New poll shows if the two-state solution fails, U.S. public favors democracy over Jewishness

n13-iconShibley Telhami writes: A public opinion survey I commissioned, which was conducted by the polling firm GfK, found that U.S. popular support for a two-state solution is surprisingly tepid. What’s more, if the option is taken off the table, Americans support the creation of a single democratic state — in what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories — in which Jews and Arabs are granted equal rights. The GfK survey consisted of 1,000 interviews conducted through an Internet panel and was weighted to ensure that the results were consistent with several demographic variables, such as age, education, and income.

The Obama administration’s focus on mediating an end to the conflict has been predicated on two assumptions — that a two-state solution is in the national security interest of the United States, and that the current diplomatic efforts may be the last chance to achieve it. Americans themselves, however, are more lukewarm on the possibility of Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side: fewer than four in 10 survey respondents preferred a two-state solution. [Continue reading...]

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Why are Israelis afraid of an egalitarian state?

o13-iconGideon Levy writes: Jews and Arabs have lived together in one state since 1948; Israelis and Palestinians have lived together in one state since 1967. This country is Jewish and Zionist, but not democratic for everyone. Its Arab citizens are deprived, while the Palestinians in the territories are disinherited and lacking rights. Yet the one state solution is here – and has been for quite a long time.

It has been a solution for its Jewish citizens and a disaster for its Palestinian subjects. The ones who are frightened by it – nearly all Israelis – ignore the reality that the one state arrangement already exists. They only are terrified by a change in its character – from a state of apartheid and occupation to an egalitarian state; from a binational state in practice that is disguised as a nation state (of the ruler), to a binational state in principle. Either way, Jews and Palestinians have lived in this one state for at least two generations, albeit apart. It’s impossible to ignore.

Relations between the two peoples in this one country have known changes: from a military regime over the Arab-Israelis until its abolishment (in 1966), from a calmer and freer period in the territories through stormy periods of murderous terror and violent occupation. In Jerusalem, Acre, Jaffa, Ramle, Lod, the Galillee and Wadi Ara live Arabs and Jews, and the relations between them are not impossible.

Relations with the Palestinians in the territories have also changed – but over the years we lived in one country, even if by the sword. [Continue reading...]

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Israel’s struggle to define itself

Joseph Dana writes: As the Second World War reached its height in the early 1940s, the largest Zionist paramilitary group in Palestine, known simply as the Irgun (the Organisation), sent a young emissary to the United States. His assignment was to raise money to save the Jews of Europe but the task quickly transformed into raising funds and diplomatic cover for the Irgun’s campaign of terror against the British in Palestine.

While in Washington, Hillel Kook, the Irgun’s emissary and the nephew of the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Avraham Kook, changed his name to Peter Bergson. By most accounts, Bergson was successful at his task but during the operation in the United States his ideology transformed from traditional proto-Likud thinking into something more akin to the debate about a one-state solution in contemporary Israel/Palestine.

Peter Bergson was one of the first to argue for a “Hebrew” republic that would grant full rights to Jew and non-Jew alike. His essential argument was that the people of the land of Israel had an equal stake in the reformation of an ancient Hebrew republic while those outside could elect to join but should not apply external influence.

In the short term, both Palestinian and Jew had a shared interest in fighting together against the British mandate and, for Bergson, this partnership could materialise into something deeper after the goal of independence was achieved. He wanted a democratic Israel, which didn’t use Jewish ethnicity as a pretext for rights and was thus a state of all of its citizens. As history would have it, Bergson’s concept of a Hebrew republic never materialised.

While in Washington, Bergson distributed a number of pamphlets outlining his radical new approach to the conflict in the Middle East including a slim volume titled Manifesto of the Hebrew Nation which announced, in no uncertain terms, that “the Jews in the United States do not belong to the Hebrew nation. These Jews are Americans of Hebrew descent”. [Continue reading...]

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If not two states, then one

Saree Makdisi writes: Israel did not wait long to reveal its first response to the United Nations General Assembly’s overwhelming recognition of Palestine as a non-member state, almost immediately announcing its intention to push forward with plans to build housing for Jewish settlers in E1, an area of the West Bank just to the east of Jerusalem.

