What Israel can learn from American History
First lesson: Not everyone who wants a State, or declares a State, will end up with a State. For proof, see Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and the Confederacy. They tried to form a State that would defend slavery. To which President Lincoln responded, there is one country and it cannot exist half slave and half free. Lincoln, and the North fought long and hard at an incredibly heavy cost so that freedom would prevail.
The lesson for Israel is simple. This is one country, and cannot survive divided, especially not half consisting of those who believe that Allah has commanded them to kill Jews.
Lincoln maintained that North and South are all Americans. There can only be one America. Israel must proclaim that Muslim, Christian and Jew, we are ALL Israelis. There can never be a State of “Palestine”. Not within the current borders of Israel.
Lesson Two: However long ago your ancestors lived here is irrelevant. Again look at the United States. There are 50 States, not one of them belong to the people who have been in the United States the longest, the Native Americans, the Indians. They have a choice. They can either adjust and accept the majority culture, or they can maintain limited autonomy on reservations. The Indians did not like this, but eventually they got tired of fighting and losing.
The Arabs will continue to fight as long as they think they can win, whether through acts of terror and murder or through actions of others such as the European Union and the UN. Israel must convince the Arabs and the rest of the world that Israel, like King Solomon’s proverbial baby is too valuable to be divided. The proof? The Arabs themselves refuse to accept a division. Before 1948, it was the Arabs that refused partition, and invaded Israel from all sides. From 1948 to 1967 they could have declared a State of Palestine on the West Bank at any time. They did not. The PLO was formed in 1964, before the 6 day war, before the Settlements were founded, at a time when NO Jew was allowed in the Old City or the Temple Mount. Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked Israel. They lost. Now the Arabs want the territory back? Why? By what right?
To this day, the Arab negotiating position is all Jews must be evicted from the “State of Palestine” but any child or grandchild, or great grandchild (it has been 65 years) of an Arab refugee must be allowed to resettle in the State of ISRAEL. That is what they call the RIGHT OF RETURN.
Lesson Three: Demography is not destiny, and Democracy is more than the right to vote. Lincoln maintained that Secession was a legal nullity, and therefore, logic would have required the States to have been immediately restored to their prior status, and all the residents of the Confederacy be returned to their status as citizens and be given the right to vote. But practicality overcame logic. No one voted who did not take a formal oath of loyalty. Certain officials did not get their citizenship restored without special proceedings. And even local government was not restored until there was a large enough core of ctizens who took the oath.
Israel must act in a similiar fashion. Citizenship will be reserved to those who take an oath of loyalty to the State of Israel. Those who refuse to take that oath will be free to leave, or to stay as noncitizens. But all who stay must live within the law or face eviction. No throwing rocks, not at cars, not at soldiers, not at the police. Freedom of speech, but not freedom to riot. Freedom of religion, but no using religion as a shield to preach religious hatred and religious warfare. There are 22 Arab States. Israel is the only Jewish State. Those who cannot accept that are free to go elsewhere.
Finally, a fourth and final lesson. The Supreme Court, by its nature, is the least democratic of institutions. In the USA, the members of the Court are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate, giving some input to the people. In Israel, the court is self perpetuating. What the Supreme Court of Israel must realize is two decisions of the United States Supreme Court caused over 100 years of disaster. The Dred Scott decision led directly to the Civil War, and Plessy V Fergusson established Separate but Equal as the Law of the land for 75 years.
Torah Law claims to come from God, but in this day and age, very few accept it blindly. People are free to eat on Yom Kippur, to eat bread on Passover, and no one will question their right to do so. But the Supreme Court feels that its decisions cannot be questioned, not by the Knesset, not by the Army, not by the ordinary citizens. By what right? Do they, like the Prophets of Old speak in the name of God?
In the United States, the Supreme Court is the least powerful of the three branches, and therefore has retained its prestige. In Israel. the Supreme Court is constantly making law, without a Constitution to base it on, and in opposition to the Democratically elected government. If this is allowed to continue, it will cause the death of Democracy in Israel.
David Willig lives in Tzfat. He recently retired from a career in the States as a Rabbi and an attorney
Phone # 050-217-6400