TLV1’s “The Promised” broadcast reported last week that Eran Tashiv, the head of the program for national security and economy at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (IINSS), imagined just such a scenario recently in a Haaretz column which he wrote as a kind of thought experiment, describing what would happen should two different Jewish states be organized along contrasting religious and national lines. Each smaller state, he opined, might be content with itself and even happier after a divorce from the other half. His thought experiment begs the central question – would splitting Israel in two be better or worse for the Jewish people than what we have today? (see http://tlv1.fm/the-promised-podcast/2015/11/07/partition-ambition/)
Tashiv suggests that one Jewish state might be called “Judaea” and include the Jerusalem area going south, the West Bank settlements, and the cities of Ashdod, Beersheva and Ashkelon. Its population would number approximately 3.4 million people and include all the occupied West Bank Palestinians.
The other Jewish state might be called “Dan” and include Tel Aviv going north, Haifa, the Jezreel Valley, the Sea of Galilee, Rishon L’Tziyon, and Petach Tikvah, and total 4.9 million people including Israeli Arab citizens in the Galilee and elsewhere who have been loyal citizens of the state of Israel since 1948.
“Judaea” would end up being primarily a right-wing ultra-orthodox state governed, most likely, according to halachah (traditional Jewish law), a Jewish version of Iran and Turkey. The occupation of the West Bank, with its 2 million hostile Palestinians, would become the responsibility of “Judaea.”
“Dan,” however, would include Israel’s cultural, political and secular middle and left-wing and likely would remain a social democracy. “Dan” would produce, based on current demographic, educational and economic conditions, twice the GNP of “Judaea.”
In effect, there would be one state (“Dan”) that is secular, liberal, modern, and economically thriving living alongside another state (“Judaea”) that is ultra-Orthodox, halachic, nationalist, and poor.
This splitting of the state of Israel in half, of course, will never happen because the IDF, the West Bank occupation, the thriving economy of the “Dan” sector, and classic Zionist ideology won’t allow it.
The cultural, religious and political divisions embodied in these two states of “Dan” and “Judaea” are, of course, not clean. There are both economically successful western-oriented Mizrachim (aligned most naturally with the ideology of “Judaea”) and successful Ashkenazim who would be citizens in “Judaea,” just as economically struggling secular Ashkenazim (aligned most naturally with the ideology of “Dan”) would share life with below the poverty level ultra-Orthodox citizens in “Dan.”
It is ironic that PM Netanyahu, who set the conditions for the thriving hi-tech economy when he served as Finance Minister during the Ariel Sharon era, and Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home Party that represents religious nationalists and the settler movement and who is himself a successful hi-tech entrepreneur, are two of the principle leaders of the current government and would be the leaders of the right-wing nationalist halachic state of “Judaea.” It ought to be noted, as well, that the policies of then Finance Minister Netanyahu are responsible for the widening economic gap between the wealthy and poor of Israel and the diminishing and struggling Israeli middle class.
In “The Promised” broadcast, Times of Israel journalist Miriam Herschlag suggested that this discussion about creating two Jewish states is taking place especially now because we Jews are testing the boundaries of what constitutes our “family” and we are wondering what to do with those fellow Jews about whom we feel we can no longer be engaged and with whom we are constantly quarreling about the meaning of Jewish and Israeli identity. We wonder if there is some end-point on our people’s emotional map where at last we say: “No – we’re too far apart ethically, religiously, nationally, and politically, and our differences require us to separate and get a divorce!”
Many Israelis from across the political, national and religious spectrum might welcome a separation because they feel that increasingly someone else is taking over their country and that Israeli culture is moving either too far to the ideological left or ideological right.
Don Futterman, the head of the Moriah Fund and a regular participant on the “The Promised” broadcast, pointed to another serious and consequential fault-line in Israeli society that exacerbates current tensions. He noted that Israel’s economic stability and success has become overly dependent upon certain sectors, leaving the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities (especially under-employed Arab women) behind. Both sectors need to be integrated more fully into the Israeli work force in order to move their families out of poverty and enhance Israel’s national security.
Splitting Israel in half is neither possible nor desirable because it would mean our giving up on the Zionist dream of the Jewish people united in a Jewish, diverse, pluralistic and democratic state.
The truth is that we are stuck with each other whether we like it or not, and we better learn to live together or the Zionist experiment will end up on the trash heap of Jewish history.