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Neve Gordon: Netanyahu and the one-state solution

By Neve Gordon

Israel’s unwillingness to compromise on key issues might annul a two-state solution, making only power-sharing viable.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address US legislators on Tuesday. He will, no doubt, tell members of Congress that he supports a two-state solution, but his support will be predicated on four negative principles: no to Israel’s full withdrawal to the 1967 borders; no to the division of Jerusalem; no to the right of return for Palestinian refugees; and no to a Palestinian military presence in the new state.

The problem with Netanyahu’s approach is not so much that it is informed by a rejectionist worldview. The problem is not even Netanyahu’s distorted conception of Palestine’s future sovereignty, which Meron Benvenisti aptly described as:

“scattered, lacking any cohesive physical infrastructure, with no direct connection to the outside world, and limited to the height of its residential buildings and the depth of its graves. The airspace and the water resources will remain under Israeli control…”

Rather, the real problem is that Netanyahu’s outlook is totally detached from current political developments, particularly the changing power relations both in the Middle East and around the world. Indeed, his approach is totally anachronistic.

Netanyahu’s not-so-implicit threat that Israel will continue its colonial project if the Palestinians do not accept some kind of “Bantustan solution” no longer carries any weight. The two peoples have already passed this juncture.

The Palestinians have clearly declared that they will not bow down to such intimidations, and it is now clear that the conflict has reached an entirely new intersection.

At this new intersection, there are two signs. The first points towards the west and reads “viable and just two-state solution”, while the second one points eastward and reads “power sharing”.

The first sign is informed by years of political negotiations (from the Madrid conference in 1991, through Oslo, Camp David, Taba, and Annapolis) alongside the publication of different initiatives (from the Geneva Initiative and the Saudi Plan to the Nussaiba and Ayalon Plan), all of which have clarified what it would take to reach a peace settlement based on the two-state solution. It entails three central components:

1. Israel’s full withdrawal to the 1967 border, with possible one-for-one land swaps so that ultimately the total amount of land that was occupied will be returned.

2. Jerusalem’s division according to the 1967 borders, with certain land swaps to guarantee that each side has control over its own religious sites and large neighbourhoods. Both these clauses entail the dismantlement of Israeli settlements and the return of the Jewish settlers to Israel.

3. The acknowledgement of the right of return of all Palestinians, but with the following stipulation: while all Palestinians will be able to return to the fledgling Palestinian state, only a limited number agreed upon by the two sides will be allowed to return to Israel; those who cannot exercise this right or, alternatively, choose not to, will receive full compensation.

Israel’s continued unwillingness to fully support these three components is rapidly leading to the annulment of the two-state option and, as a result, is leaving open only one possible future direction: power sharing.

The notion of power sharing would entail the preservation of the existing borders, from the Jordan valley to the Mediterranean Sea, and an agreed upon form of a power sharing government led by Israeli Jews and Palestinians, and based on the liberal democracy model of the separation of powers. It also entails a parity of esteem – namely, the idea that each side respects the other side’s identity and ethos, including language, culture and religion. This, to put it simply, is the bi-national one-state solution.

Many Palestinians have come to realise that even though they are currently under occupation, Israel’s rejectionist stance will unwittingly lead to the bi-national solution. And while Netanyahu is still miles behind the current juncture, it is high time for a Jewish Israeli and Jewish American Awakening, one that will force their respective leaders to support a viable democratic future for the Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. One that will bring an end to the violent conflict.

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel’s Occupation and can be reached through his website.

This article first appeared in Al Jazeera.

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    1. max

      The short but full summary is: Israel should re-create the pre-’67 situation AND accept in principle the Palestinians RoR AND accept “some” of them back,
      for a peace treaty with a non-elected government comprising of a party that fully rejects its existence.
      Not very credible.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Harris

      MAX – Well Israel agreed to all this as the basis of Oslo so all that is being done is negotiation the final terms. This has been the goal of all the plans. Will Netanyahu and his supporters have never accepted Oslo and have worked for 18 years to walk away from the 22% and leave the the Palestinian State as a 6% bantustan mess controlled by Israel. This is known as Apartheid. Also the government was elected you just don’t like the results, get over it. You comment is not very credible.

