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Stop Israel from making a terrible mistake




Unlike East Jerusalem that immediately after the war was added as an undivided part of Israel and its capital, the rest of Judea and Samaria were kept in an unclear disputed status. Now, the Trump Peace Plan opens an unprecedented window of opportunity to “make Israel great again” (Trump’s election slogan) with American support.

The coronavirus crisis might help to blur the chances of a political and violent explosion following Israeli annexation. If it’s good for Israel, we shouldn’t be afraid of a new intifada, terror, cancelling the peace agreement with Jordan, or even worldwide sanctions. We should be worried about our dream of a Zionist Jewish and democratic state.

Since 1967, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have settled in Judea and Samaria, creating big cities like Ma’ale Adumim or Ariel as well as dozens of smaller communities. Five percent of Israel’s population lives across the “green line” (in the occupied territories) but under Israeli jurisdiction.

Now, Israel wants to add some of these areas formally to Israel. Basically, according to Trump’s plan, Israel can annex almost 30% of the land without waiting for the Palestinians to negotiate. Because as we know, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” as the late Cape Town-born Israeli statesman, Abba Eban, once said.

Judea and Samaria are areas that the Jewish people inherited. Like Transjordan, Sinai, and further afield, they form part of our so-called Promised Land, parts of David’s kingdom, and are sites of our history and legacy.

In the past century, the nations of the world recognised our national aspirations, but as is the case with real-politik, they limited our geographical “playground”. This zone – Palestine – Eretz Yisrael – was a rural, undeveloped corner of the Ottoman Empire before it became a British Mandate. More importantly, it wasn’t empty of a population.

From the first minute, we didn’t get along with our cousins there. Therefore, the only serious solutions proposed to deal with the conflict were based on a partition of the land, not a shared binational state.

Each side was to have his own nation state. In the past century, the Zionist movement made the impossible a reality. The international resolutions started with less than 17% of the country being designated for Jews 100 years ago. Now, the opposite is true: we hold about 70% of the country, and the annexation might lead us to 85% of our Promised Land.

Within Israel, Arabs are full citizens. Still not equal in practice, but they amount to one-fifth of the population. However, what about the more than two million Arabs that live on the West Bank “in-between” the Jewish settlements? We also can’t “ignore” approximately another two more million Palestinians who live in the Gaza strip. If Israel wants to expand its domain and stay a democracy, do we really want two million more full citizens?

Are we ready to have now – not in decades – 35% to 40% Israeli-Arabs (even without Gaza?) The Zionist dream is to have a Jewish homeland with a stable majority of Jews and not a binational state, a solution that hasn’t worked out even in civilised Europe.

So, if we want to keep those two million extra Arabs away from Israel democracy but we do want to include Jewish settlers in Israel, we’ll adopt the good old successful Zionist policy of “step by step”. First, we’ll take Gush Etzion, then we’ll take the Jordan Valley. Small victories on the ground.

The only problem with this gradual expansion is that any step further makes us more and more responsible for those two million Palestinians. Now, the Palestinians in the territories are citizens of the Palestinian Authority – the interim self-governing entity that was established under the Oslo Accords.

This fragile political power we perceive as an autonomy is based only on Israel’s will. The funds, the resources, the security, the roads, the infrastructure, are all controlled by Israel. With the coming annexation, we will leave the Palestinians dozens of small, isolated enclaves we will create unilaterally.

Israel isn’t an apartheid regime. Our views aren’t racist, but based on legitimate national dreams that must be fulfilled one next to the other. This annexation makes partition impossible, and as an Israeli left-wing Zionist, I can tell you, I’m losing my arguments to defend our policies and to protect our country as Jewish and democratic.

Building so-called free Palestinian regions responsible for their own fate but completely dependent on Israel, sounds more and more like South Africa’s apartheid bantustans. We can persuade ourselves that the natives there are free to do whatever they want in their homeland, but for me, it resembles those distorted ideas more and more.

The world might be silent about this right now. This would be due to different circumstances and priorities that would be COVID-19-related. And the Palestinians are making so many mistakes, so much so that Israel can go on for a decade or two without any real consequences. But then, one day, the Palestinians will shout out that slogan you all know well here in South Africa, and we won’t be able to continue to ignore – “one man, one vote” – from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. One democracy, zero Jewish state.

It’s still my Zionist dream to prevent this national nightmare. If we destroy the option for attaining real Palestinian sovereignty, as we are doing now, we would have no choice but to follow the moral, humanitarian, and democratic imperative.

My brothers, South African Jews, Israel lovers, especially those on the right wing in this country who believe we can’t be conquerors in our homeland: please, help me remind your siblings in Israel that we can’t ignore other human beings who were created in G-d’s image. We can’t create a fiction, and convince ourselves how generous and enlightened we are. We have to keep the option open for two homelands in order to save one. It’s still my Zionist dream to prevent this national nightmare. Speak up now before it’s too late to save the Jewish state. Do it quietly with your Israeli friends and counterparts in order not to arm our enemies

Help us to not go one pace ahead. It’s either one state with no Jewish dominance or democracy or two nation states. Anything in between is a dangerous, short-term illusion.

  • Zvika (Biko) Arran is a publicist, social entrepreneur, lawyer, advisor to philanthropists, and the host of the Berl Katznelson Center podcast. He currently lives in Johannesburg with his wife and four sons.

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  1. Herzl Melmed

    Jun 18, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    ‘It is still not clear what Israel will annex. What is clear is that the Palestinians haven’t changed their narrative which is to destroy the Jewish State. Also clear is that the 1967 borders are indefensible & would be a disaster as Gaza has taught us. Israel has a unique opportunity to annex those parts of Judea & Samaria in which 400,000 Israelis live & in reality will never leave. Better to face that reality now & the (Sunni) Arab world will come to accept the facts on the ground. Maybe even respect Israel more for showing her strength. The Palestinians must take responsibility for their decisions. Maybe it is time for the Palestinians to return to citizenship in Jordan.’

  2. Jill Timoney

    Jun 19, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    ‘There already is a two nation state.  Israel is for the Jews, and Jordan is for the so-called "Palestinians".  All of Judea and Samaria should be restored to Israel.  And stop using the word "annexation", because the land belongs to the Jews and it must be restored to the Jews.  The "Palestinians" can be moved to Jordan (with  compensation).  Don’t forget the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were expelled from Arab lands, without compensation.’

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