No, Israel Doesn’t Face a Choice between Being Jewish and Being Democratic

April 6, 2021 | Yossi Kuperwasser
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In an interview with CNN in February, Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeated the well-worn warning that the creation of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River is necessary “to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.” This claim, which has been articulated by State Department officials since at least 1977, assumes that Israel must either continue to govern the Palestinians, and thus sacrifice its democratic character, or grant them citizenship, and thus, supposedly, cease to be a Jewish state. If this is true, notes Yossi Kuperwasser, it follows that Jerusalem must accept whatever terms are put forward by the Palestinians, or even withdraw unilaterally. Of course, to most Israelis, these theoretical dangers seem negligible compared to the tangible threats, known from very recent experience, of having their children blown up on buses and in pizza parlors, or hit by rockets on the way to school. In fact, Baker explains, the entire dilemma constructed by Blinken et al. is a false one:

Most of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza already live under Palestinian rule, and no one intends to dismantle the two entities that govern them. These are the Palestinian Authority, which functions as the ruling entity for the Palestinians living in the areas that Israel took from Jordan in a war initiated by Jordan in 1967, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip that Israel had taken from Egyptian military control in 1967, and which Israel evacuated entirely in 2005 after transferring rule over the Palestinian population to the Palestinian Authority in 1994.

The number of Palestinians living in Area C [of the West Bank] under direct Israeli control is negligible, and if Israel were to extend its sovereignty over parts of that area, they would likely prefer to adopt the same arrangement that applies to the Arab population of eastern Jerusalem, namely, to become Israeli residents enjoying full rights of social security, freedom of movement inside Israel, and all the other advantages Israel has to offer, while at the same time remaining citizens of the Palestinian entity.

Secondly, if a permanent status agreement cannot be reached between Israel and the Palestinians, the existing status quo is far more stable and sustainable than the doomsday prophecy repeated by those who try to warn Israel. In fact, this status quo solves ongoing day-to-day tensions between the two parties.

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