The one-state solution
“Everybody knows how this will end,” wrote Nahum Barnea, one of Israel’s best-known journalists, in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot recently. “There will be a bi-national [state].” The “two-state solution” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dead; long live the “one-state solution.”
The two-state solution, promised by the Oslo Accords of 1993, has been the goal of the “peace process” of the past twenty years. It envisaged the creation of a Palestinian state in the one-fifth of the former colony of Palestine that did not end up under Israeli rule after the war of 1948. That Palestinian mini-state – in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – would live alongside Israel in peace, and the long, bitter struggle over Palestine would end happily.
That Palestinian state is no longer a viable possibility, mainly because there are now half a million Jewish settlers living amongst the two million Palestinians in the West Bank and former East Jerusalem.
“I do not give up on the two-state solution on ideological grounds,” wrote Haaretz columnist Carlo Strenger in September, “I give up on it because it will not happen.” The greatest triumph of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, has been to make the two-state solution impossible. Both men pretended to accept the Oslo Accords in order to ward off foreign pressure on Israel but both worked hard and successfully to sabotage them by more than tripling the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank in only twenty years.
Now the job is done and it is not only Israelis who can read the writing on the wall. Moderate Palestinians, never all that enthralled with the prospect of a tiny “independent” country completely surrounded by the Israeli army, are also giving up on the two-state idea. As Ahmed Qurei, who led the Palestinian delegation that negotiated the Oslo Accords, wrote recently: “We must seriously think about closing the book on the two-state solution.”
In a sense, the single state already exists: Israel has controlled the West Bank militarily since the conquest of 1967, and until recently it occupied the Gaza Strip as well. Almost 40 percent of Israelis already support a solution that would simply incorporate the West Bank into Israel permanently.
But what would Israel do with those two million extra Palestinians who would then live within the country’s expanded borders? Combine them with the million and a half Palestinians in Israel – the descendants of those who were not driven out in 1948 – and there would be 3.5 million Palestinians in a one-state Israel that included almost all the land west of the Jordan River.
This is precisely why an increasing number of Palestinians favor the one-state solution. They have tried guerilla war to get their lands and their political rights back, to no avail. They have tried terrorism, which didn’t work either. They tried negotiation for twenty years, and that didn’t work. So maybe the best tactic would be to change the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an international problem to a civil rights problem.
So, the Palestinians should just accept the permanent annexation of the West Bank by Israel, argue the one-staters. Indeed, they should actively seek it. They are already Israeli subjects, by every objective measure of their condition. If they become Israeli citizens instead, then the question of their status becomes a civil rights issue, to be pursued non-violently – and perhaps with a greater chance of success.
That is the logic of the pro-one-state argument among the Palestinians and it is flawless if you assume that Palestinians would enjoy full rights of citizenship once the West Bank was legally part of Israel.
But that is rather unlikely, as the status of Israel’s existing Palestinian citizens already demonstrates.
They are much poorer and less influential politically than their Jewish fellow-citizens.
A new public opinion poll in Israel by the Dialog polling group reveals that almost 70 percent of Israeli Jews would object to giving West Bank Palestinians the vote even if Israel annexed the territory they live in. The only alternative is an apartheid-style state where only the Jewish residents have rights but most Israelis seem quite relaxed about that. The Palestinians are probably heading up another blind alley.
But then, all the alleys are blind.