Thursday, July 8, 2010

The End Of A Two-State Solution?

Over the past six months, a number of influential articles have raised the question of whether a two-state solution is, or was ever, feasible. Consider this nuanced article by Meron Benvenisti in Haaretz, or this overtly skeptical article by John Mearsheimer, a version of which was published in Foreign Policy. The Forward's opinion page has been running a series of commentaries on the question, and my contribution, "The Israeli-Palestinian Confluence" (reproduced below), was published today.

Is the two-state solution passé? Serious people, with democratic instincts, are asking this now, but it is hard to think of a more frivolous question.

The alternative to a two-state solution is not a one-state solution. It is war, Bosnia-style. It is one thing to become exasperated by the occupation and to start throwing around the term “apartheid.” It is quite another to start believing that this little hyperbole is all you need to know about the situation, or that a democratic solution for Israel and Palestine must ultimately conform to South Africa’s — one state, “one-person, one-vote.” The idea that the occupation is producing a single country — or that an eventual Arab majority will be able to vote Israel out of existence — is about as realistic as expecting to drive in Jerusalem without being cut off in traffic.

There are two nations here — distinct from each other in their languages, religious cultures and historical grievances. Israelis and Palestinians are at very different levels of economic development, but neither will surrender the dream of a political border around its cultural facts — and even in the best of all possible worlds, it’s not clear why either should.

But then what, after 40 years of occupation, can a two-state solution possibly look like? Aren’t skeptics right to imply that returning to pre-1967 realities will be impossible, even if returning to, in effect, the pre-1967 border will be mandatory? For that matter, is a democratic solution of any kind still feasible? These are better questions.

In any peaceful resolution, Israel and Palestine will constitute one commercial ecosystem. At present, some 90% of Palestinian imports come from Israel, and 80% of Palestinian exports go to Israel.

The two states would interlock into one large urban landscape (excluding the Negev, comparable in size to greater Los Angeles), connected to global and regional networks, but with two distinct cultural nodes — a Hebrew north-south megalopolis along the coastal plain, anchored by Tel Aviv, and an Arab megalopolis along the highlands of the West Bank, anchored by East Jerusalem/Ramallah.

What jurisdictions could either state exercise in peace without the institutional cooperation of the other? The answer is not many. Think of security, water, bandwidth, transportation, airspace, electricity, tourism, labor mobility and currency policy — you name it.

The destinies of the two states would be profoundly intertwined. Think of Israel deepening its free trade ties to the European Union and the United States, and how this would have an impact on Palestinian goods, or how international forces will help enforce the peace of Jerusalem. Ideally, there would be a common market for entrepreneurs (including for Jordanian Palestinians, whose investments in the young Palestinian state will be crucial). It all makes the phrase “self-determination” sound a little pretentious, doesn’t it? The result may not amount to an actual federation, but the application of federal principles would be unavoidable.

Israel’s own Arab citizens, in this context, could well become a kind of bridging population between Israeli and Arab businesses, their towns nested between the two states, their elites moving increasingly into one megalopolis or the other, and requiring the possibility of dual citizenship or extraterritorial citizenship. (Eventually, some solution like this may also be negotiated for Jewish residents of Palestine.)

Of course, the status of Israel’s Arab citizens now figures prominently in one of the main arguments made by proponents of a so-called “one-state solution.” The two-state solution’s detractors note that Israel discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens, and therefore conclude that a Jewish state has no place in the modern world.

One-staters — but not only one-staters — are right to resist a Jewish state that derides as “anti-Zionist” demands for the equal treatment of all its citizens. Indeed, even if a peace with Palestine materializes, should Israel continue to treat its Arab minority as it currently does, its next intifada will be within the Green Line.

But instead of doing away with Israel, as the one-staters demand, we should seek to define its identity as a “Jewish state” according to the original Zionist aspiration of building a modern, Hebrew republic for free citizens. Indeed, Israel’s own Declaration of Independence stipulated that the newborn state would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” and “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”

An Israel that lives up to its founding creed would remain a sovereign Jewish state while reconciling national claims with ordinary human rights. Its first official language would be Hebrew, and its cultural commitments — its festivals, history, historical literatures — will be (mostly) Jewish, much as Palestine will be Arab and (mostly) Muslim.

