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Sep 3, 2010




by Yossi Alpher


The idea of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seemingly never ceases to surprise and even entertain. It used to be official PLO policy, before the PNC adopted the two-state solution over 20 years ago. In recent years, with the two-state solution going nowhere, there has been a revival of interest in the one-state idea in Palestinian intellectual circles and even among some Palestinian citizens of Israel. Most surprisingly, a number of prominent right-wing Israeli politicians have gone on record in the past few months supporting a one-state solution in which the Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank and East Jerusalem ostensibly become equal Israeli citizens.

The two-state solution is still far and away the conventional wisdom. From an option endorsed only by the Israeli communist party in 1967, it is today accepted by the Likud and all parties to its left in Israel, as well as by the PLO and, conceivably, through some form of default or innuendo, even by Hamas on the Palestinian side. The two-state solution is of course the agreed topic of discussion in Washington at the September 2 summit.

If the two-state solution is increasingly so consensual, why the growing discourse about a one-state solution? One explanation is the looming gap between the international consensus regarding two states and the actual feasibility of this approach. After all, we are nowhere near an agreed formula regarding core issues like refugees/right of return and "ownership" of the Holy Basin, and neither PM Binyamin Netanyahu nor President Mahmoud Abbas seems a likely candidate to make and enforce the necessary ideological and political concessions regarding these and additional issues.

Thus for some, honest despair over a two-state solution drives them to "think outside the box" and toy with one-state and related ideas. I recently encountered a serious project that investigates the feasibility of creating two "parallel" or "overlapping" states, Israeli and Palestinian, on the very same territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. This looks like a formula for living in hell and is enough to make both Palestinians and Israelis prefer the current depressing status quo.

Undoubtedly, there are Palestinian advocates of a one-state solution who believe, not without reason, that if it could only be imposed upon Israel it would lay the demographic and political foundations for an Arab-dominated state. They draw encouragement from, and in turn contribute to, the growing international campaign to delegitimize Israel as a necessary precursor to their version of a one-state solution.

It is precisely this Palestinian advocacy of one state that may explain why the Israeli right-wing one-state solution camp appears to have had so little impact on Israeli public opinion. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and former minister of defense and foreign affairs Moshe Arens both suggest that Israel can somehow swallow up the West Bank and award citizenship rights to the Palestinian population there and in East Jerusalem, yet remain a Jewish state. This does not sell easily to skeptical Israelis.

How do Rivlin and Arens rationalize their solution? First, both engage in willful self-delusion by reducing the West Bank/East Jerusalem Arab population from around 2.5 million to 1.5 million, then assuming it will not grow any faster than the united country's Jewish population, thereby leaving the Jews in the majority forever. In so doing, they buy into totally unprofessional and politicized demographic estimates emanating from the Israeli and American Jewish far right.

Second, they assert in a roundabout way that Palestinians, if just given a chance, would like nothing more than to be productive citizens of Israel as currently constituted--a Jewish and democratic state. Rivlin allows that this may take a generation or that perhaps the West Bank Palestinians will suffice with a condominium setup inside Israel; Arens wants first to "tame" Israel's own Palestinian Arab population of 1.2 million and make them good citizens in order to "prove" the same can be done with the West Bankers. Likud Member of Knesset Tzipi Hotobelyalso wants to wait a generation and anchor the country's Jewish status constitutionally so that Arabs can't challenge it. But to be on the safe side, she refuses to recognize Palestinian nationalrights--only individual rights.

All, in short, fall back on patronizing, colonialist thinking that characterized Moshe Dayan's and Menachem Begin's ill-fated experiments in autonomy several decades ago. All these "solutions" smell of condescension, ignorance about Palestinian national aspirations and a refusal to recognize that demography would sooner or later bring about the Palestinization of Israel. Nor, under present circumstances, would even the most egalitarian offer of Israeli citizenship to West Bank Palestinians persuade the international community and Arab world to acquiesce in Israel ignoring Gaza's 1.5 million.

