OK, Binyamin Netanyahu said the magic words “Palestinian state,” now what? I want to give our prime minister the benefit of doubt and say that he even meant it; at least that is what he told US President Barack Obama. Where do we go from here? How do those words become transformed into reality? Let’s try to imagine.
Let us assume for a moment that the Palestinians accept all of Netanyahu’s conditions – their state will be demilitarized, it will have no effective control of its external borders, its airspace, seaport, electromagnetic sphere. The Palestinians will agree to define the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The sovereignty of the Palestinian state will be more limited than the sovereignty of almost any other state. So be it (for the purpose of argument at least). Now Mr. Netanyahu, I have some questions for you regarding your vision of this Palestinian state.
You say that Jerusalem will remain the eternal undivided capital of the State of Israel. What do you propose to do with the almost 300,000 Palestinians who live in our undivided capital? Do you grant them full citizenship? Do they get a passport? Can they vote for Knesset members? They have never enjoyed equal rights in the city of Jerusalem since 1967. Municipal records clearly prove that NIS 1 is allocated for each Palestinian Jerusalemite for the NIS 7 allocated for Jews.
There is a need for some 1,700 new classrooms in east Jerusalem, will you build them? Will you finally zone development areas of east Jerusalem for Palestinian natural growth? Will you continue to plans for a national theme park on lands where Palestinian Jerusalemites have been living for decades? Will you allow the development of a Palestinian tourism industry in east Jerusalem that will compete fairly with the Jewish tourism industry?
IF THE STATE of Palestine is demilitarized, will you prevent armed settlers from harassing farmers who are harvesting their olive trees? Will you disarm violent settlers? Will you allow Palestinians to build walls and fences around their fields to prevent settlers from waging war against them? Will you prevent discontented settlers who want to expand from capturing new hillsides and mountain tops?
What about the Palestinian citizens of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu? Now that their national state has recognized Israel as the state of the Jewish people, what are their rights? Is Israel their state? Is the state where they are born their home? Will they finally enjoy equal rights when they are no longer perceived as a security threat? Or will they always be treated as a demographic threat?
Will you include Palestinian citizens of the Jewish state in your coalition? Will they receive equal allocation of state funds for development? Will they be allowed to teach their own cultural heritage within their schools? If we treat the Druse who serve in the army with such contempt that their leaders just demonstrated in front of your office on Sunday, how will we treat Muslim and Christian Palestinian citizens of Israel within our Jewish state?
WHAT ABOUT WATER rights in the Palestinian state? Will Palestinians have equal rights to water as Jews do in Israel? Will they control the water resources underneath their feet? If not, how will you be able to justify the continued discrimination in the allocation of water which is controlled entirely by the State of Israel? Will the more than 150 villages that are not connected to a water system be allowed to be connected?
What about criminal law? If an Israeli commits a crime in the state of Palestine, will he be allowed to be brought to justice in a Palestinian court? Will he be allowed to serve a prison sentence in a Palestinian prison? What about the reverse? If a Palestinian is convicted in Israel, will you allow that person to serve out his sentence in a Palestinian prison? Can a Palestinian policeman ticket a settler traveling on a Palestinian road?
What about the concept of reciprocity? Will Palestinians who hold deeds and can prove property rights within Israel be allowed to claim those rights, or at least receive financial compensation? Jews do it all over Europe, will Palestinians be able to do it in Israel? Jews do it all over Judea and Samaria, what about Palestinians who have deeds for land and homes in the Galilee or in west Jerusalem, places like Baka, Talbiyeh, Katamon?
Since Israel will control Palestine’s airspace, will you allow a Palestinian national airline to have a home port at Ben-Gurion Airport? Will you allow Palestinians to use the airport? Will the Palestinian state be allowed to own a dock on Ashdod or Haifa?
WHAT ABOUT POSTAL cooperation? Sure Israel will agree to process mail for the Palestinian state, just as Israel does for other countries. What if the Palestinians issue a postage stamp commemorating the Nakba? Will Israel process those letters? What if Palestinian citizens wrote letters to you, Mr. Prime Minister, with that postage stamp on it, will you receive that letter?
When you are invited to a state visit to Palestine, just as you will surely invite the president of Palestine for a state visit in Israel, and the president of Palestine makes the traditional visit to Yad Vashem, what will you do when he invites you to visit the Palestinian national museum, which naturally commemorates the national struggle for freedom and liberation from the State of Israel.
Mr. Netanyahu, you know, of course, that the Palestinians will never accept your preconditions for statehood, neither will President Obama nor almost the entire world. Rather than thinking of excuses and tricks to prevent the creation of the Palestinian state, you should begin to think and to plan how you intend to make real peace with the Palestinian people. A state which is humiliated from its birth will never be a worthy neighbor. You speak of mutuality and reciprocity. It is time you begin to put yourself in their place and then think about the state you would like to see as your neighbor.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.