Now we know

The pleasant-sounding maxim, “Two states for two peoples,” is the defining principle of the “two-state solution” to the Israel/Arab conflict. The two peoples, of course, are supposed to be the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs.

Among those who are critical of the policies being implemented by the current government, most claim to believe in the “two-state solution.” These people criticize Israel’s current policies because, they say, it makes it less possible to reach a solution that is animated by the principle that Jews should live in one country and Arabs in another.

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The attack on the recently enacted Nation-State Law makes it absolutely clear that none of the critics really believe any of this. How?  Because Israel’s Nation-State Law defines Israel as exactly what Israel is supposed to be under the two-state solution. 

If there is supposed to be a Jewish state and an Arab state, then everyone should applaud the enactment of a law that affirms the Jewish character of the Jewish half of that equation as progress toward that goal – especially because Gaza is already separate from Israel and officially Muslim, as are the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. 

And yet the law is reviled by Israel’s many critics, precisely because they claim the law makes Israel officially Jewish rather than a completely ecumenical, secular state. A typical attack in England’s The Week titled “Israel’s Nation-State Law: What it is and why critics are outraged” complained that the law represents “the legal enshrinement of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than a multi-ethnic, multi-faith one.” These attacks show that, in the eyes of Israel’s critics, one of the two states in the two state solution – the Jewish one – is inadmissible under any circumstances. 

Opposition to the Nation-State Law thus rests on the principle that Israel should not be a Jewish state. Rather, critics say, it should officially be a secular state, as secular as the United States – a “multi-ethnic, multi-faith” state. In the eyes of its critics, any deviation by Israel from official, de jure, compete, secularism is a violation of the religious rights of every minority in Israel – and strangely, in the eyes of some, even a violation of the rights of the Jews in the majority.

Yet now that Israel has passed the Nation-State law, we do in fact have two states. Israel long ago already officially offered, numerous times, to create an officially Muslim (and, at the Palestinians’ request, a Judenrein) state.

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Apart from those rejected offers, Israel unilaterally left Gaza in 2005, and it has handed over Areas A and B in Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. By these acts, long before enactment of the Nation-State Law, Israel had already created the Arab state in the two-state solution (if not two such states). None of that matters to critics of the Nation-State Law. 

Why?

The answer doesn’t matter, because as is made clear by the substance of the objections made to the Nation-State Law, the lack of a two-state solution is not really what bothers Israel’s critics. They do not want two states for two peoples living side-by-side in peace – at least not if one of those peoples is the Jewish people, living in its own state.  We know that because Israel’s critics have now said so, in plain English. 

Now we know.

The writer is a lawyer in private practice and a fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.

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