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One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States

Book Essay: The One-State Solution

Dr. Robert C. DiPrizio, Air Command and Staff College

Abstract

Conventional wisdom holds that the only viable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for the parties to trade land for peace. In practice this would require Israel to end its 50-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and allow the creation of a Palestinian state. The authors of the books reviewed here believe the two-state solution is dead and that alternatives must be considered. One Land, Two States suggests developing two independent but deeply entwined states—one Jewish and one Palestinian—whose governments would cooperatively rule over the same territory. Palestine Inside Out and One Country argue for creating a single binational, democratic state in which Jews and Palestinians receive full citizenship and equal treatment. The Israeli Solution calls for Israel to annex the West Bank and adopt certain policies to ensure it remains a Jewish state. The most likely outcome is preserving the status quo: Israel will continue its occupation while expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians will continue to resist such efforts, and the international community will continue to sponsor ineffective peace talks. But if fundamental change does occur, it may resemble that suggested by Caroline Glick in The Israeli Solution. Considering the imbalance of power between Israelis and Palestinians, the current political landscape in Israel, and the Trump administration’s obvious pro-Israel bias, Glick’s version of a one-state solution has the best chance of happening.

*****

 

One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States edited by Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg. University of California Press, 2014, 273 pp.

Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation by Saree Makdisi. W. W. Norton & Company, 2008, 387 pp.

One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse by Ali Abunimah. Metropolitan Books, 2006, 227 pp.

The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East by Caroline Glick. Crown Forum, 2014, 324 pp.

 

After decades of failed negotiations, the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dead and alternatives must be considered. That is the premise of the four books under review here. Conventional wisdom holds that the only viable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for the parties to trade land for peace. In practice this would require Israel to end its 50-year occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip and allow the creation of a Palestinian state. Much ink has been spilled trying to explain why a two-state solution has failed to materialize. Some of the authors discussed here argue that such a partition was never possible; others insist it was never a good idea. Some blame Israeli and/or Palestinian rejectionists, others blame the United States’ unstinting support for Israel, and still others blame the imbalance of power between the occupier and the occupied. Regardless, all four books agree that future efforts to divide the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea into two independent states are doomed.

To be sure, much of the international community refuses to give up on the two-state solution. In December 2016, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements as illegal and a threat to the eventual development of a Palestinian state. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted at the time that the United States took the unusual step of allowing a resolution expressly critical of Israel to pass because he feared continued settlement construction in the occupied territories would soon make the creation of a Palestinian state impossible. Israel, he feared, would then become a one-state reality and would have to choose between being democratic or Jewish, because it could not be both when half of the population it rules over is non-Jewish. In January of 2017, in another effort to demonstrate international support for the two-state solution, leaders from 70 countries met in Paris to urge both sides to restart negotiations. However, after just 28 days in office, President Donald Trump upended decades of bipartisan US policy by declaring he is open to a one-state solution.[1] Many around the world criticized Trump’s suggestion, and polls demonstrate far more Israelis and Palestinians prefer a two-state to a one-state solution.[2] Still, confidence in the two-state orthodoxy is wavering in many quarters. President Trump’s apparent willingness to “think outside the box” will only further weaken the taboo that has long surrounded public discussions of a one-state solution.[3]

The four books under review here present three different visions of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved. The most innovative solution is offered by Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg in their edited volume One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States. In it, they present a hybrid one-state/two-state solution in which two parallel states—one Jewish and one Palestinian—govern their nationals while sharing territorial sovereignty over a unified Israel/Palestine. Like many, they deplore the status quo of Israel’s occupation and creeping colonization project and seek a resolution that will bring “peace, fairness and justice to both peoples.”[4] Some contributors suggest the peace process has been little more than political theater meant to suck up international energies and draw attention away from the “decisive actions taking place on the ground.”[5] Even if the leaders agree to create two states based on traditional notions of territorial sovereignty, the partition would fail because neither side would be happy with half a baby. A two-state solution is out of reach for other reasons as well: Israel’s colonization of the West Bank is so deep and wide it leaves little land to partition, the balance of power between the two parties so heavily favors Israel that direct negotiation simply cannot lead to a fair solution, and both Israelis and Palestinians have lost faith in the peace process. At the same time, LeVine and Mossberg reject a one-state solution, insisting majorities on both sides oppose the idea. Because the traditional two-state solution is dead and the one-state option is a nonstarter, new creative solutions must be explored.

The authors propose a unique form of governance that contains elements of federalism and binationalism that could serve as the basis of a new ruling regime in Israel/Palestine. Two parallel states would rule over the same united territory, but their governments would share responsibilities “in layers,” with some functions being exercised jointly and some separately, but all would have to be “harmonized.” State sovereignty would be linked first and foremost to the individual and only secondarily with territory. Citizens of each state would freely travel, work, and live anywhere in the united territory because there would be no internal borders between the two states, although certain geographic areas would serve as “heartlands” or cores of each state. In short, the two states would have their own governments, judicial systems, and even international bureaucracies attending to the needs of their nationals, but they would have to coordinate or synchronize policies with each other on pretty much every issue since their respective citizens would be intermingled in the same territory.

