Land for Peace?

For twenty years now, we have seen the two sides of the controversy over “land for peace” talking past each other.

The “peace camp,” as its proponents like to style themselves, has argued that Israel is doomed to be either a bi-national state, which may not always have a Jewish majority, or an “apartheid state,” with democracy only for the Jews and second-class citizen rights, at best, for the Arabs; that, in order to be both Jewish and democratic, it is necessary for Israel to divest itself of the main Arab population by giving the Arabs a state of their own, living side by side at peace with Israel.

The other side, which does not really have a name, but let’s call it the “nationalist camp,” argues that this is a pipe dream. Is it so clear, after all, that there would be peace if Israel were to accede to the Arabs’ demands, go back to the 1949 Armistice Lines, with agreed cosmetic changes, if any can be agreed on, including the abandonment of the Temple Mount, eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights? They argue that the Arabs have amply proven, over the twenty years of the Oslo process, that they do not intend to give Israel a moment’s peace and that any concession Israel makes they will use to improve their ability to kill us. Acceding to the creation of a Palestinian state would only weaken Israel strategically to the point of rendering it indefensible and thus encourage the Arabs in their determination to destroy us.

What if both sides are right, as far as they go? What if acceding to the creation of a State of Palestine in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, with its capital in Holy Jerusalem, really would be simply baring Israel’s throat to the Arab knife, and refusing to do so really would mean becoming an apartheid state?

What if, in short, the choice is not between “Peace and Apartheid,” as Jimmy Carter characterizes it, but rather, the choice is really between apartheid and annihilation? The alternatives are few and unattractive.

The “peace camp” has avoided facing the issue by assuming that Israel can have peace with the Arabs if only she would end the “occupation.” This side must explain why its proponents believe that, when everything Israel has conceded has been used to kill Israelis and delegitimate Israel.

The “nationalist camp” has avoided facing the issue by debunking the demographic threat, pointing out that Arab birthrates have fallen and Jewish birthrates have risen, and therefore, a Jewish majority of two thirds is assured. They need to justify the assumption that what has happened will continue to happen. How can they be sure that Arab birthrates will not rise if Arabs see that they can destroy Israel “democratically” by becoming a majority?

The time for assuming the problem away is past. The two sides must at last address the whole issue, not just their preferred half. They have to answer each other. If the “peace camp” cannot, then its proponents will have to explain how Israel can defend itself if the goal of a two state solution is realized and the opponents turn out to be right, as they have been for the last twenty years. And if the nationalist camp” cannot answer the objection of the “peace camp,” then it will have to explain how Israel can be Jewish and democratic when a third of its citizens oppose its existence.

If both fail to present a convincing case, then they (we) have to choose between apartheid or annihilation, or the transfer of either the Arabs or the Jews out of the country.


Prof. J.P. Golbert , formerly a practicing lawyer in New York and California and a law professor in Los Angeles, has practiced law in Jerusalem since 1986.

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