Sunday, August 16, 2009

One State Two State

The road to a two-state solution gets more difficult with time. That is not because of the Israelis. Every Israel prime minister except Yitzhak Shamir favored it. It was the essence of the U. N. Partition Plan. Ben Gurion was for it—Sharret and Eshkol and Allon and Golda Meir and Begin and Rabin and Peres and Sharon and Olmert and Netanyahu, too. Had the Arabs accepted a two-state solution after the Six Day War, they would have gotten nearly everything back that they lost.

The solution is imperfect. It won’t meet all demands. The biggest problem for the Palestinians and Arabs outside Palestine is Israel as a Jewish state. But Israel’s Jewishness was written into its very charter by the General Assembly 62 years ago.

National character informed the post-World War I formula for peace after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. It was bound up with Zionism. The potency of the idea of a Jewish state was clear. So too the map of Europe as race and ethnic based nation states was axiomatic. It has been argued argued that the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense its always been, how to define the state of Israel. Why should that be when all around Israel states define themselves as both Arab and Muslim? A one-state solution in historic Palestine west of the Jordan: what peace will there be; what economic progress; what laws and what justice; What science; what kind of class system. Denyng all of this as a nightmare is delusional.

The idea of a bi-national one state of Israelis and Palestinians is old. But let’s face it: it portends an ethnically cleansed Israel; it is the alternative to Israel. It is the repudiation of Israel's existence. In a matter of a few years it would be a Palestinian state with a Jewish minority: Greater Palestine. The Jewish minority in Greater Palestine would be small. Many Jews would prudently emigrate to escape such an outcome. For what reasons do the Israelis have to depend for security and decency upon the democratic talents of the Palestinians?

Palestinians now contest between theocracy and terrorism and secular terrorism. "Palestinian reform" is a joke. Will the jihadists of Hamas really stay their hands? And who will protect the Jews in Greater Palestine from their wrath: an international force? The record of international forces in ethnic cleansing poses a death sentence of death for to be cleansed.

One national state is not being replaced with a post national state but rather with another national state. Palestinian statelessness will be replaced by Jewish statelessness.

Israel is not the world’s latest nation-state. India and Pakistan came into being at the same time as Israel. They, too, were born in violence and in partition, which did not quell the violence. Was the partition of the subcontinent, therefore, a mistake? If it was, why don’t proponents of one statism ask for the dismantling of Pakistan?

The U. N. has many post-colonial nation-states created since the late 1940s, not questioned by their belatedness as nation states. There is no world, really, of individual rights and international law. There is a world in which sovereignty rooted in racial and ethnic identity prevails.

Palestinians espousing one state binationalism are acting on their fondest and most uncompromising dreams. It is their device for defeating Israel and gaining dominion over the entirety of the land, the shrewdest form of the Palestinian rejection of the idea of partition.

Two states is the only admirable answer to the question of Palestine. It does not deny the rights of Israelis or Palestinians. Quite the contrary: it recognizes the claims of both sides. There is no right to a half, the right to Tel Aviv is indeed the right to Nablus and the right to Nablus is indeed the right to Tel Aviv. So the appeal to rights is always a prescription for national frustration, for a one-state solution, for domination, for war.

But the idea of partition, the two-state solution, neither denies nationalisms nor pander to them. It limits the fulfillment of the one only by the fulfillment of the other. It transforms the problem--the sharing of the land--into the solution.

Two buckets were easier carried than one. Is the restoration of Jewish homelessness, and the vindication of Palestinian radicalism, and the intensification of inter-communal violence, really preferable to the creation of two states for two nations?

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