Israel and Palestine: A true one-state solution

Israel should adapt to the 21st century. Is that really a utopian idea?

As Tony Judt succinctly distilled the issue a few years ago: “The very idea of a ‘Jewish state’ — a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded — is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.”

President Obama’s “bold” departure from the position of his predecessor is that he has repeatedly asserted — as he did again on Wednesday — that “the status quo is unsustainable — for Israelis, for Palestinians, for the region and for the world.”

An occupation that has continued for 43 years has certainly proved very durable — sufficient reason for half a million Israelis to defy the claim that the status quo is unsustainable as they carry on living in the West Bank.

The focus of skepticism should in fact be focused less on the sustainability of the status quo than on the realistic prospects for a two-state solution. Such a resolution appears no more imminent now than it did when it was first proposed 73 years ago. In that period whole empires have risen and fallen and yet we’re still supposed to imagine that a Palestinian state is lurking just over the horizon?

As the Zionists have understood all along, it is the facts on the ground that shape the future and none of these facts point towards a partition of land upon which two people’s lives are now so deeply intertwined.

One state already exists. The challenge ahead is not how it can be divided, but how all those already living within its borders can enjoy the civil rights that belong to the citizens of all Western states — the part of the world to which Israel’s leaders so often profess their deepest affiliation.

George Bisharat lays out the one-state solution as being far from a utopian vision but, on the contrary, what might turn out to be the path of least resistance.

A de facto one-state reality has emerged, with Israel effectively ruling virtually all of the former Palestine. Yet only Jews enjoy full rights in this functionally unitary political system. In contrast, Palestinian citizens of Israel endure more than 35 laws that explicitly privilege Jews as well as policies that deliberately marginalize them. West Bank Palestinians cannot drive on roads built for Israeli settlers, while Palestinians in Gaza watch as their children’s intellectual and physical growth are stunted by an Israeli siege that has limited educational opportunities and deepened poverty to acute levels.

Palestinian refugees have lived in exile for 62 years, their right to return to their homes denied, while Jews from anywhere can freely immigrate to Israel.

Israeli leaders Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak have admitted that permanent Israeli rule over disenfranchised Palestinians would be tantamount to apartheid. Other observers, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have said that apartheid has already taken root in the region.

Clearly, Palestinians and Israeli Jews will continue to live together. The question is: under what terms? Palestinians will no more accept permanent subordination than would any other people.

The answer is for Israelis and Palestinians to formalize their de facto one-state reality but on principles of equal rights rather than ethnic privilege. A carefully crafted multiyear transition including mechanisms for reconciliation would be mandatory. Israel/Palestine should have a secular, bilingual government elected on the basis of one person, one vote as well as strong constitutional guarantees of equality and protection of minorities, bolstered by international guarantees. Immigration should follow nondiscriminatory criteria. Civil marriage between members of different ethnic or religious groups should be permitted. Citizens should be free to reside in any part of the country, and public symbols, education and holidays should reflect the population’s diversity.

Although the one-state option is sometimes dismissed as utopian, it overcomes major obstacles bedeviling the two-state solution. Borders need not be drawn, Jerusalem would remain undivided and Jewish settlers could stay in the West Bank. Moreover, a single state could better accommodate the return of Palestinian refugees. A state based on principles of equality and inclusion would be more morally compelling than two states based on narrow ethnic nationalism. Furthermore, it would be more consistent with antidiscrimination provisions of international law. Israelis would enjoy the international acceptance that has long eluded them and the associated benefits of friendship, commerce and travel in the Arab world.

The main obstacle to a single-state solution is the belief that Israel must be a Jewish state. Jim Crow laws and South African apartheid were similarly entrenched virtually until the eves of their demise. History suggests that no version of ethnic privilege can ultimately persist in a multiethnic society.

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18 thoughts on “Israel and Palestine: A true one-state solution

  1. Sora Ryu

    Zionism has certainly changed over the years. Israel needs to get back to Herzl’s ideal.

    Eye-opening blog. I subscribed and added you to my blogroll.

