One Democratic Secular State for all its citizens in Israel and Palestine

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    Posted July 7, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    One State debated in Ha’aretz

    First, the Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin let it be known that he would rather concede the vote than re-divide the land. He was followed by another Likud grandee Moshe Arens, who opined that a Jewish majority could still be maintained if the West Bank got the vote. No mention of Gaza or the exiles, but still it opens up non-territorial alternatives, and now two responses to the “one state solution” have been penned for Ha’aretz

    On 2 July Alexander Yakobson rightly pointed out that “Any arrangement whereby Israel annexes the West Bank and leaves out Gaza is inconceivable.” He is right, too, that “Any two-state deal would … stipulate that a right of return applies solely to the future Palestinian state” and no refugees would be taking up residence anywhere in Israel. It’s good to have it spelled out so clearly for all those Palestine supporters deluded that such a deal would involve any real homecoming for the exiles.

    But he then departs on a racist rant in which he claims that no Arabs could ever tolerate a truly binational state and that legal arrangements to safeguard the rights of all ethnic groups would not be worth the paper they were printed on.

    Does this man know what a state is, at all? It doesn’t consist of pieces of paper, but institutions, bureaucracies, law courts etc all upheld and backed up by police forces, prisons and armies. Not so much as a parking fine can be overturned without ultimately facing the long arm of the law. 

    The only way the constitutional character of a state can be changed, other than by the democratic processes embedded in such a constitution (probably requiring at least a two-to-one majority in both main ethnic groups) is by either an army coup, an invading army or a revolution. And a well-established state that aims to protect equal treatment for different ethnic groups will ensure that the “bodies of armed men and women” are integrated at all levels.

    Realistically, however sincerely they were to go about this task, it would take generations to achieve genuine and meaningful integration of the world’s fourth most powerful army, not to mention its militarily trained civilians. For many decades it would inevitably continue to be dominated by its Jewish-Israeli origins. Even if Israel’s civilians were de-militarised, again in any physical conflict or confrontation the Jewish population would have the advantage. 

    In any bi-national state of Israel-Palestine, those most at risk of an army revolt would be the Palestinians. 

    It is for many reasons unlikely that a Single State would be embarked upon without the willing consent of both sides. A substantial transition period would be needed to manage the change in every sphere of life and to establish links and bonds in social, educational, professional, cultural, sporting, political, environmental and administrative matters.

    Somebody needs to tell the likes of Yakobson and all those who conjure up bloodbaths and mayhem that in reality there is more to life than ethnicity and religion, and in all those countries where multiculturalism is a strong and enjoyable part of life it is held together by a whole variety of everyday relationships and bonds.

    And what of the neighbours? Yakobson’s vision is of an Arabism that will not countenance a mixed-race state next door. But the picture of the Middle East is distorted by both Israel’s presence as a problem and its absence as a neighbour. It is like a group photograph that is completely destroyed by one person in the middle who makes a rude sign. A Middle East with an ethnically equal Israel/Palestine in its midst would have a very different character and would be far too busy negotiating business, tourism and infrastructure deals with the new country to tolerate any plots to undo it all.

    The other response to Arens, by Carlos Strenger, is more measured and thoughtful. Significantly, while stating that I have for years argued that the one-state solution is not feasible”, he gives quite a fair account of it, and also says ” it may well be that the window of opportunity for the two-state solution is about to close”.

    Carlos Strenger’s The Challenges of a One-State Solution is reproduced in our selected Readings 

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