As my guide Ruth Lieberman and I traveled through the stunningly beautiful
rocky ridges of the Judean hills and visited Jewish shrines there, she read
to me from portions of the Bible that described the journeys of our
forefathers—starting with Abraham, Sarah and Isaac. She and I drove the
very roads they walked, and we stood in the very places Jewish
patriarchs and matriarchs settled some 4,000 years ago.
It's no wonder—and no crime—that some half a million (mostly religious)
Jews have moved to "settlements" in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank).
What's astounding is that Palestinians militantly deny any Jewish connection to this land (as well as all of
Israel) and assert their right to own it exclusively—with no Jews
in their midst. The most radical of these Arabs wage terrorist war against
The majority of Israeli Jews, for their part, have demonstrated willingness
to live in peace with their Arab neighbors, whether in Israel proper or in
the ancient Jewish territories.
Some Israelis propose annexing only those parts of Judea and Samaria in
which Jews are the majority—which is the case in large parts of these
disputed lands. Other, "maximalist" Jews, believe a way should be found for all the biblical lands to be incorporated into Israel.
The most important point here: Jews have every right to claim title to
Judea and Samaria. By virtue of historical longevity and having
won the 1967 war against invading Arab armies, especially Jordan, which
occupied those lands—Israel's is arguably a stronger claim.
This article's author, the brilliant commentator Yossi Klein Halevi, offers
a practical analysis of the current conundrum and a hopeful (if only
partial) suggestion as to how we might move forward toward long-term peace.
I hope you'll forward this incisive review to friends, family and fellow
congregants to help them understand that Jewish claim to what the press
falsely term "Palestinian territories" is just as powerful and valid
as that of the Palestinians.
I hope you'll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which
describes FLAME's latest hasbarah
campaign to set the record straight on the Palestinians' duplicitous narrative asserting their 100% narrative of the Holy Land.
Israelis, Palestinians and the Necessary Injustice of Partition
Israelis have a rightful claim to all of historic Israel—and so do the
Palestinians. Candidly acknowledging the most far-reaching national
commitments of both sides is the only way to peace
By Yossi Klein Halevi, Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2018
Over the past several weeks, the Palestinian "March of Return,"
initiated by the Islamist group Hamas, has drawn tens of thousands of
protesters to the Gaza-Israel border, where they have clashed with the
Israel Defense Forces. Hamas says that the marches will continue until
mid-May, when Israel will celebrate its 70th anniversary and Palestinians
will mourn what they call the Nakba, or catastrophe, the refugee crisis
that resulted from the Arab war against Israel's creation.
In monitoring the dramatic scenes of recent weeks, the international
community and media have focused on the alleged use of disproportionate
force by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian demonstrators and on the
economic misery of Gaza. What has been missed by most observers is the rare
clarifying moment that this confrontation has offered: The March of Return
is an explicit negation of a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state
in the West Bank and Gaza coexisting beside Israel.
If Palestinians living in Gaza—a part of Palestine, under Hamas rule—still
see themselves as refugees intent on "returning" to the Jewish state, then
the only concession that can satisfy their aspirations is Israel's national
suicide. The real message of the protests is that the conflict is not about
undoing the consequences of 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza came under
Israeli rule in the Six-Day War, but about overturning 1948—when Israel was
born. As Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh put it, the attempt to breach the
border is the beginning of the return to "all of Palestine." The
destination is Jerusalem, and the goal is the creation of a Palestinian
state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, erasing Israel.
The Palestinians are not alone, however, in harboring maximalist
. Israel, too, has advocates for the right of return to all of the land
between the river and the sea. West Bank settlers and their supporters,
including the current government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
believe that this land can accommodate only a single national sovereignty:
Editor's note: It's nearly certain that PM Netanyahu would disagree
with this characterization of his government's position.)
