Opinion |

Why I’m Voting for Meretz Again

A. B. Yehoshua
A.B. Yehoshua
File photo: Head of the Israel's Meretz party Tamar Zandberg looks on during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah, March 10, 2019.
File photo: Head of the Israel's Meretz party Tamar Zandberg looks on during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah, March 10, 2019.Credit: Majdi Mohammed/Pool via Reuters
A. B. Yehoshua
A.B. Yehoshua

Although unfortunately I no longer believe (though I would dearly love to be proven wrong) in the possibility of the two-state solution, which is a fundamental plank of Meretz’ ideological platform, I still plan to vote for Meretz in the upcoming election. This is not just because I agree with the party’s other ideological principles, but mainly because Meretz embodies the most important parliamentary and public support for two organizations – B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence. And I would be grateful if intelligent, moral people on the right and among the settlers would also try to listen and take the following explanation into consideration.

Haaretz Weekly Episode 20Credit: Haaretz

In the 19th and 20th centuries, many enlightened and civilized peoples in Europe ruled over other peoples. The British, French, Italians, Dutch, Belgians and Spanish are just some of the nations that exercised colonial rule, of varying degrees of brutality, over other nations. I have intentionally omitted the Germans from this list, because their occupations of other countries in the 20th century were not colonial but murderous.

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But there is still a substantial difference between the Israeli occupation and the occupations by the colonial powers. The British, French, Italian and Dutch were able to separate once and for all from the peoples they ruled with whatever degree of brutality, while we and the Palestinians, by every conceivable forecast, will continue to live forever in the same homeland, home next to home, family next to family, in an intimacy that will only intensify. Even if an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital were to come into being, this state would inevitably have thousands of extensions winding into Israel. Bear in mind that the Palestinians are not a territorial minority in the Land of Israel, and therefore the separation (or, as it is more infuriatingly referred to, the divorce) from them can never be complete. Not to mention that within Israel proper there are two million Palestinian Israelis with family and communal ties to the Palestinians in the West Bank.

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Therefore, we must take a far-sighted view of our control of the West Bank. This is a common homeland, with the full implications of that term. The Palestinians must also fully internalize this. They have nowhere else to go, just as we have nowhere else to go. The Palestinian child who sees his father being cruelly beaten for no reason will carry that painful memory with him when he grows up and has to give us medicine at the pharmacy or treat us in the emergency room.

When a deeply pained Oshrat Kotler used the phrase “human animals,” I was uncomfortable with that sweeping label. Yes, there are some soldiers who behave like “animals,” but there are thousands of soldiers and officers who contend day and night with complex situations that are militarily and morally challenging, situations to which they must find appropriate solutions and do so with varying degrees of success. But not everyone is morally and ideologically and militarily up to these challenges. Therefore, the military, which sometimes operates according to rigid, inflexible rules, must receive additional moral and objective feedback, from the civilian legal system as well as from the soldiers themselves who are being confronted with miserable ordeals.

Various civilian organizations, including those headed by rabbis whose religiosity hasn’t blunted their ethics, are dedicated to this purpose. Human rights organizations such as B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence are at the forefront of this battle to mitigate the damage of the occupation, as the situation evolves slowly and problematically toward the “one-state solution.” It is the settlers above all, whose lives and communities are destined to be most closely intertwined with the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, who need to understand, for the sake of their own security too, the importance of upholding minimal rules of morality and fairness amid the tragic condition of an irresolvable conflict that has being going on for more than 50 years. And I must say I am happy to have discovered that this moral consciousness has been growing significantly among some of the settlers, including some religious settlers, who seek to grant West Bank residents Israeli citizenship in order to strengthen their standing.

A significant Meretz presence in the Knesset, combined with support for organizations dedicated to preventing the occupation from leading us all towards a dark abyss that deeply imperils our future, will ensure for everyone, right and left alike, that even if we eventually end up with the one-state configuration, it will still be a state in which a reasonable degree of coexistence, like that in which Palestinians and Jews within the Green Line currently live, will be possible.

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