Reconcile Yourself to the Two-State Solution

Jerome Slater: On the US and Israel: The Jewish State Controversy: Can Zionism Be Reconciled With Justice to the Palestinians?


Israel is here to stay and almost certainly it will continue as a predominantly Jewish state, whether or not it is formally acknowledged as such. Not only is that a fact of life, but it is a legitimate fact of life: in light of 2000 years of antisemitism it cannot be said that there is no longer a need for a Jewish state, principally but not solely to serve as a refuge for Jews who may find themselves in desperate straits into the future.

That said, for reasons of justice, international stability and, for that matter, Israeli security– whether or not the Israelis recognize it–there must be a fair settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Until fairly recently, there was an overwhelming international as well as moderate Palestinian and Israeli consensus that the basis for the settlement must be the creation of a viable and genuinely independent Palestinian state, living in peace side by side with Israel.

In the last few years, however, as a result of Israeli blindness, rigidity, and the continuing expansion of Jewish “settlements,” urban areas, and neighborhoods in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it has become common to say that the two-state settlement is now dead, and must therefore be abandoned for a one-state settlement, or the creation of a single binational Israeli-Palestinian state.

The problem with this concept is that its desirability is doubtful and its feasibility non-existent. