A one-state solution from the Israeli right

Who are the enemies of peace in the Middle East? No list can be comprehensive, but a shortlist should include a few individuals who present themselves as messengers of peace: Barack Obama, George Mitchell, J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, Tony Blair…

In a word, the proponents of the two-state solution have become the enemies of peace.

A young Israeli leader says:

The assumption of the left is that once it hides behind the international border, everything will be permitted. But it’s clear already now that not everything is permitted and that the principle of proportionality is shackling Israel in Gaza — so what will happen in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]? In fact, it goes even deeper. There is a moral failure here. After all, the left 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.

This is Tzipi Hotovely from Likud, the youngest member of the Knesset and a proponent of some radical rethinking on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The taboo that forbids talk about any option other than the two-state solution is almost anti-democratic. It’s like brain-gagging,” says Hotovely.

The one-state solution generally associated with the Israeli right and the settler movement does not usually go by that name. Eretz Yisrael, or Greater Israel, comes in various sizes but to its proponents it is seen as land on which Jews belong and to which Palestinians can be allowed to make no claim. But as Noam Sheizaf describes in this week’s Haaretz magazine cover story, a new trend is emerging on the right presenting a one-state solution that would offer Palestinians equal rights and full citizenship in an expanded Israeli state that includes the whole of the West Bank.

A number of figures on the right are presenting their own versions of this vision and so far they have not formed a political camp, yet many of their observations are based on a political realism that cannot be found among liberal Zionists. Indeed, they expose the fact that the advocates of a two-state solution are not merely victims of wishful thinking; they now bear the primary responsibility for the perpetuation of the conflict.

A one-state solution promoted by diehard Zionists might sound too toxic an idea for any Palestinian to entertain seriously, yet who can currently question the assertion that the prospects for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state have never looked so bleak?

Perhaps more to the point, it needs to be remembered that the creation of a Palestinian state is and always has been a false promise if regarded as an ultimate goal and not simply a means to an end.

The goal of every legitimate political struggle is the creation of a fair society. Each struggle focuses on the most glaring forms of injustice — discrimination based on class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or faith. But as these struggles coalesce around the specific forms of inequality they seek to redress, they often lose sight of their overarching purpose by allowing political means to be turned into political goals. Rather than diluting the power of political elites, one elite ends up making way for another. The fact that a new elite might have closer ties to a wider population will allow it to operate in a more sympathetic context, but sooner or later the core political problem will reemerge: that any majority cannot indefinitely tolerate being governed by a minority whose primary loyalty is to its own narrow interests.

The one-state rightwing Zionists — at least as they are presented in this Haaretz article — are unequivocal in asserting that they refuse to abandon the requirement that Israel remains a Jewish state. What they fail to explain is how in practice Jews and non-Jews would have equal rights if, for instance, Jews retained the privilege enshrined in the Law of Return.

Moshe Arens says: “first of all, we need to take care of the Israeli Arabs who are citizens. That is also essential if we are thinking of giving citizenship to Palestinians from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. Only if they see that the Arabs have it good in Israel will they think it might be good for them, too.”

OK. But this begs the question: why is it that 62 years after its creation, Israel has not bridged the gap between its nature as a Jewish state and its claim to be a democratic state? Does its failure to take care of its non-Jewish citizens not expose the inherent contradiction in trying to merge the state’s Jewish and democratic identities?

A single state as envisioned by figures on the Israeli right may be more viable than the two-state solution, but eventually it will have to shed the shackles to which Zionism has always been bound: the idea that there can ever be any legitimacy to any form of ethnic or religious supremacy.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. delia ruhe says

    I have read this long article in Ha’aretz, but it’s so full of snobbery and arrogance that I will have to read it again to make sense of it. It’s all about what Israel is going to “give” the Palestinians if they behave, how they are going to have to “prove” that they are civilized enough to be granted citizenship, how they must “give up violence,” how the Gazans will continue to be the enemy, the pariahs, etc. — as if the original owners of historic Palestine have to prove anything, as if it’s somehow uncivilized to resent having their land stolen from them, as if Gazans are not equally Palestinians, as if Palestinians are the ones who drop hundred-pound bombs, maintain a kill-ratio of 100-1, and have imprisoned 10,000 people. In sum, a one-state solution could work as long as Palestinians agree to be Israel’s permanent underclass.