  2. scott

    we’re still supposed to imagine that a Palestinian state is lurking

    Correction should read “provisional Palestinians state” what ever that means.

  3. Christopher Hoare

    A one state solution is the only honest one, but who should be the guarantor of this one? Without neutral boots on the ground for the multiyear transition this will not turn out just. Perhaps we need to start with identifying enough neutral parties who would do the hard work of this peace.
    I hate to be a cynic, but perhaps the Brits need to go back and complete the job they failed in 1947.

  4. joelsk44039

    The writer forgets (or ignores) that the Palestine Mandate included the entirety of what is now Jordan. So Israel is actually “ruling” a much truncated version of Palestine than what is described here.

    In addition, the so-called “occupation” really isn’t one at all. The land in question is actually “disputed,” which is an entirely different state of affairs.

    The “problem” is that the Palestinians really don’t want any kind of state unless it’s on ALL of Israel and they can murder all of the Jews. They’d much rather live their lives as a sociopathic people than join humanity as a “people.”

  5. Chris Frazier

    Well, something is terribly amiss. In this edition of “War in Context,” Mr. Hoare has only yielded to the temptation of commenting on two of the three posts. But alas, the day has not yet ended, and it is entirely possible that he will weigh in on the third. I am breathless with anticipation.

  6. John Somebody

    Are there none so blind ?
    There is another possibility, without the pitfalls, of the one, and the two state solutions. That’s the no state solution. That’s the one where everyone capable of accepting personal responsibility, does so. No more Nuremburg excuse, no more, “only folowing orders”. No more hindrance to learning the lessons of life. It’s called Anarchism. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day, you’ll join us. And the world no longer be ruled by the fascistic thugs who want to save us from ourselves, thereby preventing our evolution, and maturisation.
    No matter what anyone thinks genuine progress really is, there’s only one alternative to a lack of it.

  7. DE Teodoru

    joelsk44039 why spread such nonesense when the original idea of Herzl was ALL the land between the Nile and Euphrates. The “moderate” Ben Gurion is quoted as telling a collegue: “one step at a time.” West Bank is NOT the end and we all know it. Afterall, it was American Jewish leaders who told Carter that they won’t let him win a second term because he gave back Sinai. He said so himself on the radio!

    Please, please joelsk44039….We all admire Jewish intellect so don’t reciprocate by insisting on the notion that we’re all “dumb goyim.”

  8. Eleonora

    “Israel/Palestine should have a secular, bilingual government elected on the basis of one person, one vote as well as strong constitutional guarantees of equality and protection of minorities …”

    This is exactly what was requested at the Damascus Conference of 1919 in petitions submitted by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike who lived for centuries in that region. It was elaborately put down in in great details in the eport of the King Crane Commission which was published only in part in 1922 and in full only after the establishment of the State of Israel. (wonder why??).

    Already Asher Ginsberg (Ahad Ha’am) pointed the never ending conflict out in his publication “The Wrong Way” as early as 1889! And after him countless others among them Martin Buber.

    Would one have followed those recommendations and requests one could have avoided a lot of bloodshed and hatred. But these reasonable and sound ideas had to be sacrificed on the altar of the Zionist ideology. Isn’t it ironic that after one century of conflict one has to come to realize that this last colonial enterprise failed and the original ideas were the correct ones? Had to fail because of its inherent injustice?

    And who paid and still pays the price?

    But … dreaming aside and hopes put back in the closet – “Damage control” by Uri Avnery ( puts those back on track of reality in case someone has still some hopes pinned on this Washington-trip.


    To joelsk44039: why don’t you go and spread your Zionist Hasbara somewhere else? There might still be people out there who would (maybe) believe you.

  9. Eleonora

    To John Somebody

    I love “crazy” ideas as they’re often the best ones – just one question though: how should a “no state” system or model work? How can in Anarchism the legitimate needs of a society/community be satisfied?

    Interested to read your thoughts – thanks.

  10. Shea Brown

    Dear Eleonora,
    A most well written argument for “anarchy” is “The Obviousness of Anarchy” by law professor John Hasnas.
    Not to try to recap the article here,, for you really should read it,, but anarchy does not mean chaos, with no law or control,, it just refers to the lack of an overwhelming and ill functioning strong central government. I hope very much that you read the Hasnas piece,, it is available online. Good luck !

