Saturday, May 12, 2012

How Can Something That Was Never Alive Be Dead?

(Readers: this appears under a different headline, not mine, at Open Zion here)

Is the two-state solution for Israel-Palestine still viable? Perhaps it is time to admit, in the spirit of Voltaire, that the two-state solution was never about two states, nor was it a solution, nor could it ever be viable. 

It was not about a Palestinian state, because a state’s fundamental purpose is to provide security and a sense of security to its citizens. But even the most far-reaching of the two-state proposals did not allow the Palestinians to have a strong army. After a century of Zionism, security and the sense of security are what the Palestinians crave most. That is why in poll after poll, what Palestinians on the West Bank oppose most is “an independent Palestinian state that would have no army, but would have a strong security force and would have a multinational force deployed in it to ensure its security and safety.”


Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty Images

That there are Palestinian leaders who were compelled, out of weakness and fatigue, to agree to a non-militarized Palestine is irrelevant, as is the very sensible belief that developing countries should not invest heavily in a military. A people that has always relied on the “kindness of strangers” must be able to defend itself. That is valid for the State of Israel, and it is equally valid for the State of Palestine. 

It was not a real solution, because it did not meet the minimum set of reasonable conditions for statehood.  For example, the proposed borders of the state, even after land swaps, would finalize the Judaization of the greater Jerusalem metropolitan area, providing Palestinians with a hole in a Jewish bagel. The settlement blocs would divide the Palestinian state from North to South and the Negev would divide the Palestinian state from  East to West. The other elements of the Clinton proposals or the Geneva Initiative, i.e. security arrangements, refugees, etc.,  all favor the Israelis at the expense of the Palestinians. 

Advocates of the two-state solution will respond, “Yes, but at least the Palestinians will have a state. Had they accepted the partition plan in 1947, they would have had a larger state without refugees.” Really? Had the Palestinians joined the Zionists in accepting the partition plan in 1947, it is more likely that neither side would have honored it. Even the Zionists, who accepted it, discarded it at the earliest opportunity.  Both sides years later failed to honor the Oslo Accords they signed, and Israel was quick to appeal to security concerns in order to justify territorial gain in 1956 and 1967.

What really determines the security of the Israelis and the Palestinians is, not surprisingly, the balance of power between the peoples. And, under any of the proposed two-state solutions, the Palestinians would be dependent to a large extent on Israel’s largesse. 

For the two-state solution to be a viable option, there must be a fair and equitable division of the land and resources of Israel/Palestine, a division that provides for a symmetry of power and resources between the two peoples, including room for immigrants from their respective  diaspora communities. The current two-state proposals, justified entirely by facts on the ground, and by a desire to solve the Jewish “demographic problem,” distribute land and resources in a grossly inequitable manner. This is a sure recipe for breeding terrorism, vigilantism, and irredentism. Even the accepted US formula for two states: “a secure Israel alongside a viable, contiguous Palestine” is humiliating. If you don’t understand why, just switch the two names.

How about a one-state solution? Or, to be more precise, how about a different “one state” from the current one state ruled by Israel, in which the Palestinians of Israel are excluded from the nation-state, rendering them politically impotent, and in which Palestinian subjects of the West Bank and Gaza, are under Israel’s control?  A more equitable binationalist state may be the solution for the future, but it is presently thwarted by opposing nationalist narratives, hardened by the occupation and by the Israeli policy of "hafrada" (segregation), which fosters mutual ignorance and distrust.

Instead of focusing on impractical political solutions, friends of Israel and Palestine should adopt more fundamental principles. Here are two:

Joint Struggle for Civil Rights and Self-Dermination. Recently, several prominent Israelis have called on Israel to withdraw unilaterally from parts of the West Bank in a move they termed, “Peace Without Partners.” Yet this return to Zionist unilateralism will achieve neither peace nor the minimum of justice required by both peoples for coexistence. Rather, people of good will from around the globe should become “Partners Without Peace” in a struggle for the civil rights and self-determination of Palestinians (and Israelis, who already have them.) 

