What Netanyahu Should Have Proposed, by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

OK. It’s time to take off the gloves and start getting truly radical. My proposal for the Jewish state, Medinat Yisrael, may be hated or loved by the Right and the Left – but it is at least a new direction and gets away from the Two State dogma that threatens to destroy the safety of the Jewish State and the dreams and aspirations of the Palestinians. Here it is:

One Democratic Jewish and Palestinian State:

Where Jews can settle everywhere in the Homeland, in Eretz Yisrael, and Arabs can settle everywhere in what they consider their Homeland.

Note re. Demographic challenges: The most effective way for Israel to increase its Jewish population ratio in the short and long term is by:  letting in potentially millions of Africans, Asians and South Americans who self-identify as Jewish, even if they cannot prove their Jewish descent, and work on converting them to normative Judaism, if they wish, when they get to Israel; educating Arab women and men, which has been shown my many studies to be effective in significantly lowering birth rates;  enabling the conversions of hundreds of thousands of FSU Israelis who are not currently halachically Jewish, and wish to become halachik Jews.

Five Pillars of the One Democratic Jewish and Palestinian Democratic State from the Jordan to the Mediterranean :

1)      All citizens – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others – can live anywhere in the land.  Jews will return to live all over Jerusalem – Muslim quarter, Christian quarter, Silwan, City of David – and all over the promised land: in the ancient Israelite cities of Hebron, Bethlehem, and Shechem, and all over Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.   Just as in America restrictive covenants are illegal, so, too in the One State: Jews and Palestinians can acquire property anywhere in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Gaza, West Bank, etc.  Property rights will be respected, and returning refugees will be accommodated through new housing in or close to their original housing.  All Jewish settlements that are legal by current Israeli law will remain, with compensation where necessary.

2)      New constitution – needing a super-majority to change –  establishing a full democracy, with full separation of church/synagogue/mosque and state, with both a Jewish Bill of Rights and a Palestinian Bill of Rights guaranteeing that the state can be both a Jewish state and a Palestinian state

3)      Law of Return for Jews; Law of Return for Palestinians

4)      The IDF and internal police and security services will stationed everywhere in the One State – there will be no “no go” areas; and these forces will be slowly integrated, at a pace consistent with the security needs of the new state.

5)      Demographic issues will be negotiated with at least three possible solutions: increasing Israel’s Jewish population radically by admitting millions of Jewish identifiers from Africa, Asia and South America before the One State is implemented; returning Palestinians based on an equal admission of Jewish identifiers – perhaps limited to a certain time period; allowing for a natural growth of Jewish or Muslim – or other – populations, while the constitution guarantees that the One State remains compatible as a Jewish state as well as a Palestinian state, perhaps guaranteeing a majority representation for a certain number of years.

Crazy?  Maybe.  But let’s start with some simple first steps:

An immediate, indefinite moratorium on Arab house demolitions in Jerusalem to allow natural Arab growth,  in exchange for official U.S. recognition of the right to build for natural Jewish growth in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  This is just the first step for Jews accepting Arabs and Arabs accepting Jews.

This is the beginning of the New Era.

Step two is more radical, has downsides, but might be necessary: Immediate return of Gilad Shalit; release of Palestinian prisoners; U.S. commuting Jonathan Pollard and sending him to Israel.  This is step two of the New Era.

This is an era celebrating integration, tolerance, life and growth.   Rather than the old era of separation, hate, demeaning one another, intolerance.

Step three is a radical, but incremental experiment:  The return of several thousand Jews to the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City where they were driven out in 1948 and to Hevron, where they were driven out in 1929, but at the same time, the return of several thousand Arabs to the areas in Old Qatamon and Baqqa which they evacuated in 1948.  These populations will return as close as possible to  their old houses, but no one will be thrown out of the houses occupied since the previous populations left.

The IDF and the Israeli police forces will be stationed everywhere to guarantee the safety of Jews and Arabs.

Now, let’s talk!

Asher Lopatin

25 Responses to What Netanyahu Should Have Proposed, by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

  1. religiousdelicious says:

    I’m sorry but this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Firstly, there are obviously not “millions” of self-identifying Jews in Asia and Africa. Secondly, even if there were letting all of them in would crush Israel’s economy, which clearly couldn’t withstand that sort of influx of unskilled workers who don’t know the language. Thirdly, even if we could absorb them well, it would eliminate all that is left of secular Jewish culture. Fourthly, the Palestinians don’t want to be in Israel; they want their own state. Fifthly, because of point 4 terror attacks by the various Islamic groups will become rampant, either forcing us to reimpose military segregation or to collapse into a state paralyzed with violence, lawlessness and fear.

    I’m gonna stop here, even though there are numerous other problems, which, if anyone else is foolish enough to read your post, others can point out. Your proposal would be a nightmare for Israel, and indeed the rest of the world, and that is quite independent of the assured destruction of the Zionist dream.

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      Dear Religious Delicious,

      Thanks for responding. Your comments give me more faith in the proposal. Firstly, nothing in this world is “obvious”. If the borders to Israel were opened, we don’t know how many from the Developing world would come as Jews. Secondly, immigration is the best thing for economies. That is a big debate, but suffice it to say that Israel has always been desperate for unskilled labor, and, frankly, having a million Phillipinos – even as non-Jews – would probably be the best thing for Israel! Your argument about “eliminate secular Jewish culture” sound like Pat Buchanan, and those who are afraid that if we let in immigrants to America they will destroy English or our White way of life. I don’t accept that in America and I don’t accept that in Israel. Fourth: this will not just be the Jewish State of Israel – it will be a state where Palestinians can assert their national identity as well. It may be true that all Palestinians want is to destroy Israel and eliminate the Jews. However, before deciding that, we need to at least investigate. Since the days of Judah Magnas, we have never proposed a state which will work for our Jewish national aspirations at the same time as working for the national aspirations of the Arabs who live in the land. Finally, the Islamic/Arab terrorist groups were able to attack Israel in the so called “second Intifada” because the Israeli military left the West Bank in the hands of the PA. That is similar to way things are in Gaza with the thousands of rockets and the Two State solution. The way to guarantee the security of all the residents of the land is to have the IDF everywhere – and also the IDF intelligence everywhere to arrest these terrorist cells. Since operation Defensive Shield, Israel has had great success in stopping the numerous attacks planned in the West Bank – not because of the separation barrier, but because of the IDF being redeployed to the West Bank towns and the intelligence networks being rebuilt.

      Kol tuv,


  2. Dov says:

    Currently, as far as I am aware, Israeli Arabs do not serve in the IDF. Are you proposing that this change as well?

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      Yes – in a very careful and slow way. Currently, Bedouins and Druz serve in the army. Ultimately the army will need to be integrated, but this could take decades. I think it would be interesting to see if any Arab Israelis currently want to join the army. I believe this process could be done in a way that does not destroy the IDF – but, again, very slowly and very carefully.


  3. Abdul-Malik Ryan says:

    As salaamu ‘alaykum Rabbi Lopatin,

    I hope people won’t mind if I contribute to the discussion. I am certainly intrigued and in some ways excited by the concept here, if unsure of the details. At the time when we seem to have an American President ready to throw increased weight behind a two state solution, people like Ali Abunimah and yourself have convinced me to be rather uninterested in that.

    In any event, I tend to agree that as utopian as your proposal may sound, an acceptable two state solution is really not any closer to being a reality, and I am completely uninspired (no, disgusted) by the notion of the end of the long struggle for Palestinian self determination being the creation of a Abu Mazen/Dahlan pseudo state with no real sovereignty. Nor do I think that such a pseudo-state would create the lasting peace and security which Israelis desire.

    With regard to the specifics of your post, let me first say that as a Musim I love what seems to be your habit of presenting the “five pillars” of things. While I am neither Palestinian nor Israeli, I am Irish and my identification with the Irish republican historical struggle gives me some notion (although obviously not practical experience) with how difficult it may be for some to accept anything less than an independent Palestinian state as a legitimate expression of self-determination, and I understand how some Israelis or their supporters may feel a Palestinian/Israeli state is a step backwards from what they have already achieved.

    What I think was really brought home to me by Abunimah’s book, however, was that in looking to the future, proposals must be analyzed against what is likely to result in the alternative, not just against some imagined ideal. So, Palestinians should compare the proposal of a single democratic, secular state with the likely alternative, not with an imagined ideal and Israelis must also face clearly what the future will be without a satisfactory solution.

    Along these lines, a great aspect of your proposal from the Muslim point of view is that it acknowledges a mechanism to grant Palestinian right of return, which is seen as a nonstarter in the current process, but which is deeply important to the Palestinian diaspora and refugees.

    The 20th century was a century where unimaginable tragedy seemed to follow unimaginable tragedy, but among these tragedies is the loss of Jewish populations in Arab/Muslim lands which had been a reality for centuries. While for many of these people, being able to be part of a Zionist state may have been redemptive of their suffering, humanity and specifically Muslim/Jewish relations suffered an enormous loss from the loss of these populations which were able to blend Arab and Jewish cultures and provide a bridge between Muslims and Jews. In the absence of these communities Muslim Jewish relations are too often viewed exclusively through the lens of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict (although alhamdulillaah we are working against this phenomenon here in the U.S.) There are many exciting aspects of one state proposals, but little could be more exciting than the idea of creating a society where Jews and Muslims could live and cooperate together.

    Briefly, three challenges that would occur to me to what you wrote:

    1st, While I realize what you are proposing is radical and some of it would require time to try to implement, you would have to be careful of plans that would drag on for too long without addressing the legitimate Palestinian desire for self-determination. One would have to be careful not to have your proposal look like a delaying tactic, especially to the extent that a two state solution is presented as being within reach.

    2nd, The issue of secularism or separation of church/synagogue/mosque and State would have to be explored in great detail. I know that is a whole other discussion, but obviously all the religious groups of that Holy Land have a long history of having religious law implemented amongst them to one extent or another. While there are obviously constituencies who would like to see the separation you are calling for, there are also constituencies who would be quite opposed to this.

    3rd, The IDF issue. I do not know that much about the relationship between Israel’s Arab citizens and its civilian police but surely you realize that Palestinians in general view the IDF as a hostile, occupying force. I understand the need to make Israelis feel that they will be safe, but it would seem problematic to me to make the Palestinians accept that their security too be guaranteed only by a force which is not only historically hostile but which you anticipate remaining discriminatory for decades.

    Anyways I did not intend to write such a lengthy comment. Although I have a great interest in the issues involved, I usually try to leave commenting to experts.

    I’m really interested in following the discussions in general in this blog, however, so I’m glad I came across it.



  4. This proposal is not new. Rabbi Mark Sober wrote “Beyond the Jewish State” in 1990 or so. It was hopelessly naive then and it is hopelessly naive now.

    For one thing, Western liberals have never understood that in repressive (read: Arab) societies, the will of the people is irrelevant. There is only the desire of the leadership. The desire of the leadership in the Arab world today is first the emasculation and subsequently the destruction of Israel, something they are quite open about saying. It matters not one whit if the average Arab in Yehudah and Shomron are weary or want coexistence with their Jewish neighbours. In the eyes of Hamas and Fatah they are pawns in the struggle against “the Zionist enemy”.
    The Arab leadership does not want Jews in Israel. The only result of a bi-national state would be the flooding of that state with bogus “Palestinians refugees” until an Arab majority would be reached. When that happens the only thing any agreements you reached with them would be worth is the toilet paper they’re written on. What would follow is persecution and expulsion along with Western liberals ignoring the issue, much as the persecution of whites in Zimbabwe rarely makes the news anymore.
    The Arabs are NOT interested in a viable solution. When will people understand that?

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      First of all, the One State would be Jewish. That does not mean that it can’t be Palestinian as well – they are not mutually contradictory. Secondly, One State, with a new constitution is as important for Jews as anyone else. Israel need a constitution, and a national discussion regarding what a Jewish Democratic state is – see Rabbi Daniel Gordis’s new book. We need that regardless of whether there were any Arabs in Israel or not. And we can move ahead with the One State even without Arab participation or cooperation.