The contributors to this book are both academics and practitioners. They recognize that the Parallel States concept is inchoate, abstract, and far-fetched. Systems of overlapping allegiances and shared political authority existed in medieval Europe and throughout the Ottoman Empire, and modern federations like the United States and Switzerland contain elements of layered authority (state and local governments have primary responsibility over some issues, while the federal government has authority over others). But Parallel States have never existed in modern times. Indeed, the idea is a full-fledged “provocation against conventional wisdom” and requires a full rethinking of contemporary conceptions of state sovereignty and international law.[6] The book’s challenging chapters on security, economic, judicial, and religious issues show just how difficult it is to even conceptualize a Parallel States model. Still, LeVine and Mossberg believe exploring the concept is a worthwhile exercise because doing so could offer insights into new solutions since old ones are clearly inadequate.

Saree Makdisi’s Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation and Ali Abunimah’s One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse argue for a more straightforward one-state solution in which all Jews and Palestinians between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea enjoy full citizenship and equal treatment under the law in what amounts to a new binational Israel/Palestine. Saree Makdisi, a literature professor at University of California–Los Angeles, and Ali Abunimah, a political activist and cofounder of the website Electronic Intifada, both insist a two-state solution is neither possible nor desirable. It is not possible because Israel lacks the political will to make it happen, as evidenced by its extensive colonization efforts in East Jerusalem and the West Bank that have created so many facts on the ground that no conceivable partition plan can satisfy a majority of Israelis and Palestinians. A two-state solution is also undesirable because allowing Palestinians under occupation a mini-state cannot address the grievances of the Palestinian nation as a whole. Before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, nearly all Palestinians lived within Palestine. Since then, hundreds of thousands have fled or were forced out, creating a large Palestinian diaspora. More Palestinians now live outside of the occupied territories than in them. According to both authors, justice demands that the Palestinians’ internationally recognized right to return home must be respected. Affording Palestinians control over 22 percent or less of their historic homeland would do little to rectify the injustices that diaspora Palestinians have suffered. Nor would it do anything to rectify the discriminatory treatment Palestinian citizens of Israel have to endure.

Through a mix of anecdotes, historical analysis, statistics, and detailed description, Saree Makdisi’s Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation paints a heart-wrenching portrait of Palestinian life under Israeli rule. While most of the Palestinians over which Israel governs are not citizens, some of them are. In fact, about 20 percent of Israel’s 8 million or so citizens are Palestinians and are treated as second-class citizens. Although they enjoy voting rights, they are effectively disenfranchised at the national level since no Jewish party will invite an Arab party into a ruling coalition, leaving them forever on the outside looking in on the governing process. Palestinian Israelis are restricted from purchasing land defined by the state as Jewish (about 93 percent of Israel), are rarely awarded building permits, are afforded drastically reduced government services in their towns and cities, and suffer the nation’s worst unemployment and poverty rates. Makdisi notes that Israel has never created any new towns or cities for its Palestinian citizens but has built many hundreds for Jews. Tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens continue to live in so-called unrecognized villages, which are officially not recognized by the state, receive no public services, and could be demolished by the state at any time. Tens of thousands of Palestinians citizens also are classified as “present absentees,” essentially internally displaced persons forced to resettle elsewhere in Israel after the 1948 war. And while Israel’s Law of Return allows Jews from anywhere in the world to migrate to Israel and receive citizenship instantly along with many government benefits, Palestinians are not afforded the same rights.

The worst of Israel’s discriminatory policies, however, target the nearly 4 million Palestinians living under an occupation that has developed the “neutral and technical language of administrative procedures and bureaucratic regulations.”[7] This banal language obscures the fact that the occupation is a devastatingly effective form of structural violence aimed at undermining the very fabric of Palestinian society. Most of this structural violence, Makdisi points out, plays out in relative silence and obscurity: at checkpoints where Palestinian fathers are often humiliated by teenage Israeli conscripts; at roaming roadblocks that constrain Palestinian movement; at government offices where travel, work, or housing permits must be requested but are rarely granted and where Israel’s security services consistently try to turn desperate Palestinians into informants. Israel’s occupation negatively impacts nearly every aspect of Palestinian life through bureaucratic procedures that limit where, when, and how Palestinians can travel, study, work, and socialize. Israeli officials insist their policies are motivated only by security concerns, the need to protect their people from Palestinian violence. Makdisi sees it differently. Not only is the occupation the cause of Israel’s insecurity, the indignities of the occupation are intended to undermine the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. It makes life so miserable that they leave, and it creates so many facts on the ground that separating the West Bank from Israel will become virtually impossible. Makdisi believes Israel has already achieved this last goal, but it will never convince Palestinians to simply give up, nor will it gain the security and normalcy it craves so long as the occupation continues. For their part, Palestinian leaders—a largely corrupt, self-serving, undemocratic lot who have failed their people miserably by effectively serving as subcontractors for Israel’s occupation—are incapable of negotiating a just deal with their occupiers because the balance of power between the occupied and occupier is too great. Moreover, Palestinians cannot muster enough bloody violence to force Israel to end its occupation, nor should they even try since doing so inevitably leads to killing innocent civilians on both sides. Instead, Makdisi argues, the Palestinians ought to abandon their posts in the Palestinian Authority (the pseudo-government created in the 1990s as part of the Oslo Accords) and go into the streets in peaceful protests to demand citizenship in the country that has ruled them for five decades. By abandoning the violent Algerian model of national liberation and instead adopting an antiapartheid or civil rights model of peaceful protest for equal rights, Palestinians would garner much more support for their cause. Even the United States would have to rethink its toleration of Israel’s occupation under such circumstances.

Ali Abunimah’s One Country gets to the same general point about the benefits and justness of a truly democratic one-state solution. Like Makdisi, Abunimah is critical of how Israel treats its Palestinian citizens and those under occupation and insists a two-state solution is both undesirable and unachievable. He fears that many Israelis are becoming enamored with the “foolhardy” idea of unilateral withdrawal or disengagement. Since the early 2000s, some Israelis have suggested annexing parts of the West Bank and walling off Palestinian cities and villages, much as Israel did to Gaza in late 2005. Such suggestions represent a convergence of thought among the political left and right in Israel, which holds that Israelis should control as much of the West Bank as possible while still ensuring a Jewish majority. Demographic calculations, Abunimah reminds us, have always informed Zionist efforts to promote Jewish immigration to Israel. While Zionist rhetoric has long asserted that Jews need a state of their own for salvation, it is the state that needs Jewish migration to survive. Increased Jewish immigration from Europe and high birth rates among the ultra-orthodox might buy more time, but these trends will not defuse the so-called demographic threat presented by the millions of Palestinians under Israeli rule. Abunimah fears that because Israelis are acutely aware of this, and most reject both a two-state and one-state solution, they might choose to cleanse the land of Palestinians. Once only the purview of extreme right-wing groups on the fringe of Israeli society, an increasing number of Jews, including some government officials, are openly advocating policies intended to move Palestinians off the land, whether by increasing the misery factor or by using physical force. While some of these Israelis simply hate Palestinians, Abunimah insists many are like those Palestinians who condone attacks on civilians: “they are reacting out of anger, trauma, and frustration at a hardening stalemate.”[8] Regardless, the author believes neither separation nor annexation nor expulsion will bring Israel the security and international acceptance it craves. Such actions will only increase Palestinian misery, desperation, and violence, from which Israel will be unable to wall itself off.

Despite a long list of grievances against Israel’s discriminatory and unjust treatment of the Palestinians people, Abunimah insists that both Jews and Palestinians have legitimate claims to live in their historical homeland and that both of these claims should be fully respected. For him, the only just and fair solution is to create a united, democratic state in the land of Palestine/Israel where all who live between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River gain full citizenship; all are treated equally in eyes of the law regardless of religion, ethnicity, or nationality; and all Jews and Palestinians worldwide enjoy the right to return to their historic homeland. Once all the discriminatory laws, structures, and practices that now define their relationship are rectified, Jews and Palestinians can live side by side in peace in one country. To the many critics who say there is simply too much animosity between the two people, or that either side has some primordial hatred of the other that prevents peaceful coexistence, Abunimah and Makdisi both note that there was little violence between Arabs and Jews in Palestine until the Zionist project kicked into high gear in the early 20th century. Moreover, there is little violence between Jewish and Palestinian citizens in Israel, despite the discrimination the latter face on regular basis. The bulk of Palestinian violence, these authors argue, is a reaction to Israel’s occupation and colonization efforts. End the occupation, afford Palestinians citizenship and equality, and peace will ensue.

Supporters of Israel often argue that this kind of “post-Zionist” one-state solution is really a thinly veiled strategy for destroying the state of Israel and preventing Jewish self-determination.[9] Indeed, some in the pro-Israel community in America have not only disparaged the idea but have actively sought to tamp down its public discussion.[10] Still, a growing number of right-wing Zionists like Caroline Glick have embraced the one-state solution, albeit not a post-Zionist one.

Glick’s The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East calls for Israel to annex the West Bank and to grant citizenship to some Palestinians while maintaining the current political structures that ensure Israel remains a Jewish state. A conservative columnist for the Jerusalem Post, Glick agrees with Abunimah and Makdisi that a two-state solution is both unrealistic and undesirable, but for very different reasons. She calls the two-state solution a “bipartisan pipe dream” advocated by naive American politicians as some sort of panacea for a conflict which is really about the right Jews have to self-determination in their ancient homeland and about Israel’s right to protect itself from terrorism. She does not believe Palestinians are interested in peace with Israel—just the opposite. Too many of them are driven by a desire to kill Jews and destroy Israel. The so-called peace process has failed because of insincere efforts on the part of the Palestinians who continue to teach their children to hate “God’s chosen people.” Glick believes anti-Israeli violence is not rooted in the occupation but in Palestinian opposition to Israel’s existence and anti-Semitism, which runs deep and wide in Arab societies. She notes that Palestinians did not rise up against Egypt or Jordan during their 19-year occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank and that Palestinians never had an independent state in Palestine. She insists Palestinians do not constitute a real nation, but rather a fictional one and thus lack authenticity and legitimacy. Their claim to Palestine is baseless because that land rightfully belongs to the world’s oldest nation of people, the Jews. Indeed, Jews are not occupiers of Judea and Samaria or any other part of Palestine; they are the only true indigenous people to the land.

