Opinion // A.B. Yehoshua, Don't Give Up on the Two-state Solution in Our Name
By Stav Shaffir
Published May 04, 2018
Yehoshua’s plan for escaping the despair – establishing a binational federation – is the mirror image of the right thing to do
A boy waves a Palestinian flag at the Israel-Gaza border during clashes with Israeli troops, April 1, 2018.\ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS
Last month in Haaretz, A.B. Yehoshua announced the death of the two-state vision; I hope the right wing’s leaders have found time to send him flowers. Even though the right has never bothered to present a security or policy viewpoint that justifies its annexationist fantasy, leaders on the left are willing to put up their hands and surrender in all our names.
Like many of my generation, I grew up on Yehoshua’s books. But if there’s something that prevents our camp from winning and implementing the long-desired two-state solution, it’s not the solution we’re offering but the defeatism and lack of confidence that has taken hold of the left’s leaders meant to promote this solution.
Yehoshua is confusing the center-left’s political failure with the failure of the political solution that our camp proposes. For years the settler leaders have made every effort to convince Israelis that the two-state solution is dead. Yehoshua adopts their claims without a serious explanation or factual basis. It’s clear to me why it’s important to Education Minister Naftali Bennett and MK Bezalel Smotrich to bury our dream, but why should someone from outside this messianic and extremist group buy its propaganda?
Yehoshua says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unique because the two peoples “are effectively claiming sovereignty over the same territory.” This of course is the root of the problem, but the truth is, the two sides will be forced to compromise.
After a profusion of negotiating rounds between us and the Palestinians, it’s clear how the compromise will look, and most Israeli and Palestinians – as polls show time after time – are willing to live with it: two states based on the 1967 lines, land swaps, the removal of a small number of settlements, and international supervision of the holy sites. Not ideal, but that’s the nature of compromises.
Later in the article, Yehoshua says the two-state solution is out of date because of “constantly expanding settlements.” We’ve heard this every few years since the end of the 1980s. On what does he base his conclusion that we’ve passed the point of no return? Yehoshua doesn’t say. His assertion – as if it were taken from a brochure of the Yesha Council of settlers – is based on great despair, not events on the ground.
In reality, the settlement enterprise has failed. Only 4 percent of Israelis live over the Green Line, the settlements take up only about 2.5 percent of the built-up land in the West Bank, and of the settlements’ residents, the great – and moderate – majority live in communities that will remain in our hands under any future agreement.
After decades of pouring in enormous resources, the right’s flagship enterprise is still completely dependent on constant subsidies from Israeli taxpayers. The settlements have never managed to become normal communities that support themselves economically. No centers of commerce, agriculture or industry have ever developed there, and the great majority of residents actually work in Israel.
Somehow, despite 40 years of attacks from the right and cowardly stuttering on the left, a solid majority of Israelis still supports a peace agreement. The opponents of a compromise come from the margins.
But in addition to the public support and the feasibility on the ground, the two-state solution has stayed alive simply because it has no alternative – not because we haven’t considered alternatives but because this is the only formula that will keep Israel secure, Jewish and democratic. Any solution that doesn’t, in an official and final way, separate the two populations sentences both sides to many more decades of unnecessary bloodshed.
Yehoshua’s plan for escaping the despair – establishing a binational federation – is the mirror image of the right thing to do, and it contains no security arrangements. When two people brawl, the first step is to separate them to stop the violence. When two nations fight each other, it’s better to separate them and not chain them together in a utopian federation. Reconciliation? First let’s try a few decades of quiet.
These patterns of thought – the excuses depend on the scope of the settlements, the problematic partner and the rest of the propaganda we hear for our country’s leaders – are all taken from the era before the Zionist movement when our people pinned their fate on others. The decision to take our fate in our own hands, which enabled the establishment of the State of Israel, is also the answer to the challenge today.
As opposed to those times, Israel in our day is a strong country militarily and economically that is surrounded by security challenges. We mustn’t shut our eyes and think they’ll disappear. Our interest is to safeguard a Jewish, democratic and secure Israel, and we must act to fulfill this interest before we pay a very heavy price for waiting.
The challenge we face is the political challenge: to return to Israelis trust in our ability to shape our lives – and to win elections. This is a difficult task, but our starting conditions aren’t bad at all. The entire defense establishment stands behind our camp’s solution, and more than in the past, the moderate Arab countries are prepared to back a regional peace agreement.
If the Zionist movement’s leaders had been tempted by the kind of despondency that Yehoshua and others are proposing, we would never have reached the celebration of our country’s 70th Independence Day. As the founding generation didn’t abandon the Zionist dream just because the road to fulfilling it was paved with hardship, we too must not abandon the only diplomatic solution capable of saving that dream.
To win the political battle facing us, my generation will have to provide a different leadership, one that takes initiative and changes reality. Lying in the balance is the way our children and their children will live here. My dear A.B. Yehoshua, don’t give up in our names.
Stav Shaffir is a Zionist Union Knesset member.
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