January 24, 2008
World Jewry should have no veto on Jerusalem’s fate
While every Jew in the world (along with every other person) certainly has the right to express an opinion about how the Jerusalem issue should be resolved, the State of Israel alone should make that important decision, since it involves the security of the state and its people. |
Israel is a democracy. Its Arab and Christian citizens should have a greater voice in security decisions, even those involving religious sensibilities, than Jews who are not Israeli citizens. Every Jew has the right to become an Israeli citizen. Those of us who have chosen not to exercise that right must defer to the outcome of Israel's democratic process.
It is the citizens of Israel who risk their lives by serving in the army, by traveling on buses, by living in Sderot, by enduring rocket attacks from Hezbollah and by subjecting themselves to the possibility of nuclear attack from Iran. It is these citizens who must weigh the costs and benefits of particular options for peace.
Jerusalem is not an issue entirely separate from the total package that will inevitably be involved in any resolution of the Israel-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Israeli citizens believe that peace has a better chance of prevailing with a divided Jerusalem, then noncitizens should not be able to veto that decision.
Consider the implications of any other conclusion. In 1967, the Israeli government told Jordan that if it did not attack Israel, Israel would not begin a war with Jordan. In other words, Israel essentially told Jordan that if it remained out of the war, it could keep Jerusalem divided and, indeed, maintain control even over the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel. Should Jews around the world been able to second guess that decision, as well? No!
Israel is a secular, Jewish democracy. It does not have an established religion, though it does have a Jewish character. For the majority of Israelis, this character is not exclusively religious in nature.
Theodor Herzl's concept of Israel as a Jewish state contemplated a "normalized" secular democracy, as did David Ben Gurion's and Chaim Weitzman's. Decisions about war and peace are quintessentially the province of a nation's democratically elected leaders -- or people, in the event of a referendum.
Once these decisions are made, there is room for input on purely domestic religious issues, such as the status of the Kotel as a place of prayer. Jews from around the world should have some input into purely religious decisions, because Judaism as a religion is international in scope. But it would violate all principles of democracy and sovereignty for the Israeli government to surrender its exclusive authority over national security issues to any group of noncitizens, regardless of their support for or commitment to Israel and its capital Jerusalem.
Just as there should be "no taxation without representation," there should be no representation without the burdens of citizenship. World Jewry has important roles to play in supporting Israel and even critiquing its policies when warranted, but this role does not include either a vote or a veto on issues of national security.
Alan Dershowitz's latest book is "What Israel Means to Me" (Wiley).
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