Although it is sometimes misleadingly referred to as “disputed” or “controversial,” settlement construction in E1 is no more and no less of a contravention of international law than settlement construction elsewhere in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. What makes this development significant is E1’s location, sealing tight the gap between East Jerusalem and Israel’s largest settlement, Maale Adumim, further to the east.

That gap is the last remaining link for Palestinians between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank; it also occupies the interface among and between the Palestinian communities of Ramallah, Bethlehem and East Jerusalem — which, apart from being the cultural, religious, social and economic focal point of Palestinian life, is also one day supposed to be the capital of Palestine.

In moving forward with long-threatened plans to develop E1, Israel will be breaking the back of the West Bank and isolating the capital of the prospective Palestinian state from its hinterland. In so doing, it will be terminating once and for all the very prospect of that state — and with it, by definition, any lingering possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [Continue reading...]

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Palestinians need a one-state solution

Ghada Karmi writes: It is one year this week since the Palestinians applied for UN membership. President Mahmoud Abbas’s impassioned plea to the UN’s General Assembly for support of the We Palestinian case on 23 September 2011 won him much praise, even from his detractors. But it came to nothing, and no further Palestinian application for UN membership was made. Now, however, the statehood issue is back on the Palestinian agenda.

Abbas has recently threatened to relaunch the UN application if Israeli settlement expansion continues. This time he would seek UN non-member observer state status, but has yet to decide to consult with Arab and other states, and it may come to nothing again. Only a bankruptcy of ideas could be driving him towards this move, given the present situation of US acquiescence to regional Israeli hegemony, and Israel’s stunning success in diverting world attention from the conflict on its doorstep to Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons.

The president also faces serious trouble at home. The Palestinian economy, dependent on aid, is staggering under a chronic budget deficit and external debt of a billion dollars, nearly a fifth of GDP. Donor funding has declined from $1 billion to $750 million, and the Palestinian Authority has delayed paying 153,000 employees, prompting protests. Mass strikes and demonstrations have rocked the West Bank for days.

The protesters want an amendment of the 1994 Paris protocol, a key part of the Oslo accords that govern economic relations between Israel and the PA. Its main effect has been to keep the Palestinian economy dependent on Israel. It pegs Palestinian tax rates to Israel’s much higher ones, lays open Palestinians markets to Israel, though the reverse is not true, and through various restrictions, forces the Palestinian to trade only with Israel. The resulting poverty and 40% youth unemployment have pushed people on to the streets, and they now demand the resignation of the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, and of the PA itself. Now Abbas has proposed cancelling the whole Oslo accords, including the economic and security agreements. However, no decision was reached, and whether it’s another empty threat remains to be seen. [Continue reading...]

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No alternative to a one-state solution

Avraham Burg, former Speaker of the Knessett, argues that it is time for what remains of an Israeli left to abandon the idea of a two-state solution.

Until now, we the seekers of peace, wandered through the world, spreading the hope that there would soon be solutions, while they were busy creating disheartening facts on the ground. With time, our rhetoric was victorious (Netanyahu said “two states” ), but it died. Their acts won the day and are already killing all of us.

So enough of the illusions. There are no longer two states between the Jordan River and the sea. Let the right-wing MKs, the Katzes and the Elkins, travel around the world and show the beauty of their faces without the deceptive layer of makeup we provided.

Meanwhile we must consider how we can enter into the new Israeli discourse. It has intriguing potential. The next diplomatic formula that will replace the “two states for two peoples” will be a civilian formula. All the people between the Jordan and the sea have the same right to equality, justice and freedom. In other words, there is a very reasonable chance that there will be only one state between the Jordan and the sea – neither ours nor theirs but a mutual one. It is likely to be a country with nationalist, racist and religious discrimination and one that is patently not democratic, like the one that exists today. But it could be something entirely different. An entity with a common basis for at least three players: an ideological right that is prepared to examine its feasibility; a left, part of which is starting to free itself of the illusions of “Jewish and democratic”; and a not inconsiderable part of the Palestinian intelligentsia.