    What’s also confusing is the Israeli political spectrum. it’s difficult enough for a Canadian to hang on to the American definition of “liberal” as “left” and moderate conservatism as somehow the “centre,” but what Israeli reactionaries define as “left” is completely invisible to me. From where I sit, there is no “left” in Israel. Those who identify as “left” give the Left a bad name. As a Leftist, I resent this.

    What I did get from the article is precisely what I imagined a one-state solution would look like, i.e., another 20 years of extreme difficulty and oppression until there comes of age a generation of Israeli Jews who are prepared to embrace the idea that Palestinians are actually members of the human race. Whether or not that generation will eventually arrive, given the explosive birthrate of the religious wingnuts in Israel, is another tricky question.

  2. DE Teodoru says

    The flaw in this whole Right Zionism is that they are reversible-olims– Jews who take the trip back and forth between Israel and the West on multiple passports. The Right contains few Sabras, the real Israelis, and wants to be rich without fighting, sweating or worrying. They want Obama and Netanyahu to prove to them that they themselves indeed are the chosen people—in cash please! The truth of what it’s all about is indicated by the brouhaha over the Petraeus notion that Israel fall under the CENTCOM Command rather than Europe Command. They want Israel in EU and NATO!!!! The Right Zionists are insane because they can’t stand their own fake mishmash of Zionism and Judaism. They’re Americans, Europeans, Russians, Israelis….whatever and wherever there is a free lunch. They want to be duals because they don’t like calluses on their hand. And so you hear girls and an old man make all sorts of cases but basically they want good OLD Pretoria of bygone days and no less. As for the liberal Zionists, many are schizophrenic from their never ending guilt-trip over their disgusting hasbara for 60 years and some just want justice for all (an ever declining group of super-heroes).

    Arafat had offered a one-state solution as the atomic option. Likud went bananas, just as it did when US talked to PLO. They acted as if betrayed by “MY COUNTRY!”, ie. USA. But it won’t work because Israel will become a sectarian Muslim battlefield as well as a sectarian Jewish one. It must first develop a SECULAR GOV! You can’t murder a people and abuse them for six decades—justifying it as doing to Arabs what the Nazis did to “us”– and then expect Palestinians to settle for second-class citizenship in your, in soto voce…”JEWISH”) state. A period of separation with peace, as in Cyprus, must precede any unification so that once both sides see the value of economic unity and have come to appreciate it in terms of mutual modernization they can talk about equal as one politically. For now, Haredi and HAMAS can drive you crazy. Jews must first bring the Haredi under control or they will make it a South Africa-like state and Arabs must create a secular leadership or sectarian inter-Muslim violence will destroy them. The motto is: SEPARATE *UNTIL* EQUAL. But full cooperation until then is the only way the Israelis and Palestinians will prosper instead of living as a fetal state off of foreign placentas.

  3. In the beginning a British Lord promised and promoted the giving away of land areas that did not belong to him or his government. A nascent socalled world organization took it upon itself to pass resolutions to establish an entity whose “raison d’etre “, was claimed to be a prehistoric and mythological promise from an entity that is quoted as the origin of a chosen people.

    Since the inception of a racist state [ citizenship is based on one religion and one race] promoted and abetted as the only democracy in the region and the only true ally of the US, Israel became the “good guy” and the its neighbors becameautomatically, irrelevant, terrorists and undemocratic.

    Now that reason to a rational pers0n is hysterical. The Arabs are tagged with living in the 14th Century, backwards and definitely unprincipaled. While Israel’s justification as a state in based entirely on mythological statements from pre historic times.

    At the present the game continues between one state, two states, one state with two halfs a state and a half, and the sole state that can settle the issue once and for all still continues to play games that have no rational basis but is definitely costly to it and its citizens.

    Since nothing lasts for ever the end to this tragic series of comedies can only end in one way.

  4. Perhaps the possibility of ANY peace settlement needs a litmus test. Surely the dismantling of all illegal settlements should be accepted as a prerequisite to any negotiations. If the exercise does not begin within the law, how can one expect the outcome to be any better?

