Israel Israeli Arabs Israeli occupation Israeli settlements one state solution Palestinians two-state solution

One state advocates, how do you know two states aren’t possible?

How do you know? What makes you so sure?

You say, “It is too late for a two state solution” or “Israel is already one state. It is an apartheid state, and the only way forward is to transform it into a just state.”

Where do you get this absolute certainty? With all due respect, I find that completely befuddling, because some of you have spent time in Israel and the territories (yes, some of you are Israeli Jews) and studied or lived with the same situation I’ve studied and lived with. And I actually haven’t the faintest idea of what you are talking about when you say, “It is too late for two states. We know this for a fact. So one state is the answer.” I’ve heard all of your arguments and I am not addressing the particulars right now. I am more interested in the psychology of this matter. I am trying to understand where you get the deep wellspring of faith that two states are out of the question and one state is not.

I agree that two states are unlikely. I endorsed that goal two decades ago, before it was fashionable in my community, and you don’t need to convince me how daunting the odds have become. The question is, which outcome is less unlikely? If you were forced to bet on the roulette wheel of history, would you honestly put your money on a secular bi-national state, a shared polity that is willingly accepted by both peoples after so much torment and violence and hatred? Or would you plunk it down on a deeply flawed compromise that satisfies neither people but which both agree is better than any practical alternative: two states, living side by side in an uneasy peace?

Here, once again, is Hussein Ibish in his book, What’s Wrong With the One-State Agenda?

At some point a two state agreement could become practically impossible, although this has not yet occured. The moment at which such a state of “impossibility…” will emerge is, contrary to many arguments by one-state advocates, not the function of a critical mass of administrative, topographical and infrastructural changes constructed by Israel in the occupied territories. Rather, it is that moment when a critical mass of Israelis and Palestinians become convinced that such a peace agreement is no longer feasible or desirable. The two questions are linked, since entrenchment of the occupation greatly complicates any belief in the plausibility of a peace agreement to end it. However, political realities are fundamentally shaped by the confluence of political will and power. Longstanding and deeply rooted realities can be transformed by political actions based on necessity and consensus. The emergence of the State of Israel is a prime example of this process at work.”

Stranger things than a two-state solution have happened on this planet. If you are uncomfortable with the example of the State of Israel cited by Ibish, what about the pied noirs, the French colonists in Algeria? They returned to France en masse after the Algerian civil war. Many said that couldn’t be done but it happened because political realities made it happen. Are you really certain that the odds against the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from, say, 98% of the West Bank, are much much higher? I know the parallels are not exact so don’t give me a lecture about why the situations are different, please. I’m talking about odds here, and how sometimes people –and national movements–beat the odds.

So please tell me what you think of the piece on the “settler firebrands” by Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner in the NY Times a few weeks ago (9/16/2009). They talked to the hard core ideologues, the people whom I’ve always believed would not be removed without a fight, whose implicit and explicit threats of violent resistance would make any Israeli government reluctant to take them on in order to fulfill the terms of an agreement. It turns out that while many will resist in some fashion, few are likely to fight pitched battles against Israeli soldiers.

I thought that article was one of the most heartening pieces I’ve read in a long time. So I wonder, were you disappointed by it? Did it prompt you to revisit your absolutely certainty that the settlers are entrenched, there are too many sewage lines and bypass roads for Jews-only, it is too late for two states, give it up, fuggedaboutit?

Another question confounds me. Do you honestly believe there is NO distinction between the occupied territories and Israel west of the Green Line? There is no essential difference between the plight of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians under occupation? You don’t need to lecture me on how Arabs in Israel are in many ways second-class citizens. I’ve probably been aware of that longer than most of you. But when you say, “There is already one state. It is an apartheid state,” that can only mean that you see no difference between stateless Palestinians with few rights who want independence from Israel –like other national liberation movements– and Arab citizens of Israel who have rights but want more of them. and want to live in a shared society with fellow citizens who are Jewish. Folks, do you really believe Nablus in the West Bank is for all practical purposes the same as Sakhnin in the Gallilee?

There are too many questions on my mind. A blog post doesn’t leave room for all of them. I’ll stop here, and hope you can either explain the sources of your faith or admit that, like all faith, it is irrational, it passeth understanding.

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