A.B. Yehoshua was the visionary of the unified state. It was no accident that this cornerstone of his thinking was left out of the many eulogies delivered about him since his death on Tuesday. Yehoshua was the only one of his generation and his status who dared cross the Rubicon. He did not finish the crossing, and perhaps would never have done so, for the road was still long; but he dared to begin walking on it. As opposed to his dear friend Amos Oz, and the Zionist left in general, Yehoshua was bold enough to admit the failure of the two-state solution and publicly recognize its futility.
The rest of his friends on the left kept and keep on being bogged down in this solution to quiet their consciences. Here’s the solution. All we have to do is to take it off the shelf. But the shelf is nonexistent, the solution is no such thing, and it probably never was. In sinking into their false dream, they only take us further from any solution and strengthen the occupation. Most are also lying to themselves, because deep in their hearts they know, of course, that there will never be two true states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Yehoshua was almost the only one who recognized this. That was his uniqueness; that was his greatness.
The beginning was very different. Reading the interview I had with him in our first meeting, at his home in Haifa 35 years ago this summer (published in Haaretz Magazine, May 15, 1987), when his book “Five Seasons” was published, it depicts a different person entirely, the spokesman of the Zionist left at its worst. Yehoshua compared Likud’s rise to government at the time to the night the Yom Kippur War broke out: “a smell of blood, someone is wounded, someone is torn…as if Egyptian paratroopers landed in the Mitla [Pass]... as if Egyptian pilots were bombing Israeli airfields... the world has fallen apart.” The young Yehoshua saw the changeover of government in legitimate and democratic elections as the end of the world, the end of his world.
He really hated them, and he didn’t hesitate to say so: “I was at the height of my hatred for the Likudniks. I would absolutely seize up when I saw them.” Already then, he was one of the spiritual leaders of the enlightened camp, the camp that to this day recites the words “Jewish and democratic.” Today, too, this camp is certain that there is a huge chasm between the inferior Likud voters and its loftiness, and that the return of Likud to government spells the end of civilization. Yehoshua was also weaned off of this. Benny Ziffer wrote on Wednesday in Haaretz that Yehoshua still wanted to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu before he died.
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It goes without saying that in 1987, Yehoshua still talked about “separation from the Palestinians” and the “two-state vision,” the way everyone in the camp talked in those days. It was fascinating to see the process after that; gradual, measured, so it wouldn’t hurt too much. In December 2016, Yehoshua proposed giving Israeli citizenship to 100,000 Palestinians living in Area C. Still two states, but he wanted to “reduce the level of malignancy.” Two years later came the decisive moment: In two articles in Haaretz (on April 12 and 16, 2018) he declared a divorce. The plan to stop apartheid: The time had come to say goodbye to the two-state vision.
The unavoidable conclusions he left to those who come after him. He was no longer strong enough to move to the next phase, the unavoidable separation from Zionism. If the time of separation from the two-state vision had come, there also had to be a separation from either the Jewish or the democratic state. It’s impossible to have both. What did Yehoshua choose? At the end of his seminal articles in 2018, he wrote: “What’s in danger now is not Israel’s Jewish and Zionist identity but its humanity – and the humanity of the Palestinians who are under our rule.” The man who had devoted his intellectual prowess to the question of Jewish identity, who reminded us all that the Jewish people had not imagined immigrating here for the centuries during which it could have, and preferred longing and lamentations, found something more important than Jewish and Zionist identity: humanity. Goodbye, dear friend, and thank you for all the conversations.