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It's time for a one-state solution

There is no use convincing the Jewish public to support the two-state solution, especially when over 500,000 settlers live beyond the Green Line and there is no guarantee that a Palestinian state will not be the source of terror against Israelis. The only way forward is to grant full equality to all.

By Yonatan Amir

BDS graffiti on Israeli separation wall, Bethlehem, West Bank, June 17, 2014. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Graffiti in support of BDS on the Israeli separation wall, Bethlehem, West Bank, June 17, 2014. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Every time I say that the two-state solution is no longer realistic, and that we need to think about new approaches to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, center-left voters respond with anger, condescension and pity. They claim that this is a far-fetched idea, not to mention dangerous and cruel (!) — an idea that proves the desire to destroy the State of Israel, and is disconnected from the will of the “sane Jewish majority.”

Let’s start with a reminder: the new Knesset includes 107 members belonging to Jewish parties. Seventy-eight of them oppose the two-state solution, and are divided between those who have no qualms about their stances (Likud, Jewish Home, Kulanu, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beiteinu), and a minority that talks about a solution but creates obstacles to ever achieving one (Yesh Atid). On the other side we have the supporters of two states: five MKs from Meretz and 24 from the Zionist Camp. All in all, 29 versus 78.

These are the statistics. We aren’t talking about a difference of 2-3 seats that could make a difference in the future, not a “majority,” not “sane,” no “support” and no “solution.” The majority of Israelis oppose a two-state solution. Welcome to the negligible minority.

‘Everything will be okay’

Since the end of the 90s, there has been not a single election result that did not demand some form self-examination from the Israeli Left. But instead of formulating a new agenda, the Left deals, again and again, with the question of how to get new voters to support old ideas. This is a logical step when considering issues such as civil rights, gender equality and allocating the budget to different cultural groups. Not when we are dealing with concrete political solutions.

Let’s put aside the Left’s historical colorblindness toward Israel’s periphery, and focus on the Israeli-Palestinian story, in which it takes the correct position. It often feels like if only the leaders from the Israeli Left learn to speak to the people in a way that will allow to replace the current leadership, everything will work out. But as my friend Eilat Maoz wrote, Israel doesn’t have a leadership problem — it has a regime problem. Israeli sovereignty is based on a regime of separation, which was formed and maintained for dozens of years by both right and left-wing governments. The Zionist Left’s solution for forceful separation is separation by consent. This solution was formed in the 1970s, and was partially implemented in the 90s.

Beyond the separation wall, bulldozers expand the Modi'in Illit settlement bloc. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Beyond the separation wall, bulldozers expand the Modi’in Illit settlement bloc. Can Israel actually remove 500,000 settlers from the West Bank? (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

I will not go into all the reasons why it failed during the Oslo process. I will only say that even if there was a period when this solution was relevant — and this too should be taken with a grain of salt — five decades of military rule, 500,000 settlers, a failed agreement and one Gaza disengagement later, it is enough to simply glance at the maps and see how scant the chance of reaching an agreement is.

Even if we assume that we can convince a large percentage of settlers to evacuate the West Bank, and assuming the Israeli economy will be able to deal with the price, and assuming that a state that was unable to take care of thousands of Gaza evacuees will be able to take care of hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Judea and Samaria, and assuming that both sides will agree to allow visits to each other’s holy sites, and assuming the Palestinians will be satisfied with a demilitarized 21 percent of their historic homeland, and assuming that they will agree to give up on the right of return, and assuming we find a solution that will reconnect Gaza and the West Bank, and assuming that the agreement will be accepted by the majority of Palestinians (and not just a handful of suits in Ramallah). Even if we assume all these to be true, after Oslo and the disengagement, who can guarantee that missiles won’t strike central Israel a month after an agreement is signed? The Zionist Left has no good answer beyond its belief that things will eventually work out. So is it really a surprise that so few buy their plan?

As opposed to the Zionist Left, the Right actually understands that the Palestinians and their demands aren’t going anywhere. The problem is that the Right doesn’t offer any logical plan to deal with the situation. As a result, what is called “Israeli policy” today is nothing more than a hysterical combination of Netanyahu-style paranoia and childish, folksy behavior à la Naftali Bennett. What we end up with are mantras about maintaining Israeli security alongside infantile slogans such as “the eternal people do not fear a long road.”

