Palestine and Israel are easy to imagine. A few settlers go over here, a few NATO or UN troops go over there, some land boundaries get moved and Jerusalem gets divided and shared. Why make this so complicated? The basic outline for a negotiated settlement has been known since the halcyon days of Arafat’s Nobel Peace Prize and pre Intifada 1, Intifada 2, Lebanon battles, and Gaza skirmishes/lull/terrorist attacks/war/terrorist attacks/lull.
Don’t confuse us with details.
So what if Netanyahu’s coalition partners don’t agree on what’s so easy for us clear thinkers to imagine? All families have their fights. Yet there is one family member that really doesn’t seem to like us all that much. There is one family member that seems the most dysfunctionally inclined, the most in need of serious rehab work, the most prone to throw a talit into the rich milieu of distrust.
Dealing with them first would clearly help us in reaching a deal with the Palestinians. So here is a modest proposal: Let’s give the ultra-Orthodox contingent their own state too. We wouldn’t be splitting up Jews from other Jews because many of us and/or our relatives don’t qualify as Jews by their definitions anyway.
And if we can divide up a country roughly the size of New Jersey into two why not three? It’s a natural: The ultra-orthodox already share so many customs, beliefs, clothing preferences and children production practices that forcing them to be part of the largely secular Israeli culture is just unfair.
So give the ultra-Orthodox their own right of return to whatever area of Israel this side of the Green Line that will financially support their new state while they conduct their perpetual state supported religious studies. They can also continue to be like modern Amish on the Sabbath. (Of course visitors to Israel may miss the secularly rich practice of eating cold food and stopping on every elevator floor.) And best of all, considering Israel’s security concerns, giving the ultra-Orthodox their own state would present far fewer security threats than Israel has to work through with the Palestinians: They’ll be too busy studying to throw stones at Sabbath violators and too busy trying to figure out how to grow their GDP above 0 to bother their new Palestinian neighboring state.
Yes, some may consider my proposal a little (or a lot) insulting. Yes, the ultra-Orthodox do represent a legitimate part of Judaism and Israel and the Faustian (religious) bargains Israel’s founders made in the early days of Israel’s existence are likely what got us to this point of secular/religious tension and contradiction. But, and it is a huge but, the bargains of yesterday do not and should not define Israel’s path today.
Israel is, in many ways, at her most critical point since her founding. It is now clearly in Israel’s interest to act to overcome the known internal obstacles within Netanyahu’s coalition that interfere with the peace process. While the religious parties are certainly not the only obstacle, they are an important one to remove as they make it much more difficult to reach an Arab-League approved agreement with the West Bank Palestinians — an agreement that many Israeli leaders feel will put pressure on Hamas to also reach an agreement as conditions improve on the West Bank.
So if the new and improved direct talk process takes a three state solution, why not? Anything that can help Israel regain the strong Diaspora Jewish and American support that existed before all of the wars, skirmishes and terrorist attacks, and before all of the “natural growth” settlements and before all of the separate AND unequal conditions Palestinians suffer under, should be encouraged.