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February 8, 2014
Another Pipe Dream
By Uri Avnery
Source: Gush Shalom
WHAT’S WRONG about the demand that the Palestinian leadership recognize Israel
as the “Nation State of the Jewish People”?
Well, practically everything.
States recognize each other. They don't have to recognize each other's ideological
A state is a reality. Ideologies belong to the abstract realm.
When the United States recognized the Soviet Union in 1933, it recognized the state.
It did not recognize its communist nature.
When the PLO recognized the State of Israel in the Oslo agreement, and in the
exchange of letters preceding it, it was not asked to recognize its Zionist ideology.
When Israel in return recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian
people, it did not recognize any particular Palestinian ideology, secular or religious.
Some Israelis (including myself) would like to change the self-definition of Israel as a
“Jewish and democratic state”, omitting the word “Jewish”. Some other Israelis would
like to omit or demote the word “democratic”. Neither of us believe that we need the
confirmation of the Palestinians for this.
It’s just none of their business.
I DON’T know what the real intention of Netanyahu is when he presents this demand
as an ultimatum.
The most flattering explanation for his ego is that it is just another trick to sabotage
the “peace process” before it reaches the demand to evacuate the Israeli settlements
in the Palestinian territories. The less flattering explanation is that he really believes in
it, that he is driven by some deeply rooted national inferiority complex that needs
outside assurance of “legitimacy”. Recognizing the “National State of the Jewish
People” means accepting the entire Zionist narrative, lock, stock and barrel, starting
from the divine promise to Abraham to this very day.
When John Kerry considers whether to include this demand in his Framework
Agreement, he should think about this twice.
Where would this leave his special emissary, Martin Indyk?
Mr. Indyk is a Jew, bearing a Yiddish Name (Indyk means turkey). If Israel is the state
of the entire Jewish nation and/or people, he is included willy-nilly. The state of Israel
represents him, too. So how can he function as an honest broker between the two
And where does this leave the millions of American Jews, now that the conflict
between the governments of the US and Israel is deepening? On what side are they?
Are they all Jonathan Pollards?
THE NEWLY found independent American voice vis-à-vis Israel drives Israeli rightists
to devise more and more weird solutions.
The latest example is Binyamin Netanyahu’s brilliant idea: why not leave the Israeli
settlers where they are as Palestinian citizens?
This looks to many sensible people as eminently fair, in the best Anglo-Saxon tradition.
The state of Israel now has some 1.6 million Arab Palestinian citizens. Why should the
State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, not include some 0.6 million Jewish
The Arabs in Israel enjoy, at least in theory, full legal rights. They vote for the
Knesset. They are subject to the law. Why should these Israelis not enjoy full legal
rights in Palestine, vote for the Majlis and be subject to the law?
People love symmetry. Symmetry makes life easier. It removes complexities.
(When I was a recruit in the army I was taught to mistrust symmetry. Symmetry is rare
in nature. When you see evenly spaced trees, I was told, it is not a forest, but
camouflaged enemy soldiers.)
THIS SYMMETRY is false, too.
Israel’s Arab citizens live on their land. Their forefathers have been living there for at
least 1400 years, and perhaps for 5000 years. Sa’eb Erekat exclaimed this week that
his family has been living in Jericho for 10,000 years, while his Israeli counterpart,
Tzipi Livni, is the daughter of an immigrant.
The settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories are mostly new immigrants, too.
They do not sit on the land of their forefathers, but on Palestinian land expropriated
by force – either “private” land or “government land”. This so-called “government
land” was the communal land reserves of the villages that in Ottoman times was
registered in the name of the Sultan, and later in the name of the British and
Jordanian authorities. When Israel conquered the area, it took over these lands as if it
BUT THE main point is something different. It concerns the character of the settlers
The core of the settlers, precisely those who live in the “isolated” small settlements in
the areas that will in any case become part of the Palestinian state, are religious and
The very purpose of their leaving comfortable homes in Israel and going to the
desolate stony hills of “Judea and Samaria” was idealistic. It was to claim this area for
Israel, fulfill their interpretation of God’s commandment and make a Palestinian state
The idea that these people would become law-abiding citizens of the very same
Palestinian state is preposterous. Most of them hate everything Arab, including the
workers who work for them without the benefit of minimum wages or social rights, and
say so openly at every opportunity. They support the “Price Tag” thugs who terrorize
their Arab neighbors, or at least don’t speak out against them. They obey their
fanatical rabbis, who discuss among themselves whether it is right to kill non-Jewish
children, who, when grown up, may kill Jews. They plan the building of the Third
Temple, after blowing up the Muslim shrines.
To think about them as Palestinian citizens is ludicrous.
OF COURSE, not all the settlers are like that. Some of them are quite different.
This week, an Israeli TV station aired a series about the economic situation of the
settlers. It was an eye-opener.
Those ideological pioneers, living in tents and wooden huts, are long gone. Many
settlements now consist of palatial buildings, each with its swimming pool, horses and
orchards – something the Israeli 99% cannot even dream of. Since almost all of them
came to the “territories” without a shekel in their pocket, it is clear that all these
palaces were built with our tax money - the huge sums transferred every year to this
The clusters of urban settlements near the Green Line called “settlement blocs” are
another matter. They are likely to be joined to Israel in the context of an “exchange of
territories”. But at least two of them raise severe questions: Ariel, which lies some 25
km inside the putative Palestinian state, and Maaleh Adumim, which practically cuts
the West Bank into two.
Incorporating these two large towns with their inhabitants into the sovereign State of
Palestine is a pipe-dream
WHEN NETANYAHU promised this week that he will not remove one single settler nor
evacuate one single settlement, he may have been thinking of Charles de Gaulle, who
also did not remove settlers or uproot settlements. He just fixed the date when the
French army would leave Algeria.
That was enough.