On November 29, 1947, The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 on the partition of the Land of Israel into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The proposal was accepted by 33 countries, rejected by 13 countries, and 10 countries abstained. The Jewish Agency, the actual government of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel, welcomed the plan. The Arab leadership in Palestine rejected the offered plan (except for the communist movement). This resolution expressed the idea of partition, and this has remained the essence of the conflict ever since.
Today, the Palestinians are divided into three separate entities with different interests: the Palestinian residents of the State of Israel represented by the Follow-up Committee, the heads of the Arab councils, and Arab Knesset members; The Arabs of Judea and Samaria represented by the Palestinian Authority; and the residents of the Gaza Strip represented by Hamas. The leaderships of these three entities share an unwillingness to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state. The difference between them is their attitude towards the recognition and character of the State of Israel. The leadership of the Palestinian citizens of the State of Israel is willing to recognize the State of Israel as a state of all its citizens, but not as a Jewish state, and conducts an all-out (non-violent) war against it being a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority recognizes the State of Israel but not as a Jewish state, while Hamas does not recognize the State of Israel at all, and has declared a violent struggle against it.
Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence is a constructive document that deals with two fundamental ideas: first, the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish nation (rather than the Jewish religion) and the State of Israel as a democracy (although the word democracy is not mentioned). In essence, the declaration expressed the goals of Zionism: a Jewish state that has an unbreakable affinity with all the streams of the Jewish people, with Jewish history and culture, and with Jewish religion and thought. Those were the goals of Zionism.
The second idea is that the State of Israel is a democratic state that upholds human rights and freedoms. In order to clarify, a non-Jewish citizen of the State of Israel has rights equal to those of a Jewish citizen, and he may therefore participate in electing anyone and be elected to any public position. In contrast, the nationality of the non-Jewish citizen has no status in the State of Israel. These two ideas of a Jewish state and a democratic state are the basic assumptions of our discussion. Additionally, let us assume that the Arabs of the Land of Israel (from the three entities) do not accept the idea of dividing the Land of Israel into a Jewish state and an Arab state, and therefore their struggle against the State of Israel as a Jewish state will not cease until this situation is changed.
Let us first discuss two questions regarding two extreme solutions. The first is a two-part question: Will Israel return to the 1967 borders, and if so, would the conflict end? The answer to both is probably negative. All we have to do is to look at what is happening on the border of the Gaza Strip in order to understand that in a scenario of returning to the 1967 borders, the entire State of Israel would be like the “Gaza envelope area.” Defense experts disagree on whether the State of Israel can be protected within the 1967 borders. Some of them argue that with such borders there would be no way to defend Israel, and others assert that an agreement with the Palestinians would lead to good neighborly relations and consequently, to a peaceful border. Unfortunately, the reality in the south, along the border with the Gaza Strip, is totally different from the latter vision.
In addition to the difficulty of protecting the Green Line (the 1967 borders), there is a reasonable concern that hostile forces would enter Judea and Samaria. The contention that we would control the entry into Judea and Samaria is unlikely (see the case of the Gaza Strip). A good example of such a scenario is the Syrian border, where we witness a rather lengthy process of convergence of hostile forces, declaring that they will not hesitate to bomb civilian targets and cities (Hezbollah), or that their intention is to destroy the State of Israel (Iran).
The second question is: What would happen if we annex Judea and Samaria to the State of Israel? It seems that the world’s response would be difficult and a third bloody Intifada would be likely to erupt. Let us assume, however, that we overcome these two obstacles. The State of Israel after the annexation of the territories of Judea and Samaria would not be able to fulfill at least one of the two basic assumptions we have laid down: with no Jewish majority, it would not be able to remain both Jewish and democratic.
The lack of a reasonable solution to these two questions leads to the trap of retaining the territories. Holding of the territories is perceived by some within the Israeli public as a return to the homeland, and to others – as an occupation. The refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the idea of partition and the right of the Jews to a Jewish state could lead to one of the above extreme solutions.
After examining the two extremes, let us ask a third question: What do moderate Palestinians want? The moderates of the Palestinian Authority and the leadership of the Palestinian citizens of the State of Israel would say that they want a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria for the Palestinian people without its Jewish settlements, and that the State of Israel must be a state of all its citizens. As part of the solution to the conflict, the moderate Palestinians claim that Israel must absorb the descendants of the Palestinian refugees. This perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the eyes of the moderate Palestinians, would lead to a situation in which the proportion of Arabs in the State of Israel would grow to thirty or forty percent or even more. The problem is that in such a case, in addition to the fact that Israel would cease to be the Jewish nation state, there would be a danger of domestic instability.
As mentioned earlier, the identity of the State of Israel is based on two elements: a Jewish state and a democratic one. Without the Jewish element, the democratic one is also bound to disappear, and without the democratic element civil war would take place. These two elements must be legally anchored by a law concerning the Jewish nation and a law concerning democracy.
The opposition of the Israeli Arabs to the law of nationality on the pretext of its being discriminatory proved the main argument in this article: They are unwilling to accept the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Let us examine this argument by a fourth question: Is it possible that the Israeli Arabs would support the law of a Jewish nation in which the existence of full civil equality for the Israeli Arabs is emphasized? The answer to this question is negative, since their opposition to the Jewish national law stems from their refusal to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state.
The conclusions of this analysis are that the main obstacle to resolving the conflict in the Middle East is the Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish people as a nation and their own right to live in the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. This perception is not only declarative, as many Israeli politicians try to explain; rather, it is deeply rooted in the consciousness of the Palestinians. Unless there is a change in the Palestinian position, the cause of the conflict will not disappear and the conflict will not be resolved. Only with the recognition on both sides of two nation-states will all other problems be resolved.