A drive east of the Green Line suggests the two-state solution is moot. Jewish-only roads slice through the hills. The separation barrier winds through the West Bank, choking Palestinian villages. Settlements are lodged in the land’s throat.
Dr. Neve Gordon, author of the book Israel’s Occupation comments, “The one-state solution is already on the ground, in the sense that close to half a million Israeli Jews currently live in the area occupied by the [Israeli] army. They’re enmeshed within the Palestinian population.”
While the body of one state is here, the spirit isn’t. The current system, according to Dr. Gordon, is a democracy for Jews and an apartheid regime for Palestinians—different from that of South Africa, but functioning in a similar way.
“The question is whether there can be a separation,” Dr. Gordon says, pointing to the argument made by former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti, who called the West Bank an egg that can’t be unscrambled.
And even if Israel could undo some of the mess, the proverbial finger Netanyahu recently gave the Americans suggests that the government has another agenda.
“I think what’s clear is that there is no intention on the part of the Israeli government to support a two-state solution,” Dr. Gordon says. “The borders, the airspace, all remain under Israeli control. What Netanyahu means when he says two states is not a state—it’s a municipality [for Palestinians] to collect their own garbage… What Netanyahu is supporting is a deepening of [settlements and the occupation] while talking about two states.”
To continue to advocate for a two-state solution, Dr. Gordon explains, is to support Netanyahu and his map for an unacknowledged, de facto single state that oppresses Palestinian residents.
Dr. Gordon is a newcomer to the one state camp. In a February interview with Chicago Public Radio, he explained why he changed his position, “I fear the two-state solution is a way of perpetuating the status quo… We might need to resist for strategic reasons at this moment in history…”
Critics of the one-state solution have remarked that it’s unrealistic at best, bloody at worst. But the occupation has, itself, been a bloody enterprise for both sides of the conflict. Over 5000 Palestinians died during the Second Intifada. On the Israeli side there were approximately 1000 deaths.
And the violence of the occupation goes on. “The violence is not seen and [it is] normalized. As long as the situation continues and the status quo continues, that continues.”
Regarding the possibility of bloodshed in the event that one-state was established, Dr. Gordon remarks, “We don’t know what type of model would be adopted, whether it will be Belgium or Lebanon. We don’t know what type of model or what type of resistance what come about.”
If Israel and Palestine formed a country—spanning from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—Dr. Uriel Abulof, an assistant professor in Tel Aviv University’s Department of Political Science, sees two options. “There is the republican model, the American one, which is a state of all its citizens. There is no ethnic or religious undertone to it.” In such a state, ideally, “constitutional patriotism” comes first.
The second option would be a bi-national state which, Dr. Abulof says, “fuses the existence of different nationalities within it. It accepts the fact that peoples’ prime alliance are with their separate nations—in our case, Jews and Arabs, in the case of Belgium, the Flemish and the Walloons.” The two groups retain their own nations but share a state which grants rights and citizenship to all.
“It gives special, equal place for the two nations to thrive,” he comments.
“The [latter model] was the one advocated by the very early peace groups that in the 1920s and 1930s were saying we are wrong, we are morally wrong if we would like to impose our notion of Jewish polity on the Arab people,” Dr. Abulof says. A tremendous majority of the early Zionists rejected this idea, but Dr. Abulof feels there are more people willing to consider it today.
However scrambled the egg is Dr. Abulof says that the two-state solution is still viable. But the prospects seem to be getting dimmer.
Is one-state the only realistic solution?
“Even in a situation in which Israel is being highly sanctioned by the international community, I can’t see that it will agree to a one-state solution because of the belief that in a one state solution there will be no democracy. There will be a two state solution. But there is the question: how much blood will be shed…”
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