One state/two states: rethinking Israel and Palestine

As liberal Zionists and their allies repeatedly — if unpersuasively — proclaim that the implementation of a two-state solution is now a matter of urgency, the explicit urgency is that this is the only way of ensuring that Israel will thwart the “demographic threat” of Jews becoming a minority in the country they insist they must run. At the same time, the creation of a Palestinian state is presented as the means to fulfill the national aspirations of the Palestinian people.

What never gets stated in this narrative is that the two-state solution would be the ultimate concession for Palestinians as it cements the loss of a land which was once their own.

Danny Rubenstein writes at Dissent:

Against the background of Barack Obama’s attempt to defend the idea of “two states for two peoples” in Israel/Palestine, consider a recent talk given by the Palestinian Sufian Abu-Zayda. Abu-Zayda is fifty years old. He was born in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza, the largest of the Palestinian camps, and he is considered the Palestinian spokesman most fluent in Hebrew, which he learned during the fourteen years that he spent in an Israeli prison on charges of participating in terrorist activities. After his release in 1993, he was one of the senior Fatah leaders in Gaza and was appointed to various positions in the Palestinian government. Among other activities he has been active in the Israeli-Palestinian Geneva Initiative, in which moderates from both sides argue that it is possible to find a just two-state solution.

It was quite surprising, therefore, that Abu-Zayda, in his talk to an Israeli audience, announced that he had changed his mind. Like other Palestinians who spoke to the Israeli media over the last months, he was responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Bar Ilan University—itself a response of sorts to President Obama’s June 2009 speech at the University of Cairo. With some drama, Netanyahu had agreed that a Palestinian state should be established in territory of the Land of Israel to the west of the Jordan River. This was a significant change for Netanyahu, whose roots are in the nationalist movement that has given up its earlier slogan—“There are two banks to the Jordan, this one is ours, and so is that one”—but that still demands Israeli rule in the “Greater” Land of Israel west of the Jordan. Commentators talked of a “fissure” on the Israeli Right; it was widely believed that as long as Ben Zion Netanyahu is still alive, his son wouldn’t dare rebel against the nationalist traditions of the family.

But what might have seemed unbelievable a short time ago has become a reality. Netanyahu, at the head of the nationalist, right-wing government with members like Benny Begin (son of Menachem Begin) who have consistently rejected all concessions, has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state.

In his talk at Tel Aviv University, Abu-Zayda responded to what the prime minister had said: “Many thanks to Benjamin Netanyahu. After twenty years of the peace process [since the Madrid Conference in 1991], and after the mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO [in the Oslo Accords], he finally agrees to a Palestinian state.” There was irony in his voice as he continued, “Do you think you are doing us a favor when you agree to two states? No favor at all. From my side, from the Palestinians’ side—let there be one state, not two…. I was introduced to you as Sufian Abu-Zayda from the Jabalya camp, but I’m not from Jabalya. I might have been born there, but my family had been exiled in 1948 from a village named “Breer,” where Kibbutz Bror Hayill now stands, near the Gaza border. If there will be one state, I’ll be happy to rent or buy a house near the kibbutz and live there.” And then Abu-Zayda said in a loud voice, “You are doing yourselves a favor by establishing two states, not us.”

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  1. The idea of creating a state for the Palestinians out of the scraps of land the Zionists have not stolen is a travesty of justice. The Israeli intention that this ‘state’ would be both disarmed and forbidden to have an independent foreign policy points up the fraud they are pulling.

    Obama is participating in this fraud every time he says ‘two state’. The Fatah administration has been bought, but even they know a fraud when they see one. The only justification for their participation in the sham of peace talks is either to demonstrate the extent of the fraud or a forlorn hope that over many years and perhaps many generations they might gradually inch their way back into some of the land they’ve lost. Some hope.

  2. Laurie Knightly says

    The UN violated its own charter when it divided Palestine. Israel did not honor the conditions on which its proposed statehood depended. The General Assembly voted, at the time, against the Palestinians being heard at the World Court – a vote of 21-20. If someone steals my house, I am not asked to work out something with him while others sing peace songs and city officials fund his theft. The issue of the apartheid wall went before the courts – the whole issue needs to do so and Abbas doesn’t move in that direction. Why? Check legal writings of Francis Boyle.

  3. The narrative of the quote you cited is pedantic. Sharon made this case a while back, in his pre-vegetative state. This is an important point that is not broadly understood, but there is little novel in Bibi realizing that this is the only way Israel can call itself Jewish and democratic. But even this is demographically troubled.

    I’ve been hearing Arabs/Muslims calling for a one state solution, call it whatever you wish, so long as Palestinians have rights too.