The fact that the Left is terrified of this is clear. What is astonishing is that there are groups in the Right that recoil from this oppressive, siege-mentality attitude, and are interested in promoting democracy, coexistence and equality for our neighbors. But without a real political home that will work to that end, they remain limited by their political parties.

The Israeli regime oppresses and discriminates against the Palestinian population. The settlements, which are supported and endorsed by the legal system, are the crown jewel of this discrimination, although we must be cautious of pointing the blame solely at them. The massive Land Day protests erupted in 1976 took place in the Galilee, not in the West Bank, and the economic fruits of the occupation benefit those in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Kfar Saba. This does not mean that the Left needs to idealize or whitewash the crimes of the settlement project. It means that after almost 50 years of occupation and the establishment of the first settlements, the time has come to think about how to move forward while recognizing their existence.

Map of Israeli settlements and areas under Israeli control in the West Bank. (B'Tselem)

Map of Israeli settlements and areas under Israeli control in the West Bank. (B’Tselem)

Most of the settlers are far from the violent messianism of Kahane. They came to the settlements because of their belief in God or settling the land, a desire for better quality of life, or simply the option to buy a home for a decent price. We can disagree with them, but we need to start learning how to work with what we’ve got. Speak to the average settler about evacuation because “it is the decent price to pay so to make it better for all of us,” and they will slam the door in your face. Speak with them about equality for the Palestinians they meet every day, and you will find the beginnings of cooperation.

Speak with Kahlon, speak with Shas

In a televised debate that took place before the elections, the head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, asked Shas leader Aryeh Deri to form an alliance of the oppressed. Like Orly Noy wrote, Deri quickly turned into Yair Lapid, telling Odeh that it is a shame that the Arab leaders don’t care for their community. It was a disappointing replication of the claims made about his sector, although in retrospect, had Deri agreed to a Mizrahi-Arab alliance, Eli Yishai and Baruch Marzel would have likely passed the election threshold and made it into the Knesset.

Either way, now that the campaigns are over, we must work together. Currently, the Right has no plan, and the Left has a terrible one. If the Left is interested in being relevant and have a positive effect, it needs to fill this space and start working differently. The struggle for equality on both sides of the Green Line touches on relations between religious and secular, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, veteran Israeli residents and new immigrants, no less than relations between Jews and Arabs. This struggle can be conducted with Kahlon and Deri, with the ultra-Orthodox Litzman, with the more moderate parts of Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Jewish Home. And, of course, with the Joint List.

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh seen on election night, Nazareth, Israel, March 17, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh seen on election night, Nazareth, Israel, March 17, 2015. A Mizrahi-Arab alliance is the way to move forward. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Instead of organizing conferences where people mingle and discuss ways to divide the land, a Left that wants to have political influence must work with the Right to advance equal master plans in Arab villages. Instead of entrenching ourselves in its comfort zone, it must work with people and organizations that promote dialogue and coexistence.

Instead of chasing after the well-respected general turned successful arms dealer who can explain that stopping negotiations on a two-state solution only isolates Israel and harms it economically, it must join those on the Israeli Right and the Palestinian Left in order to advance equality in the workforce and education. Instead of trying to sell the Right on fantasies of dividing the land, which are destined to fail, it must work with it to bring about one state with equal rights for all residents on both sides of the Green Line.

This move will not abrogate Palestinian national aspirations. It will not put an end to either Jewish or Arab terror and will not solve all of Israel’s essential problems. But it will help build a more stable and fair infrastructure based on democracy and equality, which so crucial for the existence of a healthy society.

Yonatan Amir is one of the editors-in-chief of the Erev Rav journal of arts, culture and society. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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    1. Jello

      We have no intention of integrating the Arabs of the West Bank in Israel. That they continue to refuse all offers of sovereignty doesn’t entitle them to Israeli citizenship nor does it obligate me to grant it to them. If they choose instead to live in a permanent state of conflict with a far stronger neighbor that is their problem. They have no claim to citizenship in my country and there is exactly zero chance that you are going to convince any but the most naive Israelis to the contrary. Perhaps prior to the first intifada such an idea was at least theoretically conceivable, but the idea that Israeli Jews will put their country and security in the hands of a population that overwhelmingly supports the murder of Israeli Jewish civilians is laughable. And no amount of trying to formulate this proposal with the sweetest and most innocent terms will change that fact. My favorite part was where you were claiming that your idea would promote a more ‘stable’ situation. You offer the ‘stability’ of Iraq and Syria and expect anyone to take you seriously?

