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One state or two states? You're asking the wrong question

What we desperately need now is to go back to the basics and recognize that guaranteeing Palestinians’ rights is the  foundation for any political solution.

A Palestinian youth opens a gate in the Israeli wall, during a protest marking 12 years for the struggle against the wall and the occupation in the West Bank village of Bil'in, February 17, 2017.

A Palestinian youth opens a gate in the Israeli wall, during a protest marking 12 years for the struggle against the wall and the occupation in the West Bank village of Bil’in, February 17, 2017.

A new poll reveals that following Trump’s Jerusalem declaration there has been a drop in support for the two-state solution among both Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the occupied territories – with both communities dipping below the 50 percent level. Only Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who live inside the Green Line show overwhelming support for this solution.

The poll also shows that in tandem with this ongoing downward shift, there is a significant rise in the hostility of each group toward the other, as well as increasing support for armed struggle or a “decisive war” as a solution to the conflict. Conducted by veteran pollsters Dr. Khalil Shikaki and Walid Ladadwa from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), along with Israeli pollster and +972 Magazine writer Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin and the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (TSC) – this is a poll to be taken seriously. You can read more about the results of the poll here.

These new findings have significant value, as they expose Trump’s devastating impact on the chance to end the occupation in the foreseeable future, while sounding the alarm bells over the hopelessness of both sides, such that violence and bloodshed are actually gaining traction as possible solutions to our troubles.

And yet, we must not view the poll results as a harbinger of “the end of the two-state solution” or “final proof that one state is the only way to go.” One state? Two states? You’re asking the wrong question.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Donald Trump, in New York. September 18, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Donald Trump, in New York. September 18, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Why? First, because at least on the Israeli side, nobody is asking that question; it’s simply not an issue that concerns most Israelis. Our political leadership across the spectrum, from Labor to the right-wing parties, believes in the idea there is no Palestinian partner for peace, that settlements should not be uprooted, and that Israel must maintain control over Jerusalem and different parts of the West Bank. Only 18 out of 120 members of Knesset are clearly committed to ending occupation; the rest merely argue over the level of violence that should be exercised in order to manage the occupation, the degree of annexation, or how to best maintain the status quo. You cannot seriously debate the future of this land while ignoring the fact that Israelis don’t even show up at the discussion.

The one or two state debate also ignores the fact that for years there has been no peace process through which to promote either solution. Meanwhile, Israel currently enjoys international support and legitimacy of the sort it has not enjoyed in years, allowing it to give up on even the pretext of leading a [pointless] “peace process”, as Noam Sheizaf recently noted. Discussions on what a theoretical solution might look like — as opposed to thinking about how to pressure the Israeli leadership into ending the occupation — are very convenient for Israel.

Lastly, the question of a political solution ignores the notion that has long been lacking in our political debate: Palestinian rights. To a certain degree, we already have two states. Arguably, there is a Palestinian quasi-state, made out of the besieged Gaza Strip and the isolated and separated Bantustans under the Palestinian Authority’s control in the West Bank. One could also argue that we already live in a one-state reality, in which Israel is the ultimate sovereign power in the land, controlling the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank through a series of direct and indirect mechanisms. If Israeli leaders have their way, either a future one state or two states will be a replication of the current power balance.

Palestinians take part in a protest outside a United Nations (UN) distribution centre in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 21, 2018, following the decision by the US government to froze tens of millions of dollars in contributions to UNRWA. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinians take part in a protest outside a United Nations (UN) distribution centre in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 21, 2018, following the decision by the US government to froze tens of millions of dollars in contributions to UNRWA. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Any way one chooses to look at it, the current political climate lacks any recognition of Palestinians’ right to political agency, involvement in democratic process to decide their own future (be it vis-à-vis Israel or the Palestinian micro-regimes), equality and social justice, after decades of foreign rule that profits off of the natural resources, captive market, and cheap labor force in the occupied territories.

During a recent trip to the U.S., I was surprised to find out just how fierce the debate on one state/two states is in the progressive community over there. I found devoted activists, all of them committed to resisting occupation and supporting peace out of deep concern for the future of both peoples in Israel-Palestine, who refused to speak to each other solely based on the question of how many states we should have in this piece of land. I suggest that we hold off on that question and focus on the heart of the matter.

