The One-State Solution in Israel Is a Simplistic Illusion

© Shutterstock

Palestinian aspirations for a state are as real and heartfelt as those of Jews before the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Since the early 1990s, the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been taken as an article of Mideast peace faith. Israeli prime ministers – including current Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuPalestinian Authority (PA) presidents, US presidents, UN secretaries general and leaders the world over have embraced it.

But that may be changing. Israel’s always volatile body politic and especially its growing conservative parties and factions have increasingly taken to touting the benefits, even the inevitably, of one state. That is Israel’s ultimate inclusion of the West Bank – or Judea and Samaria to many Israelis – into the State of Israel. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of the economy and leader of the conservative Jewish Home Party, recently argued in the pages of The New York Times that a single Israeli state encompassing the West Bank was a “new reality” and that Israel is “obliged” to act responsibly to meet economic and security goals. Similar arguments have appeared elsewhere and are indicative of the growing interest in the idea.

Reasons to Be Anxious

Israelis may be forgiven for such thoughts. Hope in the two-state solution on both sides is at an all-time low. Also, Israel’s security appears in greater jeopardy today than it has in decades. The tide of events in Iran, Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jerusalem and elsewhere in the region all seems to point to one conclusion – increased security concerns for Israel.

There is the strategic threat from Iran, its pursuit of nuclear weapons and incessant calls for extermination of the Jewish state, including most recently by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a recently tweeted nine-point statement on Israel’s “annihilation.” And there are numerous terrorist elements in surrounding countries, Gaza and now Jerusalem. The Israeli public and leadership have more than adequate justification for being anxious.

A single state incorporating the West Bank – proponents vary in their positions on Gaza – appears tempting upon first glance. Israel could allegedly defend itself on all borders and threats within the current Palestinian Territories could be better controlled. Of course, such a state would also fulfill the ambitions of those Israelis who have always aspired for an Israel that includes Judea and Samaria.


 

But it’s the third reality that makes annexation untenable. The action would undermine Palestinians’ genuine aspirations for independence – recognized by every nation in the world.


 

The economic and social welfare justification may be equally compelling. Absorbing the 2.8 million Palestinians now living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem might actually benefit them. Their standard of living has declined steadily over the years while that of Israelis has risen to First World levels. Job and business opportunities, education and health care would all likely improve. Assuming these new Arab citizens of Israel were treated equally, they could travel more freely and participate in a far more transparent democratic political process.

But all that is a fanciful forecasting. The reality is far harsher and not difficult to imagine.

First, there’s the predictable global reaction. Every nation in the world would reject annexation. Even Israel’s strongest supporter, the US, would condemn the move. Nations on which Israel’s vibrant export economy relies, such as those in the EU, would be forced by popular reaction to reconsider their relations with the Jewish state. Reaction within the UN, including potential expulsion from UN institutions, would be swift and Israel might not be able to rely on the US’s heretofore solid veto in the UN Security Council.

For popular opposition in the US would likely be high as well. Israel’s supporters in the US Congress would find themselves in positions difficult to defend. Countries around the world, pressed by popular demand, would be forced to adjust their relations with Israel. Israel could become a pariah state, as South Africa was in the 1970s and 1980s.

Annexation Untenable

Second, Arab and Muslim reaction would be especially harsh and perhaps even threatening. Over the last several years, Israel and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt have all found common cause with Israel on such issues as regional terrorism, Egypt, Syria and Iran. That would end. The Arab street would erupt and governments would not be able to ignore the popular onslaught. Old animosities would surge; Arab governments might even join hands with Iran to oppose the move.

Terrorists in the region – bolstered by surging recruitment – would rally to a new and reinvigorated jihad. Israel would likely face graver security threats than it does today. Again, Israel’s trusted American backstop would be put to an unprecedented test.

But it’s the third reality that makes annexation untenable. The action would undermine Palestinians’ genuine aspirations for independence – recognized by every nation in the world. Simply put, Israel cannot thwart these aspirations. They are as real and heartfelt as those of Jews before the establishment of Israel in 1948. It is impossible to imagine that Palestinians will ever relinquish that hope.


 

Finally, could Israelis, for whom the principal of justice, next to its Jewish identity, lies at the heart of the state and its governance, live with an act that denies justice to so many human beings?


 

Do Israelis really want to “adopt” almost three million more citizens, none of whom are Jewish and almost all of whom have no desire to be Israelis and would likely actively seek to separate themselves – many perhaps violently – from Israel?

Annexation would not create a single state but rather a state divided with its essential Jewish identity diminished. Jewish Israelis, who currently number 6.2 million, would be pitted against Arab Israelis, who number about 1.7 million now, or 20.8% of Israel’s population. Under annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, they would top 4.5 million, or 41%. The Jewish population, which is critical to preserving Israel’s Jewish character, would fall from today’s 75% to just 56%. Including Gazans would make the Jewish and non-Jewish populations roughly equivalent.

In the debate leading up to his cabinet’s recent approval of a controversial nationality bill, Mr. Netanyahu argued that Israel’s existence is threatened. How much more would it be threatened with the presence of so many “new citizens” rebelling against it?

Finally, could Israelis, for whom the principal of justice, next to its Jewish identity, lies at the heart of the state and its governance, live with an act that denies justice to so many human beings?

The simplistic one-state solution, in spite of its appeal, must be discarded. Instead, Israelis and Palestinians must set themselves about the hard work of negotiating a durable peace within the two-state framework. Perhaps, it is harder to achieve. But it is the only solution to a conflict that has denied peace, security and justice to so many Palestinians and Israelis for more than 65 years.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Dan Josephson / Shutterstock

For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.

In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.

We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money. Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.

Leave a Reply