If I were Prime Minister of Israel, which of course I’m not, this is what I would write to Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority.
Dear President Abbas:
Next week, we will hold Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for our Dead, of all these wars, and the day after, we will celebrate Yom HaAtzmanut, Independence Day. You call it the Nakba, the Catastrophe. There is no need to hash out all the rights and wrongs. Suffice it to say, we Jewish Palestinians accepted partition, and even partition of Jerusalem. You Muslim Palestinians did not. And then you waited for your Arab brethren to do your fighting for you. Had they won, the Syrians, the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Iraqis and the Lebanese would all have taken their share. We fought for what we considered ours, and thus the modern state of Israel was born.
But we are cousins. After a series of disastrous wars with the Romans, many Jews converted. Perhaps your family was amongst them. A few remained and remained Jewish, while others fled or were dispersed aboard by the Romans, and yet also did not convert.
We are never going to agree about the borders of Israel and Palestine. As a modern great power, most Israelis are not prepared to base their future on Bible stories. Therefore, Israel has decided to resolve the Palestinian issue once and for all, the more so given that we have already handed over Gaza to you and we are out of most of the West Bank settlements.
Accordingly, Israel unilaterally recognizes the West Bank as the Independent State of Palestine, a sovereign nation. No Palestinian, from anywhere in the world, or their descendents, has the right of return to Israel, no more than the hundreds of thousands of Jews fled and expelled from the Arab world, do to Syria, or Iraq, Yemen, Morocco, Ethiopia… The list is long. Or for that matter to Europe. If the Independent State of Palestine wishes to grant those Palestinians and their descendents a right of return, of course it may do so. Nor may you have a single centimeter of Jerusalem. It is the Jewish capital and Palestinians are not Jews any more than Mecca and Medina are sacred to us. But more than the fact that Jerusalem is ours, with all its history of heartbreak and slaughter, madness and horror, you are mad to want the dust of its streets. Build your own capitol. Found it on your hopes and your dreams.
Any Israeli Arab who wishes to leave Israel to live in and help build Palestine, we will pay a fee to, equivalent to the absorption basket we pay to new immigrants, while the Jewish Agency will buy their homes and other property at fair market value. Or they may sell to any Israeli citizen they wish at a mutually agreeable price. By that standard, every Israeli Arab who stays, we will understand as staying because they wish to remain Israeli citizens, rather than merely to enjoy the social services. They will have all the rights, responsibilities and privileges of any Israeli citizen, including national service and military service. Accordingly, those who break faith with their country of Israel will be regarded as traitors, not as a conquered native population with loyalties of their own. In the past, the Israeli security services have had real sympathy for those Palestinians who fought as soldiers—not mere butchers and murders, but irregular soldiers—for their homeland. After today, that will change. As for the relationship between Israel and Palestine, that depends upon you. Hot war, cold peace, cold war, warm peace, you may have whatever you choose.
Because today, you have a country. We give it to you for this simple reason. Everyone should have a home. We needed a home and for it, we took part of our historic homeland. Yours and ours. Your fellow Arabs took the vast majority of what should have been Palestine, then washed their hands of you. Well, we’re tired of living like this. And we’re tired of seeing you live like this. It’s been nothing but a curse for both of us, so we’re ending it.
I don’t know what country you will build. I do not know if you will take in any Palestinian, anywhere in the world, who can prove ethnicity. I do not know if people of good will all over the world will help you. I do not know if your Palestine will be a country people want to visit, even live in. I do not know if you will create an astonishingly rich and vibrant country even while struggling to live.
There are many other things I do not know about what kind of country you will build. I don’t know if you know the answers, just now. We all do know that the history of the Arab world since Israeli Independence in 1948 has been one long, dreadful, boring story of oppression and ignorance, murder and torture, and the existence of Israel was used to justify this behavior, even within families. Well, after today, the Arab world will still be the Arab world. But you will have a country. And it will be the kind of country you want it to be: it can be like Denmark or North Korea or anything in between. Your choice.
The only thing I know about your new country is that all Israelis of any decency wish you well.
Happy Independence Day.
Prime Minister of Israel (not that I am)