The Right steps out for One (Jewish) State
Last month saw a flurry of “taboo-busting” articles and statements from major figures on the Israeli Right and the settler movement on what was roughly labelled as the binational or Single State, i.e. a political rather than a territorial solution to the impasse.
We had reported that Knesset Speaker Rubi Rivlin, followed by another senior Likud veteran Moshe Arens, had both proposed versions of a bi-national state. And there have been others.
Young Likud rightist MK Tsipi Hotovelli last year organised a high level conference on alternatives to the two state solution, while the settlers’ journal Nekuda devoted an issue to it. One piece, by settler leader Uri Elitsur, called for, ultimately, Palestinians to have “a blue ID card [like Israelis], yellow license plates [like Israelis], National Insurance and the right to vote for the Knesset.”
And then there is Eretz Shalom, settlers whose members have been on a sympathy drive with their Palestinian neighbours.
It all came up front when Ha’aretz journalist Noam Sheizaf gathered it all together into a substantial feature headlined Endgame, and luridly straplined: It’s an idea for solving the conflict that sounds like a vision of the end of days: grant Israeli citizenship and equal rights to all the Palestinians in the West Bank. And who is proposing the one-state solution? Right-wingers and settlers”.
Their various statements quoted ranged, often in the same breath, from abhorrently racist to apparently democratic and even thoughtful. Hotovely attacks the old left (and the Two State establishment) which “has long since stopped talking about peace and is resorting to a terminology of separation and segregation. They are also convinced that the confrontation will continue even afterward. The result is a solution that perpetuates the conflict and turns us from occupiers into perpetrators of massacres, to put it bluntly. It’s the left that made us a crueler nation and also put our security at risk.”
She regrets “the harm we are inflicting on the Palestinian population” but also states “I want it to be clear that I do not recognise national rights of Palestinians in the Land of Israel. I recognise 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.”
Elitzur speaks of “the state of the Jewish people … in which there will exist an Arab minority” but observes that the situation now is a dead end, “with a whole population living under Israeli rule without civil rights. That is unacceptable on a permanent basis”.
The clear message is that there is no consistent message: they want to have it both ways, and under cover of fine words and a few civil concessions they want annexation, probably coupled with frantic further settlement building — which they certainly have not opposed.
All speak of “granting” the franchise and possibly citizenship over a period of decades, in selected gerrymandered areas and probably conditional on loyalty oaths and other devices for keeping the Palestinians way down in a third or fourth tier behind even mainland Israel’s Palestinian second class citizens.
They speak of “coping” with the Arab minority. As if was a disease or a problem. “In the binational process we have a degree of control” as compared with a separate state. As for Gaza, that will remain forever beyond the pale, because of Hamas, and because they have no desire for land that comes with one and a half million people attached. And they all cling passionately to the signs and symbols, the names and the flags, of Israel “as a Jewish state”.
Apart from Amrussi of Eretz Shalom they still view it as dealing with the enemy. For her, it’s a matter of relations with the Arab population, on both sides of the Green Line: “something went wrong along the way, and we can’t go on accepting this. … The whole situation now is wrong. We made a mistake, we arrived at the wrong place and we have a long way to go, but in the end there has to be one space here. We will yet talk about one state, but in the meantime we can talk about one land.”
Finally Sheizaf talks to Prof Yehuda Shenhav, author of The Time of the Green Line. He warns that even the furthest right of this range of views is still a small minority of the settlers and the right, people whose “single state” would involve massive ethnic cleansing or full frontal apartheid, and who certainly refuse to “put Israel’s character at risk” by giving Palestinians citizenship. But, he says “there is a minority that reads reality in a far less denying and less repressive way than all the people on the left who support the two-state solution.”
We’d like to offer the following TEN RESPONSES
1. These people are putting a different trajectory on the agenda. As Hotovely says, “The taboo that forbids talk about any option other than the two-state solution is almost anti-democratic. It’s like brain-gagging.” It could also open the floodgates for this alternative scenario in the vast soft-Zionist diaspora movement that has shunned the Single State as disloyal to Israel, but is seeking a way forward and justice for the Palestinians. It could help to break the Two State monopoly position. One Country options and ideas would become common knowledge. It could even seep into the discourse of the wielders of the big sticks and carrots at the big power quartet.
2. Even if Greater Israel was enacted in almost the worst formulation, it would be preferable to Two States in so many ways: it would bring common ground and coexistence projects in from the fringes, an end to the wall and some freedom of movement, a fluid situation where the offer could be improved and speeded up by a civil rights campaign, the building of cross-community institutions and parties, and international pressure for genuine, not sham democracy. Whereas if Two States were enacted, the shutters would come down and the Palestinians could be trapped for the foreseeable future with their options and rights signed away.
3. However gradually the right envisage bestowing their largesse upon an imagined inert and passive Palestinian population, the fact that one day Palestinians will have legal rights and the vote might stay the hand of the land grabbers with the threat that they might have to pay up some day. The West Bank will cease to be the Wild West playground for lawlessness and vigilantes.
4. It makes it imperative that the left and the peace movement enter into the discussion. Instead of saying the rightist interest proves One State is the work of the devil, they should not allow them a free run to define it in ethnic terms instead of by the human rights and democratic yardsticks that are essential to it.
5. The thinking of the settlers in particular and some of the “mainland” rightists is complex, but at its heart they place more value on the land than the state. And for totally understandable human motives, they do not want to be uprooted. It will do no harm at all to clarify any points of agreement with them, nor to say out loud that all the One State declarations and writings stress that with a political and not a territorial solution, no-one needs to be evicted or moved — though segregated living would have no basis in law, and the privileged use of water, land and roads would end. And all cherished and holy sites would be accessible to everyone, without having a border to cross. All these things are not even to be negotiated: they are integral to One Country, and come with no price tag whatsoever.
6. “In Israel there is a two-state camp and a one-state, binational camp, and the choice is between them.” Gadi Baltiansky of the Geneva Initiative. We have always argued that One Democracy is an organic and natural choice. As such it’s not just somebody’s brainchild or hobby but is going to bubble up through the crust of inertia and cynicism of the Two State era. The noises coming from the Right are signs of that. Such a bubbling up just as inevitably means a ferment of ideas and different standpoints.
7. The removal of the fictional Green Line will start to re-unite two of the fragmented parts of the Palestinian community, those in the West Bank and in Israel, making much more sense of moves such as Avram Burg’s proposed new party for promoting equal rights within Israel.
8. Even unilateral annexation would throw open whole swathes of Israel’s political and legal life to changes and realignments. So too would Palestinian politics change in response, which in turn would impact on attitudes and politics in Israel. If the Left shuns this process and retreats into Gush Shalom’s delusional vision of the golden age of 1948-67 it will hand the whole field to the right wing Greater Israel camp.
9. The Israeli human rights forces and International solidarity movement, the Palestinian grassroots struggle and political leadership, and the BDS movement, needs to agree on a unified strategy and set of demands and criteria in response to the possibility of unilateral annexation of the West Bank and (somewhat belatedly) Jerusalem. The sooner this is done the more influence they can have in the events that will come.
10. None of this can do any harm at all, nor undermine other agendas. Even if it is just a second option, the adoption of criteria and standards of human and civil rights for a single state must serve to strengthen the struggle against the occupation and all the wrongs that it has spawned, and strengthen morale and bargaining positions even if a separate Palestinian state still tops the agenda.
See also The Right Move by Israel Shamir in Readings
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