The possibility of a binational Israel

Jeff Goldberg posted today about an Israeli study that encouraged treating the West Bank like the rest of Israel and opening it all up to Israeli settlement. Goldberg assumes that this will lead to the extension of citizenship to the Palestinians and the end of Israel as a Jewish democracy. He believes, as I have noted before, that the West Bank and Gaza should form a Palestinian state in order to preserve Israel’s Jewish and democratic character. He likes to say that the settlers are the vanguard of a binational Israel. He concludes:

This would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy, but the right-wing in Israel seems more enamored of land-ownership than it does of such antiquated notions as, you know, Zionism.

Of course, you don’t hear too many voices on the right in Israel clamoring to extend full Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians. The right-wing wants the land, but not the people. What the right doesn’t understand is that this arrangement would be a non-starter, for political and moral reasons. Then again, the right doesn’t understand very much, so why would it understand this?

In his next post, in response to a reminder from another journalist, he linked to this two-year -old interview with the Speaker of the Israeli Parliament, Reuven Rivlin, who said that a Jewish-Palestinian state could work with real Palestinian participation. Perhaps The article quotes Rivlin’s striking words: “‘I would prefer for the Palestinians to be citizens of this country,’ he said, ‘rather than divide the land.’” He goes on to talk about how it might work.

The contrast between Goldberg’s pessimism and Rivlin’s optimism about this kind of arrangement is remarkable. In part, it’s about what’s more important: a nationalist (and mainly secular) concept of Zionism or access to the land. Goldberg is observant himself, in the tradition of Reform Judaism I believe, but I think it is fair to characterize his Zionism as more nationalist (connecting the Jewish people with their historic home) rather than religious.


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