December 31, 2009
On a hot day in
Earlier that year, Ruppin, Martin Buber, and other Zionist leaders had founded Brith Shalom (Covenant of Peace), an organization dedicated to Jewish-Arab coexistence in
* * *
61 years after the founding of the State of Israel, the idea of a binational home for Jews and Arabs seems like an afterthought. New developments and old realities, though, are bringing the idea back into discussion.
With the Palestinian Authority arguing for a Palestinian nation-state, the two-state solution has dominated recent diplomatic efforts, from the failed Oslo Accords of 1993 to Barack Obamas latest attempts to press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlement building and get Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the table.
Obamas new engagement and pressure on
But Netanyau has balked on the details of a freeze on settlement expansion in the occupied territories and Abbas appears reluctant to negotiate. Furthermore, he controls only the West Bank; Hamas, a militant group which has not participated in peace talks and which calls for
Tensions also remain high over Hamass rocket attacks on
With such developments in mind, New York University Professor Tony Judtwho has supported a binational state for yearssays that the optimism surrounding Obamas efforts ignores current realities.
The two-state solutionthe core of the Oslo process and the present Road Mapis probably already doomed, he wrote in a 2003 article in the New York Review of Books, adding that the rise of extreme right politics on both sides, and the success of Israeli settlement in the West Bank, makes the achievement of two states unlikely.
While the early Zionists conducted an open debate about the future of
But Judt is not the only one to question whether the two-state framework will succeed.
The two-state solution has become the elephant in the room for diplomats, human-rights activists and the Arab street alike, wrote political scientist Virginia Tilley in the New Left Review in 2006. Judt and Tilley join an unlikely mix of intellectuals who have posited the one-state solution, including Israeli intellectuals like Daniel Gavron and Meron Benvenisti, Palestinians like Ali Abunimah and Libyan President Muammar Kadaffi, who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times this January advocating the binational state of Isratine.
In his 2003 article Judt addressed the core paradox of
In a 2003 article in the London Review of Books, Tilley also gave examples to illustrate the stratification of Israeli society: she argued that housing loans, education loans, and public-sector employment in Israel legally privilege Jews by being tied to army servicewhich is not open to Israeli Arabsor the Law of Returnwhich enables Jews worldwide to move to Israel with special benefits.
Some 93 percent of
The Israel Land Authority, a government agency, cannot lease Israeli land to foreign nationals, including Palestinians and Arab residents of
Palestinian land laws also prohibit Palestinians from selling land to Jews.
The challenge, then, according to Tillys 2003 article, would be to find a democratic secular formula which would preserve
Tilley knows that a unified state would not solve all disputessuch as the fight over the
It would recast those disputes as ethnic arguments within a democratic polity rather than between polarised and mutually demonised Others, she wrote in 2003.
To Princeton University Professor Russel Nieli, though, there is nothing wrong with ethnically based states.
The idea of a single-state solution within the near future is pure fantasy, he wrote in an email to New Voices.
In Tikkun magazine this July, Nieli instead proposed Two-state condominialism, which would demarcate two states along the 1967 borders but would allow Palestinians and Israelis to settle within the territory of either state.
No matter where they lived, Palestinians would vote and receive healthcare and other services from the Palestinian state. The same would hold true for the Jews and their state, whether they lived in the
Each state, in other words, would have extensive extra-territorial rights and obligations vis-à-vis its citizens in the neighboring state, wrote Nieli in Tikkun, something like the
Nieli told New Voices that his proposal is a marriage of the one-state and two-state solutions, an idea that has not yet garnered a significant response.
* * *
Whether or not Nieli is right about Israelis or Palestinians attachment to their own states, one-state advocates insist that the current demographic distribution of the Israeli and Palestinian populations could sink the two-state solution.
A centerpiece of Obamas attempts to restart peace negotiations has been a settlement freeze, or an official halt to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, home to nearly 300,000 Israelis, which are considered illegal by the international community but not by Israel. It would be a first step toward an Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders, leaving some settlements intact by swapping land with Palestinians in other places.