Like those Palestinians dreaming of "return" to the state of Israel, the
settlement movement aims at demographic transformation. Its goal is to fill
the West Bank with so many Israelis that withdrawal would become
impossible. They have not yet achieved this goal. Close to a half-million
Israelis live in settlements, though most are close enough to the 1967
border that a line could be drawn that would allow Israel to annex a small
part of the West Bank in exchange for granting territory to a Palestinian
state from within Israel proper. But settlements deep in the West Bank are
expanding, and they are intended to thwart such concessions.
Like a majority of Israelis—though the numbers are dropping, according to
the polls—I support the principle of a two-state solution, for Israel's
sake no less than for the Palestinians. Extricating ourselves from ruling
over another people is a moral, political and demographic imperative. It is
the only way to save Israel in the long term as both a Jewish and a
democratic state—the two essential elements of our being. Partition is the
only real alternative to a Yugoslavia-like single state in which two rival
peoples devour each other.
But in order to take that frightening leap of territorial contraction—pulling back to the pre-1967 borders, when Israel was barely 9 miles wide
at its narrowest point—we need some indication that a Palestinian state
would be a peaceful neighbor, and not one more enemy on our doorstep. The
practical expression of that goodwill would be Palestinian agreement that
the descendants of the refugees of 1948 return to a Palestinian state and
not to Israel, where they would threaten its Jewish majority.
So far, despite years of negotiation, no significant Palestinian leader in
any faction has agreed to that trade-off. Instead, the Palestinian
precondition for a two-state solution is Israeli agreement to terms that
would likely end in one state, with the Jews living, at best, as a
Yet for both peoples, partition would require almost unbearable sacrifices.
How can a Jewish state relinquish sovereignty over Hebron, the West Bank
city that is the world's oldest center of Jewish life, going back to
Abraham and Sarah? How can Palestinians relinquish the aspiration to return
to the sites of hundreds of destroyed Palestinian villages in what is now
the state of Israel?
The truth is that, for all my political support for a two-state
I agree at an emotional level with the settlers. I dread the idea of
partition. I believe that the whole of this little land belongs by right to
my people—just as almost every Palestinian I've known believes the same on
his side. Through centuries of exile, Jews never stopped longing for this
land, maintaining a vicarious presence in our prayers and celebrations. For
me, the "West Bank" is the biblical region of Judea and Samaria, precisely
what Jews have called it for millennia. It is the heart of our homeland and
of our identity as a people and a faith. Jews are not occupiers in Judea.
And we returned to it in 1967 in the most legitimate way possible—in a
defensive war against yet another attempt by the Arab world to destroy us.
But unlike the settlers, that claim is my starting point, not my end point.
Reluctantly, painfully, I am ready to trade parts of my homeland for a
peace that would include recognition of Israel's legitimacy and of the
Jewish people's indigenousness in this land—concessions that no Palestinian
leader has been willing to offer.
The maximalist claims on both sides can readily lead to despair. But by
candidly acknowledging the historical and emotional reality behind them, we
can also perhaps find the basis for a solution.
The cruel but essential logic of partition is that both rival claimants can
make a compelling argument for why the totality of this beloved land
belongs by right to them. The space between the river and the sea holds two
conceptual territories: The land of Israel and the land of Palestine. How,
then, to move from our mutually conflicting geographies and begin to
accommodate each other's maps?
Perhaps by granting that both sides love this land in its wholeness
and that both sides must do violence to that love. A peace agreement should
frankly accept the legitimacy of each side's maximalist claims, even as it
proceeds to contract them. Partition is an act of injustice against both
Palestinians and Israelis. It is the recognition of the borders to our
dreams: An agreement would partition not just the land but justice itself
between two rightful claimants.
I deeply understand the appeal of maximalist claims. Growing up in Brooklyn
in the 1960s, I was drawn to the youth movements of the nationalist Jewish
right. As a teenager, I wore a necklace holding a small silver map of all
of the land of Israel as defined by right-wing Zionism of that time. It
included not only the West Bank and Gaza but the territory that became the
Kingdom of Jordan, which Britain severed from historic Palestine in 1922.
