Aharon Barak, Israeli Supreme Court president, in a speech on June 25 before a meeting of the New Israel Fund touched an exposed nerve regarding the identity and existence of Israel as a Jewish state and a democracy. He burned his candle at both ends when he unequivocally expressed his support for a democratic Jewish state on the one hand and complete fealty to the idea of a country for all its citizens on the other.
His notions were amazing. If Israel is supposed to be a country for all its citizens, why discriminate against non-Jews and give Jews priority in immigration? If he were really faithful to the principle of equality, why did he find it necessary to insist that Israel was a Jewish state and not one determined democratically by “all its citizens?” In a situation of equality, why should the Law of Return not apply to Israel’s Arab population, since “the rights (of the Jews) must be equal those of the Arabs?”
The State of Israel is undergoing a serious identity crisis. The schism between Jews and Arabs grows worse and the Arabs regard themselves as Palestinians rather than Israelis. It also grows worse between those who are faithful to the Zionist idea of a democratic Jewish state and the post-Zionists who want to eradicate the Jewish nature of the state and establish one for all the citizens living within the borders of the State of Israel as it is today, or within the land of Israel-Palestine.
Both solutions are problematic. A democratic Jewish state can provide equality for all its citizens as long as it does not endanger its Jewish nature, and in effect it negates the right of groups which are not Jewish (or Jews who do not agree with its mindset) to change the face of the state in a democratic majority process.
On the other hand, the implication of a state for all its citizens includes within it destroying the unique Jewishness of the state, which was founded as a sanctuary for the Jewish people returning to its historical homeland, as well as including the demand to deny the right of the Jewish people and the Jews living in Israel to their own land.
There is an inherent imbalance in the proposed political arrangement. The Palestinians have won international recognition for their demand to establish a Palestinian state from which all Jews will be expelled. The basic law of the Palestinian Authority, which is the state in the making, expressly states that “Islam is the official religion of Palestine” and that “the principles of Islamic law (Sharia) are the primary source of lawmaking.”
The international community has permitted the Palestinians what it tries to keep from Israel, that is, the Palestinians are within their rights to establish a country based on the religion of the majority of its citizens, and a Christian minority, even if it should become the majority, will not be entitled to change the nature of the state but at most to be allowed freedom of worship.
Human rights champions in shining armor endlessly preach morality to Israel and demand a country for all its citizens while accepting the morality of establishing an apartheid, racist, Palestinian state which openly and proudly states its intention of being Judenrein.
The foundations of the peace process of the Oslo Accords of 1993 (rapprochement between the sides through interim agreements) crumbled during the al-Aqsa intifada and the united Palestinian front, from Fatah to Hamas, which unequivocally rejects a compromise with Israel and demands a “just arrangement,” based on demands for the right to return of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendents to what is currently the State of Israel. Those ideas were mentioned again and again in speeches given by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
No one contests the right of the Palestinians to a national state even if it is based on racism and it is liable to be an extremist theocracy like Iran, a foretaste of which can be seen in the Gaza Strip since the Hamas takeover. Even the government of Israel headed by Benjamin Netanyahu recognizes that right and demands that the Palestinian state be demilitarized, among other things.
The Palestinian problem, it is assumed, will be solved when the Palestinian state comes into being. The arrangement, lacking in political symmetry based on a genuine compromise, will leave the gates of conflict wide open and the demand for the “return” of millions of Palestinians, which would mean the expulsion of Jews to make room for the refugees, would raise again the wish for self determination of the Jews of Israel.
International politics will no longer have to deal with the “Palestinian problem,” but rather, with the “Jewish problem” in Palestine.