Two months ago, at a meeting with the Greek ambassador, devoted largely to discussing the financial crisis, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin referred to a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I would prefer for the Palestinians to be citizens of this country,” he said, “rather than divide the land.” This was no slip of the tongue. Rivlin’s office gave the statement to the press, thereby making him the highest-ranking political figure to have publicly raised the possibility of a single State of Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.
Rivlin places those comments within the framework of a broader outlook: The land, he says, is not divisible. Jews and Arabs have lived side by side here since the dawn of Zionism and before. His own family arrived in Palestine in the early 19th century. Settlement east of the Green Line is no more moral than settlement to the west of it. And incidentally, the Palestinian claim is as legitimate and just as the Jewish claim.
And the solution? The Knesset Speaker rejects the idea of a “state of all its citizens”, i.e. − a binational state. But he is pondering the possibility of some kind of joint sovereignty arrangement in Judea and Samaria under the Jewish state, or even a regime composed of two parliaments, one Jewish and one Arab.
“We’re living in a political reality that requires answers. “When people say that the demographic threat necessitates a separation, my reply is that the lesser danger, the lesser evil, is a single state in which there are equal rights for all citizens. Realpolitik requires us to opt for the danger in the demographic threat over the existential threat of separation.
“As a rule, whenever I hear about a demographic threat, it comes first of all from a type of thinking that says the Arabs are a threat. And this leads to thinking of transfer, or that they should be killed. I am appalled by this kind of talk. I go into schools, and when they hold mock elections, Lieberman gets 40 percent of the vote and I hear kids saying that Arabs should be killed. It seems to me that many of the belligerent Jewish movements that were built upon hatred of Arabs − and I’m not only talking about Lieberman, but within the Likud as well − grew out of the patronizing-socialist attitude that said ‘They’ll be there and we’ll be here.’ I have never understood this. When Jabotinsky says ‘Zion is all ours,’ he means a Jewish prime minister and an Arab deputy prime minister.
“There is a conflict in the Middle East between two entities, and they’re both right, each in their own way. This is our only home, and therefore all kinds of solutions can be found. One could establish a system in one state in which Judea and Samaria are jointly held. The Jews would vote for a Jewish parliament and the Palestinians for an Arab parliament, and we would create a system in which life is shared. But these are things that will take time. Anyone who thinks that there are shortcuts is talking nonsense. As long as Islamic fundamentalism thinks that Jews are forbidden to settle in the Holy Land, we have a problem. It will not be resolved by an agreement, even if we obtain a promise from all the Arab states that it will be fine.
“So if people say to me: Decide − one state or division of the Land of Israel, I say that division is the bigger danger. In an Israel with six million Jews it is much easier to sustain the vision of a Jewish and democratic state than it was in 1948. The people who now say that we must separate because otherwise the state will not be democratic or will lose its Jewish character would, for the same reasons, have said that no state should have been founded in 1948.
“I understand the difficulty with what I’m saying. It seems incomplete. But I know that we’ve overcome much bigger problems in the past. My friends on the left, like Beilin and Jumas [Haim Oron] are true Zionists and Israeli patriots, but this talk about separation, this attitude of patronage, is what gives rise to the hatred that is keeping us from reaching a solution.”
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