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One state? Two states? Israeli Jews aren't the ones to decide

Trump’s recent remarks may have sparked a debate on the possibility of the one-state solution, but one thing is for sure: Israeli Jews are not in a position to decide the future of the occupied territories. 

A student raising the Palestinian flag during a ceremony commemorating the Nakba held by Palestinian students living in Israel and Israeli supporters, outside the Tel Aviv university, May 11, 2014. Right-wing nationalists from the "Im Tirzu" group, seen in the back, tried to interrupt the ceremony.

A student raising the Palestinian flag during a ceremony commemorating the Nakba held by Palestinian students living in Israel and Israeli supporters, outside the Tel Aviv university, May 11, 2014. Right-wing nationalists from the “Im Tirzu” group, seen in the back, tried to interrupt the ceremony. (Activestills.org)

The world works in strange ways sometimes. Who would have believed that just by mere words it would be President Donald Trump, of all people, who would grant legitimacy to the one-state solution during his joint press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu this past week.

More than any other fictional character, Trump reminds me of Chance the gardener, the simple-minded hero of Jerzy Kosiński’s novel, Being There, whose idiotic comments are, somehow, viewed by the people around him as pearls of wisdom. Or as The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah said: “Trump is either a genius, or he’s the biggest idiot the world has ever seen.”

Quiet Palestinians, Israelis are deciding!

Trump’s mention of one state as an alternative to the two-state paradigm is no revelation — the idea has become a dominant one on the margins of the Israeli Left and the Right alike. Both sides see the territory between the river and the sea as a single geographical unit, with the central question in their eyes being the future of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank. One side believes in annexing the occupied territories without annexing the residents themselves, while the other believes that annexation means granting civil rights to all.

On the eve of the Trump-Netanyahu meeting, the latter found a new supporter: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who believes that the entire Land of Israel belongs to the Jews, said that “sovereignty over a territory means granting citizenship to all those in that territory. There is no way around it. There is no one deal for Israelis and another deal for non-Israelis.”

Rivlin’s remarks were so touching to Haaretz’s Gideon Levy that the latter crowned the president the “real opposition leader” who has emerged as the “only politician who speaks the truth around here.” What about Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh? Levy has probably never heard of him. Odeh may be opposition enough to be shot by the police while defending homes from demolition in the Negev, but unfortunately he is simply not Jewish enough to play a role in the inter-Jewish public discussion that demarcates the border between the coalition and the opposition in Israel.

The point of departure among those in the Israeli “consensus” — from both the right and left — is that the fate of the occupied territories will be decided by Israel. This includes grotesque initiatives such as holding a referendum on the future of the territories (as put forth by Peace Now and the like), as well as the voices among the radical left, which support establishing a single state as a solution to the conflict.

Police began violently dispersing those present, using shock grenades, pepper spray and sponge-tipped bullets. Among those injured by the latter was Joint List head Ayman Odeh, who was allegedly struck in the head and back. Police assert that Odeh was struck with a stone thrown by protesters, but eyewitnesses dispute this claim. Umm el-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills)

Joint List head Ayman Odeh, after allegedly being struck in the head and back by sponge-tipped bullets prior to home demolitions in Umm el-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills)

Here might be a good point to remind the Israeli Left that the future of the West Bank and Gaza is not ours to decide, definitely not at this point. The only ones who have the right to decide are the Palestinians themselves: they can establish a secular, democratic state; an Islamic state; a socialist commune, etc. That’s their business. And it could be that they decide that the logical thing is to turn the territory between the river and the sea to a single political unit. But until then, the role of the Israeli Left is to push to end Israel’s colonial, apartheid regime in these territories using all nonviolent means at our disposal. This must be done for the sole reason of bringing about the possibility of Palestinian sovereignty.

Change starts from within

Those who truly believe in a shared land based on equality may want to begin thinking about how to implement their ideals within the Green Line, and not necessarily in the occupied territories. Not that colonialism vis-a-vis Arab society disappears inside Israel — not at all. But in the ’48 territories there is a decisive element that allows for the creation of a joint dialogue: the idea of citizenship. And while Israeli democracy is inherently based on Jewish supremacy and is therefore a pseudo-democracy, it allows (at least in theory) for a joint platform that can be leveraged to building a different political framework — one that is built on true equality for all. Or in other words, a state for all its citizens.

Instead of fantasizing about a single state, including in all the territories over whose fate we have no right to decide, we would do well to use our resources and creativity to fix the problems in our backyard — that is where the work must begin. Here, as opposed to the occupied territories, is where we have a mandate as citizens to influence its character. This may be less sexy than talking about a “solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” but in some ways it is even more critical — especially in light of the state’s war on Israel’s Palestinian citizens, a war that continues to escalate through home demolitions, arrests, suppression of political leaders, etc.

