The Web editor of In These Times required a 2,500 word limitation for the online article. The ISRAEL HORIZONS version, pending for the fall, will include almost all of my discussion with Hussein Ibish. What I particularly regret having had to exclude from the ITT piece is the following further response from Hussein Ibish to my question on how he felt about the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state:
… it’s perfectly reasonable and morally appropriate for everybody to be concerned and interested about the rights of the Palestinian minority of Israeli citizens in Israel proper. But I don’t think this is an appropriate subject for negotiations between Israel and the PLO. It introduces another complication in an already overburdened negotiation agenda and blurs the crucial distinction between Israel and the occupation that should be the basis for all Palestinian diplomacy.
People worry about the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the context of a two-state agreement, but I completely fail to understand the logic of this. Israel’s Palestinian citizens already have a legal status that allows them to pursue their rights within the Israeli political and legal system, and they’ve been partly successful in doing that already. It strikes me that not only is this the path forward for them to secure their full rights as Israeli citizens, but that nothing conceivable could possibly strengthen their position more than the realization of a two-state end of conflict agreement. Of course there will always be ethnic and religious discrimination because of certain prejudices in Israel and everywhere around the world.
I don’t think we should kid ourselves that human beings are suddenly going to become reasonable creatures across the board. However, it seems to me that most of the systematic and onerous forms of discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel have their origins in the fact that these Israelis have kinship, narrative, cultural and ideological ties to the other side in a conflict. In other words, they’re considered a possible fifth column, a potential security problem, as well as an anomaly within the “Jewish and democratic state.”
It seems to me obvious that an end to the conflict would largely, and over time probably entirely, remove this powerful and definitive obstacle to the complete integration of Palestinian citizens as full citizens of Israel without legal forms of discrimination, and raise the barriers to their participation in all sectors of society. Moreover, Palestinian citizens of Israel would no longer be cut off from the Arab world, as they largely have been until now, but would rather be poised to be Israel’s ambassadors to the Arabs, literally and figuratively, especially in terms of business and commerce, as well as culture. In fact, I think it’s obvious how much the Palestinian citizens of Israel have to gain in any peace agreement, even if their specific issues are not subject to negotiation, and I just don’t understand how people fail to see this. I think the issue is raised really in order to criticize the concept of negotiations and a negotiated agreement rather than out of any thoughtful, serious approach to advancing the real, practical interests of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.