occupation “merits serious consideration”. Reuven Rivlin, the parliament’s speaker, has conceded that “the lesser evil is a single state in which there are equal rights for all citizens”.

We should not romanticise these Likud converts. They are not speaking of the “state of all its citizens” demanded by Israel’s tiny group of Jewish non-Zionists. Most would require that Palestinians accept life in a state dominated by Jews. Arens, for example, wants to exclude the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza from citizenship to gerrymander his Jewish-majority state for a few more decades. None seems to be considering including a right of return for the millions of Palestinian refugees. And almost all of them would expect citizenship to be conditional on loyalty, recreating for new Palestinian citizens the same problematic relationship to a Jewish state endured by the current Palestinian minority inside Israel.

Nonetheless, the right is showing that it may be more willing to redefine its paradigms than the Zionist left. And in the end it may confound Washington by proving more capable of peace-making than the architects of Oslo.

JONATHAN COOK is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jonathan-cook.net/

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail