If Israel is to remain true to its democratic principles, says an American-born Israeli journalist, it must find a way to extricate itself from the territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
According to Gershom Gorenberg, holding onto the territories means Israel must either cease to be a democracy, or grant Palestinians citizenship and lose its Jewish majority.
Meanwhile, he said, the situation has been worsened by years of indecision and missed opportunities by Israeli leaders, and the prospect of a violent evacuation of settlers.
“That it is much harder to get out of a quagmire than it is to get into one is something I don’t think I have to have much discussion about with an American audience,” said Gorenberg, producing a laugh from those gathered at The Jewish Center in Princeton on May 2.
Gorenberg, author of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements 1967-1977, spoke of the deteriorating situation, with entire suburban towns entrenched deep in the territories, and settlers threatening to take up arms rather than be forced out.
Meanwhile, Palestinians continue to glorify terrorism, and international sympathy for the Palestinian cause remains a force. It has also been a stumbling block to reaching a peace agreement.
The passivity of generations of Israeli administrations has hurt Israel, said Gorenberg, and now poses “a strategic threat” to the country.
Gorenberg said a freeze on settlement building — demanded by the Obama administration — is necessary for Israel to secure peace and ensure its future.
“American Jews who believe that should not be afraid to say Israel must give up the settlements,” said Gorenberg,
He prefaced his sometimes harsh criticism of Israeli leaders by telling the audience he made aliya in 1977, has two children in the Israel Defense Forces, and is “deeply, deeply connected with the State of Israel.” An associate editor of the Jerusalem Report for many years, he is currently a visiting professor of journalism at Columbia University.
Gorenberg outlined a history of the land settlement movement from its pre-state days to the present and from the early Labor Zionist kibbutzim to the current religious outposts beyond the 1967 “green line.”
As proof that land givebacks would increase security, he cited the return of the Sinai to Egypt and the control of the parts of the West Bank given to the Palestinian Authority, where security and financial strides have been made by its leadership.
“There are Palestinian moderates out there,” said Gorenberg. “Believe me, I’ve talked to them.”