There is only one persuasive explanation for the timing of these bizarre proposals. As they confront the cumulative weight of both Israeli and international opinion regarding a two-state solution, Israeli right-wing circles are also beginning to confront the inevitability of "losing" the West Bank, and consequently to panic. Hence some are dressing up old and discredited autonomy schemes as one-state ideas. In stark contrast, a few prominent West Bank settlers are beginning seriously to contemplate the possibility of remaining in a Palestinian state. While none of this necessarily makes a two-state solution any easier, it should put wind in the sails of those who continue to strive toward that end.

- Published 30/8/2010 -

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.


The pragmatic solution may become practically impossible

by Ghassan Khatib

The idea of the one-state solution keeps popping up, particularly when the two-state solution is undergoing difficulties. Maybe this is because people in the region are unable to imagine anything other than one- or two-state solutions.

Recently, and in view of the serious difficulties facing the peace process as well as the evident drift toward radicalization and the political right in both Israel and Palestine, we have again begun hearing the idea of a one-state solution.

In Ramallah and other main cities of the West Bank, slogans on billboards have recently sprung up in many places calling for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the equality of all people between the river and the sea: one secular, democratic state on the basis of one-man, one-vote.

Public opinion polls on the Palestinian side show that those supporting a one-state solution are still a minority. However, the number of supporters of the idea has been growing slowly but steadily.

During the same period there has been a faint echo of this line on the Israeli side. This has not come, surprisingly, from the Israeli left as one might have expected, but rather from the far right, including settlers. Those proposals should not be confused with the equal-rights-for-all-people that Palestinians suggest, but are rather an apparent attempt at ensuring a Jewish presence in all historic Palestine.

The rightists behind these proposals are opposed to a two-state solution, which will deny them the ability to live in the part of historic Palestine that constitute a Palestinian state.

The problem with the one-state solution is that it appears less plausible than the two-state solution. This is, first, because the vast majority of Israelis, and certainly Israeli officialdom, is unwilling to even consider the option. Most Israelis seek a "purely Jewish state". A one-state solution will leave that state even less "pure" than what Israel would be under a two-state solution.

Second, most Palestinians are not willing to invest in the one-state solution for practical reasons. They don't see a chance for this option and are more confident in chances of a two-state solution. Some Palestinians even go further and argue that to even raise the idea of a one-state solution is harmful, because it might undermine the possibility of a two-state solution.

Third, there is an accumulated body of international resolutions and international consensus that supports the two-state solution.

Having said that, it is conceivable to imagine that the more time passes without a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, the more likely we are to see the emergence of a single entity between river and sea, comprising one state, Israel, alongside an apartheid reality in the rest of historical Palestine, where two peoples sharing the same land live under two completely different sets of laws.

The changes Israel is undertaking in occupied East Jerusalem, including settlement expansion and infrastructure construction, are eliminating the practical possibility of turning occupied East Jerusalem into the capital of a Palestinian state. This will certainly undermine chances of an independent Palestinian state on the borders of 1967 and, consequently, eliminate the two-state solution.

This will leave us with the reality of the one-state-plus-apartheid entity, which will eventually lead to one state. The problem here is that the time this takes will be neither short nor quiet. Rather it will spark renewed tension and violence, more extremism and hatred, and the conflict will continue to be a cause of instability in the region at large.

The international community, which adopted the two-state solution and convinced the Palestinians that this option is, for pragmatic reasons, the only possible one, now has to take a more active role to realize this vision.

That has to happen soon, before it is too late. Leaving the future of the conflict up to bilateral relations between the Israelis and Palestinians has proven futile because of the vast imbalance of power between the two.

The combination of the upcoming American-led direct talks and the impressive performance of the Palestinian government on the ground in preparing Palestinians for statehood is an historic opportunity that needs to be used seriously by the international community.

- Published 30/8/2010 -

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Center. This article represents his personal views.

1 comment:

Always On Watch said...

Whatever "solution" BHO comes up with is not any kind of solution at all!