One or Two States?

Have we reached a point where a one state solution is more viable?

I think it would be a good idea to clarify my stance on the question of one or two states as an end solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Lately I have written extensively on the issue and pushed forward the concept of a one state solution as the most likely and just solution to the conflict.  Now, it is important to note that I think that a one state solution is not the most likely of all, but the most likely solution that actually speaks to the needs of both communities.

As I wrote earlier (see here also), a partition of the land along 1967 lines – as it is currently proposed – is an attempt to negate the Palestinian right of return and to absolve Israel for all responsibility in creating the refugee issue through ethnic cleansing in 1948.  In this way, a two state solution is the ideal Zionist outcome.  Indeed, the current two-state possibilities are derived from the Israeli basic stance, i.e. beginning with several Israeli assumptions about peace:

…first that Israel should be absolved from the 1948 ethnic cleansing, with the issue no longer being mentioned as a part of a prospective peace agenda; secondly, and and consequently, negotiations for peace would only concern the future areas Israel had occupied in 1967, namely the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and, thirdly, the fate of the Palestinian minority in Israel was not to be part of a comprehensive settlement for the conflict.  This means that 80% of Palestine and 50% of the Palestinians were excluded from the peacemaking efforts in the land of Palestine. [Pappe]

On this idea, a reader, Scott, recently commented that:

Maybe you have to overlook some crimes (1948) in order to concretely improve the situation. I would much prefer a two state solution to no solution at all–and I have to think the overwhelming majority of Palestinians would as well. It provides a platform for integrating Israel into the Mideast–it is imaginable that after a generation, Palestinians and Israelis could dial down their emnity [sic], and barriers which separate original Palestinians from smaller a state [sic] of Israel could begin to erode. But that would take a while–under improved conditions. A fair two state solution– not a bantustan– would at least get the process moving. The other I just don’t see happening, Israel overwhelmed either militarily like the crusaders, or disbanding itself like South Africa. The probability of that happening in the next, say, twenty-five years seems in the low single digits.

[tweetmeme] On some of these points, I completely agree.  Two states are infinitely better than no solution and there are myriad tangible benefits to such a solution.  However, I believe that it is imperative that, in a two state solution, Israel not be left off the hook for its sins of ’48 and that the Palestinian state actually have sovereignty over its territory – something that the past few Israeli governments have not been willing to offer.  If the deal on the table was a complete return to 1967 lines, including East Jerusalem and a deal giving Palestinian refugees the right to return (or compensation), there might be potential for a just compromise.  However, I do not feel that this is a likely outcome.

The reason I believe that a bi-national or secular democratic single state is more likely is that Israel has quickly been colonizing two states into a logistical impossibility.  Considering that the UN partition plan of 1948 gave Israel 56% of the land (despite being a minority) and that pre-1967 Israelis (still a minority) control 78% of historic Palestine, it is absurd to further negotiate (or colonize) Palestinian land.  Israel’s current strategy of colonization is just that.  From Ilan Pappe:

The two-state solution, once a major theme in Zionist strategy and Israeli ideology, has been by ‘ingathering’ (Hitkansut), taking over 88% of historical Palestine, and the isolation and imprisonment of the remaining 12%.

If there is a two-state solution that can ultimately avoid the bantustans scenario, meaning the removal of nearly 500,000 settlers and allowing Palestine full sovereign control over resources and territory (including air and borders) as well as properly dealing with the refugee issue, I am all for it.  However, I am not sure that Israel is willing or capable to provide such a solution.  The only alternative is some kind of one state solution.  I end this post with a (long) excerpt from Jamil Hilal:

Palestinians face a critical moment in their confrontation with Israeli settler-colonialism.  They cannot, by any means, accept a bantustan state – encircled by walls and electronic fences and watchtowers – on approximately 12% of their historic homeland, nor can they accept a denial of their Right of Return, or not having Jerusalem as their capital…

Israel is not likely to accept a full sovereign Palestinian state as envisioned by the PLO as long as the balance of power (local, regional and international) remains unchanged.  This should not be understood, as some have argued, to mean that Palestinians should lower even more the political ceiling of their demands, which are legitimate by any standard of justice, or principles of co-existence, or the exigencies of political compromise…

Because of the impasse of the present situation, the Palestinian movement should articulate a detailed proposal for a bi-national state, and begin to canvass for such an idea among Palestinians, and, more importantly, among Israelis. This should be done not as a scare tactic ti get Israel to agree to a separate Palestinian state, but because the bi-national solution is better than all other solutions to the conflict…

Palestinians should not have to face forced dispossession through ethnic cleansing in 1948, through military occupation in 1967 – , and through negotiations as well.  As I believe that a two state solution – as is currently discussed – would only result in further dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people, it seems only logical to me to push for a separate tactic.

Pappe and Hilal quotations come from Where Now for Palestine, chapters 1 (Hilal, p. 17-19) and 2 (Pappe, p. 42);  Photo from NYTimes

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3 thoughts on “One or Two States?

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