One state, two state, three state, four – Part I
More than two decades since the start of the peace process, the two-state solution has become the only acceptable path for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in contemporary discourse. But while the two-state solution may be the only one currently sitting on the table, many others continue to linger around it, waiting for someone to pick them up. The most recent such attempt was the One State Conference held at Harvard University earlier this month, promoting the idea of one liberal state for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The conference was derided by all colors of Israelis and American Zionists as “delegitimizing” Israel. Discussing a one-state solution, some said, “is a euphemism for ending the existence of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.”
The likes of World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Dan Diker, along with various Israeli and world Jewish leaders, dismissed the conference as “anti-Semitic theater.” Jerusalem Post columnist Martin Sherman, though decrying the two-state principle as “the source of [Israel’s] de-legitimization,” wrote that allowing others – presumably non-Israelis – to lead the discussion about a one-state solution would “invite a new Pearl Harbor.”
But while the international mainstream discourse discounts the legitimacy of anything other than the two-state solution, many within Israeli society are pushing back against that notion and openly discussing alternatives. Almost two years before the conference at Harvard, a member of Knesset from the Israeli government’s ruling party lamented: “The taboo that forbids talk about any option other than the two-state solution is almost anti-democratic. It’s like brain-gagging.”
Accusing both the Right and Left of disillusionment, or at best of having disconnected views of the land they live in, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely told Haaretz that unlike others, she “do[es] not ignore the fact that there are Palestinians here. Both the Left and the Right choose to shut their eyes to the fact that there are human beings here.”
However, Hotovely and a small but growing number of right-wing Israelis who advocate a one-state solution do not share the same vision of the future as those who gathered in Cambridge this month. Unlike the Israeli far-right, the one-state solution advocated by left-leaning Palestinians, Israelis and others is a vision based on the liberal concept of a state of all its citizens.
Hotovely and others, including former Yesha Council head and Netanyahu bureau chief Uri Elitzur, do recognize a moral and political imperative to grant full inclusion in the Jewish state to (most) Palestinians currently residing west of the Jordan River. The main difference between them and views aired at the Harvard conference is that they stop short of giving Palestinians any ownership in that state.
“I want it to be clear that I do not recognize national rights of Palestinians in the Land of Israel. I recognize their human rights and their individual rights, and also their individual political rights – but between the sea and the Jordan there is room for one state, a Jewish state,” Hotovely told Haaretz.
While the left-wing, liberal one-state camp may actually stand closer to the more mainstream two-state camp in its recognition of Palestinian national-political rights, right-wingers like Hotovely, Elitzur and even Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin all have a vision that is closer functionally to that expressed by hundreds at the Harvard conference – one state for both Jews and Palestinians.
But those differences are large enough to keep the two discussions separate for the time being.
Although Israeli politicians like Hotovely and Rivlin would not likely be welcomed at the Harvard conference, perhaps it is time Israelis start listening to them — if for no other reason than to begin openly discussing alternatives to the long-stalled two-state solution. If no fresh and creative thinking is introduced into the long-stalled peace process, the conflict risks true intractability or a solution imposed by one side that secures its goals and needs while abandoning the other’s.
This series will continue in several parts in the coming days and weeks, each examining creative and previously sidelined proposals that either reject or significantly modify the two-state model for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Among the ideas that will be explored are an Israeli-Palestinian confederation, models based on the European Union and rethinking the very concept of sovereignty. Stay tuned.
Follow Michael Omer-Man on Twitter: @ConflictedLand