But Israel would also have to guarantee what a majority of Israelis already want, namely secular protections for individual consciences and hybridized identities. Israel cannot expect to be embedded within a global, democratic system yet, at the same time, fail to enforce individual civil rights.

Israel, in other words, will have to retire the residual institutions of the old Zionist settler state that is still encased within — and seriously threatens — the democratic country that aspires to be joined to the world. Currently, a state within a state empowers an ultra-Orthodox rabbinate to impose halachic norms, uses national land and outdated Zionist institutions to “Judaize” Arab regions, segregates primary and secondary education by religion, fetishizes Jerusalem, maintains a population registry that refuses to recognize “Israeli” as a nationality, and so forth.

None of this means Israelis would somehow be forced to lose their identities as Jews. Rather, it means that no state should be in the business of legislating what “Jew” means any more than it would legislate the meaning of God, beauty or love. A Jewish state can only give its citizens — by privileging Hebrew and deepening democratic norms — the means to innovate a Jewish civilization.

Funny, when you sketch the two-state vision out in this way, the most striking thing about it is how unoriginal it is. Does any Western democracy not conform to its norms — the interconnectedness, the secularism, the pluralism? But, not so funny, this vision seems utterly fanciful in the context of Israel’s current political universe. Israel’s cosmopolitan business elites are building global connections, but are mainly subordinating themselves to hard-line politicians, even though perpetual war will ultimately destroy their work. As for current Israeli political leaders, talk about bringing Israeli democracy up to code, and they accuse you of anti-Semitism or self-hatred. Their Zionism, pathetically, has become a psychological show of “strength.”

Perhaps one may take encouragement from the very smallness of Israel and Palestine, which makes the influence of American and European diplomacy that much more decisive here. Big changes seem imminent. Sooner or later, the danger of political and economic isolation will force Israeli elites to choose between greater Israel and global Israel; even Jewish settlers and Palestinian insurgents, faced with a new reality (a negotiated border, a world mobilized behind a peace deal, a time-limited compensation package) will, over time, accommodate to it. The key is to keep one’s eye on generational shifts and the requirements of a fair deal for both Israelis and Palestinians, not on the depressing daily headlines.

There are many foreseeable ways to war, but only one way to peace. And things that “cannot go on” eventually don’t.

21 comments:

Peter Schwartz said...

Bernard, I love this vision.

In the end, it feels a bit like a Switzerland solution, even if it's different in the particulars of administration and sovereignty.

However, you seem to leave out the question of land, which is so eloquently expressed by the maps at the top of your piece.

If there were a STATE of Palestine with physical borders and sovereignty could it possibly exist on the small plots of land shown above? Could it ever accommodate all the people who would need a place in the sun?

You don't appear to address the issue of how to move the settlements back over the line into Israel proper. Do these people become Jewish citizens of Palestine parallel, in effect, to the Arab citizens of Israel?

Bernard Avishai said...

Peter, formally, as I said, we would have the 1967 boundary. My point is that nobody will care where the boundary is, except for establishing where to vote.

RK said...

I like how the chart at the top cunningly elides the difference between population and political control, sometimes within the same map. (Who knew Palestinians lived on Lake Galilee before the partition? Makes Jesus' feat look a bit pale in comparison.)

Benivisti, after assuring us that a binational state needn't look like Switzerland or Canada, blinks just when he's about to tell us exactly what it will look like. In fact, his definition of "binational" is so broad that it's no wonder he regards Israel/Palestine as already effectively binational. His list of examples is a mixture of bizarre (Bosnia and Macedonia are multinational models? Really, now?) and failures (Cyprus, Lebanon). You're exactly right when you say that the alternative to a two-state solution is a Bosnia-style war.

Danaa said...