Glick’s solution to breaking the status quo of continuous Palestinian terrorism and unfair international criticism of Israel is to extend Israeli sovereignty over all of the West Bank. This would entail applying Israeli civil law there and affording the Palestinians permanent residency and the opportunity to apply for citizenship. The author recognizes many Israelis oppose such actions because they fear too many Palestinians will become citizens and in time take over the country. These fears are overblown, she says, because the demographic time bomb is a dud. The Palestinians have inflated their numbers in census data. There are really only 1.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, about a million less than commonly asserted. Moreover, rising anti-Semitism around the world will lead to increased Jewish migration to Israel, and rising birth rates among orthodox Israelis will help counteract Palestinian birth rates. Glick suggests that most Palestinians probably would not even apply for citizenship for political or social reasons, as has been the case with Palestinians living in East Jerusalem (which Israel annexed decades ago). And of course the Israeli government would apply “reasonable limits on eligibility for citizenship,” including disqualifying anyone who has ever been part of a terrorist organization or who has ever incited violence against Israel.[11] As permanent residents, Palestinians would be eligible to take part in local elections and apply for state welfare benefits. Contingent on security considerations, they would also be allowed to live and travel in any part of Israel. All prohibitions on land and property sales to Jews in the West Bank would be abrogated, although restrictions on Palestinian ownership of state lands would not be altered. Nor would Israel’s Law of Return apply to Palestinians. Together, these actions would keep the number of Palestinians gaining full citizenship to a number Israel could manage while still ensuring it remains a Jewish majority country, run primarily by Jews and primarily for Jews.

Gaza has no place in Glick’s one-state solution because, as she sees it, Gaza is already an independent Palestinian state ruled by a terrorist organization whose political, cultural, and religious affinities tie it closer to Egypt than the West Bank. If Palestinians in the West Bank would rather live under Palestinian than Israeli sovereignty, they are welcome to move to Gaza. The “Israeli Solution” would tax the state’s welfare system to some extent but Glick believes that is a burden worth bearing in exchange for ending the untenable status quo and achieving a “fair, liberal, and democratic” solution for everyone involved.[12] The international community would likely criticize Israel’s actions, but that is nothing new. There is little that the Palestinians, neighboring Arab states, Europe, or the UN could do to stop Israel if it chose to annex the West Bank, and there is little the United States would choose to do to stop Israel. Glick believes her plan would greatly benefit America by helping to stabilize and to strengthen its only real ally in the Middle East. The only thing the United States would have to do to help Israel succeed in this endeavor is continue doing what it already does: protect Israel from UN and European Union sanctions. In time, the world would accept the new reality and Israel’s isolation would abate, as would international criticism of America’s support for Israel.

Glick’s vision of a one-state solution has been disparaged by members of her own community as naive or undesirable, much like Abunimah’s and Makdisi’s visions have been dismissed by many in their community.[13] Indeed, any call for a major change to the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians can be reasonably portrayed as a bit of wishful thinking, because the forces that maintain the status quo are strong. Some of these lay with the United States, which has done much to enable Israel’s occupation and little to encourage its end. America provides Israel billions of dollars a year in military aid and, as Glick notes, protects Israel from international pressure to end the occupation. Over the decades, the United States has largely refrained from using this leverage to press Israel to take risks for peace. Indeed, as one former US negotiator put it, successive US administrations have too often served as “Israel’s lawyer” in peace negotiations.[14] Even President Barack Obama, widely considered the most vociferous advocate of a two-state solution to ever inhabit the White House, was either politically unwilling or incapable (there is strong bipartisan support for Israel in Congress) of playing hardball with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Indeed, despite frosty relations between the two leaders, Obama upped America’s military aid to Israel from $3 billion to $3.8 billion per year.[15]

For their part, Palestinians have created internal divisions that have weakened their national movement, which is torn between two competing visions: an Islamist one that largely rejects a two-state solution and uses violence to oppose the occupation, and a secular one that largely embraces nonviolence and seeks to negotiate a two-state solution. The former is far more capable of scuttling the peace process than the latter is capable of making it succeed. This is the case not only because some Palestinian leaders have proven to be incompetent, but also because they face structural disadvantages that limit their choices. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is dependent on foreign sources to operate, much of which comes from the United States and Israel, leaving the PA vulnerable to a budgetary squeeze whenever it takes action that displeases either.[16] The PA only exists because Israel allows it to, and Israel allows it to exist because the PA helps keep a lid on Palestinian violence and defrays the costs of the occupation. Leaders of the PA know their positions of power and influence depend on not rocking the boat too much. As all the authors discussed here make clear one way or another, there is little that the Palestinians can do to either entice or force Israel into ending its occupation and allowing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.[17] Demonstrating total compliance with Israeli demands will not lead to a two-state deal most Palestinians can accept. Efforts to drum up international pressure on Israel have failed for decades to achieve a settlement and will probably do so in the future, especially since the United States is unlikely to put its full weight behind such efforts. And while violence forced the Palestinians’ plight into the public consciousness in the 1970s and helped bring Israel to the negotiating table in the 1990s, Palestinians cannot fight their way to independence: Israel’s military is too strong and its commitment to the West Bank is too deep.