The conceptual framework will be agreed upon – a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens. The practicable substance could be fertile ground for arguments and creativity. This is an opportunity worth taking, despite our grand experience of missing every opportunity and accusing everyone else except ourselves.

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One-state or two-state solution?

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Tony Judt: Israel is a country fast losing touch with reality

On July 6, 2010, a month before Tony Judt died and shortly after Israel’s deadly attack on the Mavi Marmara, he was interviewed by Merav Michaeli, a columnist for Ha’aretz.

Merav Michaeli: How do you see Israel’s actions in the Flotilla affair?

Tony Judt: The characterization that comes to mind is “autistic.” Israel behaved in a way that suggests it is no longer fully able to estimate, assess or understand the way other people think about it. Even if you supported the blockade (I don’t) this would be an almost exemplary case of shooting oneself in a painful part of the anatomy.

Firstly because it alienates Turkey, who Israel needs in the longer run. Secondly because it was undertaken in international waters and largely at the expense of civilian victims. Thirdly because it was an overreaction. Fourthly because it had the predictable effect of weakening the case for a blockade rather than strengthening it.

In short, this is the action of a country which is fast losing touch with reality.

Michaeli: The raid on the flotilla was far from being the worst of Israel’s behavior over 40 years of occupation, yet the international response to it was the most grievous. Why do you think that is?

Judt: I agree. But what happens in small West Bank towns, in the Israeli Parliament, in Gazan schools or in Lebanese farms is invisible to the world. And Israel was always very good at presenting the argument from “self-defense” even when it was absurd. I think that Israel’s successful defiance of international law for so long has made Jerusalem blind and deaf to the seriousness with which the rest of the world takes the matter.

Finally there is the question of cumulation. From the Six Day War to Lebanon, from Lebanon to the settlements, from the settlements to Gaza, Israel’s credibility has steadily fallen – even as the world’s distance from Auschwitz (the favorite excuse) has lengthened. So Israel is far more vulnerable today than it would have been twenty five years ago.

Michaeli: What do you tell those who say Israel has willingly withdrawn from Gaza and everything that has happened since proves the Israeli claim that there’s no partner for an agreement?

Judt: I tell them that they are talking nonsense, or else prevaricating. Israel withdrew from Gaza but has put it under a punishment regime comparable to nothing else in the world. That is not withdrawal. And of course we all know that there are those who would like to give Palestinians “independence” but exclude Gaza from the privilege. That too was part of the purpose of the withdrawal.

There is a partner. It may not be very nice and it may not be very easy. It’s called Hamas. In the same way the provisional [Irish Republican Army] was the only realistic “partner for peace” with whom London could negotiate; Nelson Mandela (a “terrorist” for the Afrikaaners until his release) was the only realistic “partner for peace”; the same was true of “that terrorist” ([according to Winston] Churchill) Gandhi; the well-known “murderous terrorist” Jomo Kenyatta with whom London fought a murderous war for five years before he became “a great statesman”; not to mention Algeria. The irony is that Washington knows this perfectly well and expects negotiations with Hamas within five years. After all, Israel virtually invented Hamas in the hope of undermining the PLO; well, they succeeded. But they are the only ones who can’t see what has to happen.

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At the UN, the funeral of the two-state solution

Ilan Pappe writes:

We are all going to be invited to the funeral of the two-state solution if and when the UN General Assembly announces the acceptance of Palestine as a member state.

The support of the vast majority of the organization’s members would complete a cycle that began in 1967 and which granted the ill-advised two-state solution the backing of every powerful and less powerful actor on the international and regional stages.

Even inside Israel, the support engulfed eventually the right as well as the left and center of Zionist politics. And yet despite the previous and future support, everybody inside and outside Palestine seems to concede that the occupation will continue and that even in the best of all scenarios, there will be a greater and racist Israel next to a fragmented and useless bantustan.

The charade will end in September or October — when the Palestinian Authority plans to submit its request for UN membership as a full member — in one of two ways.