      Reply to Comment
      • Weiss

        Replace Arabs with Blacks and Israel with Alabama and your racist invective becomes crystal clear… George Wallace reincarnated.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          The Blacks of Alabama live in territory they insist does not belong to Alabama and have repeatedly rejected offers of sovereignty because they insist that all of Alabama belongs to them and they insist that the White people must either leave or live as second-hand citizens under a Black government? And was there overwhelming support for murdering White women and children by the Blacks of Alabama while people from the side were insisting that the Whites should hand their security over to the Blacks? Right.. George Wallace… Next I expect to be given some other bullshit analogy with South Africa. 3.. 2.. 1..

          Reply to Comment
          • Weiss

            @Jello Brain

            “We have no intention of integrating…”

            Straight out of the dumb-ass-REDNECK playbook…

            George Wallace reincarnated…in 2015

            Sadly he stated these apalling words back in 1963:

            segregation now, “…segregation tomorrow and segregation forever”

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Jello is 100% right.

            Weiss, your analogy is idiotic as Jello explained but you are too thick headed to grasp it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Weiss

            Another dumb-ass-Redneck chirps about racist segregation and discrimination …

            You come a runnin’ when you hear your name called Jethro…

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav


            Weiss in full flight sloganeering. Sounds like you are running for office, Weissy boy. Most people don’t vote for idiots. Only the brain dead ones do …

            Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        “They have no claim to citizenship in my country”

        Oh yeah? Then stop claiming citizenship in THEIR country. If you think you can claim citizenship in the remaining 21% of the land they are apparently just not going to surrender, you’re not playing with a full deck.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          They have no country. They never have and they refuse to accept their own country if it means making real peace with mine.

          Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        “They have no claim to citizenship in my country”. Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about your family background Jello. Are you an indigenous Palestinian whose family have lived in Palestine for the last four thousand years? Are you a descendant of one of the 2000 Jews who lived in Palestine in 1700 AD? Did your family make aliyah in the late nineteenth century leaving their ancestral homelands in Yemen and Russia to start a new life in a new land? Was your grandfather or great grandfather one of the 84,000 Jews living in Palestine when the British Mandate began, outnumbered 6 to 1 by the native population? Or are your roots more recent? I’d be very interested to know.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kareem Jeans

          The answers to,your questions are neither pertinent to advancing a solution nor are they any of your concern. More pragmatism, less idealism will serve you well.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            If a recently arrived Sudanese or Polish immigrant to the UK or a recently arrived Mexican immigrant to the US started making extreme claims about other citizens of “my country” no-one would hesitate to remind them it is “our country”. I think it is a relevant question since many of the most bigoted Israelis do seem to be recent arrivals without any concept of two peoples sharing a land.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            But thats the point darling. A Mexican-American or a Polish-American can quite safely proclaim that Mexicans in Mexico have no right to citizenship in his country of America. That is how citizenship works.

            The truth of the matter is that it bothers you that I have a country. Your preference would be for it to not exist or have citizens.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Zorlus

      It’s really curious that the author didn’t address the notion of the right to self determination. Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-determination . The Palestinians and the Israelis are both nations under any reasonable sense of the definition, and thus each deserve their own states. A two-state solution then seems to be the most progressive and respectful course of action to pursue, despite not enjoying the support from many so-called progressives, particularly those based outside of Israel/Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        The majority of world Jewry live quite happily, prosperously and securely as minorities in one state solutions like USA, France, Canada, UK, Argentina, Russia, Germany, Brazil, Australia, South Africa etc. There is no fundamental reason why the minority who live in Palestine should not be able to do the same. But you are right that if that minority wish to cling to an outdated nationalistic solution in a modern world of globalization and multiculturalism, then their urgent task is to grant national independence to the native population in part of Palestine, before their Apartheid regime is swept off the page of history, like others before it in the USA and South Africa.

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard Cranium

          No thank you Bryan. It’s is possible to have both a state of the Jewish people and a thriving diaspora. Who put you in charge of decoding what is best for the Jews?

