The democratic state solution

One-state solution? Two-state solution? Isn’t it time for a democratic state solution?

In response to an article in Haaretz on proposals for a one-state solution coming from the Israeli right, Uri Avnery warns that the “attractive leftist vision of the one-state solution may grow up into a rightist monster.”

Avnery writes:

The regime described here is not an apartheid state, but something much worse: a Jewish state in which the Jewish majority will decide if at all, and when, to confer citizenship on some of the Arabs. The words that come up again and again – “perhaps within a generation” – are by nature very imprecise, and not by accident.

But most important: there is a thunderous silence about the mother of all questions: what will happen when the Palestinians become the majority in the One State? That is not a question of “if”, but of “when”: there is not the slightest doubt that this will happen, not “within a generation”, but long before.

This thunderous silence speaks for itself. People who do not know Israel may believe that the rightists are ready to accept such a situation. Only a very naive person can expect a repetition of what happened in South Africa, when the whites (a small minority) handed power over to the blacks (the large majority) without bloodshed.

We said above that it is impossible to “turn the triangle into a circle”. But the truth is that there is one way: ethnic cleansing. The Jewish state can fill all the space between the sea and the Jordan and still be democratic – if there are no Palestinians there.

Ethnic cleansing can be carried out dramatically (as in this country in 1948 and in Kosovo in 1998) or in a quiet and systematic way, by dozens of sophisticated methods, as is happening now in East Jerusalem. But there cannot be the slightest doubt that this is the final stage of the one-state vision of the rightists.

Let’s grant Avnery all his assumptions about the real intentions of these one-state rightists, and let’s on that basis say that their disingenuous vision underlines the necessity for a swiftly implemented two-state solution.

And let’s go one step further and anticipate that a contiguous, viable, sovereign Palestinian state is created and operates peacefully alongside the neighboring Jewish state of Israel.

Israel still has a problem. It has a sizable and growing Palestinian minority. Unless Avnery and other two-state proponents imagine that the vast majority of Palestinian Israelis would decide to move to a newly-created Palestinian state, Israel will still have to address the problem of reconciling its Jewish and democratic identities.

If Israel fails to address that issue, then neither one state nor two states presents a solution. The issue in either context remains: is a Jewish population willing to place a higher value on democracy than it does on Jewish rule?

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One thought on “The democratic state solution

  1. Christopher Hoare

    Let’s extend this issue with a thought experiment. What kind of world would it be if Israelis, and Zionists in other countries, ruled the whole world as ‘the chosen by god’ people. Surely if they are truly chosen their status should ultimately be something similar.

    How free and democratic would that world be? What rights would we poor souls have as non-Jews? We would all be Palestinians in reality then. I recognize that this is the issue that has caused Jews to be persecuted everywhere in past times, but pretending it is too sacred to discuss is avoiding the root of the problem. It’s the religion, stupid.

    The problem is not Israel’s degradation of democracy, but its total lack of respect for the very idea. Both Judaism and Islam desperately need a reformation, (but then Christianity’s has become terribly shop-worn and tattered in the past 200 years).

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