Meron Benvenisti (Hebrew: מירון בנבנשתי, 21 April 1934 – 20 September 2020) was an Israeli political scientist who was deputy mayor of Jerusalem under Teddy Kollek from 1971 to 1978, during which he administered East Jerusalem and served as Jerusalem's chief planning officer. He supported a binational Israeli–Palestinian state.
Benvenisti was born in 1934 in Jerusalem, his father was David Benvenisti, a Greek Jew originally from Thessaloniki and recipient of the Israel Prize, while his mother Leah (née Friedman) was Lithuanian Jewish. He was the brother of Refael (Rafi) Benvenisti, and father of Eyal Benvenisti. He graduated from the Leyada and served his compulsory military service in a Nahal unit near the Israeli–Lebanese border at Kibbutz Gesher HaZiv. In the early 1950s, following his discharge, he moved to the nearby Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra and served as a youth movement leader. He enrolled at the Hebrew University after his return to Jerusalem in 1955, studying both economics and medieval history. He later published books and maps on the period of the Crusaders in the Holy Land. During his years as a student, he headed the Hebrew University student union and the National Union of Israeli Students. He later obtained a doctorate from Harvard University's Kennedy School for his work on conflict management in Jerusalem and in Belfast.
In 1984 he founded the West Bank Database Project, documenting social, economic, and political developments in the West Bank. Since 1992 he devoted his time to teaching as visiting lecturer (at Ben-Gurion University in 1994–1998, and Johns Hopkins SAIS, Washington DC, in 1982–2009), research and writing on Jerusalem, the Northern Ireland conflict, Israeli–Palestinian relations, Palestinian vanished landscape, bi-nationalism and restaurant reviews. He was a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington DC and a visiting fellow at Harvard's CFIA and a recipient of research grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the US institute of Peace. Between 1991 and 2009 he wrote a column for Haaretz, Israel's leading left-liberal newspaper. He held a doctorate from Harvard's Kennedy School.
He was a critic of Israel's policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and was an advocate of the idea of a binational state. In 2004, he warned that plans to build a separation wall were actually plans for "bantustans" that would effectively imprison millions of Palestinians and exacerbate the conflict, rather than resolve it as many hoped. He said that "The day will come when believers in this illusion will realise that 'separation' is a means to oppress and dominate, and then they will mobilise to dismantle the apartheid apparatus." In 2012, he suggested claims that Israel is an apartheid state were "wrongheaded, simplistic and dangerous", but also said the situation in Israel proper is "no less grave". He argued that Israel had become a "Herrenvolk democracy" (master race democracy) in which Israel behaves "like a full-blooded democracy" but has a group of serfs (the Arabs) for whom democracy is suspended, creating a situation of "extreme inequality". In the same interview, he stated that "The separation fence: that is truly apartheid. Separation is apartheid." According to Benvenisti, the only solution is to incorporate Palestinians into the state on conditions of equality.
His experience led him in later years to be disillusioned with Zionism, stating in an interview with Ari Shavit:
I went to Kibbutz Hanikra in the 1950s and experienced the transcendent feeling of working in the banana groves without noticing that in order to plant the banana trees, I was uprooting olive trees, thousands of years old, of a Palestinian village. During that whole period ... I did not understand the meaning of what I was doing. But when I started to deal with the Arabs of East Jerusalem, I began to understand. I saw that the problem is not only the individual rights of the Palestinians but also their collective rights.
'he will be remembered primarily as a prophet — a tormented, hyperbolic, anguished, but, in the end, undeniably accurate prophet. Prophets only need to be right about some things to be remembered for their prophecy. Meron was right about one big thing: that the future of Palestine, the future of the Land of Israel, will grow out of a one-state reality from the river to the sea — a reality he identified as such earlier than almost any Jewish Israeli.'
- Benvenisti, Meron (1976). The Crusaders in the Holy Land. Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press. OCLC 1004860416
- Benvenisti, Meron (1976): Jerusalem, the Torn City, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, ISBN 0-8166-0795-8)
- Benvenisti, Meron (1984): West Bank Data Project: A Survey of Israel's Policies, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, ISBN 0-8447-3544-2
- Benvenisti, Meron (1988): Conflicts and Contradictions, Villard, ISBN 0-394-53647-9
- Benvenisti, Meron (1995): Intimate Enemies: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land. University of California Press ISBN 0-520-08567-1
- Benvenisti, Meron (1996): City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem. University of California Press ISBN 0-520-20521-9
- Benvenisti, Meron (2002): Sacred Landscape: Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23422-7
- Benvenisti, Meron (2007): Sons of the Cypresses: Memories, Reflections and Regrets from a Political Life. University of California Press ISBN 978-0-5202-3825-1
- Benvenisti, Meron (2012), The Dream of the White Sabra ISBN 978-9-6507-2031-5 (Hebrew)
- Meron Benvenisti (3 January 2002). "Either a Zionist or a terrorist". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (17 January 2002). "Systematically burying ourselves". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (26 September 2002). "The homeland purified of Arabs". Haaretz. (about Sataf)
- Meron Benvenisti (10 October 2002). "Loving 'the homeland'". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (7 November 2002). "The binational option". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (21 November 2002). "The never-ending enterprise". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (19 December 2002). "A tank under the Christmas tree". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (13 March 2003). "Prime minister of what?". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (10 April 2003). "The true test of the imperial pretension". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (24 April 2003). "The capital nobody wants to lead". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (3 July 2003). "The High Court and fear of return". Haaretz. (about Ikrit)
- Meron Benvenisti (31 July 2003). "When will Israel become a homeland?". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (8 August 2003). "Cry, the beloved two-state solution (Part 2)". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 10 March 2008.
- Meron Benvenisti (28 August 2003). "A wall against fear". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (6 November 2003). "Defensive walls of self-righteousness". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (20 November 2003). "Which kind of binational state?". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (26 April 2004). "Bantustan plan for an apartheid Israel". The Guardian.
- Meron Benvenisti (9 February 2006). "The hypocrisy of tolerance". Haaretz.
- Meron Benvenisti (29 May 2008). "A lull of no return". Haaretz. (on the possible/probable de facto long-term political division between Gaza and the West Bank and its effects on both Israel and the Palestinians)
- "Intimate Enemies : Meron Benvenisti – University of California Press". Ucpress.edu. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
- Ofer Aderet, "Israeli Columnist Meron Benvenisti, Vocal Supporter of a Binational State, Dies at 86", Haaretz 20 September 2020.
- "The rebellious son". The Jerusalem Post. 3 June 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2011.[dead link]
- "Israeli columnist Meron Benvenisti, vocal supporter of a binational state, dies at 86". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
- "Fellow - Meron Benvenisti - IFK (EN)". www.ifk.ac.at. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
- Meron Benvenisti (26 April 2004). "Bantustan plan for an apartheid Israel". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
- Sam Roberts, 'Meron Benvenisti Dies at 86; Urged One State for Jews and Palestinians,' New York Times 29 September 2020'“This is a master-nation democracy; in German, a ‘Herrenvolk democracy,’” he said of Israel. “We are a country that behaves like a full-blooded democracy, but we have a group of serfs, the Arabs, to whom we do not apply democracy. The result is a situation of extreme inequality.”.'
- Ari Shavit (11 October 2012). "Jerusalem-born thinker Meron Benvenisti has a message for Israelis: Stop whining". Haaretz. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- Ian S. Lustick 'Saying goodbye to the Israeli one-state prophet,' +972 magazine 25 September 2020,
- "Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti dies". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
- "Daily Kickoff: Remembering RBG + The bygone era of James Baker's Washington". Jewish Insider. 21 September 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2020.