What the Collapse of the Two-State Solution Means for Palestinian and Israeli Nationalism

Kamal Boullata

FOR ABOUT A CENTURY NOW, the Zionist movement and the Palestinian nationalist movement have been locked in furious struggle, where each side felt its very existence threatened by the other. Each laid exclusive claims to the same piece of real estate, and made little effort to understand or appreciate the other. To the contrary, the struggle was waged on the basis of mutual exclusion, and a zero-sum approach. After the stunning victory of Israel in 1967, a historic opportunity appeared to break this logjam: The formula (land for peace) would require Israel to withdraw back to the pre-1967 border, and establish a Palestinian Arab state in the area of the West Bank and Gaza that would be returned to Arab sovereignty. Some form of joint sovereignty over Jerusalem, demilitarization of the new state, and other minor changes would round up the picture, and the conflict would be resolved. The two-state solution appeared to provide for a reasonable pragmatic compromise that limited the demands of each side to a portion of the disputed land, roughly outlined by the 1967 border, and an international consensus developed around that solution, which after initial resistance, seemed to capture the verbal support of a majority of the populations representing the opposing movements.

Yet the struggle continued, and the overwhelming power of the State of Israel and the Zionist movement gave full sway to the settlement movement as it created facts on the ground totally in line with its own ideology and aspirations, and contrary to the wishes of the Palestinians, as well as to the logic of the two-state solution.

The changes that were created by the settlement movement were sufficient to render the two-state solution no longer tenable. The physical facts on the ground, the transfer of over half a million Jews into what was to be an Arab Palestinian state, the creation of an elaborate legal, administrative, psychological, and physical structure on the ground in the “Occupied Territories” as well as the thorough integration of the Occupied Territories into the Israeli system, made such a geographical separation no longer feasible. At the same time, it slowly became evident that despite the huge disparity in power between the two antagonists, neither side was going to disappear, and that a solution needed to be found within the unitary totality of the Land that accommodates both parties. The attempt to fragment the Palestinian people into disparate and disjointed communities, while physically successful, has failed to obliterate their sense of identity as a people, or to dissipate their national ardor.

Those who are willing in any way to step out of their narrative, and listen to, and attempt to, accommodate the “other” rather than ignore, deny, attempt to obliterate, delegitimize, and demonize the Other are faced with a genuine need to adjust their own ideology to somehow incorporate, embrace, or at least account for the hopes, desires, and aspirations of the other party.

For Palestinians, this means that they need to radically alter their nationalism. They will need to abandon their claim that Palestine is exclusively Arab (“Falasin Arabiyyeh”) and their belief that Israeli Jews are nothing but foreign settler-colonialists who have no right to remain in their stolen homeland, with the exception of those “Palestinian Jews” who were indigenous to the land from before 1948. Their goal of the Liberation of Palestine (as opposed to Ending the Occupation) must now recognize that in the liberated Palestine will live about 7 million Jews who consider it their home, and, liberation or not, their future state will have to be binational.

For Israelis, the Zionist dream of a Jewish state will need to be modified to recognize, finally, that their state will have to accommodate a local indigenous population of almost equal number to the Jews, who will never accept permanent dispossession and disenfranchisement. The Zionist dream, which fired the imagination of many Jews and non-Jews, will finally be forced to come to terms with a reality that massive military, financial, scientific, and international power has failed to eclipse. The Jewish state they attempted to create must somehow come to terms with the indigenous non-Jews inhabiting the Land. They need to answer the query of whether a state can be Jewish and still accommodate and provide genuine belonging to non-Jews, or must it forever abandon the claim that they can be democratic, and progressive, while being a Jewish state.

The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article. Click here to read a PDF version of the full article.

Source Citation: Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 2:12-15


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