The Palestinians: They Cannot Be Ruled, Expelled, Absorbed Or Barred
While Israel has never been more secure internationally, its existence now is threatened by one of the legacies of its victories: the Palestinian people.
What was a problem forty years ago has become a crisis. After 14 months of the violent Palestinian uprising, Israel is faced with five different options, none of which is ideal. But only one can provide an equitable solution with which both peoples can live:
(1) By now it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Israel's rule over the West Bank and Gaza cannot be maintained indefinitely.
No matter how benevolent Israel's rule might be, it has been rejected, and Palestinians will never choose Israeli sovereignty over the territories.
If force is brought to bear, the uprising may be suppressed for a month, a year or maybe two. But defiance of Israeli rule has by now been embedded in the psyche of every Palestinian.
Those Israelis who believe that autonomous rule, coupled with the partial withdrawal of Israeli troops to areas less offensive to the Palestinians, will be an acceptable solution are still living an illusion.
Israel's failure to suppress the uprising within days or weeks has changed dramatically the context of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. There will be no return to the status quo no matter how well Israeli forces are camouflaged.
Moreover, many Israelis reject the notion of indefinite rule over the Palestinians. Israel, they insist, was not created to rule other people. Israel was created to provide a home, a refuge for Jews who had no place to go and for those who choose to make Israel their home in the future.
Thus, continued Israeli rule can no longer be sustained on moral, ideological or political grounds.
(2) The expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories is also ruled out, not only because it is impractical but because it runs against the moral grain of the majority of Israelis.
True, there are those who belong to the former Meir Kahane party and to the Moledet Party, headed by former general Rehavam Ze'evi (with two seats in the present Knesset) who promote the concept of the "transfer" of Palestinians to other neighboring Arab countries.
However, both major parties, Likud and Labor, are opposed to the idea in principle. Moreover, the international outcry would make the whole notion totally absurd and politically unacceptable.
(3) Because of demographic considerations, the third option, which calls for the total absorption of Palestinians into the Israeli socio-political system, is also being ruled out.
For the majority of Israelis, maintaining the state's Jewish identity is a prerequisite to preserving its democratic institutions. If the government were to annex all the territories and offer equal citizenship to its inhabitants, Israel would become a binational state and lose its Jewish majority by the year 2025.
Most demographers agree that absorption of the Palestinians would obliterate the Jewish character of the state. Unless, of course, second-class citizenry is given to the Palestinians.
This, however, would be nothing less than a recipe for civil unrest and continued violent defiance. Thus, annexation of the territories and absorption of the Palestinians is ruled out for self-preservation, if for no other reason.
(4) There are some Israelis who advocate the imposition of Israeli rule in an iron-fisted and repressive manner. Should the Palestinians reject subordination and resort to violence, they simply should be "eliminated."
The truth of the matter is that there are not many takers for this option. Israel's future will never be built on a Palestinian graveyard. The whole notion is too abhorrent to even contemplate.
The above four option are not provided to suggest the obvious. Political, military, social and demographic observers of the region's woes agree that no matter how the Israeli-Palestinian relationship is surveyed, the two peoples are destined to live together.
(5) Coexistence under separate political authority is no longer one of many options. It is the only option. The Palestinians must have their own piece of territory that can provide the basis for nationhood. The realization of their national aspirations need not be at Israel's expense.
It is not true that a Palestinian entity with its own national identity in the West Bank would constitute a mortal danger to Israel.
A Palestinian homeland can be established generally on the basis of U.N. Resolution 242. Other than providing for internal security, the new state must remain demilitarized. The socio-economic dynamic of Israelis and Palestinians will make coexistence under separate political authority not only workable, but indeed most desirable.