To Israeli writer Daniel Gavron, however, this withdrawal no longer seems realistic.
It’s not just the big settlements, like Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim, Gavron told New Voices. But even smaller settlements like Ofra and Elon Moreh are right bang in the middle [of the
The UN and human rights groups claim that the three major Israeli settlement blocsGush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim and Arielwill carve up Palestinian territory into cantons. Maale Adumim lies between
In addition to the territorial issue, the settlers themselves garner significant support in
With all these obstacles to separation, Gavron, a lifelong labor Zionist, ended his latest book with an unexpected bang.
He proposed that
I think that the Jews would be rather horrified at losing the State of Israel to a one-state entity, Gavron said. But in a way we’ve got ourselves to blame, not the settlers. It’s the rest of us who’ve allowed them to do this.
Gavron and Judt agree that the settlement movements facts on the ground have been more successful than many realize, making complete separation between two states impossible.
If withdrawal is impossible, Gavron would let the entire
Israelis and Palestinians could live where they please, which would solve the problem of the right of return for Palestinians who were displaced in the Arab-Israeli fighting of 1947 and 1948. At the same time, the new state could maintain the Jewish Law of Return.
Gavron calls this an open solution, without any walls through it, or at least without
The State of Jerusalem would also merge the various Palestinian security forces with the IDF, which Gavron claims would make for fairer treatment of the diverse population.
And whereas ancient
* * *
Away from the double-decker tour buses on 34th St. in Manhattan, the elevator rises to the third floor and opens onto a quiet, Jerusalem-stone foyer. American and Israeli flags adorn the waiting room. In the corner office of the Zionist Organization of
We predicted early on that
Unlike many other organizations, we demanded that
To Klein, a Palestinian state is something to be granted by the
It is, in a way, a one-state paradigm.
Both Judt and Gavron see Klein as advocating for something like a Greater
Gavron thinks this would never pass, but Judt is wary of underestimating, seeing a stark choice for the future: either Greater Israel, or a binational state. Either way, the facts on the ground make it a one-state solution.
[Klein] likes that idea, I abhor it, Judt told New Voices, but we agree that it is true.
* * *
This conversation has heated up at US colleges as well. While ZOA has been filling students inboxes for years with
But Judt is unenthusiastic about the American Jewish Diasporas ability to make peace. He argues that diasporas in general make small, vulnerable and victimized countries radical and resentful.
Gavron thinks Jewish students can and should come around to his new ideas and would have J Street U focus more on environmentalism.
Im not discouraging American students from coming [to
Gavron echoes Bubers contention at the Twelfth Zionist Congress that coexistence in
He inherits not only Bubers socialist bent, but his optimism. When he shares his ideas, he sounds 30 years younger than he isas if ready to implement the plan himself.
* * *
But the one-state solution is something that neither Judt nor Gavron is tied to. It is a much more difficult goal for them than it was for Brith Shalom, and both realize it would be a Herculean task.
Both Judt and Gavron view Obama as the last, best hope for an agreement. And if two states were to pass, Gavron would be deliriously happy, he told New Voices.
Nor has Judt given up on Obama. He thinks that the negotiations could succeed now, but only if they abandon so-called confidence building and go straight to final-status issues:
Advocates of a binational state seem willing to address those issues. They do not all claim to have answers, but they are asking many of the same questions that the early Zionists did.
Do Jews or Palestinians need their own nation-state to fulfill their aspirations? Should the international community try to establish more ethno-national states? Or can the two peoples retain ethnic states while living amongst each other?
That day in August 1925, Ruppins talk of a state of two nations scarcely knocked his audience off its feet. He was a top Zionist official who settled Jews in much of the
Buber, however, living in the Diaspora, wrote that achieving a majority by any means necessary would merely reverse the Jews persecution, permitting us to do to others what others are doing to us here.
Today, the one-state intellectualsin the face of such conflictare exhorting the public that, in the words of Buber, the hour is late.
We’re well past midnight, Gavron said. I think we’re around four or five in the morning.
The question: How do we turn back the clock in