Opinion

Enlightened, Beautiful, Two-state Israel Should Declare Independence From Jewish Fundamentalists

If the upcoming elections don't produce real change, if West Bank annexation becomes reality, if democratic norms and the rule of law continue to deteriorate, we need a new partition plan – this time, for Israel itself

A girl plays on the beach as Israel celebrates its Independence Day marking the 71st anniversary of the creation of the state, in Tel Aviv, Israel May 9, 2019
\ CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS

Unless September's re-run elections lead to major change, the enlightened part of Israel will have to secede - and declare its own national independence.

This new partition, 72 years after the UN Partition Plan, would be designed to bring about the establishment of a Jewish, Zionist and liberal democratic state in the Land of Israel. The new state will be called "Israel." The state on the remaining ruins of the old one will be known as "Fundamentaliststan."

The guiding principle is quite simple. Anyone who is not Zionist, secular or religiously moderate, productive and committed to the norms of liberal democracy and to separation from the Palestinians, will not be included in the new state.

Given demographic realities, it would be necessary to establish some autonomous Israeli enclaves in Fundamentaliststan, and Fundamentaliststani enclaves in Israel. This will enable territorial swaps between the two new states, without requiring a forced transfer of people. Many Fundamentaliststanis, who anxiously await the coming of the Messiah, never recognized the Zionist movement and the old Israel anyway.

The new Israel will be an exceptionally successful state. Its people have one of the world’s highest levels of educational and cultural achievement, thereby ensuring that it continues to win numerous Nobel and other prizes in both the sciences and arts. Already today, it is the second leading high-tech power in the world.

The new Israel will have one of the OECD’s highest per capita income levels and today’s severe economic inequalities will diminish dramatically. Since the overwhelming majority of its people actually pay both income and municipal taxes, it will be able to provide them with far better governmental and municipal services than is common today.

Israeli air force cadets toss their caps during a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel. June 27, 2019
\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

Israel will have one of the best militaries in the world. Most of its sons and daughters have long served in the IDF anyway, often in the most dangerous units, and fill most of the advanced technological positions. Its Air Force is a true jewel. Should any of its soldiers be found to have violated basic norms, such as killing handcuffed or otherwise incapacitated prisoners, they will be publicly excoriated and tried to the fullest extent of the law.

The new Israel will be committed to a two-state solution and - until such time as the conditions necessary for this emerge - to a process of civil (but not security) separation from the West Bank in order to create a de facto two-state reality. The new state will therefore enjoy close ties with most of the countries of the world, including not a few Sunni states and Europe, which turned its back on the old state.

Most importantly, the new state will ensure the long-term vitality of the strategic relationship with the U.S., particularly the Democratic side, which includes 80% of the Jewish community. Fundamentaliststan will continue to enjoy the pleasures of ties with the Trump administration and various authoritarian regimes.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the unveiling of a new community named after U.S. President Donald Trump in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. June 16, 2019
\ Ammar Awad/ REUTERS

The new state will be based on the rule of law. Admittedly, many of the public figures who have been caught violating the laws of the old state came from social strata more commonly associated with the new one, including a prime minister who sat in jail and another who is desperately trying every possible means, including non-kosher ones, of avoiding a similar fate.

The new state will sanctify its laws and courts, not the Torah and synagogues.

The new state will open its gates to the entire Jewish people, whether born Jewish according to strict Orthodox interpretations or not, whether Reform, LGBTQ, or simply screwy enough to wish to belong to our people, and will ensure true equal rights. The new state will be founded on the principles of liberty, justice and peace, according to the vision of the prophets of Israel, but mostly according to the exponents of Western democracy.

Fundamentaliststan will excel in religious studies and undoubtedly win most of the annual Bible Contests on Independence Day. Conversely, it may have a small problem with such unimportant subjects as mathematics, English, sciences, computers and history; its educational achievements are a source of grave concern already today.

Consequently, and in the absence of the secular mule, which carried Fundamentaliststan’s weight for decades, its standard of living will be very low. This is the price of the study of Torah and the people of Fundamentaliststan will undoubtedly be happy to pay it.

Fundamentaliststan will be a militarily weak state. Its sons, and certainly daughters, are apparently born without the ability to do military service, unlike their secular brethren, who suffer from a genetic defect that leads them to prefer service in field tents to the Tent of the Torah. The people of Fundamentaliststan, while studying the sacred texts, and freed of the need to earn a living or serve in the military, will undoubtedly be happy and of good heart.

A ultra-Orthodox man walks past a Likud election campaign billboard, depicting U.S. President Donald Trump shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Jerusalem, Feb 4, 2019
\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

The chief Ashkenazi and Sephardic rabbis will alternate as Fundamentaliststan’s prime minister and the Council of Great Rabbis will constitute the cabinet. Itamar Ben-Gvir will be the Minister of Domestic Security, Bezalel Smotrich the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Miri Regev the Minister of Propaganda.

The need for the new partition plan has become acute for two reasons. First, there is a growing danger that the West Bank, or even just parts thereof, will be annexed following the upcoming elections, possibly leading to the demise of the two-state solution and of Jewish and democratic Israel. Second, the severe deterioration in fundamental norms of democracy and the rule of law.

Should the upcoming elections fail to produce significant change and the proposed partition not be carried out, Israel will face a severe socioeconomic, democratic and moral crisis. By 2050, 30 percent of Israel’s Jewish population will be Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and some 40 percent of the combined populations of Israel and the West Bank will not be Jewish. In other words, the end of the Zionist dream.

The upcoming elections may be the last opportunity to save the beautiful, enlightened and progressive Israel. So go forth in your masses and vote for change. Head to the polling stations in droves. If things do not change, we will have no alternative but to declare independence.

Chuck Freilich, a former deputy Israeli national security adviser, is a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School and a professor at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of "Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change" (Oxford University Press, 2018). Twitter: @FreilichChuck