One-state solution requires shared state of mind
By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz | Friday, 02.20.2009, 09:04 PM

In the future, Israelis and Palestinians may find it natural to live together in a single, integrated and democratic state. However, planning for a one-state solution unilaterally is bound to be risky, if not deadly.

But as hope for reaching a two-state solution erodes, the one-state solution emerges as an attractive alternative. The problem is that each side of the conflict has its own version of the one-state solution. While the Israeli version aims at canceling a viable Palestinian state, the Palestinian version aims at canceling Israel as a Jewish state.

Consider the covert Israeli version first. In an Israeli one-state solution, Arabs would be forced to leave Israel through war or increased socioeconomic pressure. The continuation of the Israeli occupation is bound to lead to the natural termination of the Palestinian state. Increased annexation of Palestinian territory would leave no room for the creation of a separate and viable Palestinian state.

But wiping out nations is not so simple. Palestinians are not leaving their land. For many Palestinians, the opposite of what Israel intends to take place is happening.

In a parallel version of the Israeli one-state solution, Palestinians would populate the area, which is currently under Israeli rule, to the point of demographically dominating the Jewish population, and subsequently achieve power transfer.

On the tenth of February Israelis may have advanced the popularity of a one-state solution by voting massively for Avigdor Leiberman, the head of Ysrael Beiteinu party. Beiteinu won 15 parliamentary seats, thus becoming the third most popular party. In addition to the secular Beiteinu, there are some extreme religious groups that support the one-state idea.

For Lieberman and his followers, Israel's survival requires the departure of disgruntled Arabs from the Holy Land. This far-right constituency feels threatened by the presence of over one million Arab (Palestinian) Israeli citizens and by four million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Israeli ultranationalists believe that Arab Israeli citizens who oppose Israel's policy should lose their citizenship and be pressured to leave the country. Moreover, such exclusivist groups believe Palestinians who resist the occupation "deserve" to be displaced to Jordan or to Egypt.

But Palestinians are resilient. They retaliate with a mirror-image ideology. The Palestinian version of the one-state solution is well represented by the rejectionist politics of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement. Hamas denies the right of Israel to exist and aims to establish a Palestinian state as a substitute for Israel.

Both sides are creating political facts that reinforce the process of exclusion of the other. But it is not fair to equate Israel's near annexation, or control, of the Palestinian territories with the impact of a resistance movement seeking the liberation of its homeland.

However, the rapid natural growth of the Palestinian population, their resilience in coping with the occupation and the growing popularity of Hamas offer a mirage to some Palestinians aiming at recapturing the entire land of "historic Palestine."

A more popular and explicit form of the Palestinian one-state idea, shared by a tiny minority of Israelis, is secular in nature. In this second form, a one-state scenario would be a product of uniting "Israel proper" and "Palestine" in a single, bi-national state, voluntarily, a la post-apartheid South African model.

Whereas, Hamas plans to reach the future Palestinian state through force, advocates of the secular version call for an egalitarian one-state solution through a negotiated peace process. This integrative solution demands forgiveness and reconciliation from both sides.

In fact, all groups who call for a one-state solution dress up their aspiration-scenarios with diplomatic and moral language. The Israeli one-state scenario defends the idea of exclusion of Arabs from Israel as a measure for protecting the Jewish character of Israel. Hamas defends the idea of creating a Palestinian state in which Muslims, Christians and Jews would live as equal citizens in an "Islamic" state. The Palestinian secular one-state offers a reconciliatory, albeit theoretical, solution through political integration of the two peoples in one country.

Regardless of the rationale for the one-state solution, its key for success is missing: agreement on the solution, and on steps to reach it, by both sides of the conflict. Has the point been made against the feasibility of the one-state solution?

The two-state solution is not yet dead. Palestinians and Israelis have a record of convergence on many aspects of the two-state solution. What is needed to make the two-state solution a reality is the elimination of the fear factor of the other. Currently the confidence in any solution is low. The international community should intervene to push the two-state solution before land annexation becomes irreversible. Continued conflict allows the forced, one-sided, one-state solution to emerge as the settlement of choice.

The one-state solution must never become a dream for one side and a nightmare for the other. A one-state solution requires a shared state of mind.

By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz

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