It could be either painful and violent, if Israel continues to enjoy international immunity and is allowed to finalize by sheer brutal force its mapping of post-Oslo Palestine. Or it could end in a revolutionary and much more peaceful way with the gradual replacement of the old fabrications with solid new truths about peace and reconciliation for Palestine. Or perhaps the first scenario is an unfortunate precondition for the second. Time will tell.

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Time to ditch the Oslo Accords

Akiva Eldar writes:

In October 1991 he came with U.S. President George H.W. Bush to the Madrid Conference, which squandered the fruits of the Gulf War victory. In September 1993 he celebrated, with U.S. President Bill Clinton, the birth of the battered Oslo Accords. In early 1997 he managed to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign the Hebron Accord, which left tens of thousands of Palestinians to the mercy of the students of Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba. In late 1998 he was among those who gave birth to the Wye River Memorandum, which died in infancy. In 2000 he was a senior partner to the reverberating failure of American diplomacy in Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. And here he is again, this time as U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy responsible for prolonging the death throes of the terminally ill patient known as the peace process.

Before Dennis Ross’ comeback, our acquaintance managed to write a new book (together with David Makovsky ) called “Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.”

It would be tough to find a bigger expert than Ross on the myths and illusions related to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. For years he has been nurturing the myth that if the United States would only meet his exact specifications, the Israeli right would offer the Arabs extensive concessions.

During the years he headed the American peace team, Israeli settlement construction ramped up. Now Ross, the former chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute, is trying to convince the Palestinians to give up on bringing Palestinian independence for a vote in the United Nations in September and recognize the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people – in other words, as his country, though he was born in San Francisco, more than that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was born in Safed.

If they give up on the UN vote, Ross argues, then Netanyahu will be so kind as to negotiate a final-status agreement with them. Has anyone heard anything recently about a construction freeze in the settlements?

Ross is trying to peddle the illusion that the most right-wing government Israel has ever seen will abandon the strategy of eradicating the Oslo approach in favor of fulfilling the hated agreement. In an effort to save his latest boss from choosing between recognizing a Palestinian state at the risk of clashing with the Jewish community and voting against recognition at the risk of damaging U.S. standing in the Arab world, Ross is trying to drag the Palestinians back into the “peace process” trap.

If Obama really intended to justify his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, he would not have left the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hands of this whiz at the never-ending management of the conflict.

Let us hope that the Palestinians are not tempted to give up on the UN vote in favor of the appearance of negotiations, which will serve to further prolong settlement expansion under the cover of the Oslo Accords. All we need is to recall the statement by Netanyahu, in which he was recorded telling settlers in Ofra in 2001 that he had previously extorted from the Americans a commitment that he would be the one to determine what qualifies as the “defined military sites” in the territories that will remain under Israeli control.

Netanyahu said that from his perspective the entire Jordan Valley qualifies. “Why is this important?” he asked. “Because from that moment I put a halt to the Oslo Accords.”

As for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Palestinians need to trap him with his own words; he had previously threatened that if the United Nations recognizes a Palestinian state, Israel will annul the Oslo Accords.

If I were in Abbas’ place, I would tell Dennis Ross that he should tell his president to forget about negotiations without recognition in writing from Netanyahu stating that the permanent borders will be based on the 1967 lines with agreed-upon changes and committing to a total freeze of settlement construction during negotiations and a set timetable for withdrawal from the territories.

You don’t want Oslo? Fine, we don’t need it. No more “Palestinian Authority”; no more Area A, B or C (a division that has in effect created a Land of the Settlers on 60 percent of the territory ); no more “peace process.”

Restore military rule in the West Bank. At the same time, you can reoccupy Gaza and go back to Gush Katif.

According to the Oslo Accords, the final-status agreement was supposed to have been decided upon 13 years ago – meaning that we would be celebrating its bar mitzvah this year. On September 13, the accords themselves will be turning 18, the number signifying life in the Jewish mystical tradition. The time has come to put the Oslo Accords out of their misery.

