Okay, there are so many levels at which to deal with Bibi’s latest stunt. The simplest is to chalk it off to election posturing, trying to eat into Lieberman’s supporters by going further right. I suspect that is his primary motivation. After all, he is the consummate nasty politician. And now he is emboldened by Trump and Friedman.
The BIGGER picture is much more complex and ALWAYS depends on when one wants to begin the story—1948? 1967? The year 70? 1800 BCE? The modern problem for the Middle East really begins with the British promising the same land to two different peoples—the so-called Balfour Declaration and the White Paper. The emerging UN tried to resolve it by dividing an already divided “Palestine Mandate” which in theory could have worked if all the sides on the ground accepted it. But they did not because the proposed division of the Middle East was even more problematic than what the Brits did with India and Pakistan. Colonialism NEVER takes into account the real people, their history, or their aspirations because they were never seen as fully human to begin with! Otherwise, they could not have been colonized, their resources stolen, the people repressed or worse. Europe and the United States would like to skip over this deplorable chapter in history but the wounds created ( not only there but in Africa and Asia as well) have yet to heal. [NOTE: There are those who say only the Arabs rejected the division of Palestine into two states. An examination of Ben-Gurion’s letters clearly demonstrates that, desperate to save Jewish refugees lives, he accepted it “for now” fully believing that the state would continue to acquire land, growing and expanding over time.]
When Arabs use the trope from the River to the Sea, Jews get crazy. Yet that is exactly what Israel is effectively doing if they annex the strip of land on the west bank of the Jordan River. Right wing Israelis are obsessed with security (not without some cause) and are willing to do most anything in order to insure it. Left wing Israelis would like Israel to live up to its Declaration of Independence and be an inclusive, true democracy. Two very different visions for the State with Israelis split pretty much in half. Most American Jews fell in love with the latter vision but the ageing and largely out-of-touch Jewish establishment here generally supports the former. They raise more money that way.
However, the proverbial bottom line has not really changed since 1967. There are 3.5 million Palestinians who are not going anywhere, anytime soon. They are living on their ancestral lands and have relatives abroad who want to return. Israel has the SAME four choices for the last 52 years, since the miraculous victory in the Six Day War:
- Two separate states with recognized borders and security for both;
- One fully democratic state with almost equal (Arab-Jewish) populations which could alter the very nature of the Jewish state;
- One state but without full rights for the Palestinians which would be tantamount to apartheid; and
- Continued “occupation/control” of the Palestinians which threatens the democratic status of Israel. Right now (no pun intended) Israel continues to choose option four while most of the world seeks option one and on the ground, more and more, the drift is to various scenarios for option two, especially among millennials and younger adults on BOTH sides.
A Palestinian State presents no existential threat to Israel, especially surrounded on all sides by Israeli control which is the de facto reality even without annexation. The Arab world has, by and large, given up on the issue as they have larger concerns since the Arab Spring. Some would even say they now have a common enemy and it is not Israel. It’s Iran. Stay tuned. The one thing I am certain about when it comes to Israeli politics—there is no certainty!