In the end, as in a vicious circle, the far extremes come together. One says “It’s all mine” and the other says “It’s all mine.” But instead of sharing, they’re unwilling to give up anything – and thus lead us all to hell.
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The first time there was a real chance to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was in 1987, when Shimon Peres, as foreign minister, signed the London Agreement with Jordan’s King Hussein. The agreement talked about an international peace conference sponsored by the United States, after which Hussein would get back the West Bank, a special arrangement would be instituted in Jerusalem and Jordan would sign a peace treaty with Israel.
But Yitzhak Shamir wanted Greater Israel, from the sea to the desert, as did his entire Likud party. And since Shamir was prime minister at the time, in the rotation government, he torpedoed the initiative with the enthusiastic support of top Likud members Ariel Sharon, Moshe Arens and David Levy. Years later, in an informal conversation, Silvan Shalom would tell me that Likud made a mistake.
But that’s Likud for you: it will always miss every opportunity. It will always say it wants peace, that it wants an agreement, that it wants an accord. But there’s one small problem: the occupied territories. Likud wants peace, but with Greater Israel. Peace for peace – in the present borders. And if the Palestinians don’t agree, that’s their problem.
A Shin Bet state
Long before the London Agreement, on the “seventh day” of the Six-Day War, the modern-day prophet Yeshayahu Leibowitz prophesied that we were headed into a dead end that was sure to end in catastrophe. He predicted precisely what is happening today: clashes, killings, moral corruption. He foresaw, through the haze of the euphoria of conquest, that ruling millions of Arabs in the territories would destroy the country from the inside and lead to “the corruption of Israelis and the ruin of the Jewish people,” and warned of “dreadful corruption.”
He said Israel would turn into a Shin Bet state, because the security service would become the central institution that would interrogate everyone. The slogan “Only the best for pilots” would become “Only the best for the Shin Bet.”
He labeled the Gush Emunim leaders Hanan Porat and Moshe Levinger as “idol worshippers,” because they sanctified the land, graves and stones rather than the man. He explained to anyone who was willing to listen that this was an “abomination” in terms of Judaism. He thought the settlers were destroying Israel’s chance for survival as a Jewish state.
Two thousand years ago, a small cult of crazed messianic extremists, the Zealots, imposed its view on the sane majority and sealed our fate here. The cult decided to revolt against the mighty Roman Empire, sparked a bloody civil war, and caused Roman legions to be dispatched here. This wiped out most of the cities of Israel and led the surviving remnant into a 2,000-year exile, from which we only recovered a little more than a century ago.
And now comes another Zealot cult, Gush Emunim, which is trying to destroy what was built here over the last hundred years. It, too, is imposing its view on the majority. Yitzhak Rabin referred to Gush Emunim as “a very grave phenomenon, a cancer in the body of Israeli democracy.” And cancer eventually vanquishes the body.
Today, though, it’s not just Gush Emunim. Now it’s a much larger cult. One that includes the entire right and the settlers. It’s a cult that doesn’t even hesitate to revolt against the United States, as brazenly as the revolt against the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago.
The right-wing cult is basically revolting against the entire Western world. It has dragged us into a state of constant war – one time against Hamas, the next time against Hezbollah, another time it’s a Palestinian intifada, and soon it will be Iran. It is a cult leading us down exactly the same path that led to the destruction of the Second Temple.
When the third intifada erupts – and it may already have started with the spate of murders in the West Bank and Jerusalem – some ultra-Zealot will turn up and manage to burn the Al-Aqsa Mosque. That will be the signal for the outbreak of a worldwide religious war between Judaism and Islam, which could culminate with the end of the Third Temple. After all, whoever does not learn from history is doomed to repeat its mistakes.
The magic solution: one state
Since there are still people on the right who wish to prevent this religious war, and are also not willing to accept acts of cruel abuse toward the Palestinians (even though this is an inseparable part of the occupation), they are trying to devise a different, more original solution that would avert a Gog and Magog-esque war against the entire Muslim world, but would leave them in control of all of Judea and Samaria. A magic solution – the “one-state solution.”
Since they are good people, they speak in very lofty terms about an exemplary democratic country with equal rights, citizenship for all, and no discrimination. And deep down, they are sure they will be the ones to set the rules in this “one state,” because they will be the majority.
To illustrate just how foolish the “one-state” idea is, just think about the secret alliance between the two extremes of the two peoples – for example, between President Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List).
These are two highly nationalistic individuals, but both talk about “one state” in which two national groups, Jews and Arabs, will happily coexist. Except that one of them dreams of the Jewish people making aliyah to that one state in order to live and pray in Jerusalem, Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The other, meanwhile, dreams of the millions of Palestinian refugees who will return to Jaffa, Ramle and Haifa, and raise their flag above Al-Aqsa. But they are both “very democratic.”
They refuse to understand that human nature will make their magic solution impossible. Humans have always been tribal creatures. In ancient times, primitive man lived in a tribe that provided him with physical and nutritional security, and a sense of belonging. He could not have survived otherwise. Nowadays, the state provides all these things. It provides external protection by means of the military, and internal protection by means of the police. It also provides a security umbrella in terms of food and clothing and shelter in times of need. Most important, it satisfies that deep human need to belong to a group. The modern state has replaced the ancient tribe.
An individual lives for himself, but he also lives for his nation and his people, to the point that he is willing to lay down his life for it. And so every people has unique traits such as language, culture, history and religion that set it apart and create a sense of identification and affiliation. And every people seeks self-recognition i.e., a state. Thus, the Jews came to Israel to seek refuge, and the Palestinians also want a refuge, an independent state.
A quick look around the world shows that two peoples have not voluntarily merged into one state anywhere. But there are many examples of the opposite. In every country where peoples were artificially united, you find an internal war raging between them – sometimes at a low intensity, as in Belgium, and sometimes in all-out civil war.
Look at what happened in Bosnia, Cyprus and Turkey, which has been enduring a bloody civil war against the Kurds, who dream of a nation-state of their own. Look at the breakup of the Soviet Union into numerous different nation-states. Look at the breakup of Yugoslavia. Quebec wants to secede from Canada. A hefty percentage of Scots want to secede from Britain. And just look at the breakups of Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Look, too, at the hatred in Belgium between the Wallons and the Flemish, and what’s happening with the Basques in Spain. In the recent regional elections in Catalonia, the parties that support secession from Spain were victorious. Before the election, they promised to unilaterally declare their separation from Spain and Catalonian independence.
One state equals eternal war
But what will happen if the extremes from both sides do come together, whip up the passions of both peoples and get them to march together behind Rivlin and Ghattas toward the rosy “one-state” horizon?
From the moment it comes into being, the one state will suffer from endless civil war that entails killings, bombings and terror in the streets. It will be a ruthless war from hell. It will be waged over every government position, every public position, every legislator and minister, every budget allocation and tax assessment.
It will be an unsustainable state, from which citizens will flee in fear and horror. For a person’s first loyalty is to his own tribe, to his own people, and not to the artificial state that has been imposed upon him.
And how ironic it will be to see the two instigators, Rivlin and Ghattas, being the first to urge their own people to sacrifice their lives for the sake of victory in the civil war – although they won’t need any special encouragement. For any citizen who remains here will naturally rush to defend his people’s control of the “one state.” It’s human nature. It’s in his genes. Your people before the state.
But if the one-state solution is not sustainable and the right won’t accept a two-state solution, what kind of state are we going to have here?
The prophet Leibowitz already had the answer to that: a Shin Bet state.
The writer is a senior journalist on economics and society at Haaretz.