          Your unwanted suggestion is particularly obnoxious in light of attacks on Jews this week in both England and South Africa.

          Reply to Comment
      • jmk

        You’re missing the author’s main premise that at this point the facts on the ground and popular opinion don’t leave room for a viable Palestinian state. So the right to self determination must play out within that context.

        Reply to Comment
        • Zorlus

          The author’s main point was terribly diffuse, as are most of these so-called “analysis” pieces as of yet. Yes, everybody has known for some time that an effective “one-state solution” is playing out. This is not an original notion by any stretch, and it’s absurd to call this some kind of analysis. The author did not address the right to self determination of the Palestinians in any sense, and this pretty embarrassing. 972, please get authors that can perform proper analysis, not just people that you know from HUJI.

          Reply to Comment
    3. dekkers

      Who cares if Israel can take the settlers back. They are war criminals living on stolen land and they have to leave Palestine and pay for the damages done. They probably all have the right to return to Europe / US

      Reply to Comment
    4. Richard Witty

      That is an old observation.

      You didn’t move on to the next step of defining what a single state would look like, and how to achieve it without gross violence.

      It would take persuasion, which would likely be more difficult than convincing Israelis that the green line is in fact a potentially safe border, if other factors are incorporated into an agreement that are acceptable to Palestinians.

      Definitely stuck.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Joel Cantor

      This envisaged “stable” solution put forward by Mr Amir resembles the situation in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. All these are “stable” multicultural democracies where 2 or peoples peacefully share the same land.. NOT!.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Weiss

      One state will never happen with the Fascists in control.

      Yet It will be quite entertaining to watch the Fascists squirm when the Palestinian State is forced upon them by the entire international community

      Reply to Comment
      • Joel Cantor

        I couldn’t agree more, Weiss.

        Even when the international community agrees to give them a state, the PLO fascists keep squirming about their god-given right to destroy Israel.

        Reply to Comment
        • Weiss

          Your paranoia is Hysterical …

          WE Americans did not help to defeat the Fascist-Nazis for Israel to turn around and embrace the Far Right where Fascism lies.

          And ANY Jew who embraces the Far Right is desecrating the memory of every single Jewish victim of the Holocaust.

          Reply to Comment
      • Kareem Jeans

        Hey Bitch, your first sentence is confused and in fact contradicts itself

        Secondly, Palestinians already proclaimed a state and that state has garnered recognition. So what exactly should be feared?


        Reply to Comment
    7. GKJames

      There’s a logic to what is proposed here, but it comes with a large dose of wishful thinking. The deep-seated and psychotic narratives rattling in the heads of both sides are not going to be cured any time soon even under the best of circumstances. Besides, there will never be an unqualified one-man-one-vote right for Arabs, a right that is the essence of a legitimate democracy. What is especially interesting is the reference, by the author and commenters, to rockets raining down on Israel AFTER an agreement. Logic would suggest that after an agreement between equals, there would be no reason for rockets.

      Reply to Comment
      • broit

        GK, rockets will fly because Hamas is in principle not interested in peace, but only in Islamic victory over the infidels – Jews, Christians, Bahai’s etc. Your comments, the article, the comments by others on this website reflect a general lack of knowledge of the Middle East. The author mentions the Gaza withdrawal, only to reinforce the point that it will be impossible to remove the Jews from Judea and Samaria. The Israeli evacuation of Gaza included the military and all the settlers. Hamas quickly took over, murdered Fatah supporters, established an Islamic theocracy, and proceeded to attack Israel with rockets.
        Another amazing observation – the author, and many commenters assume that Jews have to be removed from any Palestinian Arab state. None can be allowed to stay… What is wrong with a majority Arab state having a Jewish minority? For example, should Jews be expelled from the Holy City of Hebron again? Why not allow them to stay, under democratic Arab rule? With full voting rights?
        This will never happen.
        BTW – Arabs in Israel do enjoy full voting rights.

        Reply to Comment
        • GKJames

          The casus belli is the occupation. Ending the occupation — on the basis of a legitimate agreement negotiated between equals — ends the rockets. Yes, there is mistrust, but Israelis are hardly alone in being justified in their mistrust. And, yes, Israel and Palestine will need help from the rest of the world (read, US and Europe) to make it work. The long-term prospects of that are better, in my view, than of Israel’s arrogating to itself, on the basis of nothing more than muscle (and muscular friends), the right to subjugate people in perpetuity.