Re-education and Fostering Understanding of the Other.  Both sides, as unequal in power as they currently are,  have to be re-educated to understand that at the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conflict are conflicting foundational claims that can no longer be adjudicated. Their goal should be to work gradually towards a reasonably fair compromise between the parties that will allow both peoples security and flourishing. The ultimate goal should not a sanctification of the status quo, including the Israeli regime established in 1948, but rather a willingness to re-think how both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples can have equal opportunities to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

This is a herculean task for more than one generation. But there are no short-cuts.  During the very long night ahead of us, the joint struggle of people from Israel/Palestine and from around the globe should continue to focus on civil and political equality, until more come to realize that the problems between the two sides are foundational. Non-violent tactics that exert pressure on both sides, including boycotts and sanctions,  should be considered and adopted if they will further the aforementioned goals. 

The “We-all-know-what-the-solution-will-look-like–we-just-don’t-know-how-to-get-there” attitude may be comforting to liberal Zionists—but it is just another messianic illusion that allows them to sleep soundly while the oppression and injustice continues. Indeed, the messiah will come before an equitable two-state solution is implemented. And Zionism is not about waiting for the messiah.


pabelmont said...

Great essay. The caged bird cannot fly free unless someone outside the cage opens it. You've opened it a crack.

If (as I read once) he world balances on "truth, justice, and peace, and in that order", then I/P "peace" depends on "justice", but with the international community bravely led (or suppressed) by the USA, there can be no "justice" for the Palestinians, and in the USA the media and political class appear to have abandoned "truth" in favor of propaganda.

Dan Goldenblatt said...

Excellently put Jerry. Yaatik elafi!

Going to publish it on IPCRI's page.

Dan Goldenblatt

AIG said...


You are wrong for the simple reason that you sneak in a false assumption. You are correct that the Palestinian state should provide security, but you are not correct that it should provide total security from day 1.

Did the Jewish state provide security for Jews from day one? Of course it didn't. The consequence of its declaration was the War of Independence and 1% of the Yishuv dead. Very slowly over decades and with many setbacks, security for Jews was established.

To expect the situation for Palestinians to be any different is not realistic. Of course if you start with unrealistic expectations, the two state solution is not possible. So why don't you just say you are against the two state solutions instead of making it "jump over hurdles" that are mile high?

jhamnesty1 said...

OK, so no Two State Solution. But what about the Two State Non-Solution?

By this I mean, Israel ending the occupation, or even a substantial part of it, even unilaterally. If Israel is wrong to control West Bank Palestinians, why wouldn't it be a good idea to lessen that control, by a withdrawal -- as a first step, at least -- to the Camp David 2000 lines, or thereabout? It won't solve "the conflict," but maybe it's time to stop giving peace, or its absence, a veto over all potentially positive steps along the way.

Alan said...

professors of philosophy believe that the world balances on this or that.

i'm a professor of engineering, and I read human society to be like chicken society. There's ALWAYS a pecking order.... always. Always has been, and zero evidence that it COULD ever go away, notwithstanding the heartfelt regret of Professsors of Philosophy. Well, those folks are welcome to click their heels and wish out loud that "there's no place like home!"

And I for one, vote that the Hebrews NOT be at less-than-the-top of the pecking order in Judea.

That Jerry Haber can sit in Jerusalem freely, is a testimony to what a mistake the Law of Return was, and is. It should be immediately amended to declare that those who are of Hebrew ethnicity, can look to Israel as a homeland, just like folks who can prove they have at least one Irish grandparent are still being granted Eire passports. Everyone else can have temporary-residence visas.... while they remain on good behavior. Temporary Residents who wish to become naturalized Hebrews, will pass a citizenship test, and pledge sole loyalty to the Hebrew Government. Just like naturalization in America.

Richard Witty said...

"What really determines the security of the Israelis and the Palestinians is, not surprisingly, the balance of power between the peoples."

This is a critical tangible point, not for its truth but for the impossibility of peace on that basis.