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Why the destruction of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem could be a good thing for democracy

Joseph Dana writes that the destruction of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem confirms that the two-state solution is finished and that it is time to start fighting for democratic rights for all of the residents of the land under Israeli military rule.

Israel and Palestine are under full Israeli military control. Everything going in and out of the Palestinian areas, West Bank and Gaza, passes through Israeli control. Every baby born in Gaza is registered in an Israeli controlled census. Instead of thinking about what would be in the future perhaps we should start from what is in the present. We live in one state.

So what does this state look like? It is a state in which eighty percent of the population, the Jewish population, enjoys full democratic, civil and human rights. The remaining residents of Israel within the 1948 green line borders are the Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in a system of institutionalized discrimination much like the Jim Crow South of the 1950′s.

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians live in an apartheid-like system where the term ‘separate and unequal’ reaches its full potential. Different infrastructure, different and unequal court systems, unequal access to resources such as water and lack of freedom of movement constitute their lifestyle. That leaves us with Gaza, which is basically an open air prison, fenced in and controlled by Israel. These are the current parameters of the one state which is known as ‘Israel and Palestine’ or ‘Israel and its occupied territories’.

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A provocative blueprint for peace in the Mideast

Ilan Pappé writes:

The one-state solution has a troubled history. It began as a soft Zionist concept of Jewish settlers, some of whom were leading intellectuals in their community, who wished to reconcile colonialism and humanism. They were looking for a way that would not require the settlers either to return to their homelands or to give up the idea of a new Jewish life in the “redeemed” ancient homeland. They were also moved by more practical considerations, such as the relatively small number of Jewish settlers within a solid Palestinian majority. They offered binationalism within one modern state. They found some Palestinian partners when the settlers arrived in the 1920s but were soon manipulated by the Zionist leadership to serve that movement’s strategy and then disappeared into the margins of history.

In the 1930s, notable members among them, such as Yehuda Magnes, were appointed as emissaries by the Zionist leadership for talks with the Arab Higher Committee. Magnes and his colleagues genuinely believed, then and in retrospect, that they served as harbingers of peace, but in fact they were sent to gauge the impulses and aspirations on the other side, so as to defeat it in due course. They existed in one form or another until the end of the Mandate. Their only potential ally, the Palestine Communist Party, for a while endorsed their idea of binationalism, but in the crucial final years of the Mandate, adopted the principle of partition as the only solution (admittedly due to orders from Moscow rather than out of a natural growth of its ideology). So by 1947, there was no significant support for the idea on either the Zionist or Palestinian side. Moreover, it seems that there was no genuine desire locally or regionally to look for a local solution and it was left to the international community to propose one.

The appearance in 1947 of the one-state solution as an international option is a chapter of history very few know about or bother to revisit. It is worth remembering that at one given point during the discussions and deliberations of UNSCOP (the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, February to November 1947), those members of the UN who were not under the influence of either the United States or the USSR—and they were not many—regarded the idea of one state in Palestine as the best solution for the conflict. They defined it as a democratic unitary state, where citizenship would be equal and not determined on the basis of ethnicity or nationality. The indigenous population was defined as those who were in Palestine at that time, nearly two million people who were mostly Palestinians. When their idea was put in a minority report of UNSCOP (the majority report was the basis for the famous [or infamous] Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947), half of the then members of the UN General Assembly supported it, before succumbing to pressure by the superpowers to vote in favor of the partition resolution. It is not surprising in hindsight that people around the world, who did not feel, like the Western powers did, that the creation of a Jewish state at the expense of the Palestinians was the best compensation for the horrors of the Holocaust, would support the unitary state. After all the Jewish community in Palestine was made of newcomers and settlers, and were only one-third of the overall population. But common decency and sense were not allowed to play a role where Palestine was concerned.

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Illan Pappe: Zionism — colonialism, ethnic cleansing and racism

Illan Pappe addressing the Palestine Solidarity conference in Stuttgart, Germany on November 27, talks about challenging the ideological foundation of the state of Israel.


(H/t Pulse.)

