One of my first elucidations of my support for the one-state solution. Originally published August 18, 2009.
The current policy space includes two major options being seriously debated: the single-nation-state solution, and the Two-State solution. The latter is the one supported by most of those identified with the peace camp: two states, Israel and Palestine, living peacefully one next to the other. The other solution is actually two solutions, each supported by nationalists on one of the sides of the dispute. For the Jewish nationalists, a single Jewish nation state solution is promoted (usually leaving the occupied territories in a perpetual limbo to avoid giving citizenship to its Palestinian inhabitants, although the extremists will have no qualms with annexing these territories while at the same time revoking the citizenship of all Arab-Israelis, leaving them as mere denizens); for the Palestinian extremists, a “solution” is suggested that includes the annihilation of the State of Israel, to be replaced by a Palestinian nation-state from the Jordan river to the sea.
That a two-state solution lies squarely in between these two extreme “solutions” seems quite obvious, and it is exactly this obviousness that leads us to believe that this is, somehow, the ideal solution. But the two-state solution is not only a compromise by the nationalists on either side – it is also, maybe even primarily, a compromise by non-nationalist liberals who are forced to play under the rules of the game set by the nationalists themselves. But because the two-state solution is a liberal compromise in a nationalist world, it necessarily runs some important risks that make it highly unstable, and cast a doubt over its sustainability. It is therefore important to remember always that the two-state solution is far from the best solution, and to continuously question whether it is, as we often seem to believe, the only solution.
The two-state solution takes as its starting point that outdated notion of a right of self-determined nations to sovereign nation-states. It assumes that both sides are somewhat right in demanding a nation-state of their own, and therefore proposes the solution is two nation-states. The criticism raised by Jewish nationalists, however, is very apt here: in the commonly promulgated settlement, there will be a judenrein Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, and a binational state within the Green Line. After all, while we have no problem succumbing to the will of the Palestinian nationalists, we still wish to keep Israel as close as possible to a liberal democracy – i.e., a state that affords full, equal rights to all its citizens, regardless of their (ethnic) nationality. To make the solution truly fair and equally nationalist, the demands of either transfer of Israel’s Arabs to the Palestinian territories, or Lieberman’s idea of land-exchange between the two entities – either way Israel’s Arab citizens will suddenly find themselves the citizens of the Palestinian state – must be met. The alternative is maintaining Israel as the Jewish nation-state, with a fifth of the population that is by definition second-class citizens, since they can never become nationals of their own state.
It seems that at least some of the proposals for a two-state solution see that solution as temporary – that after a long period of peaceful coexistence, the two states will see the benefits of closer cooperation, and some sort of federal arrangement can be attained. A bi-national federal arrangement was supported by non-nationalists1 such as Hannah Arendt since before the creation of the State of Israel. Any liberal-minded individual should strive to achieve some binational arrangement – federal or otherwise – in Israel and Palestine. No other solution would be sustainable in the long run. But such a bi-national solution is not politically feasible currently. There isn’t nearly enough trust between the sides to allow such a solution to work.
There are two ways that could possibly allow this trust to build: through separating the two peoples for a while (the two-state solution), or through forcing them to cooperate in some small scale, and enlarging that pilot project in time. Initiatives such as the Jerusalem Old City Initiative seem to plot the way for this latter option (although, curiously, JOCI suggests that the cooperation would be a temporary situation, to be later replaced by a fuller separation of the Israeli and Palestinian entity). We need to stop and ask whether the former alternative – separation to achieve trust – is a viable one. Are we not, actually, setting ourselves up for two nationalist states with a vested interest in maintaining this separation and preventing any real cooperation between the two peoples, leading, in the long run, to continued animosity between us.Notes:
- Non-nationalists are not those who deny the existence of a nation, but rather those who object to the notion that a nation must be its own sovereign in its own nation-state. [↩]