  11. Eleonora

    To Shea

    Thanks for the reference – I’ve read the essay and consider it well worth the time. Now it’s time for me to digest it properly. I do believe that we should step out of our box(es) and open our minds to new ideas like PARECON or the one lined out by J. Hasnas – but, will we be allowed to follow and explore them?

    Good luck to you too!

  12. Samir S. Halabi

    I just can’t comprehend that so many people want to see an end to Israel or that it should be shared equally with the Palestinian arabs.
    The British created ‘The emirate of trans-jordan in 1921 cuting off 80% of land promised to the Jews. Do you really think that the artificially created and known today as ‘The Hashemite Kingdom Of Jordan’ would tolerate any interference in altering the political aspect of that country by foisting all the palestinians on to that land. Well israel doesn’t either want any interference. There are 22 arab states, there was never a country bcalled palestine with the capital city named Jerusalem. There was never a palestinian people, culture, state, etc. for the record the arabs of palestine whether under the british mandate or the ottoman empire were arabs whom originated from all over the arab world including the black continent of africa. many of these palestinians today originated from the balkans, and also from Armenia, & Russia etc. sSince the 1850s the jews outnumbered both christians and muslims in Jerusalem. many of the arabs who came to palestine in the 1920s 30s. & 40s did so out of economical reasons as the influx of More Jews who went to live in israel made it far more tempting for arabs to emigrate to palestine. If as an arab you had only lived in palestine between the years of 1946 to 1948 you nevertheless were considered palestinian. The Arabs of palestine never considered themselves palestinan arabs until 1964 when it was more expedient to do so for political reasons. The terminology of palestinian was only understood to be the sole preserve of the Jews. The arabs considered themselves as Syrians, Egyptians, iraqis, yemenis etc. etc. You also seem to forget that there was 1,000,000 jews living throughout the arab world right up to the late 1940s. They now number around 5,000 and mostly reside in Morocco, with around 1,500 in Tunisia, a handfull in Bahrein, Iraq, Syria, and the feww hundred left in yemen are now fleeing for their lives from persecution and murder.

  13. Eleonora

    To Samir S. Halabi

    Thank you for your excellent school book piece of Zionist hasbara. Quite some time ago that I’ve read it so compounded …

  14. MiB

    There is already in the region a “one state” solution. It’s called Lebanon. No wonder why Israël and it’s allies are working hard to disrupt that solution.

  15. Samir S. Halabi

    ‘To Eleonara’
    So you want to see the complete dissolution of ‘The State Of Israel’ replaced with a a One state of palestine. I can assure you that your wish will never be materialized. You don’t seem to be able to have absorbed what the Jews from arab lands had suffered at the hands of those arab regimes well before and after the creation of israel by the United Nations.
    You only seem pre-occupied with the Nakba of the refugees of Palestine from 1948, however you don’t seem in the least concerned for the greater Nakba which was infact over double in size one million to be precise of Jewish refugees fleeing for their lives from retribution handed down to them as punishment for the inability of those five arab invading countries to eliminate the Jewish State at it’s re-birth. Why are you so focused on Israel when there are so many other countries in the world which have and still are committing so much indescribable genocide against humanity. Israel is one of the most tiniest country in the world 250 miles at it’s longest and has a 112 mile coastline, with 60 miles at it’s widest and between 3 to 9 miles at it’s narrowest. yet however you still want to see it’s destruction and replaced with a one state for jews and Arabs alike, well I’m sorry to disappoint you but that will never come to fruition. Do you honestly think that out of a total population of 7.5 million 6.2 million being of the Jewish religion will allow this to happen after all they have gone through and suffered in the past 62 years to make Israel a country to be proud of and I repeat myself once more, to make Israel a country to be proud of whether you like it or not. Israel is not some tin pot state where you can just invade it at leisure, just remember that.