Bernard, your vision sounds great, a does Benveniti's and the others' who proposed creative condominium variations of one state/two state. All within the "Global Israel" model you favor - all with the "look and feel' of Switzerland/ireland/canada/belgium combination of models.

My question is only one - what Israel are we talking about - the one that is or the one you want it to be? If it's the israel that is, with polls indicating that far fewer than 50% are even remotely willing to live/work or communicate much with Arabs (ie, if it implies even the slightest change for themselves), then where from the willingness to compromise on anything? Isn't this a necessary assumption underlying the hebrew republic? The vast majority of the israelis I know have zero desire for any part of the tolerance model you advocate. Yet such tolerance is an absolutely necessary ingredient in your model. It just so happens that the israelis I know (that would be hundreds of them) by and large want the arabs/palestinians to disappear - the only question is how to bring it about without such human cost that the world will actually be taking serious notice.

In other words, most israelis (and it is most) are not wondering how to learn to live within a multi-cultural/global looking model. They are only wondering how they can get away with not doing the "multi-cultural' part but keeping the "global" one.

I like your thoughts and proposals but fear they will not go very far other than as a [valuable] academic exercise in wish fulfillment and idealization. I know you'll bring up historic counter-examples of things that looked impossible - until they happened. But alas, I - and many others - know that the poison that infected israel is unusually potent, which you would know too, had you gone through the elementary/high school system there. I did, and I know what I learnt and just how deep the brain washing was and what it consisted of. That not to even mention what service in the IDF can do to one's psyche, speaking of reality distorting experience. Shaking that off is no minor matter, and no amount of enlightened self-interest you try to bring into the conversation will do the trick.

realizing all that, what positive outcome is left? not much, obviously, looking at your maps and knowing the reality on the ground. Which you'd know too if you only cared to go for more frequent forays outside the etherial coastal/global bubble you so well inhabit.

Some are contemplating the so-called "one state" scenarios not because they like it but because they know it's too late for anything else. Though all "one staters" know - deep in their heart of hearts that it may take a Bosnia to the power of 5 before the dust settles and people are willing to do the rational thing. Personally, I think you should put your not-inconsiderable powers of imagination in the service of getting through the unimaginable. Of course, that's kind of like trying to work through BP oilpocalypse worst case scenarios. Definitely not fun, but maybe necessary?

Dana said...

Bernard, your vision sounds great, a does Benveniti's and the others' who proposed creative condominium variations of one state/two state. All within the "Global Israel" model you favor - all with the "look and feel' of Switzerland/ireland/canada/belgium combination of models.

My question is only one - what Israel are we talking about - the one that is or the one you want it to be? If it's the israel that is, with polls indicating that far fewer than 50% are even remotely willing to live/work or communicate much with Arabs (ie, if it implies even the slightest change for themselves), then where from the willingness to compromise on anything? Isn't this a necessary assumption underlying the hebrew republic? The vast majority of the israelis I know have zero desire for any part of the tolerance model you advocate. Yet such tolerance is an absolutely necessary ingredient in your model. It just so happens that the israelis I know (that would be hundreds of them) by and large want the arabs/palestinians to disappear - the only question is how to bring it about without such human cost that the world will actually be taking serious notice.

In other words, most israelis (and it is most) are not wondering how to learn to live within a multi-cultural/global looking model. They are only wondering how they can get away with not doing the "multi-cultural' part but keeping the "global" one.

I like your thoughts and proposals but fear they will not go very far other than as a [valuable] academic exercise in wish fulfillment and idealization. I know you'll bring up historic counter-examples of things that looked impossible - until they happened. But alas, I - and many others - know that the poison that infected israel is unusually potent, which you would know too, had you gone through the elementary/high school system there. I did, and I know what I learnt and just how deep the brain washing was and what it consisted of. That not to even mention what service in the IDF can do to one's psyche, speaking of reality distorting experience. Shaking that off is no minor matter, and no amount of enlightened self-interest you try to bring into the conversation will do the trick.

realizing all that, what positive outcome is left? not much, obviously, looking at your maps and knowing the reality on the ground. Which you'd know too if you only cared to go for more frequent forays outside the etherial coastal/global bubble you so well inhabit.