Ultimately, Israel has the most influence over events on the ground in the occupied territories, and it is that country’s general preference for occupation and settlement expansion that maintains the status quo. There are many reasons for this general preference. For one, the status quo is not very costly to Israel. The occupation does not present much of a security threat as long as the Palestinians remain divided and the PA continues to police its own people. Israel’s military has repeatedly proven it can squash Palestinian uprisings. Whatever the precise amount of money the occupation costs annually, it is dwarfed by the amount of direct aid America grants Israel every year.[18] The Israeli economy is thriving despite the occupation and international criticism, and Israel is strengthening its relations with Russia, China, India, and parts of Africa. Even Turkey and the Gulf states have improved ties with Israel in an effort to push back on common enemies, Iran and the Islamic State. As Glick points out, as long as Washington keeps protecting her country in international fora, there is little the international community can do to raise the costs of the occupation. And despite periodic tensions, neither Israel’s occupation nor its settlement project has fundamentally altered the close US-Israel relationship; indeed, it has only deepened over the past 50 years.

From a security perspective, few Israeli politicians have an incentive to promise big changes to the status quo. Large numbers of voters want to maintain control of the territories because they believe doing so better enables Israel to combat Palestinian terrorism. Many also see the West Bank as a security buffer protecting the population centers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv from external attack. If Israel were to pull back to its 1967 borders, it would be only nine miles wide at its narrowest point, an unenviable security situation for any country, never mind one surrounded by unstable, hostile neighbors. A fundamental aspect of Israeli national identity—informed by centuries of anti-Semitism and the horrors of the Holocaust—is to be self-reliant for security. So no amount of international assurances or deployed peacekeepers will allay the fears many Israelis have that a Palestinian state would become a safe haven for terrorists, fall prey to Islamic radicals, or be swept up by some other unforeseen danger that would imperil Israel. Moreover, as Glick again points out, many fear the Palestinians would be unsatisfied with anything less than “throwing the Jews into the sea,” a belief buttressed by decades of bloody terrorist attacks and anti-Israeli rhetoric.

Another reason many Jews prefer the occupation over a two-state solution is that it ensures Israel’s control over the God-given lands of Judea and Samaria, the biblical names for the territory that makes up the West Bank. In this view, God gave Jews title to all of Palestine 4,000 years ago and they must reestablish control over all that land to achieve full redemption. Other Jews base their claim to Judea and Samaria on nationalist grounds, asserting that since various Jewish kingdoms ruled these lands before the Roman occupation, it is theirs to reclaim. Many believe their claim to Palestine is bolstered by the fact that no other nation has ever established an independent state there. And whether religious or not, most Israelis believe a united Jerusalem must forever remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Israel’s settler movement also helps to maintain the status quo. Certain religious and nationalist movements merged after 1967 to give rise to what has become one of the most powerful forces in Israeli politics.[19] Every government in Jerusalem since 1967 has actively supported settlement growth. Today, there are nearly 300,000 settlers in East Jerusalem and nearly 400,000 in the rest of the West Bank.[20] Of course, settlers can be removed, infrastructure torn down, and occupied forces withdrawn, as was done in the Sinai in 1982 and Gaza in 2005. But these evacuations involved relatively small numbers of settlers (fewer than 10,000 in each case) and little sunk costs in settlement infrastructure. Controlling these lands was not considered vital to Israeli security and Jews were not as emotionally attached to them as they are to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. So even though Israel has the physical capability to remove settlers and abandon billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure in the West Bank, it lacks the political will to do so. The more settlements expand, the less political will Israeli politicians can muster to remove them. Many settlers are primarily motivated by government subsidies and quality of life concerns and could probably be convinced to resettle inside Israel. But the core of the movement is made up of ideologues committed to controlling Judea and Samaria forever, and their political patrons now dominate Israel’s government.

Finally, few Israeli leaders see political advantage in advocating policies that can accommodate Palestinian demands for independence. Indeed, the opposite is usually true. Israeli politicians are loathe to be labeled weak on security issues, especially Palestinian terrorism, and few see any benefit in pledging to make the unpopular and risky choice of trading Jewish land for the promise of peace. And make no mistake, Israel would be taking most of the risks in any such deal: risks associated with allowing a longtime foe to develop an independent state on its border, risks of civil conflict triggered by Jewish rejectionists who have already murdered one Israeli prime minister (Yitzhak Rabin in 1995), and risks to the careers of politicians willing to offer a deal the Palestinians could accept. All for what? Peace with the Palestinians would surely have its upside, but Israel is doing pretty well as is. In the end, many Israelis simply do not want to give up control of Judea and Samaria and remove settlements for what amounts to a slim chance that an internally divided Palestinian society would be willing to keep or even capable of keeping its promise of peace.

