Two states or what ?

Whenever the subject of the 2 State Solution (2SS) comes up in the public discourse, and nowadays, for whatever reasons, it hardly comes up at all, one of the sentences that will usually follow right after the 2SS is mentioned, will state with utmost certainty (often quoting Winston Churchill on democracy) that it remains the only viable solution no matter how bad it is, save for all the others which are definitely worse…

Says who? Have we ever been exposed to lengthy (or even brief) informative presentations of what is actually out there in terms of options? Have these alternatives been discussed and compared in public, undergone lengthy scrutiny, deliberations and criticism? I think any honest person will have to admit that this has definitely not been the case. The only people who have an idea of what is out there are the perennial  peacemongers (full disclosure – I’m one of them) who keep looking for and discussing the alternatives they themselves could think of.

Most people, when challenged regarding alternatives to the 2SS will mention a one state solution or a binational state and then immediately throw in the caveat that this will be “the end of the Jewish state” or “the end of Zionism” to make absolutely sure nobody will dare even consider them real alternatives. When real lefties are asked they may even mention a confederation which, after all, is also a 2SS first and foremost. A Federation in the form of a hybrid one state solution (Gaza as a separate entity) may also be mentioned occasionally since it has been raised and discussed by this blogger in the public discourse, based on historical precedent.

Establishment think tanks like the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) occasionally go through the motions of evaluating 2SS alternatives but are much too caught up in their own commitments to the powers that be. They too, while on occasion discussing them, will eventually dismiss all other options in favour of managing the conflict, not without reminding everyone with a dire warning that the 2SS dogma must be maintained as the final arrangement, at all cost.

The reason for the wide reluctance, bordering on refusal to really discuss alternatives to the 2SS with an open mind is likely related to the threat these alternatives appear to pose to most people’s framework of reference. Anything that is not a Jewish Nation State is emotionally not an option. A Jewish State just wasn’t good enough and after 71 years we had to legislate a Jewish Nation State..

Under the present framework of reference, an occupation and the status-quo have been good enough for 53 years, annexation will be regarded an improvement and democracy will still be favourably considered and may even remain an option, but only within reason. After all, liberal democracy is overrated anyway. The State of Israel must continue to develop as a ghetto par excellence, a shtetl with an Air Force, a Jewish community without real sovereignty, without recognized borders and with more than half of its members neither living here nor having a say in how to run it. They are kept as an imaginary back-up, just in case. Diaspora Jews may however (and are asked to), help finance it. All that is fine, just don’t touch our Nation State which happens to have a 20% national minority and keeps another 2.5-4.3 Million Palestinians in some kind of belligerent limbo regarding their long-term status.

By Zionism’s original ideological standards, the Jewish National project has been rather less than a roaring success. To be sure, we did extremely well in practical terms but badly fluffed it when it came to the formation of the legal foundations of governance as our present election quagmire amply demonstrates. They remain vague, having been cobbled together under duress by refugees and survivors of the Holocaust, don’t serve an Israel that has grown into a regional nuclear power with huge demographic and multi-cultural ethno-religious challenges and have left us without a functioning constitution and a failed electoral system.

Rather than developing as a secular state for equal citizens, an Israeli Nation State, which appears to have been closer to the original plan and likely would have set us up for good, we have clearly morphed into a clerical interpretation of Jewish nationhood concocting a near lethal definition of a quasi religious state where non-Jews are graciously kept as guests, not much more, being reminded from time to time that their presence may well be temporary.

Our ideologically botched Zionist job has, while sorely trying, so far not succeeded in creating the equality our Declaration of Independence (DOI) has called for and there actually has been regression. Nevertheless we did much better in practical terms than the Palestinians who missed their only real chance at statehood when they didn’t agree to the UN Partition Resolution (UNGA181) in 1947.

As far as they are concerned it went downhill from there. They ended up mostly dispersed, persecuted and fought against, reviving their dream for statehood only with the help of a ruthless resistance movement whose decades long terror probably did the Palestinian cause more damage than utility. Suffering even more from the fallout of the 1967 Six Day War, their tide only turned when the Oslo process in 1992 started to take them (and all of us) on a more positive trajectory of diplomacy only to crash, not long after, in the fall-out of Rabin’s murder. Years of failures followed during which both sides were unable or unwilling to come to terms with each other. The dry spell eventually ended in Trump’s “Plan of the Century” which looks more like an extravagant way of burying the 2SS for good and returning to the autonomy of Oslo, rather than a roadmap to actually implement the 2SS.

So here we are, 2020, with two national movements, Zionism and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, continuing to compete for the same territory. The former has had exceptional practical success and set up a formidable Start-Up Nation but has lost its mojo, is spent ideologically and while not quite rejecting the 2SS remains unwilling or unable to come up with an implementable equitable and reasonable political alternative for the whole Land of Israel/Palestine and its varied population. The latter, in contrast, has been an almost total failure in practical terms, is unable to launch any serious diplomatic initiatives on its own and is kept afloat only by international charity. Ideologically, while hanging on by the skin of its teeth only through its opposition to Israel, it has not succeeded uniting its people and clings to the 2SS for dear life.

Both movements have a choice – they can continue to maintain a very edgy status-quo which, being manipulated by outside players will occasionally deteriorate into civil unrest and terror with little to gain and continue sharing the misery, keeping an illusionary 2SS pinned as an elusive target.  Or else, they can reassess the situation and do some hard thinking:  Instead of splitting the land which apparently remains beyond the abilities of the parties, maybe we can share the land so that most if not all of both of our peoples’ needs are met.

Having been involved in recent lengthy negotiations conducted  under an NGO umbrella with Palestinian citizens (not officials) I can vouch for the fact that they and we Israelis, by and large, want pretty much the same from their state. Please realize that while sharing the land appears to be a more difficult task to implement, in practical terms it is infinitely easier than splitting the land. The problem is that it does take a completely different mindset.

We need to finally realize that we have come to the stage where is no real choice but to work on sharing the land as equal citizens, while addressing the deepest fears and apprehensions of Jews and Palestinians alike. When that has sunk in, which may take a while or else come all of a sudden, in the wake of a crisis like the whole world is undergoing now, we will need inspired leadership to help us get there. We came up with exceptional leadership when we created the State of Israel. We should be able to do so again now that we need to implement a new and improved version.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is a member of the Council for Peace and Security, Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (www.federation.org.il) and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".
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