I make no mistake in referring to the Israelis and the Palestinians as participants in a disastrous marriage. It was a marriage forced upon them, perhaps by God, perhaps by history, perhaps by the British (those pesky British). In any case, it is a marriage which can only result in either the survival or demise of both spouses. There can be no winner, and both must realize this sobering reality.
The reason there can be no winner is because there is a child. The land of Palestine is a baby that cannot be cut in half. If the 63-year old Israeli enterprise has proved anything, it is that Israel cannot exist as a state that is both Jewish and democratic. It can also not exist as long as it consciously denies it Palestinian-Arab character.
We Palestinians are pesky. We have not left, deserted our culture, or abandoned our language. Most importantly, we have not forgotten.
But it should be noted that the Palestinians have absolutely nothing to offer in any sort of peace negotiations. Sure, we can promise things, but that’s about it. No Palestinian leader, however, has anything tangible to offer Israel. Any “final settlement” will be on Israel’s terms only.
So Israel will have to make a monumental choice which will basically boil down to either becoming fully Jewish or fully democratic. It has for 63 years attempted to become fully Jewish. It has failed. Perhaps it is time to try the democracy option. But becoming democratic is not an undertaking that can be done half-way, or in a manner that ignores 5 million people. Being democratic is like being pregnant. You either are or you aren’t.
A single-state solution has been thrown about by Palestinians and Israelis alike. Most argue for it on humanist and moral grounds. And there is no doubt that such a solution would, in principle, solve many of those problems. But there are much bigger reasons to pursue the single state.
Let’s start with the economy. Does anyone truly understand what sort of economic treasure exists for us? Some nations have oil, some have technology, and some have beaches. We have God. And while those other things might run out someday, God, it seems, is not going anywhere. If the land of Palestine was opened up to the whole world, a thousand hotels would need to be built. Can you imagine how much money would flow if Muslims around the world could visit? Yes, I know it scares Israel. But I’m not talking about the Muslims you see on CNN. I’m talking about the other 99.9%, the ones that would visit Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Hebron, and everywhere else. Believe it or not, they have money. I can only dream at the amount of money Saudi princes alone would spend in Jerusalem. Imagine if the Lebanese border opened up. Sure, we might have to build a plastic surgery complex somewhere in Palestine, but the Lebanese would spend a lot of money too! Palestine could become a Holy Disney. As long as Israel remains cut off from 300 million Arabs and over one billion Muslims, billions of dollars are being lost.
We must all also come to terms with another reality. If you ask a Palestinian to draw his country, he traces that triangle the British made for us long ago. It is that triangle from which we draw our identity. We don’t leave out Jerusalem, Nazareth, Haifa, and Yafa. But the funny thing is that if you ask an Israeli to draw his country, he draws the same thing. That’s why Gaza and the West Bank are still occupied. Israel has no intention of giving up the land, or giving up the baby. They just don’t want to recognize the Palestinian parental right as well. But we are there, constantly reminding Israel of it, much to its dismay. But I must say to the Israelis: There is a reason you eat hummus and say “yalla.” Your baby, whether you like it or not, is half Palestinian.
And the baby cannot be cut in half. We’re talking about the same place, the same land. We’re not talking about borders that will come down nicely separating populations neatly from each other. Attempting to draw borders in order to split the baby is a pointless endeavor. Let’s just stick with the ones white people drew for us after World War I. Those are the borders within which Palestinians define themselves. They are the exact same borders within which Israel controls all entry and exit today. There will be no successful agreement unless a one-state solution is implemented.
Both Israelis and Palestinians want the whole baby. And both can have it. But the Palestinians, as the battered and forgotten spouse, will have no say. The whole future hinges on Israel acknowledging that it has failed in trying to rid itself of the Palestinians. A sustainable, profitable, and respectable future can only be realized when Israel accepts that Palestinians are worthy of the same humanity and respect as Jews. The baby can then have two healthy parents. And like most older Jewish and Arab couples, they will stay married, falling asleep each night in the same house… in separate bedrooms.