So the political, security, and religious forces in Israel that promote the status quo are strong, and the Palestinians can do little about it. If change is to come, Israelis themselves will drive it. The left-wing, pro-peace camp that supported a two-state solution and was at its zenith in the early 1990s in Israel is a mere shadow of its former self. It stands little chance of recapturing popular support in Israel anytime soon and even less of a chance forging a peace deal both sides can accept.[21] It seems obvious then that of all the visions for change presented in the books reviewed here, only Glick’s “Israeli Solution” has a realistic chance of seeing the light of day in the near future. Abunimah’s and Makdisi’s call for a united, democratic one-state solution in which all Jews and Palestinians are treated equally in a binational state may strike readers as consistent with Western notions of democracy, citizenship, and human rights, but it is inconceivable without extensive international pressure forcing change to the status quo. That level of pressure in turn is inconceivable without US active participation, which currently is not even a remote possibility. The Parallel State idea presented by LeVine and Mossberg is truly creative, but it would require a major reconceptualization of state sovereignty and international law. It also would require the same kind of commitment from Israeli Jews to accept the unacceptable that Makdisi’s and Abunimah’s post-Zionist one-state solution requires. Glick’s vision, on the other hand, is consistent enough with the right wing in Israel that, given the current political landscape, it could conceivably inform Israel’s near future behavior. Indeed, various elements on the political and religious right in Israel have long advocated abandoning the two-state framework, expanding settlements more rapidly, and annexing most or all of the West Bank. Now that Donald J. Trump is president of the United States, these elements are in a better position to act.

Right-wing politicians have dominated Israel’s ruling coalitions for nearly a decade now and they have wildly embraced Trump’s election, expecting him to be more supportive of their agenda than previous administrations. Early indications suggest they are right: nearly all of President Trump’s actions and rhetoric in the months following his election regarding the Middle East have favored Israel. He invited Israeli settlers to his inauguration and has repeatedly stated that settlements are not an impediment to peace. He promised to move America’s embassy to Jerusalem and appointed to top diplomatic positions pro-Israel partisans who actively support the settler movement and largely reject Palestinian independence.[22] Most importantly, Trump insists he intends to strike a historic peace deal but that he is not committed to a two-state solution.

It appears, then, that Israel now has a remarkable opportunity to advance its preferred endgame. However, determining what that endgame should be is no easy task because Israelis continue to struggle with the perennial tensions inherent in the Zionist dream: creating a just and democratic Jewish state on the reclaimed land of ancient Israel, which happens to be populated with millions of Arabs.[23] Most agree that Israel must remain Jewish, but the country is largely split on the other two goals. Is being a just and democratic society more or less important than controlling Judea and Samaria? Those who privilege democracy are more open to a two-state solution than those who privilege control over God’s Promised Land. Israel’s right wing is not open to a two-state solution, at least not one Palestinians can accept. But because it currently dominates Israel’s government, it is in a strong position to advance its preferences in Washington. President Trump appears to believe the Palestinians can be persuaded or cajoled into accepting something less than independence and that he can recruit certain Arab states to help make this happen.[24] That is almost certainly wishful thinking, but many in Israel’s ruling coalition do not really care for a deal anyway; their primary goal is to settle and annex as much land as possible as quickly as possible.

To this end, the Netanyahu government recently passed legislation making it easier to confiscate privately owned Palestinian land for settlement building, announced the construction of thousands of new settlement homes, and promised more to come. The prime minister’s grip on power has been weakened by numerous political scandals and criminal investigations, and he relies on nationalist and religious parties to keep his government afloat. He hopes to placate these allies (and the Palestinians) with what he calls the “state-minus” option: allowing Palestinians increased levels of autonomy in parts of the West Bank but not independence. Netanyahu insists that in any deal Jerusalem must remain Israel’s undivided capital, that Israel must maintain overall security control the West Bank, and that most if not all settlements must remain under Israeli sovereignty. In essence, then, a “state-minus” offers Palestinians the trappings of statehood without sovereignty. Yet some in Netanyahu’s coalition do not want to go even this far. Instead, they insist Netanyahu publicly withdraw support for a two-state solution and annex much or all of the West Bank, along the lines of Glick’s Israeli Solution.

Even if the political opposition were to take power in Israel, there is little reason for hope for the two-state solution. The leader of the main left-of-center opposition party recently published a 10-point plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that largely rehashes the failed incremental peace process initiated 25 years ago in Oslo. In this version, however, Palestinians must refrain from all forms of violence for 10 years before Israel will begin negotiating final status issues. Apparently, the outcome of such negotiations will have to allow Israel to maintain overall security control of the West Bank, to keep all settlement blocs (but not necessarily smaller settlements scattered deep inside the West Bank), and to maintain control over a united Jerusalem.[25] In essence, negotiations on the major stumbling blocks to a two-state solution would be pushed off for at least another decade and some of these negotiations would largely be predetermined in Israel’s favor, namely the future of Jerusalem, the settlements, and the security arrangements of the new Palestinian state. The little that is new in the plan—provisional recognition of Palestinian statehood within borders Israeli largely determines and Israeli promises to spur Palestinian economic development and freeze settlement construction outside the major settlement blocs—is not enough to keep this peace process from failing like all that have come before.

