One State to Rule Them All?
In the comments to my earlier post on Israel/Palestine, North and Michael Drew got into a very intelligent (and spirited) back and forth.
Michael eventually wrote the following (way down in the thread of comment #9):
The question is why or whether they [The Palestinians] would be interested in a state for themselves, knowing at this point what it would consist of (not what it might have done). You are eliding the question by saying that they should want it if they have interest in a state on that territory. That is the question. Palestinian nationalism is largely a thing of the 1980s and to some extent 90s. Since then, it has largely been a crutch for the U.S. and Israel’s efforts at peace. Whatever reason Palestinians once had to desire the state on offer has been long since spoilt by war and economic siege. I honestly don’t see what reason they would have to accept what they can now get. It would not even come with any guarantee of security from Israeli interference pursuant to “security interests’ — no Israeli government could ever take that off the table. Given the history, and given that the Palestinian “state” would be effectively demilitarized, the “state” would amount to nothing more than a voluntarily promise of nonintervention from Israel. The cumulative effects of economic isolation and sense that historical wrongs had only been institutionalized would guarantee eventual violence directed at Israel from the new “state,” and the cycle of intervention and retaliation would begin anew.
This is a very important and well articulated point of view. As a quick review, my own sense of how crippled the Two State Framework is, led me to argue (in the comments) for the out-there idea that the US should take over the West Bank to create a kind of state-tutelage for the Palestinians, cover security for the Israelis, and separate the two populations. An admittedly somewhat insane idea*, only surpassed in its insanity (I think) by the current state of affairs and its seemingly unstoppable trajectory towards Israel ruling over a stateless ethnic majority disenfranchised politically. The consequences of an increasingly unstoppable Accidental Empire.
Michael’s argument gains support from Juan Cole, who in the conclusion to a classic takedown of Jeffrey Goldberg (always in good order), says the following:
Does Goldberg have a plan “B”? Because his two-state solution is so 1993. The problem is, it is almost certainly past the point where any such thing is possible, given the size and extent of Israeli colonies in the Palestinian West Bank. Goldberg admits that the only two likely outcomes of the current policies of Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman are Apartheid or a one-state solution. (boldface in original)
For those interested, the best argument I’ve ever read towards a a one state solution is that of Ali Abu Nimah (titled One Country). The book makes some strong arguments and is definitely worth reading and considering, but I still admit to thinking there are serious potential flaws in the idea. Flaws that push (as discussed in this interview with Abu Nimah) even people like Jimmy Carter and Noam Chomsky to favor a two state solution. In that same interview Abu Nimah counters:
What I argue in the book [One Country], of course this isn’t about destroying Israel. It isn’t about turning things over from one day to the next. Palestine-Israel is not the only country that faces this sort of power struggle along ethnic, religious, and other lines. We have to look for structures, and I talk about this in some detail in the book. How they did it in South Africa, where by the way, the same sorts of arguments were made against ending Apartheid and against one person, one vote. We have to look at countries like Belgium, we have to look at Northern Ireland.
There are many models out there for dealing with those sort of things. So that you have one person, one vote, full democracy, full equality, while at same time, ethnic communities, the Israeli-Jewish community, the Palestinian community, will have mechanisms for expressing their national identity, for decision making over issues that concern them. We have to stop thinking this very simplistic, binary way. And this is where I’m trying to take the discussion with this book.
While I generally think the idea of Two States is much more workable in theory, I’m leaning more towards the notion that it is has become unfeasible in practice, however preferred it might be at the hypothetical/policy level. I think these kinds of discussions need to take place–what do we do if the Two State Solution fails? What do we do if the Two State Solution is not workable, if there is no realistic path from here to there?
If the Two State Solution is dead (or at least becoming incapacitated with little to no hope of legitimate recovery), then we are left only with the choice of Israeli domination of a (soon to be) ethnic majority without political rights, which would call into question the legitimacy of the state of Israel and continue the horrible, right-less existence of the Palestinian people. Or one state. Again that binary choice occurs IF the Two State Solution is dead. My own view is that The Two State Solution is increasingly on the precipice–while for others we’ve already fallen off that edge.
I think much more work needs to be done on thinking about what safeguards there would be in a One State framework. Abu Nimah begins that discussion, but I think it needs to go much further.
* I didn’t know these previous to TEH GOOGLE telling me, but apparently this fellow has argued that the united Israeli-Palestinian state become the 51st State in the US.