Is it time to move on to the One-State Solution?

Is it time to move on to the One-State Solution?

By Libby Lenkinski Friedlander & Noam Sheizaf

972-Zone is a new feature on +972 magazine, in which we will periodically raise a central question dealing with current affairs to a selected group of experts. This week our panel includes: Amjad Atallah, Avrum Burg, Dahlia Scheindlin, Dimi Reider, Gadi Baltiansky, Joseph Dana, Lara Friedman, Mikhael Manekin, Sofian Abu-Zaida, and Zehava Galon.

They were all presented with the following question:

About a month ago, the US administration admitted the failure of its attempt to bring a settlement moratorium that would enable direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Some claim that the window for the two state solution is closing.  Others are not so sure.

Do you think it is time to start discussing possible “One-State solutions” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Amjad Atallah | New America Foundation; Director of Middle East Task Force, Editor for Middle East Channel on

The acceptance of territorial partition by Palestinians with 78% for Israel and 22% for Palestine is considered a major concession to the realities of power politics.  In effect, the Palestinians in Israel and in the Diaspora were asked to sacrifice representation of their interests in order to secure those of Palestinians living under occupation.

Without the possibility of real partition, Palestinians in Israel and in the Diaspora can be expected to reassert their interests and may find willing allies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Non-partition solutions have now become a necessary part of the discourse.

Gadi Baltiansky | Director General of the Geneva Initiative

The discussion of the one-state solution is correct and logical, but too early. Maybe after generations of Israelis and Palestinians are brought up normally, each living in their own free and secure sate, after threats turn into co-operations and after the conflict turns into nothing more than a chapter in the history books, maybe then the inhabitants on this land will prefer to live in one state. Meanwhile, the collective memory of the Jewish nation of the dangers waiting to ambush it in the absence of a homeland of its own is too fresh. The Palestinian collective memory of the damage caused them by Zionism is too fresh.  The US can not give up after tens of years of penetrating the consciousness of the majority of Israelis and Palestinians about what the solution should look like.

If we wait, then it will indeed be too late for a two-state solution, but right now it is too early for the one-state solution.  If we do nothing, we will simply stay in the conflict with no solution.

Mikhael Manekin | Co-founder of Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers working to raise awareness about the daily reality in the Occupied Territories

The answer is no. This question presupposes some factors: That the construct of two real states was on the table in recent years and that it failed.  That today, a one state solution is practically more reasonable. That the Occupation and other issues pertaining to the conflict (historical justice etc.) are in the same category of problems. I disagree with all points.

Complete Palestinian sovereignty has never been offered. There is much less political will for one state — self determination makes most sense in a two state framework. Lastly, prolonged military Occupation is a unilateral action, morally untenable, regardless of solutions to the conflict.

Sofian Abu-Zaida |  Former Minister in the Palestinian Authority

During the Oslo accords in 1993, the idea of a two-state solution was reachable. But in the time since, mainly because the Israelis have failed to release themselves from the mindset of the Occupation, this idea seems to be unreachable.

In the absence of the two-state solution – especially in light of the USA failure to achieve it – more and more Palestinian people and Palestinian leaders have spoken publicly about the possibility of leading a struggle toward a one-state solution.  Some have done so because they really believe in in a one-state solution, like me, but some readily adopt this idea as a result of frustration with the alternative.

Zehava Galon | former MK for Meretz

Netanyahu’s government is not heading toward a Statehood solution anytime soon.  Despite suspicion that the two-state solution is becoming impossible, it is the only practical, realistic solution. The one-state solution is a dangerous and mistaken illusion.

I believe that the State of Israel is the self determination of the Jewish Nation, a state for al citizens, and a state which grants communal rights to National minorities within it.  Just as I defend Israel’s right to exist, despite my criticism, I also struggle for the establishment of a Palestinian state, that will put into practice Palestinians’ right to Statehood.

The demand to release Palestinians from the oppression of the Occupation is not only a human rights demand. Rather, it is a demand for the end of the conflict, for a division of land based on an agreement, in the spirit of the Arab League and Geneva Initiatives.  The suggestion to establish one state, both when it comes from the radical left or from the right, will not only deter from reaching peace but will establish a new conflict over control over the one state.

Unlike them, I want to end the occupation, but not to end the state of Israel. I want to change the state I’m living it, but I don’t want to give up our independence. I believe that the Palestinians wouldn’t want to give up the hope for their own nation-state as well.  According to a recent poll conducted by the Hebrew University, this understanding is shared by a majority in both societies.

