We can assume that the right wing’s schadenfreude after the peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, recently signed in Washington, is premature. Because the process of normalization between the Arab countries and Israel, while ignoring the perpetuation of the occupation and apartheid, could spur the Palestinian public to formulate a new strategy in the struggle for their national rights.
The long-term consequences of these agreements are likely to intensify several trends among the Palestinians. First, turning our backs on their distress could increase their sense of alienation towards the Arab world, while further reinforcing their local-national link to Palestine. Second, with the apparent effectual shelving of the Arab Peace Initiative, the Palestinians will realize once and for all that a division of the land and the establishment of a sustainable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders is not really possible. This situation is quite likely to lead to their final acceptance of the implementation of the Zionist project over the entire area of Greater Israel.
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Ostensibly, Palestinian acceptance of the establishment of a Jewish state on the entire territory of the country is everything that Zionism has hoped for since Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s day. But it’s doubtful if there are many contemporary Israelis who will be pleased with this acceptance, since practically speaking it means granting Palestinian Arabs citizenship in the Jewish state.
Israelis haunted by the nightmare of the “binational country” are convinced that the Palestinians hope to receive Israeli citizenship – both to benefit from national insurance payments, and to eliminate the Jews’ right to self-determination by demographic means. But there is no nation that would dream about living in an ethno-nationalist and racist country designed to serve the needs of another nation exclusively, which is what awaits the Palestinians, if they ever become citizens in the Jewish nation-state.
But relative to their present situation, penned in the West Bank Bantustans and the crowded and suffocating Gaza Strip ghetto, it’s clearly preferable for the Palestinians to be third-class citizens in a sovereign state. On the contrary, if they are able to achieve their objective of becoming citizens in a state that stretches the length and breadth of their homeland – thanks to this citizenship, which would entitle them to a democratic vote, the Palestinians could help to undermine the state’s ethnocentric Jewish hegemony and to reestablish Israel as an organized multinational democracy.
This regime would ensure the right of self-determination of both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arab-Palestinians, and would thereby achieve the desired goal of equality between the country’s two peoples.
A Palestinian movement to achieve this objective can anticipate many obstacles. Hamas would see it as a disgraceful surrender to the Zionist occupier, and the heads of the Palestinian Authority would firmly reject it – either from an unwillingness to give up the trappings of leaders of a “state in the making,” or from a sense of responsibility and a fear that dismantling the PA could bring disaster to the Palestinian people and the entire region.
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Of course most Israelis will also oppose the idea of Palestinian citizenship in the Jewish state – first and foremost for racist demographic reasons. However, clearly not only racists on the right and left would reject the Palestinian citizenship movement in Israel, but also many of those in favor of equality and genuine peace, both Israelis and Palestinians. Because it’s clear that the just and reasonable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dividing the country into two sustainable nation–states. However, when it becomes obvious that this solution remains a dream, the only choice for lovers of peace and equality on both sides will be to set aside the dream in favor of the lesser of two evils.
Would granting Israeli citizenship to Palestinians in the State of Greater Israel be more realistic than obtaining Israeli consent to returning to the ‘67 borders and establishing a Palestinian state on less than a quarter of the territory of Mandatory Palestine? It’s too early to tell.
We can begin its implementation in East Jerusalem, since Palestinian Jerusalemites are permitted to submit a request to receive citizenship status – although few Palestinians have done so since 1967, and very few requests were granted. But while preparing for generations of struggle, we can begin a nonviolent international protest to revoke colonialist apartheid in the occupied territories. If that protest is successful, in hindsight we’ll be able to say that on the White House lawns Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump established binational Israel.