Want an equitable and democratic country? Great, let’s start building it from the ground up inside the state borders. And one day, when we replace Jewish ethnocracy with a state for all its citizens and do away with Israeli colonialism in the occupied territories, maybe then we can sit with our Palestinian neighbors as equals and talk about the possibility of a shared future. Until then, the entire idea of annexing the West Bank — with or without granting citizenship to its Palestinian residents — is just another expression of Jewish supremacy and the perpetual, patronizing blindness that it creates.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Firentis

      If the Palestinians can decide to create a country that will have as its core mission the goal of destroying Israel, then we can decide that we will not allow it to happen. And fortunately, since we are not completely suicidally insane, we have decided to do that, so here we are.

      As long as the Palestinians refuse to accept the principle of two states for two peoples the only sane Israeli policy will be to ensure that the Palestinians are never placed in a position where they are capable of posing an existential threat to Israel. Protecting Israelis from such existential risks is the primary and ultimate duty of their democratically elected government.

      And now I shall let you get back to your fantasizing about a fictional world where Israel will grant the Palestinians the ultimate say on whether Israel survives or not.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Hello, leftist,
      Please do not forget that for a lot of Jews Judea and Samaria are a part of the Jewish historic, religious ans national heritage. That is why you have no influence in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Joshua Fisher

        Yeah. And Schlesien and Ostpreußen and Südtirol are German, look it up in the NeinKampf-Bible. Aks your German nazi friends, they support your rightwing landgrab politics also.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          Another shameful or assimilated Jew who writes from the diaspora

          Reply to Comment
    3. Mark

      I always watch out for articles by Ms Noy. Being quite the silliest journalist in the worldwide leftist community it gives me clarity on their nonsense and what should not be supported.

      I actually caught her on a youtube video at a rally and observed the crowd wandering off to stock up on refreshments or chat with their friends.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        Such cutting, inspired commentary. How well-thought out, and totally not glib or shallow.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Eliza

      Great article.

      Reform within the Green Line is within the Israeli immediate remit even if there appears little recognition within either the Israeli left or right that such basic reform is needed. The single act of truly merging ‘citizenship’ and ‘nationality’ by way of a formal Constitution could clear the way to bringing about equality for all within the Green Line regardless of religion and ethnicity. It wouldn’t immediately guarantee it or remove Jewish privilege over Muslims and Christians or of Ashkenazi over Mizrahi, but could pave the way.

      It would also make a nonsense of the call by Netanyahu and co for the Palestinians to recognize what no other State, including Israel formally recognizes – that Israel is the Jewish State. Israel would become the Nation-State of all of its citizens. Just like other Nation-States.

      Without true equality of civil, legal and property rights for non-Jews within the Green Line, there can be no resolution of the conflict by way of a one state solution even if that one state solution took into account the Palestinians within Gaza and those denied right of return in neighbouring States. The debates between the merits of a one versus two state solution invariably fail to recognize the devil is always in the detail; both are capable of providing equality and human rights for all and both are similarly capable to cementing in Jewish supremacy and Palestinian oppression.

      It is good that the author calls out the basic assumption that the fate of Palestinians within the occupied territories is somehow just an internal Israeli question over which the Palestinians have no say.

      Finally, haven’t read the article by Gideon Levy but if he fell into the trap of erasing the non-Jewish voice by ignoring Odeh, I can only assume that he did so on the grounds that Jewish Israelis would take more notice of Rivlin than Odeh.

      Reply to Comment
      • carmen

        Great post –

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          Ignorant post. The writer of the above post has no clue about the real Israel, it’s history and why it is the way it is.

          Calling her ignorant is giving her the benefit of the doubt of course. On the other hand, it is also possible (even probable) that she is a malicious liar like you Carmen.

