There is a saying mistakenly attributed to Churchill: “If you’re not Liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not Conservative when you’re 35, you have no brain.” Israel’s traditional Left—not the defeatist Peace Now bunch, but the tough kibbutzniks ready to fight and kill for their country—was never liberal in the word’s current sense of embracing one’s enemies. When the pioneers’ children became academics and started asking themselves questions beginning with “Why not,” the traditional Left started drifting toward defeatism. “Why not live with Arabs in the Jewish state?” “Why not give Egypt Sinai?” “Why not allow a Palestinian state in Judea?” “Why not partition Jerusalem?” There is no answer to these question; they are a matter of axioms. Do parallel lines cross in infinity? Does the Land of Israel belong to the Jews?
Socialists, like the Israeli pioneers, were never pacifist. Socialist regimes proved more militant and murderous than their conservative opponents. The left-wing Israeli MAPAI party drove 600,000 Arabs out of Israel and staunchly refused to let them back in. International friendship is alien to the socialist system of values: the USSR was at odds with every capitalist-leaning country, and Israel’s leftist governments crushed the Palestinians without reservation.
If the Israeli Left is so right, why is it nevertheless left? The defining trait of leftism is rationalism: castles in the air can be designed and therefore can be built. Educated European Jews detested the backward religious crowd. The Left’s attitude wasn’t about religion. Still in the early 1980s, there was little traffic on Saturdays and nearly no pork consumption in Israel. A well-known feature of the opening hours of the Yom Kippur War was empty streets—the society dominated by the Left still adhered to major Jewish rules. Secular Jews sense the absence of political goals among the religious—from a rejection of Zionism to a lukewarm attitude towards the Third Temple—and sense their plain backwardness. People who insist on dressing in centuries-old fashions and observing myriad superstitious rites are hardly a beacon for the nation. Secular Jews, accordingly, proceeded to design and build an ideal society where wolves lay with sheep and Jews dined with Arabs. One thing more pleasant than peace is designing a peaceful society.
The leftist Jews are perfectly nationalist. “Our state” is a meaningful concept for them. Their utopian state is Jewish, although it includes pet-like Arabs. Jewish left-wingers give Arabs democratic rights so long as the Arabs are too few to influence elections. Here lies the problem. In the mid-1980s, the Arabs became sufficiently numerous to influence Israeli elections. The left-wingers subsequently had three choices: to admit themselves to be hypocrites who did not really mean to give Arabs democratic rights in a Jewish state, to counter the increase of Arab population, or to put their principles where their mouths were and accept a democratic rather than a Jewish state. The leftists embraced the last two options. They brought half a million Slavs untainted by Jewish blood and a still larger number of Jews untainted by the Zionist idea; that relieved the Arab voting pressure temporarily, until Barak won the Labor primaries in 2007 on Arab votes. Many leftist Jews abandoned the concept of a Jewish state and accepted a Middle Eastern democracy in which the Arabs could influence politics and legislation.
The shift wasn’t painful. If the Jews have no religious goal of governing the Land of Israel, it makes sense to divide jurisdiction with the Arabs. If the Jews evaluate their claim to the Land of Israel skeptically, then the Arab claim to the same territory should be entertained. It is only reasonable to split a thing you don’t want desperately with another contender. If you don’t want it desperately enough to kill the contender…
The leftists evaluated the situation: okay, we would love to have a large Jewish state, but the land is already settled. Okay, we would love to live specifically in this land, but the landmarks of the biblical saga are not of paramount importance to us. Okay, we would love to live in a state without Arabs, but they are already here. The leftist Jews draw superficially reasonable conclusions: split the contested land, abandon the hot places of antiquated religious importance, and accept Arabs in Israel. None of that works. Jews accept the idea of splitting the land, but many Arabs don’t; they want their Palestinian homeland (or Muslim land) back in its entirety. They will fight Israel no matter what concessions we make. Whatever concessions Israel offers them won’t be enough; Arabs will reciprocate forced Israeli goodwill with force, not goodwill. The more land Israel gives away, the more she emboldens the Arabs. The smaller is Israel’s land plot, the more effort Arabs will invest in that last push to free their land. The good-willing leftists ignore an odd fact: goodwill doesn’t lead to peace. Ask the suffering Laotian people.
Nor could the secular Jews give the Arabs all the holy places. After giving the Muslims Hebron and the Temple Mount, Israelis discovered what should have been clear all along: the list of holy places is flexible. Arabs defend every illegally constructed mosque (of which there are hundreds in Israel, including such huge ones as the one in Lod) as if it were Haram ash-Sharif. Every point of confrontation with Jews, however trivial, turns into a religious dispute. Secular, careless Jews give way; principled Arabs don’t.
Arabs make good co-workers, and mostly decent employees. The Jewish state offered them income opportunities that Arafat threatened to destroy. But what happens when Arab armies push into Israel and their income disappears? The Arabs don’t love the Jews and possess no loyalty to a Jewish state, and once the incentives for loyalty are gone, they will stab the Jews. To live with people who hold such attitudes is uncomfortable, but left-wingers comfort themselves with the idea that Arabs are loyal to a strong Israel. Forget for a moment that scores of Israeli Arabs abet Palestinian terrorists and the crowds in the Arab villages in Galilee cheered when Hezbollah’s rockets flew at Haifa. Arabs understand the Jews want their loyalty and are ready to pay for it. Arabs keep raising the price tag for their loyalty. They demand that the Jews turn a blind eye to illegal construction, criminal syndicates, non-payment for water and electricity, and a black market economy. Through affirmative action, especially in the courts, Israeli Arabs evolved from pets into the masters of Jews.
The leftist Jews want a state without Arabs, but lacking religious justification or strong nationalism they are reluctant to make the Arabs suffer. The leftists hope that the Arabs will somehow leave Israel voluntarily. The leftists, however, shied away from Rehavam Ze’evi, who argued for the most voluntary transfer: paying the Arabs to leave. The Left would love for the Arabs to leave, but talking about transfer is racist, right-wing, and indecent. The Jews became blind—ethnic-blind. In their enlightened fantasies, leftist Jews imagine a state formed without violence done to the aborigines, a Jewish state which doesn’t displace the Arabs, a state where indigenous Arabs accept Jewish refugees as the dominant group.
Arabs constitute 34 percent of the Israeli population in the youngest age group. Israeli advocates ingeniously explain how a democratic ethnic-blind state can call itself Jewish, but the Arabs don’t buy such explanations. They demand the abrogation of the formal attributes of inequality: the Jewish state, the reference to the “Jewish soul” in the national anthem, and the Jewish star on the national flag. They demand ministerial portfolios, eventually to include a place in the security cabinet which discusses fighting their Arab brethren.
Lincoln remarked, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Smart leftist Jews cannot fool all the Arabs all the time. The Jewish state is not ethnic-blind. The Jew-only General Staff is not the product of a democracy. The fairy tale of a Jewish state with herds of happy and submissive Arabs won’t work out. Meanwhile, the Jews believe their own lies about happy co-existence in a bi-national state, and they tolerate the Arabs.
The Arabs loved Greek culture and knew about democracy. When they wanted a Muslim state, however, they made Jews dhimmi rather than democratic partners. Rambam noted that what is triune cannot be one; when Jews are distinct and Arabs are distinct, there is no Israeli nation.
A Jewish state cannot afford Arab residents.