Toward A One-State Solution In Israel-Palestine

So we arrive at the status quo; Gaza remains under siege amidst increasingly destructive conditions; the West Bank and East Jerusalem continue to be occupied and colonized; and Palestinians continue to be dispossessed and subjected to apartheid and diaspora.

Proposals for a two-state solution have been virtual dogma in the discourse on this conflict. Despite both ruling Palestinian political parties Fatah and Hamas supporting such a political settlement, a Palestinian state has failed to materialize due to Israel’s desire for territorial maximization and Jewish demographic supremacy. The existence of a Palestinian state has been long opposed by virtually the entire political spectrum in Israel, particularly by the ruling Yamina party and Likud, which remains the largest single party in Israel. One could argue that the rhetoric of a two-state solution has merely been an empty promise in order to prolong the occupation and colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the isolation of Gaza from the former.

Imagine for a moment that a two-state solution is achieved. This scenario, as most recently expressed in the Trump ‘peace plan’ would include full Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the West Bank colonies; Israeli control over vital resources and border security; the rejection of both a Palestinian right to return and a Palestinian military; in essence, a mere continuation of the status quo with Palestinians being forced to accept their own subjugation. This is the most Israel and the U.S. would ever concede to the Palestinians; conditions which the Palestinians rightfully recognize as completely unacceptable.

It is more clear than ever that the only truly just solution to the conflict is therefore the establishment of a unitary, democratic, and secular binational state, with a full Palestinian right to return. I do not mention the three core characteristics of this state (unitary government, democracy, secularism) lightly; I believe all three are vital for a permanent peace in the land between the river and the sea. A confederal or federal proposal to the conflict would factionalize Israelis and Palestinians and only lead to further power struggles for socio-political influence, and would not guarantee the human rights of Palestinians in Israeli provinces. A federal state, as proposed by organizations such as The Federation Movement, would result in Palestinians being segregated into several cantons, despite making up the majority of the population, and would thus allow Israeli Jews to exercise minority rule through controlling most provincial governments. Likewise, a confederal proposal, which envisages Israel and Palestine operating as a confederation without central government, would merely be a continuation of the status quo, and in practice, would allow Israel undo influence over the Palestinian government in every respect.

In contrast, a unitary government would guarantee proportional representation and the universal protection of the rights of all citizens, without the contradiction between local, provincial, and national governance. That is not to say that there should not be any room for either Israeli or Palestinian socio-political autonomy in certain areas, but only that such autonomy may exist insofar as it exists in compliance with national law. 

The most obvious objection to this proposal is that a unitary state governed by the principle of one person, one vote would negate the status of the land between the river and the sea as a Jewish state. Indeed, under this proposal the 6.4 million Israeli Jews would have to live side by side with the 6.3 million Palestinians currently living in the occupied territories, in addition to the 6.4 million Palestinians living in diaspora. 

This proposal would indeed result in the transformation of Israel as a Jewish state, to a democratic and secular one. But this does not mean that the land between the river and the sea cannot remain a Jewish homeland. A binational state, where Israelis and Palestinians live side by side and are  guaranteed both political equality and socio-economic equity, would still allow open-ended Jewish immigration. It would be subject to the necessities of repatriating both the Palestinians in diaspora, and those Palestinians who have been evicted from their homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

There would of course be many challenges in the formation and the development of a binational state: How can open-ended Jewish immigration continue while also resettling the Palestinians who have been displaced? What would such a state be called? Who should be allowed to develop land and where should they be allowed to do so? How can institutions be desegregated and accommodate both groups? How can Israelis and Palestinians move past their enmities towards one another and work towards a common good? 

I will not pretend to have the answers for these questions. Building a society where Israelis and Palestinians live together will be perhaps more difficult than any challenge either has faced so far. But as Palestinians continue to face a brutal occupation, with any hope for a two-state solution quickly fading, it is time for us to consider new emancipatory possibilities. A binational state is by no means the ultimate solution to the animosity between Israelis and Palestinians, but may rather be the beginning of a more just society: one which both Jews across the world and Palestinians may call their home.



Leave a Reply