      • You cannot have it both ways. If you want to keep Israel “Jewish” you imply that those things that are “non-Jewish” will be secondary, including non-Jewish citizens.
        Secondly, a Jewish state cannot also be Palestinian when the entire Palestinian leadership defines that as the absence of a Jewish state.
        Finally, Israel has survived without a constitution until now and will continue to do so because the only real constitution of the Jewish people is the Torah. To create a “Jewish” state with any other type of constitution is like calling pig kosher.

      • Natan Halevi says:

        Your proposal, I believe, would not only cause us to enter a second exile..but ideologically, is the reason for the first exile my brother..

  5. Asher Lopatin says:

    Dear Abdul-Malik,

    Your careful thoughts are appreciated. I agree that there is a danger of seeing the One State utopia as a delaying tactic. I think the most exciting part of implementing the first tentative steps – experiments, really – is bringing Palestinians and Jews back to towns they left in ’29 and ’48 and seeing whether people are able to deal with it. At the same time, we need to start bringing everyone to the table for discussions. Steve Greenberg expressed it as a Constitutional Convention. Maybe we could get Nelson Mandela to come to Jerusalem to get things started.

    Anyway, thanks for taking a positive view of a difficult issue where there are no clear answers.

    Respectfully yours,


  6. Benjamin Fleischer says:

    Seems to me you’re just substituting one problem for another:
    pros with the plan:
    1) Jews can settle anywhere in ‘greater israel’
    2) Jews don’t need to leave the territories
    3) If it works, it’s the best of both worlds for both parties

    1) It is a nice idea, but hard to see how we get from the very strongly ingrained narratives of both sides to one where people are willing to share a state. Have you read David Grossman’s “Yellow Wind” Or “Living on a Wire”? Even if a majority of each side were to approve of this plan, the minority is likely to be quite violently opposed.
    2) unclear what it would mean to have a separate bill of rights for each religion or ethnic group
    3) It will need to be proven that the security gains of the separation, such as the fence, are outweighed by the ability for Israel to control the entire territory

    Not that I have a better idea. The best idea, to my mind, is for some Palestinian Gandhi or MLK Jr to appear and command mass respect and following in non-violent resistance.

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      Just two comments in your thoughtful post: the One State will have to be fiercely enforced to protect against the minority who, yes, will see it as a threat against their religious and national hegemony. We have to be ready to fight a battle as serious as fighting racism and bigotry in the US. Secondly, my information – and all the evidence I’ve seen – is that it was redeployment of the IDF into West Bank cities that ended the bloody so called “second intifada” – not the security fence that has been a gradual, unfinished process. A united Jeeusalem with no fence is safer than ever, thank God.

      Frankly, the main battle of the future is not between Arabs and Jews, but between those who want a theocracy – Jewish or Muslim – and those, religious or not, who want a secular democracy, open to all religions.

      Asher Lopatin

      Shalom and best wishes,

      Rabbi Asher Lopatin

  7. Moshe says:

    I have doubts that a single state could maintian its Jewish nature. For example, if the Jewish legislators in the united Jewish-Palestinian legislature wanted to pass a law to enhance the Jewish nature of the state, but the Palestinian legislators were the majority in the legislature, they could just vote against any pro-Jewish law.

  8. Asher Lopatin says:

    The supreme court would throw out any legislation that gave preference to Jews or Muslims or Christians, beyond the specific rights in the constitution. The constitution would make sure that this country was welcoming to religious people and was a fertile place for Jews and others, but it would be very careful about allowing any preference to religion. Thus it would be critical in the discussions of a constitution to find out what governmental involvement was necessary: for instance, Jewish holidays and Muslim holidays would be enshrined as national holidays. For some reason, in America the Supreme Court has allowed Christian holidays such as Christmas and New Years to become national holidays – perhaps under the false guise that these aren’t really Christian – doesn’t everyone believe in Jesus? Hmm… Likewise the Jewish law of return and the Palestinian right of return should be cornerstones of the constitution. However, beyond having the state protect workers and others observing kashrut (and halal) and Shabbat (and Friday)and the holy places being open, it will be up to individuals, rabbis, imams, shul, mosques and kiruv organizations to make sure people are embracing religion – and that is by far the best way to do it. If you want Israel to be Jewish – keep the government as far away as possible – note what is going on now with marriages and conversions. As Rabbi Riskin has pointed out: the state stays away from enforcing bris, and it is observed by nearly evey Jewish family.
    Asher Lopatin

