This charade really has to stop. Forty-two years into the Israeli occupation, it's time to find out once and for all, without caveats or reservations, what Israelis actually want. Governments deceive us, one after another, as with generation after generation of a seemingly apathetic public. Now we have a prime minister who talks about a two-state solution and simultaneously works to undermine any chance of realizing it. No one knows what he, or we, are striving for, other than his own survival.
The prime minister that preceded him made even more far-reaching, imaginary compromises, while simultaneously building up the settlements and leading us into two unnecessary wars. Another prime minister offered the skies to Yasser Arafat, and built 1,000 housing units in the West Bank alone. The settlements have blossomed and grown under every single Israeli government, absorbing colossal budgets, while settler leaders proclaim the public is with them. It's difficult to say whether they've been right or wrong, because the public has been as deceitful as the governments. In surveys, most of it says it supports the two-state solution, but at the same time it votes for right-wing, centrist or pseudo-leftist parties that have no intention whatsoever of ending the occupation.
Occupation is not on the Israeli agenda. Not a single Jewish MK in today's Knesset ran on a ticket calling for an end to the occupation. The media, too, is doing everything it can to blur and suppress this issue. While everyone is busy blurring and deceiving, it's time to use the one tool Israel has never employed: a referendum - Israel's first - for or against continuing the occupation, whatever either choice entails.
If supporters of the occupation win, we should storm the West Bank, build up more settlements, and proclaim to the world that this is the will of the people. If, however, opposition wins, all activity for the occupation's entrenchment must be stopped and the occupation itself must be ended, whether as part of an agreement or unilaterally. We don't need Barack Obama, we don't need Mahmoud Abbas, we don't even need Netanyahu: Let the people speak, and then we'll see who dares defy them.
The arguments against a referendum are well-known. What's good for Switzerland, Ireland and Australia, is not necessarily good for Israel. And it's not as if we're not holding general elections every two to three years. If general elections in Israel provided an answer as to what the people want done about the occupation, a referendum would not be necessary. If Israel had a strong, determined leader - who proposed a clear choice to his voters between two states or one state, without any middle ground - elections would suffice. But Israel does not and never had such a leader.
True, the charade can continue even after a referendum, which is why the question must be razor-sharp: Do we continue the occupation, all of the occupation, yes or no? If yes, then yes, if no, then no. But let's decide what it is that we want. This will be the real Big Bang: The referendum and the campaigns leading up to it will cut across party lines, rattle the system, drive it out of its dead-end brain freeze, and result in a defining moment of truth for Israeli politics and politicians. The latter, too, will once and for all have to answer truthfully.
Without a referendum, any leader can go on deceiving, and the public can maintain its smug indifference. With the stopwatch of occupation ticking incessantly, the time has come to produce this doomsday weapon, because doomsday is very near indeed. Very soon, if not already, we'll be past the point of referenda and sentenced to live forever in a racist, bleeding, forever warring bi-national apartheid state. The government won't want the referendum and the Knesset won't like it; this is why the call must come from elsewhere - from the parched throats of the last Israelis, left and right, who still want to know what on earth we want and where we are going.
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