Moving Beyond Two States
By Miko Peled
United States envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, kicked off a visit to Israel restating the US commitment to the Road Map and the Two State Solution. However, both of these options have become irrelevant and it is time for the administration to seriously study the possibility of the two nations living together within a single democratic state. This is an option that moderate parties on both sides have discussed for decades, only to be silenced by more militant forces that see this as a zero sum game.
The one state option speaks of a single secular democracy between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea within which Israelis and Palestinians would live as equal citizens. This would elevate the rights of Palestinians to those of Israelis it will finally allow the two nations to stop bleeding and begin building. It is an ambitious proposition that Israel and its supporters will surely resist at first. However, judging by the facts on the ground, this may well be the only option available for the two nations.
In preparation for renewed US involvement in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, Israel’s newly elected Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced his opposition to establishing a Palestinian state. Israel’s newly appointed foreign minister went even further and announced that there will be no more peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Adopting a tactic clearly designed to give them room to negotiate, the two are positioning themselves as far to the right as possible in expectation of American demands for concessions to the Palestinians. Judging by the size and the political makeup of Israel’s new cabinet, it is safe to assume that no amount of American pressure will convince them to allow Palestinian independence or to halt settlement expansions in the West Bank.
When Jimmy Carter published his book “Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid” he insisted that the apartheid did not apply to Israel, only to the occupied territories. But now the West Bank is inseparable from Israel. Because of the large settlement blocks and highways that Israel built over the years, the West Bank can no longer be separated from the rest of the country. So regardless of what solution the US supports, the geography and the demographics no longer allow for the creation of a separate political entity in the West Bank, or anywhere else in historic Palestine/Israel.
Try as we may to pretend that Israel is a Western style democracy, it is simply not the case. The government of Israel controls the lives of five and a half million Jews who enjoy the freedoms of a democracy, 1.4 million Palestinians who live as second-class citizens within Israel but with severely limited civil rights and 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who are deprived of all civil and human rights.
Of the estimated ten million people living in historic Israel/Palestine today half are Israelis and half Palestinians. To bring a just and lasting end to the conflict the state must be divorced from religious or ethnic identity and provide all citizens equal rights. in other words, a secular, constitutional democracy that will protect the rights of all Palestinians and Israelis but will be the sole proprietorship of neither one. Equality, as history has shown us in this country, in South Africa and in other multi national, multi ethnic states, can only be guaranteed through laws that protect the rights of every citizen, regardless of race, religion or gender.
The Two State Solution and the Road Map are the latest in a series of failed attempts to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict through partition and segregation. The best one can expect from pursuing these options is a dangerously volatile status quo. But the good news is that Israelis and Palestinians discuss the possibility of a single state openly at academic and political forums. Now that the President has announced that he will visit Israel this summer, it is time for the US to join this conversation.
Hi Miko, How do I sign up to follow your blog?
I am very interested in reading it regularly.
Peace to ALL, Dana
As always, I enjoy your articles and more importantly I celebrate your bravery and commitment for Justice and Peace. I share your article with many friends and activists to show the rest that “Another world is possible”.
Brother, Friend and comrade, I couldn’t agree more with your statement :”The one state option speaks of a single secular democracy between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea within which Israelis and Palestinians would live as equal citizens”. I would like just to add that This one state solution when achieved, It will be the lighting road for a real change in the Middle East. A change that certainly will lead to real democratization of the entire region where Human rights, civil liberties, true peace and prosperity will flourish.
In Solidarity for Justice and Peace,
i think that your opinion is largely correct miko _
in the end a one state solution is the the only logical answer
especially in such a small geographical area
and it is good that academics are discussing these things
because (hopefully) such discussions or their outcomes
will filter down to the political classes
the main problem with such a plan at the moment
is, as you say, the intransigence of the israeli government
and all of the right-wing quasi-relgious political parties
who have direct influence on the overall political attitude
if we are to take a path towards eventual unity
then each step has to be pretty much completed
before the next step can really begin
if that is the case then we are forced to acknowledge
that the destruction of israeli hegemony over Palestine
has to be carried out first
i remember reading in a UK Sunday newspaper,
about two years before the beginning of normalization in South Africa
a large article about an old man riding a tiger
and afraid to get off because he is afraid the tiger will eat him
this must be something akin to how israeli citizens feel
(only yesterday i was sympathising with a young israeli blogger
who is sympathetic to unity but dare not expose her thoughts
even to ‘friends’ and family) : /
and ofcourse their paranoia about Palestinians is not helped by rocket attacks
even when these are legitamised by claims that they only fall on stolen lands
nevertheless how these citizens feel is the cause of how their government operates
(the level of citizen support for Operation Cast Lead was horribly massive)
under such circumstances we are then faced with the question
of how to change these attitudes
and sadly the easiest answer when persuasion utterly fails
is to extend the arm of diplomacy towards coercion
many thanks for pointing me towards your article and your blog my friend
let me know on Fbook whenever you have blogged
take care ; )
Hi Miko, after many years, it is good to read that you are still faithful to the truth and that you are not daunted by the what can be a lonely place – an Israeli who fights for the freedom of the Palestinians. I look forward to reading your future posts. Gilead
One State — sublime! But three states might need to come first — see below.
Here’s a story in support, but with a caution.
I am of Jewish ancestry though not of Jewish culture, and not religious. I was married in 1967 to a Palestinian-American, a Quaker. We had no trouble being married because we had much in common – classical music. when she was ready, about 1980, she led me gently into knowledge about Israel/Palestine and I met Palestinians and Israelis visiting in the US and became involved. Still no trouble.
But neither of us wanted to force ourselves to “be” “Jewish” or “Palestinian”. We were content to be ourselves. We agreed on much, cooperated on much, but not on everything.
It is my sense that Palestinians have been so well mixed, historically, and never had “sovereignty”, that they have a gift for living well with “others” inside Palestine (and, since 1948, outside it, conditions outside permitting). In a region much given to religious divisions, Palestinians before 1948 had Jewish, Muslim, and Christian friends.
But the Jews who chose to come to Israel were not content to continue living “outside” and many of them still believe that that they cannot and should not have to live with “others”. In our infant-schools, a report is made to parents about how well or poorly their children “play with others”. Israelis would get a low grade, it seems. Now, the children of the Jews who “chose” Israel are Israelis who did not “choose” Israel, but were merely born there. Some of these may have the talent of living with “others” and, even, one hopes, of not seeing their neighbors as “others” at all.
I suspect that this last group is small, for Israelis have been taught to seek Jewish dominance, have been taught fear, and have been taught to despise and to hurt “Arabs”, and these lessons are not easily unlearned or ignored.
As a thought-experiment, may I propose a three-state solution: a division of the land, a situation with fluid boundaries in which one state, called “I/P”, perhaps in the “middle”, is like the “one state” many wish for, and the other states are a Jewish-dominated “Israel” and a Palestinian-dominated “Palestine”. The size of these states would, in principle, be determined by their resident-populations. “Returning” Palestinians could choose either the “Palestinian” or the “shared” state. People could move between the states. No-one would be forced as to which state to live in. Maybe these would be three “provinces” of one “country”. “I/P” would be an experiment, and if it caught on, it might one day (after all the die-hard generation died out) eclipse and become the whole. But no hurry. But — and this is essential to this dream — the three would exist and co-exist peacefully, a big change from today.
Thanks again for your beautiful essay.