Dr. Dania Kolelat Khatib
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, last month made a revelation. He reportedly told lawmakers in a behind-closed-door meeting that Israel “needs to crush” the Palestinian ambition for an independent state, while he also stressed the need to continue dealing with the Palestinian Authority. He added that he would not allow the PA to collapse and expressed a willingness to aid the Palestinians “economically.”
While it has long been clear that Israel’s objective is to deny the Palestinians their state, this is the first time that a prime minister has declared it so clearly and bluntly. Of course, Ariel Sharon always said that Jordan was for the Palestinians, but never before has a prime minister talked of eradicating their ambition for statehood. The statement of Netanyahu shows the futility of normalization with Israel. While one of the promises of the Abraham Accords was to stop a controversial plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to large parts of the West Bank, Netanyahu soon told his constituency that he would not let up on his drive to expand the settlements. In fact, he has now advanced plans for 5,700 new settlement units.
Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, president of the Emirates Policy Center, last month stated that the behavior of Israel was causing embarrassment, adding that no other Arab state would normalize with Israel. However, this seems to be of little relevance, as Netanyahu’s main objective is to keep his coalition together and stay in power in order to avoid the same fate as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and end up in orange pajamas. Israel has reached a level of arrogance that means it does not even conceal its objectives or pay lip service to anyone. They do not seem to care about what the US Jewry, which is the prime supporter of that country’s maintenance of the state of Israel, thinks. They have an ideological project and they are determined to achieve it. In fact, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir last week said that Israel needs to kill “thousands of terrorists,” while calling for the government to immediately approve the Evyatar outpost as a settlement. The political discourse has never been so crude, but the current government does not seem to care.
However, Netanyahu’s premise does not work. It has been tried before by former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. After 1967, when Israel took control of the West Bank, the policy was to allow economic prosperity, hoping that the Palestinians would forget about their political rights. However, 20 years later, the First Intifada erupted. In his famous 1989 book, “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” Thomas Friedman described the relationship between the Palestinians and their occupier as like a couple that had lived together for 20 years. In the end, instead of asking for marriage, they wanted to break up. The First Intifada tells us one important piece of information: The Palestinians will not exchange their political rights for economic perks. They have a developed sense of peoplehood and they want their own state. The more the extremists try to refer to Palestinians more broadly as Arabs, denying their right to have a state of their own, the more adamant they become about demanding their statehood. However, a Palestinian state is also in the best interest of Israel. Previously, Israel was able to evade the issue of a Palestinian state by entering into lengthy and futile peace negotiations that led nowhere. That was a good show. The negotiations were aimed at convincing the world that Israel had the intention of giving the Palestinians a state, but at the same time it continued its settlement expansion, which is the main stumbling block facing any prospect of a Palestinian state. The aim of Israel was to prolong the status quo.
Now that Israel has admitted it does not want to give the Palestinians a state, what is the solution? What will be the political status of the Palestinians? Given that Israel is supposedly a democracy, it should answer this question. Can they just be masses of people living without any rights? Controversial so-called thinker Edy Cohen, who constantly addresses Arabs on social media, advocated that Palestinians can live and have individual rights but no political rights. However, in a modern state, this does not hold. Israel is becoming an embarrassment to Jews worldwide with these totally undemocratic ideas, which are becoming mainstream in the country. However, what Netanyahu and his ilk do not realize is that, if they eradicate the idea of a Palestinian state, these people need to be the citizens of another state; most likely the state that occupies the lands on which they live: Israel. Does Israel want that? Does Israel want to join the Arab League any time soon, as it would have far more Arab citizens than Jewish ones? Most likely, Israelis do not want that. The entire premise of Israel is that the Jews want a state of their own. However, all the policies that have been implemented contradict this objective. When David Ben-Gurion established the state of Israel, he knew that Israel could not be Jewish, democratic and on the entire land of Palestine. He knew the settlers needed to make a choice that would shape the character of the state. Ben-Gurion knew that, despite the brutal evacuations and the ethnic cleansing, the Jews could not have the entire land of Palestine for their own.
Now, the undemocratic people of the Netanyahu government, who are blinded by ideology, want an undemocratic Jewish state on the entire land of Palestine.
They are fine with an apartheid regime, as long as their ideology is fulfilled. Nevertheless, an apartheid state is not sustainable. The stage that follows an apartheid state is a state with equal rights for everyone; this is when the Jews will become a minority in Israel, thereby killing the concept of the Jews having a state of their own.