Shavit makes it sounds like Palestine was a small home that was taken, that there was no room at the inn. Actually it was more like a motel that had plenty of empty rooms, although surely some were taken. True, some Arabs were driven out. And way too many Arabs and Jews died at each other’s hands. But the tragic reasons for these developments is not, the data unmistakably show, that there wasn’t enough room for both peoples.
Moreover, even now, anyone with an open mind flying over Israel will see vast unoccupied areas. Some of them are in the South (the Negev), which one may argue has an uninviting climate. It is, however, rather similar to that of Nevada and Arizona. And there are many other underpopulated areas — for instance, along the Jordan Valley. True, some particular pieces of real estate have been much contested for a variety of reasons, ranging from religious symbolism to a matter of national prestige and historical precedent. Over all, though, anybody who argues that Palestine was occupied and hence could not accommodate the Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe, the pogroms in Russia or tensions in Arab lands is ignoring basic facts.
… In 1936, my parents and others saw large parts of the land that were lying fallow, uncultivated and not settled; they believed there was no reason that they could not share the land with the Arabs, and they did hope that Jews and Arabs could all live together in peace.
If both Jews and Arabs can forgo exclusive claims to the land, and arguments that one people or the other are in place because of some gross historical misunderstanding or psychological distortion, they will realize that there is ample room for both people to live next to each other, with each other, in peace.
Amitai Etzioni, “Enough Room for Two Nations”, Forward (21 March 2014), 13.