It has become increasingly clear to many people around the world and among many American Jews that the Israeli government has no intention of creating a politically and economically viable Palestinian state. On the eve of his reelection, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that no Palestinian state would emerge under his next five-year government. Although Netanyahu subsequently qualified this promise by claiming he only meant that the conditions for creating such a state do not yet exist, his party almost certainly owed its electoral victory to his display of staunch opposition to Palestinian statehood. The government he subsequently appointed contains members who are even more extreme and overtly racist than Netanyahu himself. Such a far right government was made possible because Israeli public opinion has shifted significantly against any two-state solution. This opinion is likely to hold until massive external pressure compels Israel to consider a different direction.
Israel faces growing international pressure either to move now to create a viable Palestinian state (not a series of isolated cities with no control over their own borders and surrounded by Israeli West Bank settlers and the Israel Defense Forces) or else give Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza the same voting rights that Palestinians enjoy as citizens of Israel within the pre-1967 borders.
“One person, one vote” is not an ideal solution, and history leads many to doubt that a one-state solution is viable: forcing multiple peoples into one state did not, for instance, lead to peace in Yugoslavia or Iraq. Unless both parties really desire such a state, its creation through international pressure might lead to a bloody civil war. On the other hand, if the Palestinian people were to launch a campaign for “one person, one vote,” it would have resonance not only globally but also within Israel and among many American Jews. The democratic aspiration embodied in that demand, made by a people who are now occupied and subjugated, resonates far beyond the demand for two states. Insisting on equal suffrage might weaken Israel’s ability to withstand international pressure for a more democratic society. The fear that a “one person, one vote” policy might eventually be imposed on Israelis could move those at Israel’s center away from the right-wingers they increasingly support and toward those who are building pressure for a two-state solution. So strategically speaking, Palestinians who favor a two-state solution might get one more quickly by demanding voting rights within Israel. But this approach will feel contrived and dishonest unless it represents a change in what the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza really want—and there’s little evidence for that.
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