In the past, the Los Angeles Times marked Israel’s birthday with an Op-Ed calling for its dismantlement via the so-called “one-state solution.” The paper didn’t bother to wait for the spring anniversary of the Jewish state’s founding, presenting its readers yesterday with another call for a “one-state solution.” Jonathan Kuttab‘s Dec. 20, 2009 Op-Ed (“Steps to Create Israel-Palestine“), like earlier pieces by Saree Makdisi (here and here) and Tony Judt which called for the destruction of the Jewish state, rests on a number of basic factual errors and faulty assumptions.
From the Mediterranean to the Jordan River
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert proposed giving the Palestinians land from communities bordering the Gaza Strip and from the Judean Desert nature reserve in exchange for settlement blocs in the West Bank.
According to the map proposed by Olmert, which is being made public here for the first time, the future border between Israel and the Gaza Strip would be adjacent to kibbutzim and moshavim such as Be’eri, Kissufim and Nir Oz, whose fields would be given to the Palestinians.
Olmert also proposed giving land to a future Palestinian state in the Beit She’an Valley near Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi; in the Judean Hills near Nataf and Mevo Betar; and in the area of Lachish and of the Yatir Forest. Together, the areas would have involved the transfer of 327 square kilometers of territory from within the Green Line.
Olmert presented his map to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in September of last year. Abbas did not respond, and negotiations ended. In an interview with Haaretz on Tuesday, Abbas said Olmert had presented several drafts of his map.
The version being disclosed Thursday in Haaretz is based on sources who received detailed information about Olmert’s proposals.
Olmert wanted to annex 6.3 percent of the West Bank to Israel, areas that are home to 75 percent of the Jewish population of the territories. His proposal would have also involved evacuation of dozens of settlements in the Jordan Valley, in the eastern Samarian hills and in the Hebron region. In return for the annexation to Israel of Ma’aleh Adumim, the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements, Ariel, Beit Aryeh and settlements adjacent to Jerusalem, Olmert proposed the transfer of territory to the Palestinians equivalent to 5.8 percent of the area of the West Bank as well as a safe-passage route from Hebron to the Gaza Strip via a highway that would remain part of the sovereign territory of Israel but where there would be no Israeli presence.
Kuttab offers two false options for future scenarios, writing:
And although Jewish Israelis may control it now, birthrates suggest that, sooner or later, Jews will again be a minority in the territory.
What happens at that point is unclear, but unless continued military occupation and all-out apartheid is the desired path, now may be the time for Israelis to start putting in place the kinds of legal and constitutional safeguards that will protect all minorities, now and in the future, in a single democratic state of Israel-Palestine. This is both the right thing and the smart thing to do.
Given that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian population centers are under Palestinian control (either Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank), there is no reason why future choices would either be military occupation or “all-out apartheid.” The majority of Palestinians currently live under their own governments. How would that status be endangered if more Palestinians than Israelis inhabit the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, as Kuttab hypothesizes? Kuttab does not explain how he makes that leap.
Moreover, Kuttab’s rosy depiction of a protected Jewish minority living under a system of safeguards in a binational Israel-Palestinian would be laughable were it not so dangerous. He writes:
At the root of [Israelis’] fear was the belief that despite Israel’s best efforts to push Palestinians from land and property and to import Jewish settlers in their stead, the Arab population would keep climbing. And that, when the Arabs reached the 51% mark, the state of Israel would collapse, its Jewish character would disappear and its population would dwindle into obscurity.
Yet that scenario is not necessarily the inevitable result of either demography or democracy. Religious and ethnic minorities have successfully thrived in many countries and managed to retain their distinctive culture and identity, and succeeded in being effective and sometimes even dominant influences in those countries. Those who believe in coexistence must begin to seriously think of the legal and constitutional mechanisms needed to safeguard the rights of a Jewish minority in Israel-Palestine.
It is true that the experience of Israel with its Palestinian minority does not offer a comforting prospect. The behavior of the Jewish majority toward the Palestinian citizens of Israel has not been magnanimous or tolerant. Where ethnic cleansing was insufficient, military rule, land confiscation and systemic discrimination have all been employed.
First, since we are talking about minority rights in the Middle East under an Arab/Islamic majority, can Kuttab point to even one Arab or Muslim country in the Middle East where minorities thrive? (The thriving of religious and ethnic minorities in “many countries,” such as the United States, Canada, or Germany, is hardly germane to this discussion.) More to the point is the treatment of minorities in Arab and Islamic countries, the subject of a recent conference hosted by One Free World International last week. The Jerusalem Post reported:
Every three minutes a Christian is being tortured in the Muslim world, and in 2009 more than 165,000 Christians will have been killed because of their faith, most of them in Muslim countries, according to a human rights organization that is visiting Israel starting Sunday.
“Hamas digs up the bodies of Christians from Christian burial sites in the Gaza Strip claiming that they pollute the earth,” said Reverend Majed El Shafie, President of One Free World International (OFWI), who will head a delegation of human rights activists, members of parliament from Canada and religious personalities.
During their visit to Israel the delegation will hold a conference on human rights and persecuted minorities at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. The conference will provide new statistics on the persecution of minorities in Muslim countries.
El Shafie said that between 200-300 million Christians are being persecuted in the world, 80 percent of whom lived in Muslim countries and the rest in communist and other countries. . . .
The behavior of the Jewish majority toward the Palestinian citizens of Israel has not been magnanimous or tolerant. Where ethnic cleansing was insufficient, military rule, land confiscation and systemic discrimination have all been employed.
Each year, in preparation for Israel’s birthday, newspaper editors feel an uncontrolled urge, a divine calling in fact, to invite Arab writers to tell us why Israel should not exist.
This must give them some sort of satisfaction, such as we might have in inviting officials of the Flat Earth Society to tell us why the the earth is not, could not or should not really be round, and to do so precisely on Earth Day, lest the wisdom would escape anyone’s attention. . . .
Today we are witnessing a well-coordinated effort by enemies of coexistence to get people to envision, just envision, a world without Israel—the rest, they hope, will become history.
The American press seems to fall for it.
Fall they do.