On Israel Independence Day, we recall that Israel’s Declaration of Independence proclaimed the necessity and justice of establishing an independent Israeli nation-state that would embody the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination and serve as an ultimate refuge for Jews everywhere. The success of that endeavor, and Israel’s persistence in the face of many dangers and challenges, makes this an occasion for celebration.
It is also an especially good occasion to reaffirm the necessity and justice of establishing an independent Palestinian nation-state to embody the Palestinian people’s right to national self-determination and to serve as an ultimate refuge for Palestinians everywhere.
We of Scholars for Israel and Palestine make this appeal for several reasons. The same Zionist and democratic principles that underlie our commitment to Israel’s existence and security as a democratic Jewish nation-state demand that we support the establishment of a free and independent Palestinian nation-state as well. It is simply unjust for Palestinians to continue to live in a condition of occupation, subjugation, and insecurity. They deserve to have their own Independence Day.
We also support the establishment of an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza because we are convinced it is essential for Israel’s security, survival, and well-being. Israeli control over Palestinian territories captured in 1967 has turned into an open-ended oppressive occupation lasting almost a half-century, accompanied by a large-scale settlement enterprise in the West Bank that violates international law. The consequences have profoundly damaged and corrupted Israeli society and politics. Israel cannot maintain its achievements and promise as a democratic society while ruling indefinitely over another people. Permanent occupation also contributes to Israel’s increasing international isolation and loss of support. To secure its own future, Israel and its supporters must work toward a comprehensive peace that includes an end to the occupation and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Most of the broad outlines of a just and workable peace have already been laid out in the 2002 Nusseibeh-Ayalon Initiative, the 2003 Geneva Initiative, and (with some caveats) the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. Achieving peace will require constructive efforts by actors on all sides of the intertwined Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts. But the fulfillment of Palestinian national aspirations in an independent Palestinian nation-state must be part of any solution. Accordingly, it is essential for Israel to avoid or discontinue policies that render the occupation irreversible and foreclose the possibility of an independent and viable Palestine. As a start, therefore, Israel should immediately cease the expansion of existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, dismantle “unauthorized” settlements that are illegal even under Israeli law, and commit itself in word and deed to the genuine pursuit of a two-state solution.
It is not only possible but essential to be simultaneously pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and pro-peace. In that spirit, we believe that the right way to celebrate Israel Independence Day is to call for a free and independent Palestine as well. The achievement of Palestinian national self-determination is both right and necessary in itself and an essential component of any just, secure, and durable peace.