      Reply to Comment
    3. max

      Harris, do your integrity a favor, and read the Oslo accords. Once done, you don’t need to humiliate yourself by reporting that none of Neve Godon’s points has been agreed upon in Oslo.
      As for the “elected government”: the PA wasn’t elected, Hamas was. So the Palestinians elected a terrorist organization to lead them, and organization that explicitly states that its goal is the full destruction of the state of Israel. Today, the Palestinians do not have an overall elected government. Fact.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Harris


      I direct you Oslo 2 Areas A B C and the fact that Gaza and The West Bank are to be considered as one:
      The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will be preserved during the interim period.

      I was referring to your rant on pre-67. Also I believe the the PNA has held elections.


      Reply to Comment
    5. max

      Harris, you’ll have to help me more… you bring text that says that until a solution is found, the sides can’t negotiate on Gaza separately from the WB. How’s that related to the points in the article?
      Election: Hamas won, PA kept the seats, Hamas took over Gaza and helped the PA people get personal experience of gravity law…

      Reply to Comment
    6. MStone

      “the Palestinians elected a terrorist organization to lead them”

      Well the Israelis have elected former leaders of terrorist organizations to lead them.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Harris


      You appear to have a reading problem: From Neve Gordon article:

      “The first sign is informed by years of political negotiations (from the Madrid conference in 1991, through Oslo, Camp David, Taba, and Annapolis) alongside the publication of different initiatives (from the Geneva Initiative and the Saudi Plan to the Nussaiba and Ayalon Plan), all of which have clarified what it would take to reach a peace settlement based on the two-state solution.”

      It is apparent that you have know uderstanding what he was referring to.

      Bibi wants a Greater Israel on all of the Mandate Palestine of 1948. The problem is that there are 3 million Palestinians in the way, those not run off in the ethnic cleansing of 1948 and 1967, that 7 million are mostly in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

      Without any change in his position Israel and the Occupied Territories will end up as a single state. It is not a question as you put it ” re creating” it is created and the only question is who will govern since Bibi is killing a two state solution.

      Reply to Comment
    8. max

      “Well Israel agreed to all this …” – none of Neve Gordon’s 3 essential points was agreed to by Israel. I don’t understand what you’re talking about.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Borg

      Since MrNeve supports the one state solution, accompanied by the right of return of Jewish invaders to Europe, isnt this good news

      Reply to Comment
    10. abban aziz

      this was reposted by al jazeera.

      terrible analysis. one state solution? lol. two people with opposing national aspirations and you suggest to put them in the same country?

      have you looked at lebanon? that’s a “one state solution.” and looked how many millions of people were killed/wounded in their civil wars.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Leonid Levin

      Abban, the author does not suggest a one state solution, but argues that this is an inevitable outcome of the current Netanyahu policies. The two people are already essentially in the same country under complete control of the Israeli army. The Jewish state controls all its borders, defence forces, infrastructure and migration policies. Israel is effectively an apartheid state with gated Jewish communities separated from the Palestinian population by fences and walls. Palestinians however are allowed to work for the settlers for very low wages, while the settlers confiscate their lands, water sources, etc. Pretty much a fudal society. So you get what you want and are hopelessly heading for self-destruction.

      Reply to Comment
    12. abban aziz

      And yet what you say is patently false.

      The Israeli army does not have complete control over Palestinians. There is this government known as the PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY, which has civil authority over the vast majority of Palestinian population. Then there is Gaza which is totally ruled by a terrorist entity.

      God, and more of the apartheid tropes? It’s like facts and reason bounce off the brain. Read a book.

      Reply to Comment
    13. ARTH

      Why is the notion of a one-state solution seen as such a danger by the Israeli left?

      Reply to Comment
    14. ARTH

      Why is a two-state solution more viable than a one-state solution?

      Reply to Comment