Last week, I found a 2010 NY Times “Lede” blog post by Robert Mackey, “Thinking Outside the Two-State Box,” (Sept. 7, 2010). He reported upon right-wing[!] voices within Israel advocating a one-state solution involving a single political entity for Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, but excluding the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip would be excluded in order to insure either a Jewish majority or a more equal ethnic balance between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, and presumably to isolate Hamas. This provision alone would likely make it a non-starter for the Palestinians, but the unrealistic excision of Gaza is curiously not considered by the blogger.
My general belief is that a repartition of Palestine into two states is the only solution, and that one state–given the history of violence and the ethnic, religious and cultural differences between Israelis and Palestinians–is no solution at all. Yet the intractable nature of the conflict to-date leaves me open to the possibility of “outside the box” ideas. Still, it’s up to the one-state advocates to convince the majority of Israelis and Palestinians how one state would work.
Mackey concludes with several paragraphs quoting the late Tony Judt’s controversial NY Review of Books article in 2003, where he suggests the “unthinkable” of one bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state; but Judt is highly abstract and meta-historical in this article. He somewhat overdraws a conclusion that Israel, as an “ethno-religious state” is “an anachronism,” claiming that ethnic-based states are now passé. Curiously, Judt did not consider the reverse trend toward new-old ethnic states created with the breakup of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and
Czechoslovakia in the 1990s, nor did he anticipate the sharp divide between French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemish within the Belgian administrative hub of a “united Europe.”
Would a single Israeli-Palestinian state be a unitary formation, with one parliament and cabinet (as suggested in the Lede blog post), or would it be more realistic to have a confederation? And if it’s a confederation, how would it deal administratively and politically with the 500,000 Israeli-Jewish settlers within East Jerusalem and the West Bank? If it is recognized as a bi-national arrangement–which it must be–would both Israel’s Law of Return and a Palestinian Right of Return operate? I would think they would have to, if the interests of both peoples are to be dealt with in a single country—but how?
In the end, if this is the way to overcome decades of mutual violence, distrust and hatred, I’m all for it. But the very fact of this protracted and bitter conflict argues against it. Again, the burden is upon advocates of one state to convince everybody else–especially most Israelis and Palestinians who desire their own majority-ethnic states–how it could work.