It happened while I was driving in downtown Haifa. They were standing in a busy intersection, all six of them, flashing signs—“For Israel…. Against Occupation.” I wanted to stop and ask them if they understood the contradiction, since Palestinian Arabs refer to Israel-proper as “The Occupation.” Unfortunately, the heavy traffic behind my car made me move on, and the clueless leftists were spared of my attempt to educate them. It would not have mattered anyway, I told myself. These simple-minded folks believe in their mission as if it were their God-given religion.
That evening I was lucky to enjoy supper in the company of a couple of my old Israeli friends. As the conversation evolved we (unintentionally) touched on the subject of my earlier sign-spotting experience. My host agreed with the protesters, “We must separate from the Palestinians,” he claimed. “We should stop the occupation.”
I smiled. I wanted to agree with my friend. I dreaded the notion that the Arabs should become a majority inside the Jewish state. Separation is a noble ideal. Problem is, it’s an ideal; it cannot be presently implemented, not while maintaining state security at the same time. But then, I pressed my friend, asked him to spell out details of his views. “Should Israel reestablish itself to the west of the cease-fire lines of the pre-1967 border (a.k.a. the Green Line)? Should Israel evacuate the Jerusalem neighborhoods, or the large Jewish towns built on grounds absorbed following the six-day-war in 1967? Or should Israel trust the Arabs not to smuggle heavy weapons from the state of Jordan into the West Bank Palestinian towns, then withdraw it’s military from the Jordan valley, transfer control over the border-crossing to the Palestinians.
To my amazement, my friend’s answer to all of the above was a hesitant “No.” He realized that evacuating large neighborhoods in Jerusalem, or large towns immediately across the Green Line was impractical. He realized that recent history in connection with the evacuation of the Gaza/Egypt border allowed Hamas to smuggle heavy arms into Gaza, only to follow by consistent rocket attacks on Israeli towns, and then war—a lesson, a warning for what would happen when the Israeli military ceases control of the Jordan valley. He realized that Israeli Arabs resist joining a Palestinian state controlled by a Palestinian Authority (PA) located in the West Bank, even though their towns are adjacent to the potential border of that potential state. Israeli Arabs prefer their Israeli citizenship, some even buy land outside of what they fear will become a future Palestinian state—a detail affecting the promise of significant territorial exchange between Israel and a future Palestinian state, making it much less practical.
“So what’s the answer?” I kept asking. “How can we stop the occupation?”
“We should keep everything you mentioned,” he answered. “We should leave the rest for the Palestinians.”
My friend did not respond to my comeback. “But this is unacceptable to the PA,” I said. “They will not sign any peace agreement under these conditions. They are not willing to compromise on any inch of land. And that includes “occupied” territory such as major Israeli cities like Tel Aviv, Haifa, Natania, including your home.”
We were interrupted at that point by the wives who realized that the temperature in the room was approaching a boiling point. They changed the subject. Coffee and cake took center stage.
We remained friends.