By Aman Madan
Israel posses an irrevocable right to exist. It possess this right—a right denied to the region’s indigenous peoples—not out of any legitimate grievances, but because of a persistent co-optation of colonial powers on the part of Herzl, the Jewish National Fund, and the World Jewish Congress. Israel exists today as a direct consequence of what can broadly be described as the Zionist project and the force of Western powers against the Arab peoples. It’s consistent denial of rights to Israeli Arabs, Palestinians in the West Bank, and seemingly unstoppable settlement projects have all contributed to a slow but steady consolidation of Israeli authority in the region. From a Weberian perspective, states exist once they have monopolized control over the legitimate use of violence. Israel has achieved exactly this, and therefore the world, because it has stopped caring, trying, or some mixture of the two, has allowed Israel the dignity of a modern nation-state.
Without delving into a deeply complex history—one which illicits deep passion on both sides of the debate—the question of Israel, its status as a Jewish and democratic state, and whether or not it has a moral legitimacy [not one achieved through violence or colonialism] have resurfaced in contemporary discourse. Much of this can be attributed to a newly inaugurated American administration whose views on the regional conflict have departed from long held US policy. For the first time in US politics, an American president, standing side by side with Israeli Prime Minister, claimed that the United States would prefer a peace deal desired by both parties—whether that be a single state or multiple states. The statement incited anger and shock throughout the Middle East, not because the statement itself was controversial, but because, once contextualized, appeared to be highly biased toward the Israeli state—particularly given Mr. Trump’s warm relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Many news reports, particularly throughout the Arab World, categorized Mr. Trump’s departure from a forceful defense of a two-state solution—common US policy regardless of partisan leanings—as a tacit endorsement of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ultimate goal of annexation of the West Bank.
While his implication that “suddenly the long-proposed solution of two states did not really matter,” seemed to be a direct affront to the Palestinian cause, a one state solution might be a much needed change in the direction of resolving the conflict. For decades, the premise of the two state solution—the ultimate goal of a sovereign Palestinian state—has locked the Middle East into a perpetual state of inaction and at the least, external belligerency; many states have for years pursued a quiet relationship with Israel, but have done so at the expense of popular domestic support, where support for Israel still remains dreadfully low.
Israel is here to stay. To not acknowledge this gruesome reality is to either be wholly naive or ideologically pure—both are ironically counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. While the suggestion of a singular Israeli state appears radical—particularly in Lebanon from where I pen this piece—“it is simply the recognition of the uncomfortable reality that Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories already function as a single state.” According to Michael Tarazi, both territories share the same road systems, the same water supply, and even the same international borders. As a former advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization, he contends that the parallel reality of the interconnectedness and the simultaneous marginalization of the Palestinian population can cease with the emergence of a one state solution. The Palestinians should now push for a binational state with equal rights for both Israelis and Palestinians. Even Prime Minister Netanyahu has indicated an inclination toward this idea, arguing for a “state-minus” status for the West Bank. For the first time, a majority of Palestinians do not support the two state solution. In fact, 56% of Palestinians no longer view an independent Palestinian state as a viable future outcome. With thousands of new Israeli settlements already constructed in the West Bank and a new Israeli law allowing for a retroactive legalization of illegally seized Palestinian land, many Palestinians have warmed to the prospect of full integration into a binational state. Perhaps more importantly, with the increasing popularity of the Israeli right—the likes of Naftali Bennet who argue for a full annexation—many Palestinians are fearful that such a move may necessitate a complete removal from their land. With that nightmarish option looming as not-too-unlikely possibility, full integration and co-equal citizenship carry with it a certain appeal previously not associated with the idea.
Mr. Ghassan Khatib, a professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank, argues that such an idea would only be a legitimate alternative if the entirety of the Palestinian population was given the vote. Full Palestinian integration comes at a significant cost. It “means that Jewish democracy in the land of Palestine is not possible.” With a full annexation of Area A, B, and C, Israel will gain approximately three million Palestinians, meaning that Israel will be unable to retain the Jewish character of its state, undoubtedly inciting serious questions of Jewish and Israeli identity. If Netanyahu and his coalition ultimately seek a singular state, they must determine the essence of the state they seek—not an easy task given the heightened partisan divide within Israeli politics. Certainly, it is not out of the question that Israel allows for an integration of Palestinians, but refuses equal rights to the new population. Israeli Jews will certainly resist ceding rights perceived to be exclusive theirs, deepening an apartheid state—which to be frank, is already manifesting itself in the West Bank. The onus then, should be on international intermediaries, particularly Mr. Trump who has now “opened the door to this conversation.” It is unlikely that Mr. Trump sides with the Palestinians, eyeing an Israeli domination of the ‘peace process’ as a relatively simplistic way to ‘finally’ end this decade long conflict. Mr. Trump has always had an affinity for reductionist approaches, particularly in the foreign policy realm. We should not expect any significant deviation from this approach in regard to this conflict.
The two state solution is now inviable. To remain in pursuit of this objective does not positively contribute to the ‘Middle East Peace Process.’ If Jared Kushner—Mr. Trump’s appointed intermediary between Israelis and Palestinians and his son-in-law—seeks a sustained peace in the region, he must acknowledge that a singular state with equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis is the only way to effectively resolve this conflict. In the words of Haroon Moghul, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, “we’ve left the two-state solution long behind. God forbid we leave the one-state behind, too.”