          Reply to Comment
    5. i_like_ike52

      The whole argument over “!-state or 2” is totally irrelevant. That is because it is based on the fallacy that that the Palestinians want to regularize their relationship with Israel, one way or another, but that is a myth. The “1-staters” want Israel to absorb the Palestinian territories and grant the Palestinians full citizenship rights. This would involve creation of a Lebanon-style multi-confessional state with the two, large-sized communities permanently at each other’s throats. The “2=staters” want the creation of a totally non-viable mini-Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza which would INEVTIABLY lead to a failed state and a bloody Palestinian civil war. Both “solutions” would require the Palestinians giving up the demand for the return of the Palestinian refugees to within pre-67 Israel. In the end, the Palestinians know that the ONLY way for them to get their rights, as they see it, is for the eradication of Israel and for this they must always insist on the right of return of the refugees, which is non negotiable.
      One might say that some Palestinians might, as a tactic, accept one of the two “solutions’ as a INTERIM step, designed to weaken Israel, but there will always be those elements, both among the Palestinians, as well as outside them in the wider Arab/Muslim world, who will say that those Palestinians accepting this interim state are really nothing more than “Zionist Stooges” who have sold out the Palestinians for personal gain.
      All of this leads to the conclusion that there is no true “solution” possible, and the indefinite continuation of the status quo, with the Palestinians having a ministate in Gaza, autonomy in the West Bank and Israel maintaining security control over the West Bank.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Ike_52 has got it aaalll figured out with the help of a futuristic telescope with a special very very dark lens and has sketched in every garish, catastrophizing detail and it leads seamlessly to no other possible future except…you guessed it…more occupation and settlements! But Eliza sees much more clearly: “The devil is always in the detail.” Israel surely could make either 1 state or 2 states work if it wanted to. It’s of course very easy to make anything not work if you want that. Israel’s sudden swoons and faints and feigned helplessness do not convince.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Ben

      Orly Noy takes Haggai Matar’s excellent analysis the other day (on Trump’s radical message to Israel) a step further in analyzing Israeli presumptions. Her point about Rivlin, Levy, and Odeh is acute but to be fair to Gideon Levy, he certainly knows who Ayman Odeh is and how Israelis ignore him, and wrote, among other things, this:


      “Are there many other party heads as impressive, eloquent and refreshing as Ayman Odeh? …
      Just imagine: The Joint List is the third largest party in the Knesset. The coalition belongs to Netanyahu, Herzog and Yair Lapid. Odeh is selected leader of the opposition – the heir of Menachem Begin, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Shamir, Ehud Barak, Netanyahu, all prime ministers who held the position at one point.
      The prime minister is obligated to brief him on security and diplomatic matters, “no less than once a month,” by law. The law requires him to address the Knesset after every speech by the premier. Foreign heads of state meet with him and listen to his views. As a symbol of government, he is protected by the Shin Bet security service. Perhaps for the first time in its history, Israel has a true leader of opposition.
      A few stereotypes will be shattered in a single, not-imaginary act that might also usher in a deep change in consciousness.”

      Just the way Levy feels compelled to phrase this sort of sounds patronizing, doesn’t it, and so I get Noy’s point but Levy talks of changing consciousness. A tension here that gets at the very difficult road ahead.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “Are there many other party heads as impressive, eloquent and refreshing as Ayman Odeh?”

        Oy, I think I’m gonna swoon, Odeh is so exciting…

        …nah, just kidding ?

        Reply to Comment
    7. Lewis from Afula

      As the victims of the 6 day war, Israelis are the ONLY PEOPLE that get decide the future of their country.

      The Fakestines-South Syrians-Jordanians-United Arab Republic population or what they call themselves this week get NO SAY on the future.
      Because these bastards started the war in the first place !

      Reply to Comment
      • Chris

        “As the victims of the 6 day war, Israelis are the ONLY PEOPLE that get decide the future of their country.”

        Awwwww, you poor psychotic little foreign fakestinian zio Jew victim.

        “The Fakestines-South Syrians-Jordanians-United Arab Republic population or what they call themselves this week get NO SAY on the future.
        Because these bastards started the war in the first place !”

        No, zio, it’s your foreign fakestinian gang of European-North American-Yemeni-Australian-Russian zio Jew invaders, colonizers, land thieves, ethnic cleansers and mass murderers who get NO SAY on the future.


        Because your bastard foreign fakestinian gang of zio Jew home invaders and usurpers started the war in the first place!

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          No, the natives are the Hebrew-speaking people who lived there in Ancient Times – not the 7Th Century Unsurpers who NOW call themselves “fakestines” but YESTERDAY called themselves “jordanians” !!!!!

          Reply to Comment
          • Chris

            “No, the natives are the Hebrew-speaking people who lived there in Ancient Times – not the 7Th Century Unsurpers who NOW call themselves “fakestines” but YESTERDAY called themselves “jordanians” !!!!!”

            No, you psychotic fakestinian-zio anti-Semite bigot, the indigenous natives of Palestine are the Arabic-speaking indigenous Palestinians who have lived in Palestine forever and who never left Palestine – not your mass-murdering messianic mob of foreign fakestinian-zio jooooo-terrorist invaders, colonizers, land thieves and ethnic cleansers – i.e. the 20th century “hebrew” speaking foreign fakestinian-zio usurpers who NOW call themselves “israeli”, but who previously spoke Arabic and “Yiddish” and called themselves Europeans, North-Americans and Arabs !!!!!

            Reply to Comment