We are approaching a point of no return regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, it may be that we have already crossed it. The issue may not seem as urgent to the Israeli public as the Iranian nuclear program, which has become, with the help of our leaders, a central focus of public discussion at the expense of other pressing issues. To my regret, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has yet to reach a prominent place at the top of our list of priorities, nor has it become the second, even third most important issue. However this very subject has a place in our essence, in our identity, in our souls, in our security, and in our perception of morality—as a society or nation that has been chosen to rule another nation.
The relative security calm that we have recently enjoyed creates a dangerous illusion that our problems have been solved and maybe worse—that we have actually “frozen the situation”: a kind of de facto strategy in the face of the “Arab Spring” that is raging all around us. But it is clear that it is impossible to truly freeze the situation as social, economic, political, and other processes are never frozen in time. Unfortunately we have yet to find a strategy or the technology that can freeze frustration. Look no further than at what’s been happening in the Arab world in recent years, at what’s been happening in Egypt in the last several days, what is happening simultaneously in Brazil, at what happened in Russia after Putin was elected, and at what happened in Iran in the latest elections—and even at what happened in the social protests that took place in Israel during the summer of 2011—and you will understand that in the latest era, which is represented by the “Arab Spring,” there is no way to freeze the frustration of a nation or of any public entity.
Among the Palestinians there is a growing sense of anger and frustration. The fading hopes for a real change in the situation haven’t just lowered the Palestinian street’s faith in a solution to the conflict through means of the negotiation, but it is also the reason why, at the end of the day, the Palestinians will take to the streets, leading to another round of bloody violence. And the construction of settlements (whether or not this is taken as a symbolic gesture toward Mahmoud Abbas) is not stopping; the number of settlers or “inhabitants” in the West Bank, outside of the main settlement blocs, is growing to (if they have not already arrived at) dimensions that no Israeli government will be able to dismantle in an orderly fashion, unless through willing consent—and it doesn’t appear that the current government possess the will and/or the desire to buck the trend.
Just as troublesome—many of our friends in the world, whose support of the peace process with the Palestinians is critical, understand the powerless leaderships of Netanyahu and Abbas. They see the continued expansion of the settlements and are choosing to call it quits regarding the possibility of ever implementing the solution of “two states for two nations.”
Until recently I believed with all my heart that there is still a chance for the “two-state solution.” However, in the absence of true leadership willing to take real actions instead of making idle statements, I am convinced more and more that this option, which until recently was preferred by the Israeli majority according to surveys, is becoming increasingly unrealistic and is no longer feasible.
So, I now return to where we are in time, the “point of no return.” It is possible to compare our situation to flying in a plane. When we fly, it’s worthwhile to know if we have enough fuel to return home. There won’t be any obvious signs that we have reached the “point of no return”; there won’t be any exploding sounds, and it won’t be possible to paint it on a poster to present during speeches made to the United Nations or anywhere else. Even researches and reports won’t be able to prove that we’ve crossed the line; it will be more similar to the picture of the cat that slowly turns into a dog. Except in this case, the dog will also be buried.
Considering all of the above, I will summarize my argument. In terms of the future, the identity, the nature and security of the state of Israel and the Jewish nation, it will be impossible to know when we have passed the point from which we will never be able to return home and retain our identity as a democratic, Jewish state.
The blame game taking place between Netanyahu and Abbas is foolish in my eyes, a useless game that is dangerous on a strategic level, in which the real losers are not the leaders themselves—rather their two nations and mostly the Jewish, democratic state of Israel.
As for the Palestinians, I believe that in the long term they will not lose from the disintegration of the two-state option and the shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality—a state “from the sea to the river” meaning in other words, “one state for two nations.” When we get there, we will face an immediate existential threat of the erasing of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and in a few years the reality of the country’s demographics will become a Palestinian-Arab majority and a Jewish minority, along with all that entails.
Anyone who wants to can see the data of the Research and Information Center Committee (based on a study by professors Arnon Sofer and Sergio Della Pergola) suggesting that at the end of the year 2010, the proportion of Jews—if you add the total population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River—was only 53 percent! If we study the issue of the geographical distribution of the various populations in the area between the sea and the river—we will understand that we will have created a state with a Jewish majority (temporarily) concentrated in small sections of its territory.
Meanwhile, the quiet on the security front creates the illusion of “everything is OK,” mistakenly lulling us into believing that there is no reason to worry. But what else do we really need in order to recognize the fact that we are in a state of national emergency in every sense of the term, an emergency whose resolution should have long been at the top of the list of priorities?