  9. A.B. says:

    Yasher koach for having the courage to raise a subject no one wants to talk about–the stillborn concept of the two state solution. After the disaster in Gaza, it is frightening that the policy debate centers on how, not whether, Israel should cede more land, instead of alternatives, such as allowing Palestinians to become citizens while preserving the safety and rights of Jewish Israelis. The Jewish community needs to be able to consider if a workable one-state solution exists, and this debate is not taking place.

  10. Zachor HaTuels says:

    I’m sure this will work. Just look at Lebanon, Balkans… these are Paradises of Shared Sovereignty. And by all means, bring on Nelson Mandela, the man who who befriended Yasir Arafat and his Cause as he continued to murder Jews directly and by proxy. Dear God, Rabbi, didn’t you learn from your Fatah Hawk debacle that they really, truly want to eliminate us from the neighborhood? As an above poster warned, the people don’t matter in the Middle East. People Power is routinely crushed, as in Tehran, Hama, etc. Only in tony Lincoln Park watching the sailboats cruise off of Belmont Harbor could someone fathom such idealistic, ultimately suicidal drivel.

    They kill. They kill Jews. They kill their own daughters and sisters, for ‘honor’. Syria has had how many coups since the ’40’s? Iraq? Yemen? Esav’s way is the sword. It’s not pretty, and I don’t like it, but pretending we all come together and sing kumbaya and share a doobie while rocking to Carlebach is going to get Jews killed!

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      I live in scruffy – but beautiful – Lakeview, not tony Lincoln Park. And I am planning Aliya in two years to the Negev. The same dream that brought millions back to the Holy Land, and built our beloved State of Israel, which has been dismissed time and time again just like you are doing, is the same dream which brings me to believe in Israel secure and at peace.

      If you are a dreamer, join us in Israel!


  11. Zachor HaTuels says:

    Let me make sure I understand…

    You want to try out putting Jews and Muslims together in flashpoint cities where massacres took place in recent history.

    You want to allow a Palestinian right of return with no way to keep any riff-raff Arab with no personal or ancestral connection to Palestine from joining in the rush to rob and rape rich Israelis.

    You want to establish a Supreme Court to enforce adherence to a Constitutional mandate to be nice to each other.

    You want to inflict on Israel a “people” who can’t even get along among themselves, and whose legitimate land and leader, Abdullah of Jordan, has formally and officially said he wants no part of them?

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      I recently hung out with a group of Palestinians from Hevron while I was on an Encounter program in Beit Lechem. Yes, I specifically want to put Jews and Palestinians back in places where there was tension – even massacres – in the past. Let’s study integration in America for a good model – we didn’t shirk from allowing blacks into white universities. Even when there will be One State and peace in that state between Jews and Palestinians, I have no expectation of Jordan or any other Arab state being friends with the Holy Land State. That is a whole different ball game which might take a lot longer. No, I am interested in the Jews and Arabs of the Holy Land.

      Asher Lopatin

  12. […] Asher Lopatin published in June on the moreorthodoxy blog an essay entitled, “What Netanyahu Should Have Proposed.” Here are some of his proposals, which he calls, in a nod to Muslim sensibilities, the Five Pillars […]

  13. Marilyn says:

    Jews who were never there don’t and should not have a right of return, it is the most ludicrous nonsense in the world today..It is a stupid as claiming all catholics have a right of return to Italy, or Anglicans to England, Lutherans to Germany.

    They don’t and jews don’t have any right to Palestine and most definitely never did. Just because a few people saying they were members of the cult might have been in the land of Palestine thousands of years ago doesn’t give some goose from the US, Australia or England the right today to go and live there.

