Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Hong Kong of the Middle East

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Hong Kong of the Middle East

Article excerpt

Two substantial problems dictate our behavior. One (which is built in) is the definition of the state as "Jewish and democratic," and it contains an underlying logical contradiction; the second (which is acquired) is the ongoing occupation of the territories. With the conclusion of the Six-Day War in June 1967, senior officials in Israeli intelligence recommended to the prime minister that he establish an independent Palestinian state in the territories of the West Bank as quickly as possible. For the next 38 years, this recommendation was not accepted by the political echelon. Over time, the occupation became a part of us, and of our view of life in the Middle East.

The Israeli worldview ranges between two extreme schools of thought: an apartheid regime in the occupied territories, on the one hand, and the desire of some Israelis for an Israel as "a state of all its citizens," on the other. The policy of apartheid has also infiltrated sovereign Israel, and discriminates daily against Israeli Arabs and other minorities. The struggle against such a fascist viewpoint is the job of every humanist. However, in the long run, neither the policy of apartheid nor the "state of all its citizens" will be possible in a future Israeli society: The first eliminates the democratic component in the definition of the state, the second eliminates the Jewish component.

The solution to this dilemma lies in the end of the occupation. But that is not sufficient. The solution lies not only in the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, but also in Israel's genuinely becoming a part of the cultural and conceptual milieu of the Middle East, and in the Jewish people's gradually freeing themselves from several components of the ethos that has been with us since the establishment of the state-the victimhood, the sense of persecution and the fear of extermination.

For decades, Israel has been enjoying the status of a military superpower in the Middle East. This fact, combined with the strategic treaty with the United States, should finally convince Israelis that there is no existential danger in store for them and for the state. Only then will Israel be able to take it upon itself to be an inseparable part of the region where it is located, including open borders with its Arab neighbors.

The fulfillment of this vision depends on Israel-on the integrity and the courage of its leaders, on the atmosphere in Israeli society; but it depends just as much on the Arab world. In light of that, we have to regret the fact that, with the exception of President Moshe Katsav, none of Israel's leaders took seriously the Arab world's proposal for an overall peace, the Saudi Initiative. …

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