Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On The Israeli Right's New 'Peace' Agenda

by Gilad Atzmon

As the Israelis are becoming conscious of their inevitable tragic circumstances, a final desperate attempt to rescue the Zionist project has come to life. Astonishingly enough it is the Israeli right that is now pushing for ‘one binational State.’ It is pretty staggering to find out that while the Israeli so-called ‘left’ is locked within the 1967 territorial paradigm that is fueled by Judeo centric racial ideology, it is actually the hawkish Zionist thinkers who are willing to move the discourse forward.

In a mind provoking piece Noam Sheizaf outlines in Haaretz the new revolutionary Israeli idea. However, I will maintain at this stage that the new Zionist call for ‘one binational state’ suggests that Zionist ideology is on its last leg. Israel has come to realise its inevitable end. And amidst its terminal conditions Israel tries to buy time.

Israel should apply its law to “Judea and Samaria and grant citizenship to 1.5 million Palestinians,” says Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, a top leader in the Likud party and a political patron of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Arens is not put off by those who slander him for promoting the idea of a binational Jewish-Palestinian state. "We are already a binational state," he says.

This approach is now being advocated by leading figures in the Likud and amongst the settlers. A year ago, Uri Elitzur, former chairman of the Yesha Council of Settlements and Netanyahu's bureau chief in his first term as prime minister, published an article in the settlers' journal Nekuda calling for the onset of a process, at the conclusion of which the (West Bank) Palestinians will have "a blue ID card (like Israelis), yellow license plates (like Israelis), National Insurance and the right to vote for the Knesset." Emily Amrousi, a former spokesperson for the Yesha Council, also takes part in meetings between settlers and Palestinians and speaks explicitly of "one land in which the children of settlers and the children of Palestinians will be bused to school together."

This Zionist political novelty doesn’t take me by complete surprise. Unlike the Jewish left that is tribally orientated both in Israel and in the West, the right wing Zionist philosophy was grounded on a dream of an eternal bond between the Jew and the alleged ‘promised land’. In Zion the Jew was supposed to transcend oneself beyond the race and the tribe. Israel was there to demolish the ghetto wall. As it happened, in practice, Israel had become the biggest ghetto in Jewish history.

However, there is a clear trap here. As much as the peace loving Zionist hawks seem to  champion Palestinian civil rights, the vision of a ‘one binational state’ is still totally Judeo centric. The Israeli advocates of the one binational state are not talking about a neutral "state of all its citizens", nor about "Israstine" with a flag showing a crescent and a Shield of David. One state still means a sovereign Jewish state, but in a more complex reality, and inspired by the vision of a “democratic Jewish state” without an occupation and without apartheid, without fences and separations.

One may wonder at this stage what the notion of “Jewish democratic state” stands for. It is obviously an empty signifier, there is no such a thing as Jewish democracy. As far as I remember Democracy was born in Athens rather than Jerusalem. And yet, the dream is compelling. In such a state, “Jews will be able to live in Hebron and pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and a Palestinian from Ramallah will be able to serve as an ambassador and live in Tel Aviv or simply enjoy ice cream on the city's seashore.”

It is clear beyond doubt that a coin has dropped. Some Israeli hawks have come to realise that the occupation cannot be maintained forever. They were also quick to grasp that, in the long run, the separation wall put an end to the Zionist expansionist program. They also gather that the negative exposure of Jewish lobbies in the West will eventually lead to the down scaling of Israeli political maneuvering.

However, the Zionist tribal orientation is never too difficult to trace. When Elitzur was asked “What do you say to the allegations that you have joined the radical left?” he was quick to reveal his political mantra.

"There's a clear separation between us. I am talking about a Jewish state, the state of the Jewish people, which will contain a large Arab minority. The left is talking about an Arab state containing a Jewish minority, even if they do not explicitly think that. The leftist demonstrators in (the West Bank village of) Bil'in have totally joined the Palestinian cause."

I guess that this what it is all about. The Israeli hawks want to counter the inevitable 'demographic disaster'. They would offer West Bank Palestinians Israeli ID cards, and  offer them to “enjoy ice cream in Tel Aviv” as long as they are kept as a minority. The Israeli hawks ignore Gaza and the right of return. In practice they dismiss the Palestinian cause for they are certain that the Jewish one is superior. In short, this is not a solution or a resolution. It is just another Zionist spin that is planted in our discourse in order to disseminate confusion.