    A better solution is that all dual citizen illegal immigrants in Palestine go home and let the Palestinians have their land back.

  14. Marilyn says:

    What borders? What Israel? Do you know something no-one else does?

    Palestine was not expunged in 1948 you know, it is still there. the country would be Palestine, not Israel and it has never been jewish so the question is moot.

  15. Y. Ben-David says:

    I am surprised that you didn’t do some research before coming up with this idea. Look at Lebanon and Iraq as prototypes, both are multi-cultural, multi-confessional states. Lebanon was a democracy which to this day has free elections and a constitution. In Lebanon, even though there is a large Christian minority, everyone is an Arab. In Iraq, almost everyone is a Muslim. So what do we have in Lebanon?….a 15 year-long bloody civil war and total political paralysis since then, punctuated by assassinations of politicians who cause trouble for one side or the other. In Iraq, a really bloody war for control, even though everyone involved are Muslims, which, as everyone knows, teaches its followers to love one another and to view each others as brothers. In the state you are proposing here, we Jews are neither Arabs or Muslims so we don’t have any of the “advantages” that Iraq and Lebanon had in being patchwork states of the type you suggest. So do you seriously believe such a thing could work? Is it any wonder that EVERY Arab state is an iron-fisted dictatorship? If they weren’t they would all break apart. This is true even of relatively “liberal” Arab states like Jordan and Tunisia which clothe the iron fist in a glove of velvet…neither allows any real opposition to the regime in power to coalesce. So the consitution and other “protections” for us Jews in this mythical state are meaningless. What Garnel said above is true, what “average people” on the Arab street think is meaningless. You can have as many conversations and symposia with anecdotal Palestinians who say they want to live in peace with us, but it doesn’t mean anything. It is the men with the guns, FATAH and HAMAS who make policy, NOT “public opinion”.
    We Jews have had the “priviledge” of living as a minority for 2000 years and the Christians and Muslims who ruled us had ample opportunity to prove their supposed “tolerance” but they failed miserably, so as far as the possibility of going back to living as a powerless minority (which is what your plan ultimately means), all I can say is “thanks, but no thanks”.
    The ulitmate future of Judea/Samaria will be an INFORMAL modus-vivendi made up of a Jordanian-Palestinian-Israeli condominium, with Jewish settlements remaining in place, Israel having overall security control with its presence being drawn down if the security situation allows it. It must be INFORMAL, because the Arabs will never agree publicly to it, but it will evolve naturally once the Arabs realize that Israeli is not going away, not going to capitulate on Jewish rights to live in Judea/Samaria, and that any other phony “peace process” like that of Oslo and the Gush Katif destruction can only lead to war. It is simply a matter of being patient and holding on, instead of running after ephemeral “peace agreements”.

  16. Shachar haamim says:

    a few thoughts:

    1) I think you need to admit that there are many elements in USA modern orthodoxy that are NOT Zionist and are sometimes even anti-zionist. solving Israel’s supposed demographic problems by importing african and asian pseudo-Jews led by funny rabbis (tartei mashmei for chicagoans…) while modern orthodox Jews stay in their comfortable suburban homes in the USA is not Zionism and is not normative to the Jewish religion or tradition. It makes a mockery of nearly all prayers stated thrice daily

    2) I hope when you move to the Land of Israel in 2011 (to whatever state will be in effect then and will let you in) that if it is still run by the State of Israel that will be intellectually honest enough to request that you and your family NOT be admitted by virtue of the Law of Return, nor by the Israeli Citizenship Law (if any of you happen to be considered citizens already) but rather come as an immigrant who is not eligible to enter Israel via one of those laws. In your “One State” these laws will be abolished – as it is there are many Israelis even of Jewish ancestry who wish to abolish the Law of Return already. It would be dishonest for you to advocate a One-State “solution” yet come here via a law that will certainly NEVER be accepted for the One State.

    3) here’s some more reading about your one-state http://www.zeevgalili.com/?p=286

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    […]What Netanyahu Should Have Proposed, by Rabbi Asher Lopatin « Morethodoxy: Exploring the Breadth, Depth and Passion of Orthodox Judaism[…]…

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