Jeffrey Goldberg’s Big Idea

The brilliance of Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent Bloomberg News column on Palestinian statehood is only matched by the idiocy of most of the hundreds of comments that follow it.  One day a PhD student in Jewish studies will write her thesis on what Internet commenting reveals about the state of the modern Jewish psyche.  In the meantime, here’s my hypothesis:  We need help.

Goldberg makes the argument that the surest path to Palestinian statehood is for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to demand full citizenship, including voting rights in Israeli elections.  If Israel accedes, it soon becomes another Arab state (the 23rd, he notes).  If it resists, it ends up as apartheid South Africa.  The rest of the world and American Jews—whose support for Israel, I've long believed, is absolutely contingent on it remaining a democracy—would all but abandon a so-called democratic country that denies basic rights to its citizens.

Goldberg is not saying this is a good thing, or that a Palestinian state would live in peace and harmony with Israel, or any of the other things the commentrons attributed to him.  Trust me, the guy gets it. 

His point is that Israel has to choose between controlling the Palestinians and remaining a Jewish state.   In 1967 Ben Gurion and Levi Eshkol foresaw the same dilemma.  Read your Oren.  Read your Goremberg.  Read your Goldberg.  The Israeli Left re-pointed out the obvious, then the Center, then, when Sharon detached Israel from inside Gaza and Olmert sought a deal with Abbas, the Right.  Netanyahu gets it too, but he hasn’t been able to find a way out that he believes secures Israel and/or his coalition.

All Goldberg is saying is if the Palestinians have time and bodies on their side: Israel doesn’t really want a couple million new Palestinian citizens, and it can’t force them onto Jordan or into Jordan (note to some commentrons: forced population transfers look very bad on CNN).  So the Palestinians could just call Israel’s bluff: If you don’t want to grant us statehood, make us Israelis.

Brilliant column.

Why won’t the Palestinians take Goldberg’s advice?  Because they and their Arab so-called allies prefer scoring points against Israel. 

What would Israel do with a unilateral declaration of Palestinian Zionism?  Shed territory, unilaterally, and fast.   Israel would cut off hunks of the West Bank like bad meat.  It would shut down settlements like they were Circuit Citys.  It wouldn't be pretty– the Palestinians would get the least Israel could possibly give– but it would be done.

Or maybe Israel would then negotiate—though I doubt the Palestinians, with world opinion at their back, would be as amenable to compromise.

Who knows what would happen?  But the simple act of demanding citizenship would create a firestorm.  Asking for an upgrade in UN status?  Here today, yawn tomorrow.

When Rob Eshman isn't leaping to the defense of Jeffrey Goldberg, he is tweeting @foodaism.  Follow him there.  Recipes included.