Per Jerry's thesis, for their to be peace between Israel and Palestine, Israel and Palestine would have to have military parity between them, even 3 to 1 would be better than no deterrent power, per the thesis.

But, from Israel's perspective, it is not only in an adversarial relationship with Palestine, but also with Egypt, with Lebanon, with Syria, deferred with Jordan, with Iraq, and prospectively supplied by the very rich Gulf states with US sophisticated weapons.

Palestine is accurately described as a donut hole in Israel, and Israel is accurately described as a donut hole in the Arab world.

When Israel was founded, and until the 1980's (certainly reminded by 1948 war, 67, 73 and other major skirmishes), that it was attacked by the whole Arab world and communist world as well, Islamic world as well, not just Palestine.

Its a falsehood to describe relations between Israel and Palestine as the defining balance.

So, for those that desire actual peace, its necessary to consider the reality, the whole truth.

We stay stuck by ideals only, even accurate observations, accompanied by implausible proscriptions.

Anonymous said...

Funny how the Israel Lobby's stranglehold on the Congress also requires using their influence to keep things out of the news cycle:

As for the wackiest religious nuts in the Middle East - not allowing that it may be the Jews is simply a priori cognitive bias.

Jerry Haber said...


Thank you for allowing the Palestinian state to have the same security forces that the Israeli state had back in 1948 -- a strong Israel Defence Force.

Only 1% dead? What percentage was expelled? And what percentage of of the Arab population of Palestine was killed or destroyed. Or do you only care about your own side.

Do you realize that the Israelis completely routed the Palestinians, whose "army" consisted of a rag tag outfit? Small wonder that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria intevened, with the same intent as the Israelis -- carving up Palestine for themselves.

Jerry Haber said...


Please read what I have to say elewhere against unilateralism, a.k.a self-gratification. It has been the curse of the Zionist movement since its inception.

alan, I read some of the stuff you sent me. All I can say to you is -- stick to engineering! This stuff is a complete confusion of ethnicity, citizenship, etc.

I agree entirely that citizenship confers membership in a nation state, and that no group has more rights than another. That's the way Israel should be.

But what is being a Hebrew? A member of an ethnic group that precedes the state? Someone who speaks Hebrew?

Show me another democratic country where citizenship requires a loyalty oath not to the state but to the "ethnic group" (defined by citizenship?), where citizenship is stripped from somebody who doesn't renounce it himself -- simply because he identifies with a people.

Apparently you would like to stip a lot of Americans with complex identies of their American citizenship.

Again, I am all for making a state of all its people, with a central place for Hebrew language, culture, calendar. Call the citizens Hebrews, Israelites, Israelis, whatever you like. I am also for strenghthening an Israeli identity.

But if a Palestinian Arab is an Israeli citizen, and affirms himself to be an Israeli citizen, who are you to strip that from him because he has not passed some sort of ethnic litmus test.

Especially since the Jewish people never were exiled from their land after 586 BC but left voluntarily (during the second temple period more Jews lived outside of Israel than within it) or converted to Christianity and Islam.

Jerry Haber said...


I find your comments unwittingly (no pun intended) offensive.

What you are saying is that since the Palestinians whose land was conquered in war by the Israelis and Jordanians are ethnically Arab, there just claim have to be sacrificed in the balance of power calculus.

Or to put this another way, you would like to go back to the Good Old Days where there no Palestinians, only a lot of Arabs vs. tiny Israel.

Well, my reader, guess what -- it was always the strong parties against the week, a strong coalition of interests Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and the Zionists to carve up Palestinian among them.

Power always trumps ethnicity -- after all, King Hussein and Ben Gurion divided up Palestine among themseles only months after Ben Gurion had "accepted" partition. So much for a Palestinian state....

Try, Richard, try hard to get unbrainwashed from all the hasbara you hear growing up.

Or as Abba Eban should have said, "The Zionists never refused to offer the Palestinian Arabs an eminently and justifiably refusable offer." Ben Gurion offered a binational state when the Zionists had less than 17% of the population, less than the percentage of Arabs in Israel today.

Very generous of Ben Gurion, don't you think?