  5. John Merryman says

    There is a very basic philosophic issue the goes back to Plato and Aristotle and still dominates our understanding of this world. Is the source of life and reality an ideal from which we fell, or the essence from which we rise? Monotheistic religion views it as the ideal and the sciences see it as the essence.

    The concept of god originated as a plural. Polytheistic deities were what we would now call memes. Basic concepts which the larger group accepted, such as the singularity and status of one’s group. Geographic and astronomical features. Seasons of the year. Social and civil activities, such as celebration, war, death, sex, sleep, illness, etc. All the myriad connections between these concepts lead to a pantheistic network with a mythology of allegorical relationships. This pantheistic unity was difficult to conveniently grasp, so it was inevitable for monotheism to supplant it.

    As we understand today, unity and unit are two profoundly different concepts. Unity is a state of connectedness, a network, while a unit is a set, a node.

    Top down theology assumes a moral theory of good and bad as a metaphysical duel between the forces of light and darkness. Actually they are the basic biological binary code, the attraction of the beneficial and repulsion of the detrimental. This elemental relationship is a polarity out of which exponentially complex relationships develop. What is good for the fox is bad for the chicken, yet there is no clear line where the chicken ends and the fox begins. There can be no good without bad, anymore than there can be up without down. Consider how much intellectual evolution has been powered by the elemental polarities of need and fear, ie. commerce and war. Life is a process of creation and consumption as it bootstraps itself upward to encompass ever greater complexity. We don’t distinguish between good and bad in order to decide which way to go, the decision is implicit in the distinction. Thus bad becomes a mental void. Morality is an evolving, complex code, similar to language, which groups of people develop in order to coexist and while they can differ markedly from one group to another, still serve the essential function of group cohesion.

    It should also be noted that polytheists invented democracy, possibly because a pantheon requires a process of negotiation and resolution seeking. Monotheism has often been a logical bulkhead for validating monarchy and other forms of top down rule. Elites will always exist, as top down order is a fundamental characteristic that defines and directs this bottom up process, but it is constantly being supplanted, as each generation dies off and a new rises in its place. Monotheistic religion adapts by breaking apart and creating new branches in order to encompass those who like the concept but not the strictures of the parent order.

    Sooner or later, we are going to have to step back and really consider these ancient assumptions. Hopefully before they drive us all off a cliff.

  6. Thank you delia ruhe for an incisive analysis of the original article and the thoroughly racist structure of the Zionist enterprise. Only when there is widespread public condemnation of the idea of a “Jewish State,” the acknowledgment that it is a patently racist concept, will Israel be forced by world pressure to abandon that foundational notion. That pressure will only come with a successful world-wide boycott & divestment effort. But it will also require the United States–Israel’s protector–to publicly admit the racist and colonialist nature of Israel. That Israel is a state created on land violently and brutally stolen from another people, and that such a racist colonialist entity has, in fact, no legitimate right to exist, must become a central part of the public discourse. Right now, that obvious truth remains taboo, certainly here in the U.S. It needs to be repeated at every opportunity until that simple historical truth can no longer be ignored by the media and the governments of the Western colonial powers. In the end, the Jewish state must be replaced by a single genuinely egalitarian democracy in which the diaspora Palestinians are given their international right to return to the land from which they were expelled. Yes, one state. A genuinely democratic state. No other solution will work.

  7. The rejection of the “two-state solution,” feeds the extremists of both factions, the “Greater Israel” of Avigdor Lieberman and the “kill all the Jews and/or expel them” position of Hamas. Such rejection is a certain formula for continued war and leaves the outcome to those with the greater force of arms. It does nothing to provide statehood for Palestinians, nor security for Israelis. George Mitchell, Tony Blair and J-Street are not enemies of peace, but those who try to produce it through mediation and compromise!

    There has been a right-wing “one-state solution” for 62 years, in which a majority of Jews and a minority of Arabs, exercise democratic rights! Those Palestinians excluded in the West Bank and Gaza remain stateless. If Israel defines itself as Jewish, that is their right, just as Iran and Saudi Arabia define themselves as Islamic states and no one questions their right to do so! What Woodward is suggesting is setting up a conflict between competing “one-state” visions. That is certain to perpetuate the existing conflict, rather than produce states for both Palestinians and Israelis coexisting in peace!