Binational, like it or not

Looking at the Israeli political scene, one cannot but conclude that the left is disorganized and confused. Disorganized since there is no clear leadership for traditionally leftist causes (few consent to be called leftists anymore) and confused since by and large it clings to political approaches that cannot in all seriousness be considered part of leftist ideology, particularly the Two-States for Two Peoples solution.

It has always bothered me with what zest the Zionist left in Israel has been pushing for the “Two States for Two Peoples” approach, one that clearly advocates ethnic separation of Arabs and Jews. The only fig leaf preventing the left (or any advocate of that particular solution) from getting attacked on that account is the presence of a considerable Palestinian population within Israel, presumably a fact of life one has to live with. As if our experience living with them for 67 years is not a positive one and as if Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are a totally different people. But more Palestinians in Israel under any other solution than “Two States” ? G-d forbid, they absolutely must have their own state, 21 percent is bearable but not more…

On a recent visit to Washington attending a trialogue between Germans, Americans and Israelis I got confirmation for my suspicion that “Two States for Two Peoples” cannot really be a leftist cause when I was advised by a Social Democratic member of the European parliament that nobody in Europe calls it a “Two States for Two Peoples” solution, there is only a “Two States Solution”. Apparently (and not surprisingly) no Western European of consequence in his or her right mind today will promote an ethnicity based nation state anymore, these times have long passed. “Two States” is ambiguous, after all both might hold more than one people. “Two States for Two Peoples” rings too much of ethnic separation. Europeans know very well why they have chosen the state of all citizens model, they have internalized the lessons of their bloody history.

As somebody who is presently promoting an alternative to the “Two-States for Two Peoples” solution, one that is inclusive, I encounter a strange, almost obsessive insistence by the Zionist left on the “Two States for Two Peoples” approach, as if it’s just not feasible for two peoples to live in one state, like we do for already 67 years. On the other hand, when listening to Palestinians one can discern a much greater willingness to live in an inclusive state, presumably, since Palestinians are aware of their demographic strength, don’t really mind and clearly recognize the advantages in view of the alternatives.

There are other issues at play — the whole issue of peace has long become an elitist endeavour pushed primarily by “the white tribe”. Many if not most of our darker skinned Sefardi brothers and sisters won’t have any of it, they are presumably more tough minded, realistic or they know the Arabs from way back then, or claim to do so. And, not to forget, there is a not so minor issue of national identity: Most Israelis alive today don’t know the State of Israel without the territories, they were born after 1967. Hebron has been part of their country from day one. Giving it back is more difficult for them than it is for those who do remember the Green Line.

So here we are, painted into a corner, pushing for ethnic separation in the guise of the Two State Solution which clearly cannot be implemented politically in the near future because the ruling right-wing coalition doesn’t want to, the opposition on the left is incapable and the Palestinians can’t make up their mind. And that is before mentioning the challenges of removing 25,000 Jewish households from the West Bank. And the make-believe goes on and on, the proponents of the Two State Solution are in overdrive, causing critical observers to wonder what they know that we don’t know.

Let me clarify: It’s certainly not that we can rule out the Two State Solution but it is wholly unreasonable not to seriously consider realistic alternate approaches and to do that now. Regional developments make that an imperative.

The future of the State of Israel, like the past, is a binational one. The quicker we come to terms with this fact and realize that the difficulties posed by integration aren’t any more challenging than those posed by separation, we will be able to start working them out.

The great advantage is that integration, living together, sharing and building a joint future make for a lot more positive an endeavour than do separation, division, withdrawal and the building of walls.  If reasonable alternate solutions will be brought to the Israeli public’s attention it may well favor them over a Two State Solution that cannot be implemented.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".