Dmitry Reider reviews sociologist Yehouda Shenhav’s book The Time of the Green Line.
That the notion of a one-state solution may be gaining some traction among diverse Israeli groups will be disturbing news for two-state solution dead-enders like J Street, though in this particular instance, Shenhav’s own vision may itself not garner wide appeal: a single state that looks like… Lebanon?
Still, as Reider notes, Shenhav’s book is “a conversation starter; it asks many more questions than it gives answers.” This is indeed a conversation worth engaging.
Rather than pinning his hopes for an equitable solution on the Israeli left, Shenhav actually looks to a coalition of Palestinians, non-Zionist leftists, and, most surprisingly, a few dissident settlers for a solution to the dispute. Unlike the Israeli left — bogged down in nostalgia for a mythically pure pre-1967 Israel — he argues that an increasing number of settlers are more in sync with the Palestinian timeline of 1948 and are opting to share sovereignty rather than give up their homes. Moreover, some appear to be more aware than “mainland” Israelis of the realities of occupation; Shenhav quotes a settler journal slamming the checkpoints and curfews, as well as a prominent settler educator saying that the military regime’s ongoing wrongs are “like Sabra and Shatila multiplied by a million,” in reference to the infamous 1982 massacre of Palestinians in the Lebanese refugee camps, perpetrated by a Christian militia allied with Israel. Shenhav also quotes poet Eliaz Cohen, resident of Gush Etzion, as saying: “Just as I have a right of return to Kfar Etzion, there’s no reason that Palestinians from Nablus shouldn’t have a right of return to Jaffa.”
Shenhav claims that the transition to one-state thinking will redraw the Israeli political map, currently defined by the right’s and the left’s positions toward Israel’s future role in the Palestinian territories. Although it’s far too early to speak of a movement, both left and right have begun realigning themselves: Leftists are beginning to use the racist jargon of demographics, while a new settler group calls for a one-state solution — with the right of return to boot. Quite apart from them, firebrand Likud Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely calls for the phased admission of West Bank Palestinians as Israeli citizens.
Curiously for a decidedly left-wing manifesto, Shenhav rejects out of hand the “one man, one vote,” “state of all its citizens” model as an alternative to a two-state solution.
This model, he says, “presumes the existence of a homogenous population motivated by individual interests and ignores the fact that most people in the contested space are religious nationalists with tremendous differences within both the Israeli and Palestinian communities.” He opts instead for a consociational democracy: a system in which religious, cultural, national, and economic considerations will be balanced by mutual agreement, within a power-sharing government.