We must advance our own interests

Israel faces a choice—and the path she decides to take will shape the future of every one of her citizens. It’s clear where this government wants to take us. Dominated by ministers who are only becoming louder and more militant in their convictions, they have decided to drag us down a road that endangers Israel’s character as the national home of the Jewish people and as a democracy. That is the road towards annexation of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria and its millions of Palestinian citizens, which would effectively establish a binational state. Such a future would mean one of two things: either those Palestinians would be given full citizenship rights, which would spark an unending struggle over the symbols, resources and power of that single state; or those Palestinians would not be given political and civil rights, in which case Israel would be plagued by unending internal unrest and crippled by international isolation.

But contrary to the statements being made by certain government officials, there is another way: separation into two states, and the maintenance of our security and core national interests.

Since his Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, the Prime Minister has offered no coherent policy for addressing Israel’s most pressing issue. His silence has left room for extremists like Smotrich, Bennet, and Hotovely to drag the country towards annexation, an agenda supported only by a small but determined minority of Israelis. They are leading us all to a point of no return, feeding off of our collective apathy and the lack of any political leadership. We, the majority, are not in control of our fate.

Extremist elements within our government are threatening all that we have achieved. As a nation, we have paid a heavy price to reach this point. So many have sacrificed so much; we cannot allow those who have fought and died for the Zionist dream to have done so in vain. We cannot allow the extremists to win.

When we, the majority, don’t make decisions, we allow others to decide for us. If we don’t act, we allow the extremists to continue to construct their vision. A government will only listen to its people if they make their voices heard. If the majority does not speak up, then our government will only hear the views of extremists, and the fiction that their views are shared by us all will go unchallenged, allowing legislation consistent with this terrible vision to become law. We must act now, while we still have the chance to determine the course of our country’s future.

The Darkenu movement calls for separation into two states within the diplomatic framework of a two-state solution. This is the only way to save the character of the state of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and a democracy for all of its citizens. It is the only way to preserve our security, and our right and ability to defend Israel. Together, we can place Israel back on track. Together, we can transform Israel into a country that seizes the initiative, that is strong, that knows how to set goals and transform dreams into reality.

Why precisely now?

The Middle East has changed. The Sunni Arab world is ready and willing to form a partnership with Israel in order to stand united against the growing threats that they and we face. Within a few years, there will be a hundred million disenfranchised young Arabs—a powder keg of social woes one spark short of an explosion. Moderate Arab states see fundamentalist Iran implementing its plan for regional strategic control step by step, sending weapons into Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, and they see radical jihadi forces gaining ground across the region. But as of yet, no significant force has arisen to unite against these threats. Leaders of the Sunni Arab world understand that they must form a new type of alliance, a broad coalition the likes of which has never been seen in the Middle East.

The moderate regional leaders see—some have even said so publicly in an official capacity—that Israel is a regional power with which they want to partner. They cannot help but recognize the incredible strides in science and technology that Israel has made in just the few decades of its existence. They understand that—if the grave threats posed by extremists in the Middle East are to be defeated—Israel could be a critical partner in that success.

In light of common interests shared by states across the region, it is clear that conditions are ripe for a wide-ranging “regional package deal.” Such a deal would establish regional security arrangements, introduce an economic rehabilitation program for the Middle East, normalize relations between Israel and the Arab world, and result in a gradual separation from the Palestinian territories into two independent states. The doors of our neighboring countries would open to us for the first time, which would mean unprecedented opportunities for Israel in terms of economy, technology, and entrepreneurship. As a nation, we would see our GDP soar, our tourism industry boom, and a shoring up of our international standing.

But Arab leaders have been unequivocal: genuine normalization with Israel is not possible without concrete progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Recent polls clearly show that the majority of Israelis support separation into two states within the framework of a diplomatic agreement.

Yet, the perception remains that the majority is opposed to a two-state solution. Why? A well-orchestrated campaign of intimidation, funded and supported by extremists, has succeeded in skewing perceptions. They make sure that their voices ring out everywhere, that that reverberate throughout society. They are in the government. They lead the coalition. They suck up all the oxygen in the room and work to ensure that moderate voices are left gasping for air. Anyone who dares speak up in defense of moderate opinions is immediately subjected to profane and severe attacks. But when the moderate majority fails to stand up to such intimidation, it’s no wonder that so many feel alone in their beliefs, fooled into thinking it is in fact they who are in the minority. That is why it is time for us to shake off the chains of complacency and give strength to those moderate Israelis who are looking to help shape our collective future in a more positive direction. It is unconscionable that the nature of our country and the shape of the future our children will inherit it being dictated by an aggressive and extreme minority. It is an anathema to Zionism and to the proud democratic history of this country.

It is up to moderate Israelis to lead our country towards a better future. As long as the situation in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria remains the same, we will suffer. But if we seize the initiative, if we act now, we can negotiate from a position of strength and secure a deal that addresses every one of our core concerns. The extremists know this. That is why they exert so much energy in their efforts to thwart progress and to throw up obstacles, all the while diminishing Israel’s international standing and alienating the remaining allies we have left. Their aim is to completely destroy any chance for negotiations and for peace with our neighbors. Their strategic goal is a unilateral annexation of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. They don’t care that annexation will lead to Israel’s political isolation, to a crippling of Israel from within and an onslaught of pressure from outside. Everywhere we look, this faction is working to undermine negotiations before our leaders have the opportunity to even get to the table. We must respond by taking decisive steps that improve Israel’s position.

Separation as part of a diplomatic agreement

The United States and the international community stand with Israel in our insistence that any diplomatic agreement must preserve our key interests. Through past negotiations, it has already been agreed that Israel would maintain its ability to defend itself, by itself, and we were promised economic and security guarantees from both regional neighbors and from the West. A strong Israeli leadership willing to make the first move and lead us towards separation into two states would seize these opportunities and help create a Middle East where Israel is safer and stronger than ever before. We need a strategy capable of envisioning a new concept of security that is in line with changing realities, and robust and forward-looking, securing Israel for many years to come.

While we welcome the support of our allies and the facilitation of the international community, only Israelis and Palestinians can decide upon the nature of a final status agreement, through direct negotiations. No one is going to step in and reveal a solution that makes everyone happy. It is up to us to step up and decide what it is we want our future to look like, and to negotiate toward achieving it.

It is in the interest of all Israelis to finally have established borders for our country. It is in the interest of all Israelis to preserve our country’s Jewish and democratic nature. It is in the interest of all Israelis to reach a diplomatic agreement that will finally bring security to our nation, and normalization of relations with our neighbors. It is in the interest of all Israelis to decide where we want our country to go, and then build the appropriate security arrangements and vision. It is in the interest of all Israelis to separate into two states. It is in the interest of all Israelis to turn the page on the past 50 years of stagnation and begin the next chapter in the miraculous story of the Zionist dream.

Darkenu calls for advancing the negotiation process. We as a public, as the citizens of Israel, demand that our leadership display the initiative and strategic vision needed to answer the key concerns of the State of Israel.