Some are contemplating the so-called "one state" scenarios not because they like it but because they know it's too late for anything else. Though all "one staters" know - deep in their heart of hearts that it may take a Bosnia to the power of 5 before the dust settles and people are willing to do the rational thing. Personally, I think you should put your not-inconsiderable powers of imagination in the service of getting through the unimaginable. Of course, that's kind of like trying to work through BP oilpocalypse worst case scenarios. Definitely not fun, but maybe necessary?

Danaa said...

Sorry for the duplicate message (o here' a triplicate). Got an error message first time. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Potter said...

Dana- I had similar problem posting recently- ignored the error message and found that my comment was already posted.

I am familiar with your views from elsewhere and I agree with what I think you are saying and I have thought and said this - that Bernard's vision is incredibly appealing but how to get there? This vision does not take the emotional aspect ( dysfunction), into account, ie the collective mental state that is missing that israeli's are not near, the leadership to even inspire to risk, that maybe once was Israel, but does not seem to be any more. I believe Palestinians are more ripe for it though ironically less developed ( or maybe because of that) but it will be the collective emotional ( if you will) level that causes israel to keep stumbling and continue to stumble until that worst case scenario happens. Lately I have been thinking that Iran having nukes ( which may be inevitable anyway) might effect some change. Or Israel trying to do something about that may start something big.

Our radio program "The World" ( WGBH/BBC) had interesting segments on today - one was about a Planned Rail that would link the West Bank and Gaza developed by a California design firm and the Rand Corporation. ( also video and link) Palestinians are interested, Israeli's skeptical. Not that long ago there was another ambitious futuristic plan in the design section of the New York Times. There are visions, but I think Dana makes a good point- about the will, the collective mental state in Israel- which means something in the road ahead not too pretty.

Potter said...

I forgot to say that the series of maps above says it all. What is particularly outrageous is to hear Israeli's ( and Jews here) speak about all that they have given to Palestinians over the years. "they only want to take from us".

Larry Rosenwald said...

What Danaa said . . . but I'd link this issue to the issue I raised in commenting on your piece on BDS. What likelihood is that things will move in the direction you so eloquently, movingly describe? And if that likelihood is small, as these days I feel it is, then mightn't it be time to consider other final visions, other modes of moving in their direction?

arieh zimmerman said...

Two states or a Bi-national State?
Given the obvious difficulties, it is not yet clear whether the creation of a bi-national state is possible; it may well be, however, that in the long run, it would be more advantageous for both peoples than the two state solution. Some commentators might wish to discuss whether the "right of return" should be considered before the discussion of the difficulties of its implementation, but it seems to me that the deliberations of legalisms, and the nitpicking that invariably accompanies them, serve only to obscure the more important thoughtful regard of categorical moral and ethical imperatives. Justice, when it conflicts with law, must prevail.
I hope that the ordered listing of some the difficulties of the implementation of the bi-state solution will make it easier, for those for whom it is a desirable goal, to find cogent counter arguments.
So then, as an initial personal catalog of impediments to the creation of a bi-national "Israstein", see the following:

- Fear of the "other".

- Most Israelis are uninterested and woefully ignorant 0f Palestinian culture and peoples. We fear what we do not know or understand.

- Many Israelis sense that, no matter what the justification, forgivable or not, we are the cause of the great suffering of the Palestinians, but reject those feelings in order to continue their normal lives. The sense of guilt is corrosive and engenders aversion and bigotry.

- Many Arabs, conscious of the low regard of the West for their culture, become more radical in reaction. Violence can be the result.

- The Palestinians have suffered in fact, and in fact, some of the younger men, incited by the older, find ways to justify violent vengeance.

- In my opinion most Israelis will not accept a theocracy, Jewish or Islamic; many Palestinians might prefer one.

- The present move to religion of a more fundamental nature by many young Jews and Muslims
does not bode well for integration.

- Even if there is enough land for another x-million, it is questionable whether there would be enough water; this is also a problem for the two state solution.