Eventually I came to realize that trying to reach an accommodation with the
Palestinians must take precedence over asserting the totality of our just
claim. My turning point came as an Israeli reservist soldier serving in the
Gaza refugee camps in the 1980s. The teenage Palestinians throwing rocks at
our patrols reminded me of myself as a fervent young ideologue—and of the
futility of trying to suppress a people's national longings.
Neither side can or should relinquish its emotional claim to
Yet not every claim must be implemented in full. The state of Israel cannot
be the same as the land of Israel, the state of Palestine as the land of
Palestine. Each people should exercise national sovereignty in only a part
of its land. The moral argument for partition is simply this: For the sake
of allowing the other side to achieve some measure of justice, each side
needs to impose on itself some measure of injustice.
Such an agreement would require heartbreaking concessions. Both sides would
have to accept limits to their legitimate right of return. That means no
more settlement-building by Israelis in the future Palestinian state in the
West Bank and Gaza, and it means no descendants of Palestinian refugees
"returning" to the state of Israel. The Jewish state would absorb those of
the Jewish diaspora who want to live in their homeland, and the Palestinian
state would absorb those of the Palestinian diaspora who want to live in
In 1950, the new state of Israel passed the "Law of Return," guaranteeing
automatic citizenship to any Jew coming home from any part of the world.
Like Jewish immigrants from Yemen and Russia and Morocco and Ethiopia, that
is how I became an Israeli: In 1982 I left my home in New York, showed up
at Ben-Gurion Airport and declared myself a returning son. The Law of
Return is the foundation on which the Jewish state stands, defining its
moral responsibility to the Jewish people. The state of Palestine would
surely enact a similar law for its diaspora.
But is any of this really relevant anymore? The hard reality is
that Palestinians and Israelis are as far apart as we ever were. There is
no basis of trust, let alone mutual recognition. Decades of violent
Palestinian rejection of partition has created despair among young
Israelis, allowing our own maximalists to prevail. And on the Palestinian
side, the relentless message, conveyed to a new generation by media and
schools and mosques, is that the Jews are thieves, with no historical roots
in this land.
When Israelis look around at our borders, we see terror enclaves on almost
every side, actively committed to our destruction. Hezbollah in the north,
Hamas in the south, and most dangerous of all, Iranian Revolutionary Guards
establishing bases near our border with Syria. Any of those borders may
erupt at any time, threatening regional war.
That sense of impingement helps to explain why Israel is so determined to
prevent even a symbolic breach of its border with Gaza. A recent poll
revealed that 67% of Israelis believe that, if a Palestinian state were
created tomorrow, Hamas would eventually take over, creating a radical
entity in the West Bank, on our most sensitive border—just minutes from Tel
Aviv and Jerusalem.
And yet ironically, just as the hope for an Israeli-Palestinian
seems to be definitively ending, unimagined opportunities may be opening
for Israel in the wider Sunni world. The Obama administration's disastrous
deal with Iran, which left it on the nuclear threshold while further
empowering it as the regional bully, has had one positive if unintended
effect: bringing together Sunni leaders with Israel in an alliance of
dread, a shared loathing of the deal and a fear of an imperial Iran. The
recent and unprecedented statement by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman unequivocally accepting Israel's right to exist is one consequence
of that emerging relationship. It is potentially a historic turning point.
A deepening Israeli-Sunni strategic relationship could evolve into a
political relationship, encouraging regional involvement in tempering if
not yet solving the Palestinian conflict. One possible interim deal would
be gradual Israeli concessions to the Palestinians—reversing the momentum
of settlement expansion and strengthening the Palestinian economy—in
exchange for gradual normalization with the Sunni world.
That scenario is still remote. And yet for the first time in many years, it
is possible to imagine a different future. Even as the latest phase of the
Palestinian-Israeli tragedy unfolds on the Gaza border, the hope of an
unloved partition must not be allowed to die.