Israel should help the Palestinians build a state in the West Bank
The dangerous illusion Israel is dwelling in, argues Shavit, is the notion that “it can live like an autarky with no relation to the environment.” But no nation can do that, he argued, “certainly not a nation in which six million Jews share the land with more than five million Palestinians. Certainly not a nation that insists, even in the second decade of the third millennium, on occupying another nation.”
Indeed, the crazy dream Israel is keeping alive is that it can permanently occupy the West Bank, with its 2.5 million Palestinians, to satisfy biblically inspired settlers, who now hold major cabinet positions, like the housing portfolio, in Israel’s new government. With nearly 600,000 Israelis now living in Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the window for a two-state solution “is slowly vanishing from the earth,” notes the Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal. Amazingly, polls still show a majority on both sides for a two-state deal, “but there is a deep trust problem” that has to be overcome — fast…
Which is why Palestinians need to drop all their preconditions and enter negotiations and Israel needs to halt settlements and test and test again whether President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority can deliver. Thanks to their cooperation with the Israeli security services, no Israeli was killed in the West Bank by terrorism in 2012. But Palestinians won’t sustain that restraint without movement toward a Palestinian state. The best way for Israel to deal with the chaos around it is not to put its head in the sand but to collaborate with Palestinians to build a West Bank state that is modern, secular and Westernizing; one where Muslims, Christians and Jews can work together and that stands in daily refutation of the failing Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood models elsewhere. If Israelis and Palestinians do not try everything — now — to make that happen, this will be remembered not as a lost opportunity but the lost opportunity, and no island will escape the storm that will follow.