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“This conflict is the bone in the throat of the world”

Phil Weiss, who’s in Israel right now, sat down to talk with Jeff Halper, the Minnesota-born founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, to hear his thoughts on the conflict.

Halper would be happy living in a democracy with Palestinians. I asked him why so many Israelis don’t feel that way.

“There is a principle inculcated in Israelis and Jews from before 1948, by all politicians, newscasters, teachers, journalists, any official, and that is that the Arabs are our permanent enemies. And that’s it! And if you take that as an unchanging premise, then it doesn’t matter what is being done to Palestinians.They brought it on themselves.

“You can’t trust the Arabs. That makes everything else a non-issue… Yitzhak Shamir said, ‘The Jews are still the Jews, the Arabs are still the Arabs, and the sea is still the sea.’ Which means, it’s just the way it is, it’s nature. Arabs are what they are, and we are what we are, and nothing’s going to change that….”

But are Israelis even aware of the tapestry of suffering that is the occupation, and what this does to Palestinian lives?

“Israelis don’t care. Because they’re living the good life. Polls show that peace is the 8th issue in priority for Israelis. It’s like that cover ot Time magazine, Israel doesn’t want peace. I’ve been saying that for years…. And the Israeli government thinks it’s sustainable, they think they can keep this going for another 40 years. They have no idea that we’re living on borrowed time.

“And Israel is not going to cooperate and is not going to negotiate in good faith. Because of the Congress. The only way to go to some kind of peace is by exerting pressure on Israel, which the U.S. could do easily, but the president can’t do. And Israel feels completely protected. The U.S. can’t do anything to Israel, and it won’t let anyone else do anything to Israel. We start building settlements, and it’s, ‘So what?’”

I said that the status quo will bring on violence. Halper said he doubts it.

“It’s too sewn up. Israel is too much in control. Israeli soldiers are every ten feet in the West Bank… Israel is knocking off Palestinian leaders all the time.” And the natural source of Palestinian leadership is all in Israeli jails, 12,000 Palestinians– “I use the term warehousing”– and Palestinian society is rife with collaborators, from the Palestinian Authority on down.

Where’s the hope?

“I don’t use the word hope, I use the word struggle. There’s a struggle going on…”

The good news is that now it’s globalized: the United States is becoming more and more isolated on this issue.

“I don’t think Americans appreciate how isolated they are internationally. This is now a global conflict, and so you have the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. The irresistible force is– the EU can make things hard on Israel economically, and the whole Muslim world can be up in arms, and you have BDS, Turkey, isolating Israel, and the international community saying that this is too costly to accept forever. But then the immovable object is the U.S. Congress.”

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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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The Israeli consensus: Palestinians are inferior

Update below

Israelis might argue about whether the settlements are going to destroy Zionism or help it survive; they differ much less when it comes to their views about Palestinians.

Gadi Taub is ringing the now familiar alarm bell that without a swift end to the occupation, Zionism itself will be in jeopardy. Salvation depends on partition.

The most pressing problem with the settlements is not that they are obstacles to a final peace accord, which is how settlement critics have often framed the issue. The danger is that they will doom Zionism itself.

If the road to partition is blocked, Israel will be forced to choose between two terrible options: Jewish-dominated apartheid or non-Jewish democracy. If Israel opts for apartheid, as the settlers wish, Israel will betray the beliefs it was founded on, become a pariah state and provoke the Arab population to an understandable rebellion. If a non-Jewish democracy is formally established, it is sure to be dysfunctional. Fatah and Hamas haven’t been able to reconcile their differences peacefully and rule the territories — throwing a large Jewish population into the mix is surely not going to produce a healthy liberal democracy. Think Lebanon, not Switzerland.

In truth, both options — and indeed all “one-state solutions” — lead to the same end: civil war. That is why the settlement problem should be at the top of everyone’s agenda, beginning with Israel’s. The religious settlement movement is not just secular Zionism’s ideological adversary, it is a danger to its very existence. Terrorism is a hazard, but it cannot destroy Herzl’s Zionist vision. More settlements and continued occupation can.

