Toronto - In my last piece on the eve of Israeli elections, I wrote about the dangers of religious extremism in the Middle East and its threat to democracy. Well, Israeli voters have spoken! They gave Benjamin Netanyahu a resounding third consecutive term.
Toronto – In my last piece on the eve of Israeli elections, I wrote about the dangers of religious extremism in the Middle East and its threat to democracy. Well, Israeli voters have spoken! They gave Benjamin Netanyahu a resounding third consecutive term.
Isaac Herzog, the head of the center-left Labor party, conceded defeat and vowed to continue his work from the opposition. The Joint-List, led by Arab-Israeli Aymen Odeh, came in at a respectable third place. In other words, at the top, nothing has changed. It is business as usual.
What does this mean for the future of the peace process? The short answer is that the peace process has come out as the biggest loser in the elections. To be sure, the two-state solution, in which the state of Israel and a future Palestinian state would co-exist side by side, will be relegated to the back burner, at least in the foreseeable future. In an eleventh-hour attempt to rally his troops, Netanyahu declared: “If I am elected, there will be no Palestinian state”. The scaremongering tactics “Bibi” so effectively used seemed to have worked.
The international community, embodied by the UN, has worked towards the two-state solution. Europe has lent its support as well. Even Israel’s most loyal ally, the US, sees the two-state solution as the most sensible solution.
In choosing the unsustainable status quo, Israeli voters have ironically thrown some doubts on the democratic future of their state. In the not too distant in the future, Arabs living inside Israel proper, along with the Palestinians in the West Bank, aided by a strong birth rate, will outnumber the Jewish population of Israel. And that’s not to mention the Palestinians of Gaza.
The only alternative to a two-state solution is a single state of greater Israel, where both Jews and Arabs can live, albeit in discomfort. Netanyahu persists in preserving the Jewishness of Israel, but Arabs are bound to win in demographics. Someday, one-state Israel could potentially have its Arab citizens form the majority the electorate. As the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman aptly puts it: “the one-state solution means that Israel will become, in time, either a non-Jewish democracy or Jewish non-democracy.”
In weighing these two options, I have no doubt that if Netanyahu is forced to choose he would opt for a Jewish non-democracy as opposed to a non-Jewish democracy. This way, he would not find himself at odds with his far-right religious constituency. After all, such a scenario fits within select religious scripts.
Case in point is chapter 33:53 of the Torah when God once apparently spoke to the Prophet Moses (PBUH) to advise the children of Israel on what to do with the land of Kenaan (Palestine): “you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it…but if you will not drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, that those which you let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your side.”
These words are ominous and stark. But in all fairness, some verses in the Quran can also be militant. But above all, God is good! God’s message should be interpreted as intended as a message of Peace instead of a tool of domination and real estate expansion.
In fact, Israel own declaration of independence highlighted peace and cooperation in the region:
“We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”
As I indicated in my last article, a strict interpretation of religious scriptures is inherently incompatible with the concept of democracy. At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, Israel has to live up to its founding promise: namely, to maintain its democratic values for future generations by giving its Jews and Arabs the chance to grow and prosper in two neighborly and democratic states.
This will allow Israel and Palestine to avoid the surrounding Arab regimes’ mistake to forgo the arduous work of democratic exercise in favor of the easy reflexes of tribalism, paranoia, and greed. Religion in the region, albeit noble in essence, is constantly being used as a dangerous public policy prescription, namely to oppress the democratic aspirations of the people. Their pen-for-hire apologists could not admit, much less argue, that the Quran emphasizes the importance of tolerating dissent as part of a participatory governance through Shura (popular consultation).
In fact, God commanded his prophet Mohamed (PBUH) to forgive his opponents, and most importantly to consider their views in government as in Surah 3 verse 159 “…You were lenient with them. And if you had been rude and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter.”
Back to present-day politics…religious scriptures do not seem to resolve today’s Middle East quagmire, for they are exclusive of other faiths. Only a democratic rebirth by Israel and Palestine in two states will be able to bring about peace to the region.
A single state of greater Israel may not be so great for the future of democracy in a Jewish state. It would be ironic if the Palestinians could shift the power relations to their favor within Israel through the ballot box, thanks to their sheer numbers; a feat which they could not achieve after decades of armed resistance, and a series of Intifadas.
Why risk it? Live and let live!
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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