In any event, it is unclear what endgame the Israeli government will decide to pursue. What is clear, however, is that Israel rules over the 12 million people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It directly rules in Israel’s pre-1967 borders and in East Jerusalem, maintains an occupation in the West Bank, and oversees what amounts to an open-air prison in the Gaza Strip where it hopes to contain its most virulent Palestinian enemy, Hamas. This amounts to a one-state reality. What direction this state takes is largely up to Israelis. Again, as Glick so rightly points out, this is because the Palestinians and the international community lack the ability, and America lacks the will, to alter the facts on the ground. Given the current political realities in Jerusalem, Washington, and Ramallah, negotiating a two-state solution appears hopeless. It is high time to consider the alternatives.

 

 



[1]. Ben Kamisar, “Trump Open to One-State or Two-State Solution in Middle East,” The Hill, 15 February 2017, http://thehill.com/policy/international/319673-trump-open-to-one-state-or-two-state-solution-in-middle-east.

[2]. Gregg Carlstrom, “Trump’s OK with a One-State Solution. So What Would It Look Like? Here Are Three Ways It Could Happen,” Politico Magazine, 17 February 2017, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/trump-israel-one-state-solution-214794.

[3]. That support for a two-state solution is clearly waning was evidenced at a recent J Street conference. The head of J Street, a pro-Israel lobby group in America dedicated to pursuing a two-state solution, recently stated, “I’m part of a dying breed that believes in two states.” See Dahlia Scheindlin, “I'm Part of a Dying Breed that Believes in Two States,” +972 Magazine, 28 February 2017, https://972mag.com/im-part-of-a-dying-breed-that-believes-in-two-states/125511/. For a brief commentary on the taboo that surrounds public discourse of Zionist ideology and the one-state solution, see Daniel Lazare, “The One-State Solution: Is Zionism a Failed Ideology?,” The Nation, 16 October 2003, https://www.thenation.com/article/one-state-solution/.

[4]. Mathias Mossberg and Mark LeVine, One Land, Two States, xi.

[5]. Ibid., x.

[6]. Mathias Mossberg, “One Land-Two States?,” in One Land, Two States, 16.

[7]. Saree Makdisi, Palestine Inside Out, 5.

[8]. Ali Abunimah, One Country, 103.

[9]. For example, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League stated in 2012 that “the premise of the Harvard conference [on the one-state solution] comes from malice toward the Zionist state and is the most recent manifestation of a decades-old phenomenon to find ways to eliminate the Jewish state.” See Abe Foxman, “Peter Beinart Is Right, but for the Wrong Reasons,” Huffington Post, 20 March 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/abraham-h-foxman/peter-beinart-is-right-bu_b_1367815.html. See also David Meir-Levi, “New Front in Israel Campus Wars,” FrontPage Magazine, 12 March 2012, http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/125012/new-front-israel-campus-wars-david-meir-levi.

[10]. Noah Bierman, “Scott Brown Calls on Harvard to Cancel ‘One State’ Conference,” Boston Globe, 2 March 2012, https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2012/03/02/harvard/Fg6zeyvcyr2vnVc7sit6sM/story.html.

[11]. Caroline Glick, The Israeli Solution, 120.

[12]. Ibid., 121.

[13]. Rob Miller, “What Caroline Glick’s One-State Plan Unfortunately Misses,” Times of Israel, 26 March 2014, http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/what-caroline-glicks-one-state-plan-unfortunately-misses/; David Isaac, “Chasing Peace,” The Washington Free Beacon, 24 August 2014, http://freebeacon.com/national-security/chasing-peace/; and Vijaya Rajiva, “One State Solution Denies a Palestinian State,” Palestine Chronicle, 5 August 2008, http://www.palestinechronicle.com/one-state-solution-denies-a-palestinian-state/. It should be noted that the one-state solution has been gaining attention among some Palestinians since the election of President Trump. See Joshua Mitnick, “With the Two-state Solution a Distant Dream, Palestinians Ask if It’s Time to Push for a One-state Solution,” Los Angeles Times, 29 December 2016, http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-palestinian-one-state-2016-story.html.

[14]. Arron David Miller, The Much Too Promised Land, Bantam Books, New York, 2008.

[15]. Although this 10-year, $38 billion military aid deal nominally increases US aid to Israel by $8 billion over the last 10-year deal, it includes some restrictions that had not previously been in place. Some of these include tighter restrictions on how much of this aid Israel can spend on its own defense industry and a promise from the Israelis that they will not seek supplemental aid, which means Israel could end up receiving less in US military aid than in the last deal. See William Booth and Ruth Eglash, “Some Israelis See $38 Billion U.S. Military Aid Offer as a Failure,” Washington Post, 19 September 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/some-israelis-see-38-billion-us-military-aid-offer-as-a-failure/2016/09/19/2a2c298c-f878-4213-8e65-fcde59032f4c_story.html?utm_term=.f131a60b0d99. Congress, however, controls the purse strings and can allocate Israel more aid at its will, and historically, aid for Israel has enjoyed widespread bipartisan support.

