This is today’s Israel, as explained by Noam Sheizaf in +972:
For some reason, people find it hard to accept that the current situation is desirable for Israelis. It certainly isn’t optimal, but considering the alternatives, it is probably the best.
It’s enough to come on a week’s visit to Israel to understand the appeal of the status quo. Despite occasional outbreaks of violence in the south and north, Israelis enjoy stability, prosperity and a general sense of security. According to the theory of “convincing Israelis to abandon the West Bank,” this was supposed to be the right moment for concessions, but the exact opposite is true: When things are going so well, it would be totally irrational to move in any other direction, either by annexing the West Bank or by leaving it.
Israelis understand that instinctively, regardless of what they say in polls on the desired solution to the conflict. Actually, even in polls, when faced with the option of maintaining the status quo, Israelis are likely to prefer it to the two-state solution. A Palestinian state becomes the preferable option only when presented on its own (“do you support/oppose…”) or when it is compared to annexing the West Bank.
The major problem right now is that an inherently immoral order represents the most desirable political option for Israelis. All the left’s effort to demonstrate the problems the occupation creates – like the burden on the state budget – won’t help, since political choices are made based on alternative options, and right now the alternatives are more expensive, more painful, and more dangerous.
It should be noted that the status quo will remain the best option regardless of developments on the Palestinian side. Even if the Palestinians in the occupied territories recognize Israel as a Jewish state or vote Hamas out of office – even if they all join the Likud – from an Israeli cost/benefit perspective, keeping things as they are will remain preferable to the alternatives of either pulling out of the West Bank or to annexing it.
Although shocking in its banality – most Israelis look away when addressing what they’re doing in Palestine, occupying millions of Palestinians – it’s startling to hear supposedly enlightened Israelis, such as Bradley Burston in Haaretz, desperately try to avoid any kind of alternative to the two-state solution. It’s far easier to feel paralysed than actually doing anything to imagine a better future for both Palestinians and Israelis. And that’s a truly democratic one-state solution. Working to get there.
A beleaguered Democratic president, beset by an unpopular war overseas and raging polarization at home, clamps heavy pressure on Israel to make a dramatic gesture over the future of the West Bank.
Israel’s cabinet convenes to discuss the White House initiative. A minister-without-portfolio, less than three months in his first cabinet post, asks for the floor. He has a proposal regarding the Palestinians of the West Bank: Offer them citizenship and the right to vote.
Under the plan, “If an Arab from Shehem (Nablus) wants to become a citizen of the state of Israel, he’s entitled,” the minister says.
“We want a Jewish state with a large Arab minority. So what do we need to do? First of all, we’re capable of keeping a Jewish majority.
“Of course, if that majority were to break down, our situation would be a bitter one. We are not South Africa, nor Rhodesia,” he declared. “The Jewish minority will not rule over Arabs.
The date is August 20, 1967. The minister is Menachem Begin.
The minutes of the cabinet meeting are classified Top Secret and kept under wraps for 44 years.
There is no denying, however, that settlement construction, Palestinian disunity, and other factors are fast rendering the two-state concept impracticable. I say this with profound regret, as someone who still believes that two independent states would provide Israelis and Palestinians with their best chance for a future of freedom, justice, security and well-being.
A new reality is already in place, however. There are children being born who constitute the third generation of West Bank settlements.
When Begin addressed the cabinet in 1967, he outlined the concept of a “bi-ethnic” state, allowing both Jews and Arabs to develop as culturally distinctive peoples, and ruled by the majority, rather than a bi-national state with power shared equally, regardless of the numerical majority or minority.
In contrast with a bi-national state, “We have never ruled out a bi-ethnic state, and the difference is crucial,” Begin said. “Zionism, as I have known it, has never viewed the state as mono-ethnic.”
Even as I look into Begin’s proposal, which raises more questions, and suspicions, than it answers, I can feel another, deeper response welling up. Fear. The same fear that keeps Israelis, this one included, from fully committing to a substantive change in an intolerable reality.
“If every path seems to reach an impasse,” Sheizaf quoted former Netanyahu chief of staff Uri Elitzur, a fierce, even radical rightist and also an early advocate of citizenship for Palestinians, as writing, “usually the right path is one that was never even considered, the one that is universally acknowledged to be unacceptable, taboo.”
The rule of fear is the underpinning, the psychic secret police, of the dictatorship of the status quo. To use Begin’s word, we are all n’tinim, subjects, of the rule of fear.