Israel’s relentless drive to establish “facts on the ground” in the occupied West Bank, a drive that continues in violation of even the limited settlement freeze to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed himself, seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that “achievement,” one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world. [continued…]
The last decade has seen all the right’s leaders — from Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert to, finally, Netanyahu — accept the left’s idea of a Palestinian state. They did so not because they suddenly abandoned the desire to hold on to the entirety of the Greater Land of Israel, nor because they realized how unjust the occupation is. The only reason leaders from the right are today willing to consider withdrawal from Hebron and even from East Jerusalem is that one argument made by the Zionist left did strike a chord with them: that a Palestinian state is the only way to keep a clear Jewish majority in Israel.
By raising the flag of “the demographic battle,” the Jewish left was able to win the debate over the West Bank and Gaza. But it did so in a way that betrayed the same values the left has always claimed to represent — humanism, equal rights and brotherhood. That’s also where the left’s political fate was sealed. When the left abandoned the hope for true partnership with the Palestinians — on both sides of the Green Line — and became almost solely defined by its focus on demography and ethnic separation, it opened the door for Lieberman and his vision of an exclusionary Jewish state.
In fact, all Lieberman did was to propose taking the left’s platform one step further: If we are to separate from the Palestinians in the name of demography, why not redraw the borders so that Israel’s Arab citizens are placed in the Palestinian state as well? Livni and Netanyahu haven’t gone this far yet, but basically they offer the public the same deal: In return for the withdrawal from the West Bank, they pledge to preserve a clear Jewish majority within the state’s borders, the implicit message being that this is an opportunity to make Israel more Jewish.
This conception naturally comes at the expense of the state’s non-Jewish minorities; it makes it clear that Israel is not their country. This has helped set the stage for the current surge of anti-Arab legislation and government measures — from the effort to ban commemorations of the Palestinian Nakba to the order to replace Arab place names on road signs. (In this xenophobic political atmosphere, it is not surprising that even providing refuge to the survivors of the genocide in Darfur became a controversial issue.)
To all this, the left could have responded by opening its ranks to Arabs and creating new coalitions with the non-Zionist parties and grassroots organizations such as those that marched in Tel Aviv. No other political coalition has the power to preserve Israel as a home not just for Jews, but for all the people living in the country. Instead, the left’s leaders and thinkers chose to engage in a contest of ethnic patriotism with the right — one that they have no hope of winning. [continued…]