First Published: 2006-12-05

 
Too late for two states?
 

The idea of a bi-national state is not a new one. Several prominent Jewish intellectuals in mandatory Palestine between the two world wars advocated such an arrangement, though they had little political influence, says Raafat Dajani.

 

Middle East Online

As progress toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stalls, an old idea has gained increased currency in some circles: one bi-national state for both Israelis and Palestinians. There are a number of variations of this argument, but proponents essentially call for forgoing the concept of two distinct national entities. Instead, they advocate that Israelis and Palestinians share the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River in one state.

The idea of a bi-national state is not a new one. Several prominent Jewish intellectuals in mandatory Palestine between the two world wars advocated such an arrangement, though they had little political influence. Originally, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) advocated the establishment of a democratic Palestinian Arab state in all of mandatory Palestine, with Jews as citizens of this state. In 1987, the PLO and Palestinian National Council (PNC) formally embraced the two-state solution, calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. This continues to be the position of the PLO and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

The recent resurgence in discussion about the bi-national concept is essentially due to the lack of movement toward a negotiated two-state solution coupled with what are deemed irrevocable Israeli facts on the ground in the occupied territories, making the possibility of a viable and independent Palestinian state remote.

What makes the one-state argument seductive is that it sounds theoretically reasonable. Israeli facts on the ground, primarily settlements, control of vital resources, and the appropriation of critical parts of a future Palestinian state including East Jerusalem through the separation barrier, are serious challenges to the two-state concept. The idea of "one man, one vote" is fundamentally democratic. The land in question is small and the two societies are intertwined to some extent.

But however well intentioned proponents of a bi-national state are, their argument suffers from fatal flaws. The first is that international support for the idea barely exists. All of the relevant international world powers and institutions, including the U.S., United Nations, European Union and Arab League, support a two-state solution.

More important, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians continue to desire to express their national aspirations in an independent state of their own where they will be first class citizens. On the Israeli side, the bi-national idea predictably has no support. To assume that Israeli Jews would willingly give up on the idea of a Jewish state is to show lack of understanding of the existential need of Jews for a state of their own after centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust.

To Israelis and Jews, a bi-national state means a state where they will be a minority, equating in their eyes to calls for their destruction.

For Palestinians, the danger of talking now about a one-state solution is that it diverts critically needed energies from the still achievable goal of two states, and destroys decades-long work towards achieving international recognition of the need for a Palestinian state, essentially returning them to square one. Since no realistic individual can assume that Israelis will willingly give up on a Jewish, Israeli state, it condemns the two peoples to decades of bloody conflict in the pursuit of an unachievable goal.

Even if such a state were to miraculously come into being, Palestinians would very likely be an underclass, with decades if not more of civil rights to fight for. Worse, with such a bitter history of violence between the two peoples, it is easy to foresee degeneration into Balkans-style and ceaseless inter-communal conflict.

What is required at the present time is a refocusing of efforts toward surmounting the challenges facing a two-state solution, the parameters of which are well known and have been accepted by all parties: a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, and a negotiated settlement of the refugee issue.

In terms of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, though all illegal under international law, it is also recognized that some Israeli settlement blocs, accounting for 4 percent to 5 percent of the West Bank, will be incorporated into Israel as part of a negotiated and equitable land swap. The rest of the settlers would return to Israel proper. Negotiation and the application of political power can separate settlers from the settlements and bring down walls. This is achievable because the majority of Israelis realize that the settlement enterprise has been an obstacle to peace.

It is true that time is running out on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israelis, Palestinians and the U.S. need to shoulder their responsibilities to create a viable and contiguous Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace. Such a state is in the interest of all these parties and remains the only way to fulfill Palestinian national aspirations and address Israel's security and integration into the Middle East.

Achieving a two-state solution is admittedly difficult, but replacing it with something far less achievable is not the answer. The Palestinian national project is hardly any less achievable than Jewish hopes for a state of their own as recently as 70 years ago. The alternative is continued and expanding conflict with the real danger of degeneration into a holy war between Muslims and Jews. At the end of that fight there will neither be one nor two states.

Raafat Dajani is the executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, an organization advocating the U.S. national interest in a two-state solution.

Copyright 2006, Orlando Sentinel

 

Regime strikes in Syria enclave despite ceasefire call

Russia pours cold water on UN bid to condemn Iran over missiles to Yemen

Egypt presidential race starts with Sisi likely to win

Saudi Arabia to boost entertainment in next decade

Blatter supports Morocco bid for 2026 World Cup

More strikes hit E. Ghouta as UN delays truce vote

Turkey says US embassy Jerusalem opening in May 'extremely worrying'

Lebanon says both suspects in Kuwait murder of Filipina maid held

38 dead in Mogadishu car bombings

Morocco police arrests prominent newspaper publisher

Syria regime continues to pound Ghouta as world stutters

UN rights commission wants S.Sudan war crimes charges

Iran grounds airline's ATR planes after crash

Turkey summons Dutch diplomat over Armenian 'genocide' vote

Turkey navy threatens to engage Italian drillship near Cyprus

Iran police shoving headscarf protester sparks social media storm

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Syria ceasefire

Dubai says Djibouti illegally seized African port

Dutch parliament recognises 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide

Heavily bombarded Eastern Ghouta awaits UN resolution

Russia says Syria rebels rejected offer to evacuate E. Ghouta

UN diplomats press for Syria ceasefire without Russia veto

Iranian minister’s presence at UN rights meeting angers critics

Iran warns it will leave nuke deal if banks cannot do business

Qatar to plant thousands of trees to ‘beautify’ World Cup venues

Pro-Kurdish party says Turkey lying about 'no civilian deaths' in Afrin

African migrants protest Israeli detention policy

Egypt sentences 21 to death for planning attacks

Israeli handball teams in Qatar spark furious outcry from locals

UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

Palestinian dies after being shot by Israeli soldiers

Gulf states urge Syria to end Ghouta violence

Wanted Bahraini militants die at sea en route to Iran

Iran's Ahmadinejad calls for immediate free elections

Merkel calls for end to 'massacre' in Syria

Iraq urges FIFA to lift ban on hosting internationals

Carnage of Ghouta's bombs breaking families

Blockaded Gaza Strip forced to pump sewage into sea

African migrants start hunger strike over Israel expulsion

UN chief 'deeply alarmed' by Eastern Ghouta violence

Three militiamen killed in Libya car bomb attack

Russia denies ‘groundless’ accusations of role in Ghouta killings

Turkey says whoever helps YPG is 'legitimate target'

Morocco dismantles IS-linked terrorist cell

Turkey urged to end gas standoff with Cyprus