Each and every person has their own ideas about how to resolve matters in the Middle East.
Each person I meet tells me with confidence that what needs to be done, or not done, is clear and obvious.
And almost every day you can read some of the comments written by various members of our community who apparently are the only ones who can see what Prime Minister Netanyahu et al cannot.
Of course the situation is that there are a wide variety of views presented and many of them are mutually exclusive, but apparently all are clear and obvious – at least to whoever is earnestly presenting them.
The reality is that all of these ideas are framed by 2 elements:
– One’s vision of Zionism and
– The most secure way to implement that particular vision.
The reality also is that one’s personal views on these 2 questions may, or more likely may not be, in synch with what Israel’s leadership is thinking.
I have maintained for decades that once statehood was achieved, Israel’s dilemma is more the second question than the first.
The Israeli leadership’s vision really is a unified one, notwithstanding the noise.
Until the 6 Day War, the Zionist vision was very clear – self determination – and people were either in or out – they were Zionists or they were not.
However once we reclaimed Holy territory that we had not set out to conquer, the vision became a little more complex.
Along with that Holy territory came the Arabs – later called Palestinians – who had left Israel during the War of Independence, and then multiplied for 19 years as their good brothers and sisters refused them entry. They had become “the refugees”.
At the same time Israel absorbed over 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands, which is why today there is an Arab refugee problem but not a Jewish one.
And Diaspora Jews went from being called the Galut – the Exile – to also being called Zionists simply by supporting Israel.
So the Zionist vision became more complex, with more players and with less clearly defined lines.
Across the broader spectrum people saw opportunities and dangers that they had not seen before.
It always amuses me to hear some fringe Jewish organisations referring to the Israeli Declaration of Independence as something they wish to return to – the wording or the principles therein – as if we have left the founding principles behind.
Of course we haven’t.
The truth is that by the standards of those fringe organisations today, Ben Gurion would be viewed as a right winger, and they would be protesting him.
I guess they have never actually read the Declaration in Hebrew, or perhaps even in English.
It is the vision writ large and no surprises who is the main protector of Ben Gurions’s vision today?
Of course, it is Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Because once again – the vision is not a left/right issue.
Although some on the far left and far right, particularly outside of Israel, want to make it one to suit their own personal ideas.
The preamble and the Declaration itself speak only of the Jewish historical connection to the Jewish Homeland, Eretz Yisrael.
No one else’s.
It declares the establishment of the “Jewish State to be called ‘Israel’”.
The “Jewish State”.
Of course it also declares that it will uphold the individual rights of all its citizens – but in the Jewish State – which is the Homeland of only one People.
Netanyahu’s insistence for the Palestinians to recognise Israel as the Jewish State is exactly what Israel was all about from day one.
This is not a territorial dispute.
This is about whether a Jewish State of any size will be tolerated on any part of the Jewish Homeland.
Why is a return to UN Resolution 181 the key?
The partition resolution supported by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs?
Acceptance of Ben Gurion’s vision – Israel as the Jewish State – means an end to the claims of a Palestinian right of return and an acceptance of the legitimacy of the Jewish State.
Ex Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave a speech in Abu Dhabi last month and spoke with great clarity and understanding when she said:
“I am convinced that the key to peace for Israelis and Palestinians is a simple declarative statement by Palestinian leaders – that they accept Israel as a Jewish State. Once that is stipulated, then virtually everything can be successfully negotiated — because Israel’s existential identity is successfully secured.”
That is why the “moderate” Abbas’ rejection of the Jewish State means a rejection by him of the “2 States for 2 Peoples” solution which by the way, only Israel supports.
So the left/right Zionist vision is straightforward – the Jewish State – Jews will determine the future of the Jewish People.
In an endless seeking of the Zionist vision – at each and every opportunity that Israel had, she chose to cede land for something, and sometimes for nothing.
Sometimes it was for a peace treaty, sometimes it was for rockets and sometimes Israel’s offer was not even considered, let alone accepted by the Arab world – but she did so – and continues to do so.
Israel took great risks with security.
The brilliance of John Kerry’s insight, and its inherent danger, is that he has understood the two needs of Israel and is attempting to address both issues as I described in a previous piece.
This does not mean that he has done so successfully, but he does understand the core issues and therefore is able to exert the maximum pressure on Israel.
Not always in Israel’s best interests.
His aim is to drive a wedge inside Israel not on the Zionist vision of the Jewish State, but on the security question.
If he can convince large sections of Israel’s coalition – let’s say Lapid and his party, or Lieberman and his – that the security guarantees he proposes are credible – then some sections of the Government may wish to gamble on territorial concessions again.
The debate inside the Government coalition is about the quality of the security proposals.
Abbas manages to undermine each potential agreement whilst being praised for supporting it by some of Israel’s allies, in what is clearly an overdose of wishful thinking in regards to Abbas’ duplicity.
Unless he actually carries the blame for any breakdown of the peace process, blame he richly deserves – we may see the results of that differing internal Israeli assessment of what elements of security rank highest and what further risks Israel might take.
Great article Ron.
Ben Gurion gave this definition of “the Jewish State” to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine at Lake Success New York on the 7 July 1947:
“What is the meaning of a Jewish State? As I told you before, a Jewish State does not mean one has to be a Jew. It means merely a State-where the Jews are in the majority, otherwise all the citizens have the same status. If the State were called by the name “Palestine,” – I said if – then all would be Palestinian citizens If the State would be given, another name – I think it would be given another name – because Palestine is neither a Jewish nor an Arab name. As far as the Arabs are concerned, and we have the evidence of the Arab historian, Hitti, that there was no such a thing as “Palestine” at all: Palestine is not an Arab name. Palestine is also not a Jewish name. When the Greeks were our enemies, in order not to annoy the Jews, they gave different names to the streets. So, maybe the name of Palestine will be changed. But whatever the name of the country, every citizen of the country will be a citizen. This is what we mean. This is what we have to mean. We cannot conceive that in a State where we are not in a minority, where we have the main responsibilities as the majority of the country, there should be the slightest discrimination between a Jew and a non-Jew.”
This definition should be writ large in any discussions questioning the meaning of “the Jewish State”
There can be no doubt that the UN was aware of this definition when it voted to divide what was then left of the territory covered by the League of Nations Mandate into a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”
Thanks for that David. Never read that before.
Ben Gurion’s quote should be permanently placed in a prominent position on your web site.
Done. There will be a move around in the next about 4 weeks on the web site, which is being worked on now.
Just noticed you have put up Ben Gurion’s definition of “the Jewish State” in a very prominent position on your web site.
Took the ‘about us’ section out too.
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