[16]. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is almost completely dependent on international donors for its operating budget, about $1.5 billion per year. Most of that comes from the United States, the European Union, and Arab states. Israel collects border taxes for Palestinian products and periodically delays their dispersal in retaliation for PA actions. Ruth Eglash, “Israel Withholds Tax Revenue from Palestinian Authority as Dispute Escalates,” Washington Post, 3 January 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israel-withholds-tax-revenues-from-palestinian-authority-as-dispute-escalates/2015/01/03/3718e5c4-9378-11e4-a66f-0ca5037a597d_story.html?utm_term=.f5566501b761. For a review on the various forms of US aid to Palestinians, see Jim Zanotti, U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 16 December 2016), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS22967.pdf. For a review of how much aid to the Palestinians goes through and benefits Israel, see Jonathan Cook, “Study: At Least 78% of Humanitarian Aid Intended for Palestinians Ends Up in Israeli Coffers,” Mondoweiss.net, 8 March 2016, http://mondoweiss.net/2016/03/study-at-least-78-of-humanitarian-aid-intended-for-palestinians-ends-up-in-israeli-coffers/.

[17]. As events in the Gaza Strip since 2005 demonstrate, Israel can remove its settlers and military forces while preventing the development of an independent state.

[18]. There is much debate about how to measure both the costs of the occupation and America’s aid to Israel, but conservative estimates of both suggest Israel spends about $650 million in security expenditures on the occupation per year, while it receives over $3 billion in direct US aid. Avi Shauli, “Cost of Occupation – over $50 Billion,” Ynet News, 6 September 2007, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3410537,00.html; Doug Bandow, “U.S. Should Stop Subsidizing Bad Israeli Economic and Occupation Policies,” Forbes, 16 February 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2016/02/16/u-s-should-stop-subsidizing-bad-israeli-economic-and-occupation-policies/#77df74041a8a; Jeremy M. Sharp, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,”

Congressional Research Service, 22 December 2016, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf.

[19]. Daniel Kurtzer, “Behind the Settlements,” The American Interest, 1 March 2010, https://www.the-american-interest.com/2010/03/01/behind-the-settlements/; Gadi Taub, The Settlers and the Struggle over the Meaning of Zionism (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2011); and Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories 1967–2007 (Philadelphia: Nation Books, 2009).

[20]. Elizabeth McLaughlin, “Behind the Controversial Practice of Building Israeli Settlements,” ABC News, 29 December 2016, http://abcnews.go.com/International/controversial-practice-israeli-settlements/story?id=44455084; and Dan Williams, “Israeli Minister Sees 50% More Settlers in West Bank by 2019,” Reuters, 16 May 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinian-israel-idUSBREA4F0AD20140516

[21]. Avner Inbar, “How Israel’s Shriveling Peace Camp Failed the Public,” The Nation, 7 August 2014, https://www.thenation.com/article/how-israels-shriveling-peace-camp-failed-public/; and Edo Konrad “The Life and Death of the Israeli Peace Camp,” +972 Magazine, 13 February 2016, https://972mag.com/the-life-and-death-of-the-israeli-peace-camp/116979/.  

[22]. Here I refer specifically to David Friedman, Jared Kushner, and Jason Greenblatt. See Karen DeYoung, “Trump Picks a Supporter of West Bank Settlements for Ambassador to Israel,” Washington Post, 15 December 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-picks-a-supporter-of-west-bank-settlements-for-ambassador-to-israel/2016/12/15/1a50c03c-c32e-11e6-9a51-cd56ea1c2bb7_story.html?utm_term=.f3bd54650c7f; Andrew Kaczynski “Trump Israel Ambassador Pick Bragged of Removing Two-State Solution from GOP Platform at November Event,” CNN, 23 February 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/politics/kfile-david-friedman-november-speech/; Isabel Kershner and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “David Friedman, “Choice for Envoy to Israel, Is Hostile to Two-State Efforts,” New York Times, 16 December 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/16/world/middleeast/david-friedman-us-ambassador-israel.html?_r=0; Maayan Lubell, “For Hardline West Bank Settlers, Jared Kushner’s Their Man,” Reuters, 2 February 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-palestinians-kushner-idUSKBN15G4W2; and Roqayah Chamseddine, “Trump Appoints Ex-Israeli Settler to Oversee Peace Process,” Mondoweiss.net, 25 December 2016, http://mondoweiss.net/2016/12/appoints-israeli-settler/.

[23]. This tension within Zionist thought was on full display at a recent national security conference in Israel where the country’s top leaders advocated for drastically different endgames. See David Ignatius, “What Does Israel Want from America?” Washington Post, 24 January 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-does-israel-want-from-america/2017/01/24/0a3ea908-e286-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?utm_term=.c3e526b45c91.

[24]. Ilan Goldenberg, “Trump’s ‘Outside-In’ Approach to Israel-Palestine Won’t Work Right Now,” Foreign Policy, 13 February 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/13/trumps-outside-in-approach-to-israeli-palestinian-peacemaking-wont-work-right-now-peace-conflict-two-state-solution/.

[25]. Isaac Herzog, “Opinion: Isaac Herzog Details His 10-point Plan for Israeli-Palestinian Peace,” Haaretz, 23 February 2017, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.773312

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