It’s been suggested in an email discussion group I belong to, that now, since a growing number of Israeli journalists see the two-state solution as dead, this settles the matter. Carlo Strenger is the latest to make such a pronouncement. (See his article, “We’ve lost: It’s time to think about one state.”)
In the meantime, one of Strenger’s colleagues at Haaretz, Akiva Eldar, writes caustically of this growing trend among his fellow Israeli doves, decrying “The Defeatism of the Left“:
The desperate leftists propose joining together two hostile communities with a bloodly feud between them and endless prejudices about each other. …
…. A binational state is not a solution, but rather a flight from reality and a recipe for perpetuating a duel between two nations. …
I have enormous respect for Strenger, but I agree with Eldar; I see Strenger’s position as one of exasperation rather than practicality. We know how two states would work, if only we were to get there. We have no idea how one state for two warring peoples could possibly work, other than by mutual hostility and one dominating the other.
But notice that Strenger is hedging. He isn’t endorsing one unitary state, he’s speaking wistfully of a “confederation”:
The new state will have to function as a confederation and give considerable autonomy to its constituent states or cantons. We will have to look deeply into existing models for such confederate structures as in Switzerland, Canada and Belgium. And we will have to watch closely how the EU progresses towards a stronger central government that unites very different cultures and languages.
Still, his examples alone cast doubt on this working. Switzerland has a rock-solid but very loose confederation of powerful cantons that has worked for centuries, but an Israel-Palestine like Switzerland? Get real. And Canada, you may know, has just entered another time of uncertainty with the election of a new separatist government in Quebec.
Or like Belgium? On the one hand it’s a stable peaceful country, but on the other it broke records recently by failing to have a new government coalesce for one and a half years because of the sharp division between French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemish.
And the EU? Doesn’t the ongoing Euro crisis tell him anything about how that’s going?
Yet if Strenger is speaking of a confederation, this is not quite the same thing as a single unitary state. It does not necessarily negate the aspiration and need of the Jewish people for an essential degree of sovereignty insuring refuge for Jews who need it. And at least one state in the world would still connect with the historical and ongoing civilization of the Jewish people: its calendar, its language and its religion — although hopefully not a Judaism that is ensconced in a theocratic way, as Islam is in Iran, Saudi Arabia and increasingly in Pakistan and some other countries that are officially Islamic.
The real question is baldly factual: is a 2-state solution any longer possible? It’s not a matter of ideological preference but of assessing what is the reality we have to deal with. Those, like Baskin, who argue that the option is still possible always hedge that “soon” it won’t be. But people have been saying “soon” for 5-7 years. With much grief people like Strenger and I conclude that “soon” has become “now.” What Israeli government will negotiate 2 states? What US administration will pressure it to? What unit of Zahal will forcibly deal with violently opposed settlers? Is One State a potential disaster, yes. Is that what we’re faced with and must think about, yes.