Let me state for the record that I am neither a two-stater nor a one-stater nor a no-stater.
The only long-term resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that I favor is that both peoples – Israelis and Palestinians – ultimately live in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River in peace, and with full democratic rights. I don’t much care how that is achieved so long as it is through negotiations and not violence.
However, in the real world and right now, I think the two-state solution is the only possible one and that it is the one that needs to be pursued.
I don’t believe that it is likely that it will be, with any seriousness anyway. And that is because the Israeli government, backed by the United States, won’t even consider (1) dismantling the settlements, (2) withdrawing from the West Bank, (3) ending the blockade of Gaza, and (4) sharing Jerusalem — and those are the prerequisites for a Palestinian state.
Given all that, even if Hamas which is, along with Netanyahu’s government the other obstacle to two states, announced tomorrow that it fully supports Israel’s right to security within the pre-’67 lines, nothing would happen.
So, while I support the two-state solution, I don’t believe it can be implemented unless and until the United States conditions our support for Israel – both aid and diplomatic support such as we provide both at the United Nations and on such matters as Iran — on Israel agreeing to negotiate toward fully ending the occupation.
So why don’t I favor pursuing the one-state option instead?
That is an easy one. Given that the Netanyahu government refuses to even consider withdrawing from the West Bank (or even freezing settlements there) in order to achieve the two-state solution, it is ridiculous to even contemplate that it would consider allowing all of Israel itself to be folded into one Israeli/Palestinian state.
The logic of those who say that Israel has destroyed the two-state option and that now only one state makes sense is analogous to this: a child asks his parents for a cookie before dinner. They say “no.” He responds: “Then how about three cookies.”
It makes no sense.
Some one-state supporters argue that one-state could be established if Palestinians simply sought Israeli citizenship rather than an end to the occupation. Soon there would be a Palestinian majority that would use its democratic rights to change the nature of Israel from a Jewish state to a state for all the people who live there. The United Nations would guarantee those rights.
Except it would never happen.
Israel might agree to annex all the territories but it would never agree to grant Palestinian citizens full rights. The Palestinians of Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin would simply revert to the position they were in before the Palestinian Authority was created in 1993.
They would be living under occupation without democratic rights. And, of course, the United Nations would not be able to do anything because the United States would use its veto. I already can hear the argument from the United States ambassador to the United Nation: “The United States has to veto the resolution granting Palestinians democratic rights inside Israel because ‘one size fits all’ democracy does not apply to Israel which is surrounded by enemies….” Etc. Etc.
In short, talking about one state is simply a formula for maintaining the status quo.
The only hope for now is working to achieve the two-state solution. The process would need to start with the United States demanding an Israeli settlement freeze and not backing down as in the past. Once the freeze is in effect, the Palestinians would return to negotiations. Hamas would have the option of joining once an agreement is reached.
Yes, it sounds far-fetched. But negotiations along these lines have actually made progress in the past, most recently under the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert.
The only progress toward one state (if that is what anyone wants to call it) is when Israel expands settlements which will lead inevitably to one state called Israel with stateless and rights-less Palestinians living inside it.
The United States should insist on negotiations toward a two-state solution now and that means applying pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to start talking. Once two states are achieved, and they actually have been living side by side in peace for a decade or two, one-state might look like a serious option. For now, it barely qualifies as a dream.