On the other side of the debate are Israelis such as Naftali Bennett, Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and the recently named director-general of the settler advocacy group the Yesha Council.

When it comes to assessing the prospects for anything to be accomplished in the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian talks, Bennett succinctly describes the power equation and thus the reason the talks will go nowhere: “It’s in their interest more than ours. We’re doing just fine.”

Bennett challenges much of the conventional wisdom about settlements and settlers — not surprising perhaps because he lives inside Israel and was a high-tech millionaire before entering politics.

He says: “My vision is 1 million Jews living in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], putting an end to the notion that we can have a Palestinian state in the heart of Israel.”

With over half a million Jews already planted inside the occupied territories, that vision is more than half way towards being realized. “Anyone considering the notion of expelling 80,000 or 150,000 Jews (from the West Bank) today should know that it’s simply impossible,” Bennett declares.

“We view Judea and Samaria as the bulwark of Israel, and Israel as the bulwark for the West against Islamic terrorism. We are the security shield of Israel. That’s fundamentally how people in Judea and Samaria see it. People see it as a mission to maintain and protect this area for the Jewish people.”

Since he rejects the idea of a Palestinian state, the Los Angeles Times asks Bennett what alternative he envisions:

The alternative is peaceful coexistence on the ground and simply strengthening the current, very positive trends with the economy and security. Removing the roadblocks. Giving Palestinians political rights to vote for themselves. If they want to reach an agreement with Jordan to give them citizenship, so be it. If we need to make adjustments to make life better, we can.

Many Palestinians say the status quo is unfair and not acceptable.

There wouldn’t be apartheid. They’d rule themselves and we’d rule ourselves. We’d drive on the same roads. Arabs have fairly good lives. The overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people want peaceful coexistence. It’s just their leaders who are not OK with it.

It’s not perfect. They want a full-blown state. But it’s a zero-sum game. If they have a state, we’ll cease to exist. That’s the best we can do.

What’s interesting in looking at these contrasting Israeli views of the settlements is that beneath the divergence in analysis, there is an Israeli consensus: they see no real basis for Palestinian self determination. Palestinians would undermine the effective functioning of any democracy other than a Jewish-controlled “democracy,” but they can rule themselves so long as they don’t imagine they can have their own fully sovereign state.

Whether viewed from the left or the right, the one thing most Jewish Israelis seem to agree on (even if they differ in how bluntly they will state this) is that they regard Palestinians as their inferiors.

Update: Following a shooting attack in which Palestinian gunmen killed four Israelis outside the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron on Tuesday, settlement leaders were quick to call for talks due to start in Washington on Wednesday, to be cancelled.

The Jerusalem Post reported:

The head of the Mount Hebron Regional Council, Tzvika Bar-Hai, called on Netanyahu to cancel the Washington talks.

“There is no place for negotiations with those who respond with deadly fire to our hand outstretched for peace,” he said.

“It is time for the leaders of Israel to wake up from the illusion of false peace,” Bar-Hai added.

“We’re talking about one of the worst terrorist attacks in the past few years,” said Naftali Bennet, director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

“We’re asking that the prime minister immediately turn the plane around and come back to Israel. It’s not possible, while we’re holding funerals, that he can stay there. And we’re calling on him, tomorrow morning, to renew the building in Judea and Samaria,” he said.

The council announced Tuesday night that it would respond to the attack by unilaterally ending the construction freeze and starting to build on Wednesday.

A Yesha Council statement said: “The Zionist answer is to build and support. They shoot and we build. Each does as he believes.”

Although a spokesman for Izz al-Din al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attack, Ynet reported:

Earlier on Tuesday, Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhum addressed the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.

“The attack was not meant to impede direct negotiations which failed prior to even starting. This is a natural response by the Palestinian resistance to the enemy’s crimes, and is proof that despite the resistance’s persecution by the security services and despite Israel’s crimes, the Palestinians are capable of responding to these crimes,” he said.

Barhum stressed that the attack was the type of response “which the enemy and occupation should expect. The Palestinian resistance is alive, well and kicking.”

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