The One-State Solution: Jordan or Israel?

If reports from the West Bank are true, the vast majority of young Palestinians will soon be demanding equal rights with Israelis in a bi-national state. The so-called two-state solution, whereby Israel gives up its legal and historic claim to Judea and Samaria, has been all but abandoned by Palestinians whose immediate historical memory dates back only to the failed Oslo Accords. Young Palestinians (whether they know it or not) are instead returning to the early roots of the PLO, when adherence to a one-state solution (including Jordan) was an integral component of the PLO Charter. In other words, the new liberation strategy is to accuse Israel of Apartheid and demand their own majoritarian state –including Gaza and a potential linkage with the Palestinian majority east of the river in Jordan — as a replacement for Jewish majority democratic sovereignty east of the green line.

This political strategy would engage in civil disobedience and would attempt to resemble the successful civil rights movements in both the US and South Africa. Internationally, this type of action would be very well received. A Palestinian civil rights movement would also be greatly appreciated and well received in the United States. This is especially true of the vast majority of liberals within the Democratic Party (including many reform Jews). Such a Palestinian strategy would force a right-wing Israeli government to come up with its own counter strategy or yield the political terrain to the Left. By the end of 2020, Trump and the Republicans will probably lose the White House. Also with Palestinian adherence to a democratic one-state solution, there is the distinct possibility of a Labor-led coalition to replace the current government — which would be isolated internationally, bereft of ideas, and without its own democratic alternative to the one-state solution.

Of course, Labor would never accept Palestinian demands for equal rights within Israel (in other words, the end of a Jewish State). Instead, Labor would attempt a refurbished the now-failed two-state solution with further concessions in order to make it more feasible to the Palestinians. However within the context of a one-state solution, another Israeli attempt at the two-state solution would garner much more Palestinian leverage in potential negotiations. Realistically this Palestinian strategy — toward a one-state civil rights movement — would mean not only the intellectual bankruptcy of the Israeli Right, but also its political demise as well.

Most amazingly (and counterintuitively), a non-violent, democratic Palestinian strategy could paradoxically lead to the eventual creation of the dangerous two-state solution with a new Labor government. Neither Israeli side, Left or Right, could ever accept a bi-national state to replace the Jewish state already in existence. But Israel cannot survive as a non-democratic state with a permanent underclass of foreign noncitizens. It would eventually lose its US support without a democratic outlet for the Palestinian population on the West Bank.

Without an alternative to the one-state solution, the Israeli Right will box themselves into a political and strategic corner. From a Palestinian perspective (whether they have realized it or not) the one-state solution doesn’t even have to succeed to be successful. In conjunction with an international component, and a new Liberal government in Washington, the pressure on the Israeli Right will be like an avalanche. In other words, for the Right, there must be an alternative to the One-state solution and it can’t be the highly dangerous two-state solution (which they categorically reject).

East of the Jordan River is situated the largest Palestinian community in the world. This community constitutes the political majority in a region recognized as a part of the original Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations. It is also recognized internationally and linked to the Mandate’s geography through Article 80 of the UN Charter. The political authority east of the river is also recognized by the UN through Security Council Resolution 242. This resolution states that only full UN members with actual sovereignty can become negotiating partners with Israel.

Therefore Jordan is empowered — i.e. as the legitimate state to represent Arab interests in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) — as the region’s negotiating partner with Israel. This empowerment is also true of the UN-sponsored Madrid International Peace Conference which recognized UN 242 and Palestinians as a part of the sovereign Jordanian delegation. The Madrid Conference is the international basis for the Oslo Accords and the Palestinian Authority. Finally, according to the Jordanian constitution itself, all West Bank Arab residents are subjects of the King of Jordan, who is an absolute monarch on all Jordanian matters, executive and legislative.

Throughout its entire existence, and even before it was declared a state in 1948, Israel has looked to the region east of the River Jordan as a territory crucial to its survival through a moderate political pacification. The Jordanian monarchy has been both a tacit ally with Israel and has signed an interim peace accord with the Jewish State. Jordan’s king has refused, however, to negotiate on behalf of his West Bank subjects. And Jordan has refused to designate the final border between Israel and itself. But the Jordanian monarch now declares himself in favor of a Palestinian State and has severed all administrative links (not constitutional links) to the West Bank. The king, in tacit conjunction with the current right-wing government in Israel, seeks a Palestinian state with very limited sovereignty, little more than a kind of autonomy-plus.

The PLO hopes to establish a much stronger West Bank State which can eventually swallow Jordan (with its Palestinian majority) into Greater Palestine. This is the whole point of the original Palestinian-inspired two-state solution, which was conceived in the aftermath of the failed Palestinian attempt to overthrow the monarchy in Jordan (Black September). Now, after nearly twenty-five years of the Oslo “peace process”, the two-state solution lies dormant. Palestinians can wait for the next Obama-like US government (probably even much farther to the Left) to reestablish the moribund two-state solution, or they can move dramatically toward the one-state solution. However, if Palestinians decide to wait, three years can mean a lot more Israeli settlers and always the possibility that the two-state solution will continue to remain out of reach, especially because of Jerusalem. Also there’s the entire Middle East region to think about. With Iran on the ascendancy, Gulf Sunni Arabs have more to worry about than the perception of a pro-Shiite Palestinian community holding firm to maximalist two-state solution demands. Wouldn’t a strong push for democracy as Israeli citizens make more sense now? And also wouldn’t such a push work to damage Bibi and the Right?

What would be the right-wing Israeli strategy in such a one-state scenario? For the Right there can only one choice: West Bank Arabs are subjects of the Jordanian monarchy. If Palestinians want democracy, they must achieve it through Jordan. The West Bank is constitutionally still a part of Jordan. Future negotiations between a right-wing Israeli government and a legitimate Arab government (even on an interim basis) must be based solely upon democratic sovereignty. This can happen within a West Bank-East Bank federation, a dual-bank republic or a true democratic constitutional monarchy. The King of Jordan must be pressed to relinquish his executive and legislative authority, while maintaining the constitutional legitimacy of his West Bank subjects.

Israel will never allow itself minority status within its democratic sovereignty. Therefore Israel is a majoritarian democratic state. If the Palestinians desire a similar majoritarian state (Israel to become Palestine) all Jewish political forces will categorically reject such an idea. However, the Palestinians might find an Israeli polity determined to negotiate with them as the legitimate and democratic government of Palestine-Jordan, based on an integrative solution for Jerusalem and the West Bank.

What is clear is that from the perspective of Israel — faced with a non-violent Palestinian quest for democracy — Jordan will become essential to any final status agreement. Within this context, the future of Jerusalem must be on the table, as well as the formal integration of two citizenries sharing land within the West Bank and Judea and Samaria. Absent a two-state maximalist solution (Palestine inspired) or a two-state autonomy-plus solution (Israel inspired), and absent a majoritarian one-state solution for Israel and the West Bank (Palestine inspired), there is only a freedom and democracy solution replacing Jordanian subjects with Jordanian citizens. There are no other solutions. In the end, there will be no other choice.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).