Zionism: The National Liberation Movement of the Jewish People
Zionism was born as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. It succeeded in creating a national home and a nation state for the Jewish people after maintaining that Judaism was not solely a religion but was in fact a national collective of people who shared a past, held a collective memory and an expressed desire for a shared future. They also had justified historic claims to a defined territory. Israel’s birth charter was the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, which would have partitioned Palestine/Eretz Yisrael into two states for two peoples — the Jewish people and the Palestinian Arab people. Only half of the resolution has been fulfilled to date. Israel was born and has flourished; Palestine was not and its people have been dispersed and occupied.
Israel’s success in the June 1967 Six-Day War, by which Israel came to rule over the Palestinian people, could end up being the ultimate downfall of Zionism and the death of the Jewish nation-state, unless Israel finds a way to extricate itself from ruling over millions of Palestinians while denying them the same right of self-determination that Zionism achieved for the Jewish people. While Israel maintains its firm grip on all of the land “between the River and the Sea” and the Palestinian people are subjugated to Israeli rule and domination, Israel is losing its democratic character and its moral compass. As such, it would be fair to state that the Zionist solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the solution of partition, because it is the only way to guarantee that Israel remains the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Yes, Zionism’s goal was to settle the Land of Israel, and yes, Judea and Samaria are at the heart of Jewish memory and religious belief. The Jewish story in the Land of Israel told in the Torah took place in the valleys and hilltops of Judea and Samaria and not on the beaches of Tel Aviv, yet the Jewish connection to that part of the Land of Israel does not mean apriori that the State of Israel must have sovereignty there. The reality is that any attempt by Israel to assert its sovereignty there will mean the end of the viability of the partition of Palestine/Israel into two states for two peoples, and will mean that Israel will either cease to be a democratic state or cease to be the nation state of the Jewish people.
Saving Israel via a New UN Security Council Resolution
The upcoming draft resolution to the UN Security Council authored by France is a proposal for Israel to save itself from itself. It is by no means an anti-Israel resolution. The nations of the world, in concert with the representatives of Palestine in the UN, will be offering (once again) the only avenue for Israel to continue to ensure its own survival as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people. The draft resolution will seek to benchmark clear terms of reference for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to end Israel’s occupation over the territories that are supposed to constitute the nation-state of the Palestinian people. The resolution will propose a timeline and the parameters for what a two-states-for-two-peoples solution should look like. It is a resolution that supports Israel’s right to exist within clearly defined and defensible borders. It is a resolution that is based on the understanding that the conflict can only end as a result of direct negotiations and that no solution can be imposed on Israel without its agreement. It is also perhaps the last time that the international community will lend support to the Zionist idea and vision of enabling Israel to define itself as the nationstate of the Jewish people.
Israel should most definitely support this resolution and encourage the United States to do so as well. It is difficult to imagine that Netanyahu and his right-wing compatriots would even consider supporting this resolution. But if Netanyahu has any ability to look into the future of Israel, he has to come to the conclusion that the greatest existential threat to the State of Israel and the Zionist movement is Israel’s continued control over the Palestinian people, expressed most directly by the continued settlement of Israeli citizens in the territories that must become the State of Palestine. The ultimate fulfillment of Zionism must now include the assertion that continued settlements and the idea of the Greater Land of Israel are anti- Zionist ideas and realities that must come to an end.
Supporting Both the Israeli and Palestinian Right to a State of Their Own
If Netanyahu is not wise enough to understand that his own rightwing visions and dreams are suicidal for the State of Israel, it will become increasingly clear as international pressure mounts against Israel to wake up to the reality of “game over.” The international community is not willing to accept the continued denial of the right of the Palestinian people to have a state of their own. As a result of the settlement movement, more than anything else, the international community has become determined to bring about the end of the occupation of the Palestinian people by Israel. Israel’s friends, among them the 28 countries that make up the European Union, are all supportive of Israel’s right to exist and to be secure, but they all are equally supportive of Palestine’s right to exist and to be secure. The Frenchled draft resolution in the Security Council is only the first step to drive this message home to Israel. The toolbox of diplomatic action to be taken by Europe and other countries across the globe includes the illegalization of settlement products — no longer just labeling them but the actual prevention of allowing these goods to be traded within their borders. Next, countries are assembling lists of settlers considered to be violent against their Palestinian neighbors, and these people will be denied the right to enter those countries. The EU will consider adopting the policies already in place in the U.S. since Israel’s birth, which will require Israeli citizens traveling to Europe to obtain a visa; the end of visa-free entry for Israelis is on the future agenda of sanctions that could be taken against Israel. The reason behind not allowing Israelis to enter the U.S. without a visa is the discriminatory policies of Israel regarding different U.S. passport holders. Arab and non-Arab U.S. citizens are treated differently by Israel at its borders. The same is the case for European passport holders and will enable Europe to reconsider its existing policy for Israeli citizens. All of this will likely come in addition to boycotts initiated by civil society across the globe and possible sanctions by international organizations such as FIFA and others.
Israel Should Announce It Is Ready to Work with France on the UNSC Resolution
The best way for Israel to avoid the inevitable would be to surprise the world by announcing that it is willing to work with France and other UN members to draft the UNSC resolution, rather than to wage diplomatic war against its own interests. Israel would be able to influence the language of the resolution and to ensure that its interests and needs, particularly for providing security for its people, are included in the resolution.
Israeli opposition to the resolution and attempts by Israel to ensure a U.S. veto of the resolution will not stop the process already in motion; it may not even slow it down. It could be the catalyst for even greater international resolve to punish Israel for its refusal to end the occupation.
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.