Why I Still Support the Two-State Solution
It is an axiom of both the left and the right that the two-state solution is dead. The left treats this declaration with sadness; the right greets it with glee. The problem is that there is no credible alternative to the two-state solution.
There is, of course, the one-state solution. Sometimes this is phrased as a bi-national state; other times, it’s phrased as a “state of all her citizens” – but, in a country with two distinct ethno-national communities, who speak two different languages and have wildly divergent political aims, the result is the same: A democracy with a distinct Arab voting bloc/political agenda, and a distinct Jewish voting bloc/political agenda. Whether the state starts off as the “neutral” arbiter between the voting blocs by not mentioning ethnicity at all, or by mentioning both nations in its founding document, the result would be a political and demographic war as each group competes to get votes, in order to change the balance of power -and the nature of the state -in favor of its own political agenda. If this war remained political, then perhaps it would be fine.** However, if modern history is an example, then the political war would quickly devolve into a very real civil war, or even, genocide. Rwanda is the ultimate example of what can go wrong in a country where two distinct ethnic groups are supposed to share one democratic nation-state. In a democracy, your ethnic group’s political power is directly dependent on having more people who vote than the other group does -which provides a powerful incentive to get rid of members of the opposing ethnic group. Of course, usually, the process of civil war destroys the democratic nature of the state in question -and, no matter which side ultimately emerges victorious, the war itself takes lives from both sides. This means that a one-state solution wouldn’t be fair either to Palestinians or to Israelis, regardless of who would be the eventual victor. *
So let’s move on to the other one-state solution: The solution where Israel annexes the West Bank but either deprives Palestinians of citizenship, or makes their citizenship contingent on a loyalty oath to the Zionist state. There is a simple word for this: apartheid. It goes without saying that apartheid does not qualify as a credible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Proponents of this one-state solution often like to parade themselves as the “true” Zionists, however, from a Zionist perspective, the flaw in each one-state solution is simple: The left-wing one-state solution deprives Israel of its Jewish nature; the right-wing one-state solution deprives Israel of its democratic nature. Either way, it’s the end of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.
Often, opponents of the two-state solution insist that the onus is on two-staters to prove that this option is still viable. The two-state solution however, has an important advantage over other arrangements:** It is not only a desirable outcome, but also a realistic outcome; it doesn’t expect Israelis and Palestinians to sit down and sing kumbaya (a la a bi-national state/state of all her citizens) or for Palestinian resistance to the Occupation (i.e. terrorism) to stop the minute the territories are annexed, and occupation is replaced with apartheid (a la the annexation option). In other words, the two-state solution is consistent with human nature and principles of political action. The only problem is figuring out an effective way to get there. Granted, that is a real challenge, but, in the absence of credible alternatives, the only real solution is to keep trying.
*It’s impossible to know in advance which group would “win.”