The Moral State Solution

Snapshot of the UN partition plan for Palestine, 1947

Bibi Netanyahu’s recent remarks that Israel needs to control “all land West of the Jordan” has led to a recent slew of articles regurgitating arguments which have raged for over a century: would a one or two state solution best benefit Israelis and/or Palestinians? (with both or either included depending on who is writing the article).

The question of “how many states” is, quite frankly, a moronic question, and all its answers are equally fatuous.

Partition, or where we draw lines in the ground, has been a Western obsession for centuries. From the 1884 Berlin Conference to Sykes-Picot to the partition of India to the Palestine partition plan, Westerners have a sick addiction to drawing lines on maps. And never have these lines actually solved anything, they have only served to make them worse. The borders of Africa have led to conflict and strife throughout the continent, India and Pakistan are two nuclear nations incredibly hostile towards eachother, and Israel and Palestine is Israel and Palestine. Drawing lines on maps fails because doing so continuously fails to address the root causes of conflicts.

The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not depend on how many states there are between the river to the sea, but rather on how those between the river and the sea conduct themselves.

One of the 20th century’s greatest Kabbalists, the Baal HaSulam, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag zy”a, puts forward a true solution in his aptly named maamar: ‘The Solution.’

His solution contains “a just redistribution of profits. That each work according to his ability and receive according to his needs… …The standard of living of Arabs [must] be the same as the standard of living of Jews. This will be a great mode of payment in order to win their hearts” which will allow “all people to accept the religion of love and giving at the same moment.” (The Solution, Pragmatic Commune)

What the Baal HaSulam highlights here is how the national conflict is deeply intersected with the class conflict, and how essential solving the class divides are to solving the national divide. Indeed, many of the issues that Palestinians face are rooted in the fact that there is not “a just redistribution of profits” or an equal living standard in the country.

In regard to building permits, from 1991 to 2018, only 16.5% of the applications for building permits approved in Jerusalem were for Palestinians in East Jerusalem (who comprise 40% of the population), whilst the remaining 83.5% of permits approved served Jews. (Reeves, 2019) In July 2019, the Israeli Security Cabinet promised to grant building permits for 715 housing units for Palestinians. By contrast, it promised building permits for 6,000 housing units for Jewish settlers in Yehuda and Shomron. By the end of June 2020, only one building permit had been issued for Palestinians. By contrast, 1,094 building permits were issued for Jewish settlements between July 2019 and March 2020 (Amnesty, 2022, p.25).

In regard to water resources, Israel has transferred 82% of Palestinian groundwater into Israel and for the use of Jewish settlements, with Israelis enjoying four times as much water than Palestinians per capita. Meanwhile, Palestinians must purchase over 50% of their water from Israel. (UNCTAD, 2015, p.29) Palestinians are unable to drill new wells, install pumps or deepen existing wells, in addition to being denied access to the Jordan River and freshwater springs. Israel even controls the collection of rainwater in most of the West Bank, and the Israeli army often destroys rainwater-harvesting cisterns owned by Palestinian communities. As a result, nearly 93% of cultivated Palestinian land was not irrigated. (UNCTAD, 2017, p.4)

These policies are the first that need addressing. Their solutions are not as complex as hundreds of pages of documents about the specific niche electoral system a prospective Palestinian state would entail. They are as simple as “let Palestinians have water” and “let Palestinians build homes.” Efforts to advance the former only serve to obfuscate the need to address the latter.

Palestinians, however, are not the only victims to an unjust distribution of resources.

In 2021, alongside a majority of Arabs, a majority of Haredim fell below the poverty line. (National Insurance Institute, 2022) Meanwhile, 500 individuals in Israel own a collective 326 billion dollars, with each owning more than one can ever use in ten lifetimes, even when shared with all their family and friends. (Avriel, 2021)

Secular Jews might wish to attribute these disparities to some supposed inherent laziness of Haredim, or some supposed inherent beastliness of Arabs rather than address how this state of affairs came to be. And so, when we see an Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or a Secular-Religious conflict, as experienced this past year, they can handwave these people, and their concerns, away. True to form, secular Israel offered partition as a solution for the supposed ‘Haredi problem’ too. (Arlosoroff, 2023)

But the truth is that so long as the wealth remains undivided, the problems will not go away. The disenfranchised will remain angry, and there will not be any peace. Hiding these problems behind borders will not eliminate their existence. Only once we address the inequalities and immediate policy concerns like these, might we have the luxury of indulging our cartographic desires and implement a one, two, five hundred or however many state solution is desired.

References (in order of appearance)

Reeves, B. (2019, September 12). Jerusalem Municipal data reveals stark Israeli-Palestinian discrepancy in construction permits in Jerusalem – Peace now. Peace Now.

Amnesty International (2022) ISRAEL’S APARTHEID AGAINST PALESTINIANS. Amnesty International.

UNCTAD. (2015) The Besieged Palestinian Agricultural Sector. United Nations

UNCTAD. (2017) UNCTAD Assistance to the Palestinian People: Developments in the Economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. United Nations

National Insurance Institute. (2022) Welfare, Poverty and Social Disparities. NII.

Avriel, E. (2021) 500 Israelis Own 326 Billion Dollars, and are Crumbling the State. The Marker.

Arlosoroff, M. (2023) Israel Is Facing a Dead End. Is It Time to Split Up? HaAretz

About the Author
Ya'aqov Shenkin is a British-Israeli Jew residing in Jerusalem with a passion for Jewish history, Jewish politics and Torah knowledge.
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