          Reply to Comment
        • Eliza

          Broit: The PA have made it clear that if an independent Palestinian State arises, then Jews may live within it but as Palestinian citizens; they would have no special privileges but would have the same civil rights as Palestinians within Israel.

          Hamas won unexpectedly won the last Palestinian election. This was not recognized or respected by Israel, the USA or Fatah; the message being even if you agree to enter the political process to achieve your goals, you won’t be accepted. Hamas has made it clear that it (1) won’t formerly give up on its right to armed resistance to the occupation, (2) armed resistance is a tactic not a goal in itself, and (3) it will accept an independent Palestinian State based on the 67 borders if this is the will of the Palestinian people.

          Hamas is a player in the dispute and must be involved in all negotiations. No point in trying to characterize them as ‘not being interested in peace’.

          Reply to Comment
    8. Brian


      “White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough made it clear Monday that the crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations over the issue of a Palestinian state has not dissipated, despite efforts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to clarify remarks he made late in the election campaign that no such state would be established on his watch.

      “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made,” McDonough told the J Street conference in Washington….

      He also warned Israel’s next government not to consider unilateral annexation of any West Bank territory, saying it would “be both wrong and illegal,” and that America would strenuously object.

      “Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely,” he said. “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end.” …

      “After the election, the prime minister said that he had not changed his position, but for many in Israel and in the international community, such contradictory comments call into question his commitment to a two-state solution, as did his suggestion that the construction of settlements has a strategic purpose of dividing Palestinian communities and his claim that conditions in the larger Middle East must be more stable before a Palestinian state can be established,” he said. “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made, or that they don’t raise questions about the prime minister’s commitment to achieving peace through direct negotiations.” …

      McDonough also described J Street, which is ostracized by much of the American Jewish establishment, as the White House’s “partner” in advancing the peace process and the two-state solution.”

      Reply to Comment
    9. Brian

      So is James Baker an Obama Democrat? Hardly. But according to the hard right it’s all about eeeevil Obama:

      “U.S. President Barack Obama said at a press conference on Tuesday that there is a “real policy difference” between the Washington and Jerusalem when it comes to a future Palestinian state.

      Speaking to reporters at the White House, where he was hosting the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, he added that this difference has “consequences for the region.”

      “We believe two states are the best way to preserve Israel’s security and that continues to be our view,” he said, adding, “Netanyahu has a different approach.

      “We can’t pretend there’s a possibility of something that is not there or premise U.S. diplomacy on something everyone knows isn’t going to happen,” Obama said, referring to efforts to convince Netanyahu to pursue a two-state solution.

      “Up until this year the premise has been … [that] the possibility of two states living side by side in peace and security could marginalize more extreme elements, bring together folks at the center with some common sense, and we could resolve what has been a vexing issue and one that is ultimately a threat to Israel as well,” Obama said.

      “And that possibility seems very dim, and that may trigger then reactions by the Palestinians that in turn elicits counter reactions by the Israelis and that could end up leading to a downward spiral for relations that will be dangerous for everybody and bad for everybody.”

      On Monday night, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker harshly criticizedNetanyahu at the J Street conference in Washington. Baker acknowledged his disappointment with “the lack of progress regarding a lasting peace,” saying that the chances for a two-state solution diminished since Netanyahu’s reelection last week.

      Baker further slammed Netanyahu’s “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship,” saying that the prime minister’s “actions have not matched his rhetoric,” according to Politico.”

      Reply to Comment
    10. Douglas Gruen

      The problem with the left, as evident by this article and the language it uses to describe its political opponents – justified or not- is an undeserved over abundance of HUBRIS.

      And as long as you are convinced that you are absolutely right and the other side is infantile at best – you aren’t going anywhere – you are as bad as Romney discounting the 47%.

      Reply to Comment
    11. I agree with the notion of One-state as it’s too late to make Israelis put things right with their increasing of settlements and more and more greed of land-grabbing it would be the only way to put an end to onslaughts on Gaza. It should be One Vote for Palestinians and the Israelis and creation of a truly democratic state.

      Reply to Comment
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