- It would be suicidal to allow a great number of people to return before the economic and commercial bases are converted to accommodate the returnees.


- The cost of the return of great numbers of people is beyond the capacity of either, or even both peoples. An enormous amount of resources must be donated by America, Europe and the Arabian oil rich countries. Until that money is secured, the greater part of the return of the refugees should not begin; the frustrations caused by an underfunded bureaucracy would destroy the project.

- On both sides there are too many old men enjoying the power of sending too many young men to kill and die for causes that young men misunderstand when filtered through hormone deranged minds. Strictly enforced limits on some forms of propaganda will have to employed, even if it is at the cost of limiting free speech.

Obviously the list is incomplete, other objections will be easily found. None the-less, the integration of Muslim and Jewish peoples, if done with intelligence and good will, might enrich our two cultures as has not been the case since the Spanish destroyed the high culture of the Cordovan Caliphate. The danger is that rather than the historically painful but now useful integration of the United States, or even better, that of Switzerland, the end result might mirror the tragedy of Bosnia or Burundi.

Is it credible to consider a two step process? If the two state solution succeeds when measured by mutually accepted criteria, would that not be a welcome signal for the integration of all citizens of the land of three Sundays?

Peter Schwartz said...

I like your catalog. I think Bernie's vision is, in effect, a two-step process. Despite what he says, he's basically envisioning one state with "two hearts." IMO.

Peter Schwartz said...

Shouldn't it be Israstine?

Israstein would be 100% Jewish, no?

Potter said...

Arieh- it's a good thoughtful list.

RE this: Justice, when it conflicts with law, must prevail.

The law, international law that is, seems fair, just. Justice, if left open as to what that is, is a matter of viewpoint and we go nowhere in this conflict. This has been the problem. Palestinians leaders ( and even Hamas I think) finally have come around to the conclusion that international law should be respected. Fearful Israeli's call this a Trojan horse. We don't hear Israeli leaders speak of international law; they refer to their law, Israeli law.

The problem is in applying/enforcing international law. Israel will point to international law that has not been enforced elsewhere and then cry anti-zionism, anti-Semitism, delegitimization ...

Too much has been left to the US. That means US national politics that is corrupted.

It took a lot of bloodshed before there was a US instigated, US led Nato intervention in Bosnia. We (Clinton) could not stand for it anymore.
--------------
Is it credible to consider a two step process?

I think it will be a two step process, but that will not be a stated goal. It will just happen naturally much as Bernard says- if we are fortunate. If there is no negotiated deal soon, then who knows when after the coming chaos.

Y. Ben-David said...

Arieh Zimmerman thinks that a "bi-national state" is best in the long run. Which multi-ethnic, multi-cultural state in the Middle East does he think is the best example that can be used to serve as an example for us here in Israel-
Lebanon - (Shi'ite-Sunni, multiple Christian sects)
Iraq - (Shi'ite-Sunni, Yazdi, Kurds)
Syria - (Muslims, Christians, Kurds)
Turkey - (Turks, Kurds)
Syria - (Muslims, Christians, Kurds)
Iran - (Persians, Kurds, Arabs, Zoroastrians, Bahais).

We have a lot to choose from this list of successful multi-cultural, multi-ethnic states. Which could we learn the most from in order to run our Jewish-Arab bi-national state?

Peter Schwartz said...

YBD...maybe Israel needs to be a light unto the nations...and lead the way...

YMedad said...

Why does the Arab population of this area get to create 2.5 states (Jordan, "Palestine" and ethnic autonomy in Israel) and Israel not-quite-one? Why does everyone assume that Jews can't live in "Palestine" but 20% non-Jews must be allowed to continue to reside in Israel?

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Scotty said...

Such a silly article - everyone knows that there is no such thing as a "Palestinian"

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Anonymous said...

I would like to make a printed version of the map at the top of the article. However, when expanded, and even before, it loses much of its clarity. I've seen this particular set of maps, or something similar, in a book entitled "Amoral America." Can anyone point me to a map sequence with more detail?
Thanks