  16. Eleonora

    For whatever it’s worth, “Samir” … although I usually don’t waste time with Zionist trolls – sorry to say that. BTW I would think you should at least have a tiny bit of shame and not use on top of all an Arabic name. You don’t seem to be too proud of your own …

    “You don’t seem to be able to have absorbed what the Jews from arab lands had suffered at the hands of those arab regimes well before and after the creation of israel by the United Nations.”

    You seem not to be able to get over it that there was no suffering of Jews in the Arab lands PRIOR to the Nakba, prior to the massacres and the mass expulsions. The Arab reaction was a simple “tit for tat”. But it comes in so handy to twist it around, doesn’t it? It just doesn’t work anylonger in the internet age.

    As for your suggestion that I want the complete dissolution of the State of Israel – not quite correct. I want peace in one form or another. I don’t want theocratic states (see the plural form?) as they don’t have a “raison d’être”. End of the story. See I for one believe wholehartedly in the UDHR – those come long before any religion. Have I made myself clear enough now?

    Spare me the guilt trip – it never worked with me. I’m a post WWII European and have nothing to do with those attrocities handed out not only to the Jews, but to the Roma, Sinti, Socialists, Handicapped, Communits, et al – of which all but the Jews must be forgotten; they don’t count? Get a hold of yourself and move on like all of us did.

    BUT if the Jews were to claim from anyone some “reparation” they should have claimed a piece of Germany – Bavaria is a nice state as an example.

    But as history shows since 1892 they were looking at Uganda, Mocambique, Australia, Canada to name but a few for a home land – were they mentioned in the Torah as the promised lands too? Don’t you see the fallacy? Uganda didn’t have enough “potential” as one Zionist put it at the 4th Congress, Mocambique was too hot, in Australia and Canada they were met with fierce resistance from the population of those states – so they went to Palestine with the help of the treacherous British Government. One heck of a deal and really couragous to steal someones land with the help of the world bully …!

    God was never and will never be a real estate broker – not for the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims or whoever. It’s man made to support the (hopefully) last colonial enterprise. An enterprise which miserably failed and it’s time to admit this and to move on rather than to shed more blood on both sides.

    But – just to make myself crystal clear: if anyone has the right to that piece of land than its the Jebusites, the Hittites et al – comonly put together as Canaanites – which were murdered and/or expelled by the first Israelite invaders. Many of them saved themselves into the hills around Jerusalem and got many “branches” grafted onto them. The Jews (those which are so derogatorily called “oriental” by the Ashkenazy), Christians and Muslims of the early days are the only rightful inhabitants of that piece of land – comonly termed today “the Palestinians”.

    I repeat myself: “Would one have followed those recommendations and requests (at the Damascus Conference) one could have avoided a lot of bloodshed and hatred. But these reasonable and sound ideas had to be sacrificed on the altar of the Zionist ideology. Isn’t it ironic that after one century of conflict one has to come to realize that this last colonial enterprise failed and the original ideas were the correct ones? Had to fail because of its inherent injustice?”

    Whichever form and shape Israel will take – or Palest-rael – or Is-estine – or whichever name this new child will have one thing must be made sure and enshrined for eternity: it can not be built on apartheid and religion can not be the sole factor for citizenship. End of that sorry story and the world can finally move on.

    But fanatics like you who can only live in the past and be a leftover relict will probably never understand the underlying thinking of the above.

    Peace is much more important than any revenge – that’s what the Zionists are taking today on everybody but especially on the Palestinians as they are the weakest in the chain. Tough luck for you that the world starts waking up despite the oppression of so many simple facts and truths. As I said – the overwhelming Zionist hasbara is dead thanks to the internet.

    Go get a life – it’s beautiful out there without hate!
    Shalom, Peace and Salam!

