Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, has come up with an analogy that, he hopes, will help Americans understand why Palestinians in the West Bank don't have basic political rights, such as voting for or against the government that ultimately controls their fate. In a long Foreign Policy piece that addresses various critics of Israel, Oren deploys his analogy against Peter Beinart, who in his book The Crisis of Zionism suggests we start calling the West Bank "non-democratic Israel." Oren writes:
The existence of partially democratic enclaves within a democratic system does not necessarily discredit it. Residents of Washington, D.C., are taxed without representation, while those in the U.S. territories -- Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands -- cannot vote in presidential elections. Anomalies exist in every democracy, and Israel's is not voided by the situation in the West Bank.
It's true that within its 1967 borders Israel is a democracy, and that this democracy isn't "voided" by the situation in the West Bank. But I don't think Beinart ever said it was--in fact, Beinart refers to the Israel within those borders as "democratic Israel." The argument, rather, is about how we should think of the West Bank. Oren wants us to think of it as meaningfully analogous to the District of Columbia and to US territories such as Puerto Rico. I have some problems with that. For example:
Residents of Puerto Rico can and do hold referenda on whether they want to secede and become a sovereign state, fully in control of all their territory. Palestinians have no such option.
As for DC: As a former DC resident, I'm no fan of the prevailing arrangement there, but the fact is that a DC resident who wants congressional representation can just move a couple of miles, to Virginia or Maryland. West Bank Palestinians, in contrast, aren't allowed to move to Israel proper, where they would in theory be allowed to vote.