Avrum Burg | Former Knesset Speaker

The window [for the two-states solution] is not closing. It has been closed for many years, because we have never admitted the fact that Israel and Palestine are two kidnapped friends. Kidnapped – by religious extremists; settlers and Hamas members alike, committed to their vision of one state, based on Halacha (Jewish law) or Shaariya (Muslim law). This religious minority, ours and theirs, holds the will of the majority at ransom for its messianic dreams.

This, among other things, has made both societies develop a kind of “Stockholm Syndrome”- identification with one’s kidnapper.

In Israel, there is a real fear of confrontation with the armed messianic forces living among us. Anyway our government policies are drawn from the power of the settler vision. It seems that the only way to balance this is an alternative suggestion of one state between the Jordan and the sea.  Secular, democratic, egalitarian and civilian.

Lara Friedman | Director of Policy and Government Relations, Americans for Peace Now

The “one-state solution” is a fantasy shared by some anti-Zionists/post-Zionists and some Zionist hardliners.  Fantasy, because no Israeli government will dissolve the State of Israel in favor of a bi-national state, and Israel will never be able to justify annexing the West Bank to create “Greater Israel.”  And importantly, “one-state” is not the dream of either the Israeli or the Palestinian public at large.

The two-state solution is still possible and is the only alternative to a permanent state of conflict. Rather than wasting time on fantasy, energy should focus on achieving the two-state solution before it is too late.

Joseph Dana | West Bank reporter and contributer for +972 magazine

The Palestine Papers have given ultimate confirmation that Israel is not interested in an equitable two-state solution with the Palestinians. The secret documents reveal beyond a shadow of a doubt that even the most generous offers of land and security by the Palestinians in a two-state paradigm were rejected by Israel. During these negotiations, and in fact during the last twenty years of serious discussion of a two-state solution, Israel has doubled and redoubled efforts to create facts on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza which render a two-state solution impossible to implement.

Quite simply, Israel has created the one state. This state gives 80% of its citizens (the Jewish population) full democratic and civil rights. 20% of the citizens (Palestinian citizens of Israel) experience institutionalized discrimination in virtually all sectors of civil and political life. The remaining population in the West Bank lives in an apartheid like system of separate and unequal rights under full military occupation by Israel. The population of Gaza is surrounded by walls and predator drones which constantly monitor their movements while preventing the growth of a sovereign state.

Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories form one state under complete Israeli control. Israeli negotiators with the cover of continued American aid and diplomatic assistance have taken every opportunity to stop an equitable two-state solution from coming into existence. Since we live in one state and the two-state solution is dead, why not pragmatically work towards bringing democracy to the residents of this unequal state?

Dahlia Scheindlin | +972 contributer, International public opinion analyst and strategic consultant

Although the one-state approach proposes a united entity between the Jordan and the sea, in fact it represents King Solomon’s original proposal to cut the baby in half. In reality, one state means that Israelis and Palestinians each receive a mutilated and unsustainable version of its national dream. The Palestinians will never get the national self-determination they seek in a Jewish-dominated single state. Jews will achieve neither the democracy and inner harmony they seek (or ought to), nor legitimacy from the world, as long as they obstruct Palestinian rights to national self-expression in their single state – even before Jews become a minority.

Finally, this conflict is tragically likely to ignite again over ‘some damn foolish thing in the settlements’ (with apologies to Bismark). A one-state solution not only fails to prevent settlements from ripping into Palestinian land and courting violence, it legitimizes expansion – since there is no border. Sadly, we all need one.

Dimi Reider | Journalist, +972 contributer

The one state needs to be discussed not out of complacency – i.e. it’s coming anyway or is here already – but out of urgency: to prevent the irreparably deformed version of the two-state solution, as glimpsed by us through the Palestine Papers and Netanyahu’s and Lieberman’s public comments.

Having completely appropriated the two-state solution, the Israeli Right is now striving to ensure that at its best, it will create a disjointed, demilitarized, economically dependent Palestinian local council, with less sovereignty than a member state of the US. Meantime, what passes for the Israeli mainstream left – chauvinist-nationalist National Left, defunct Labor and Kadima, of Lebanon and Gaza fame – has no ability or interest to ensure Palestine will ever be a viable, independent state. The Palestinian’s own dead-end unilateral proclamation plan would only give Israel an excuse to concede even less.

What’s more, the two-state solution is increasingly tied to population and citizenship transfers – not only of settlers, but of Israeli Palestinians. The introduction of one-state thought is needed to put up a real alternative to the segregationist discourse, which dominates Israeli politics from Left to Right and which would almost certainly lead to tremendous human and political disasters.

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