  17. Samir S. Halabi

    ‘To Eleanora’
    I never used insulting language to you, however you are an extremely insulting individual, I am not a troll, and my name was given to me by my parents. What stupid reasoning you have made, why didn’t I change my name if I am ashamed of it. I certainly am not ashamed of my name, by the same token why didn’t all Jews with German sounding names change them after the terrible horrors committed against them by ‘ Hitler’s Third Reich’ There still exists a substantial number of Jews in the world with German sounding names, they still speak German even after the horrors that were perpetrated against them, you can’t put a blame on names or a language. My family still speak Arabic even today. Why are you so full of hatred towards Israel? if you are Jewish I really feel sorry for you, you would have been the type of Jew called a ‘Submarine’ informing on other Jews to save your own skin. If you are a Gentile I can understand your anathema to things Jewish as in many cases it’s imbued in the mother’s milk. You can shout till kingdom come that Zionism is dead, but it isn’t. Don’t repeat your lies that there was no Jewish persecution until the ‘NAKBA’ of the post British mandate of Palestine in 1948, The Iraqis were murdering Jews in Baghdad in 1941 after the failed Nazi Coup d’etat of Rashid Ali (This episode was known as the ‘Farhud’ (violent dispossession against the Jews) committed by arab mobs and backed up by the pro-Nazi police and army) brought to an end finally by the British. Among the named active pro-nazi groups in the 1940s is ‘The Palestine Defense Society’ who like other groups intensified activities in the hope that the victorious Nazis would assist in the Pan-Arab aspirations.
    Jews were been murdered in Tripoli Libya in 1945 and other arab lands, between 4,000 to 5,000 North African Jews perished in the nazi death camps of eastern europe, many of them given up to the German Nazis by willing arab pro-nazis.

  18. Eleonora

    To Samir

    Sorry if you feel insulted – but people who repeat at infinitum (in your case Zionist) propaganda are commonly called trolls. They are all carbon copy of one and the same with little alterations. Don’t repeat the Zionist hasbara, lies and myth and you get rid of the “troll”.

    As for your name: Latest since the last war against Gaza the internet is flooded with even more Zionist apologists – some80 % of them using Arabic names. I guess they hope to make their “arguments” better stick? That’s all to it.

    See also “Israel recruits bloggers for Gaza aftermath” ( “Israel’s Immigrant Absorption Ministry says it is recruiting an “army of bloggers” in the aftermath of the military operation in Gaza. According to Haaretz, the team will consist of Israelis who speak a second language — English, French, Spanish or German — to represent Israel in “anti-Zionist blogs” … “We turned to this enormous reservoir of more than a million people with a second mother tongue” to contribute to this campaign, the ministry’s director general, Erez Halfon, said.” Some months ago I came across an article in the Haaretz according to which the budget they got was in the Millions of NIS – some 150 Mio if memory serves me right.

    See also “Twitterers paid to spread Israeli propaganda Internet warfare team unveiled” (

    The Iraqi coup d’état: Let me for ease reference the work of James C. Scott (CSUS Library) and quote: “First, the revolt reflected the attempt by a subjugated state to break the yoke of foreign domination. Second, it represented the age-old imperialistic rivalry which had existed between European powers. Third, the timing of the coup took place within the context of world-wide conflict, and also at a time when the British Empire’s prestige was at its nadir. Fourth, it provided a rare moment in Iraq’s history where it was able, through German intriguing, to wield a certain degree of leverage in its dealings with Great Britain. And finally, the coup was a watershed–it clearly defined the extent to which Great Britain was willing to go, not only to save its Empire, but also save itself.”

    On June 1 and 2, 1941 riots broke out against the Jewish Iraqis and some 160 were killed (some sources say 152 others 169) – after the collapse of Rashid’s gov there was a power vacuum. Lets ignore the thousands of non-Jewish Iraqis who were killed too – I know that if some Jews get killed it’s a pogrom, a persecution or at least a massacre whereas if some other folks get killed by the Millions as we see since some 20 years it’s at best “collateral damages.

    I highly recommend you read the book “The Jews of Iraq”by Naeim Giladi. It further de-mythifies the Zionist enterprise.

    As for religions: I have nothing to do with institutionalized religions. I believe wholeheartedly in the UDHR; it makes sense and is logical and I don’t get threatened to rot in the eternal fire if I err here or there.

    As I said before: the guilt trip doesn’t work with me and I have nothing to do with Nazi or other atrocities. But especially I DO NOT accept them as a cheap excuse to justify atrocities committed today by some people against other people.


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