What we desperately need now, both within the Israeli society and in the international community, is to go back to the basics and recognize that any solution must recognize Palestinians’ rights as the foundation for any political solution. Without such recognition, we will only be serving Israel’s attempts to maintain the status quo. So, one state or two states? Let’s first stand up together for Palestinians rights and reject occupation. If that works, any political solution that follows could do just fine. We could save the internal fierce debates within our camp for then.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      The so-called “fakestinyans” don’t have any rights.
      In the same way, Narnians, Middle Earthers and Dorothy’s Ozlanders don’t have any rights.
      The solution is to repatriate the Jordanians illegally squatting in Yesha.

      Reply to Comment
      • David

        @Lewis from Afula

        Sigh.

        It seems like many others, you have been duped by Joan Peters’ long since debunked mountain of mendacity, “From Time Immemorial…”

        To wit:

        Dr. Porath, one of Israel’s leading demographic historians, called Peters’ book a “forgery… [that] was almost universally dismissed [in Israel] as sheer rubbish except maybe as a propaganda weapon.”(New York Times, Nov.28, 1985)

        Rabbi Arthur Herzberg, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, agreed: “I think that she’s cooked the statistics…. The scholarship is phony and tendentious. I do not believe that she has read the Arabic sources that she quotes.”(ibid)

        To again quote Professor Porath: “The precise demographic history of modern Palestine cannot be summed up briefly, but its main features are clear enough and they are very different from the fanciful description Mrs. Peters gives…. [S]he has apparently searched through documents for any statement to the effect that Arabs entered Palestine. But even if we put together all the cases she cites, one cannot escape the conclusion that most of the growth of the Palestinian Arab community resulted from a process of natural increase.” (“Mrs. Peters’ Palestine” New York Review of Books, 16 January 1986.)

        Reply to Comment
      • duh

        Lewis, it’s nice to know at least a few Israelis can be counted on to make redundant any effort to prove Zionism is an ideology that premeditates expelling civilians.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      I do not understand why American “progressive Jews” have to get involved in this debate.
      If they are not satisfied with the Israeli policy, they should make their aliya to give their opinion. If they prefer to stay in the US, I suggest they shut their mouths. The question I ask: Are the liberal Jews really Jewish?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “…in this debate…”

        Halevy continues his world record unbroken streak in missing the point:

        “You cannot seriously debate the future of this land while ignoring the fact that Israelis don’t even show up at the discussion.”

        Reply to Comment
    3. Gidon Raz

      For several years I have been saying that the two state solution is the enemy of the two state solution.
      First democracy for all, then the right for self determination

      Reply to Comment
    4. HodgkinLuke

      It can’t be said too often: currently there is only one sovereign authority or ‘state’, and that’s Israel. We have to change the situation so that all people within the borders, of whatever nation, have equal rights.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jaap Hamburger

        A short-cut to the one-state concept.

        Reply to Comment
    5. every thingh set forth atthat article is wrong…Israel give up several times in favor of palestinian rigths…Gaza was given without any comittment to palestinian and become a terror country which is used to launch rocket to israel…Every day trucks with food and raw materials goes from israel to gaza ending up to build tunels of terror or any thingh has nothingh to do with peace…Schools at UNWRA are dedicated to worship hitler and the anilation of the jewish state…The only reason of no peace is the no recognition of a JEWISH state….which Abbas recognize israel as democracy by the means to achieve the rigth of retourn and have mayority and macke a sharia country called palestina thereafther…were ofered 8 times good deals to palestinians each one better to the other but allways were refused because the main goal is the destruction of the state of israel….Palestinians support BDS…which do not hurt israel since israel is leader in tech and triplicated sales while being banned….But the palestinians at gaza had 80% deocupation and only by help of israel the west bank had 8% anual economical grow. Israel yes impulse the demantelation of UNRWA which should no exist since long albouring 20.000 refugess which claim are 5 millon…Arafath was egiptian, Abbas is denmark citizen and mashralla is jordan citizen as well as tamimi.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        This is just barely coherent for the most part and then descends in to outright incoherence. Even if you subjected it to basic English language editing, it would still read like a random collection of mindless right wing talking points for consumption by people (and there are many of them, but few of them read this magazine) too ignorant of the actual situation to have any defense against its super-hackneyed spiel. It is a verbal expectoration that reflects casual, mindless contempt for the Palestinian persons you write about.

        But I especially laughed at this gem:

        “… only by help of israel the west bank had 8% anual economical grow…”

        In that perverse concoction is expressed so much of the typical yet stupefying Israeli obtuseness about what cruelties Israel actually inflicts on the Palestinians while blaming the Palestinians for it. Just amazing.

        Reply to Comment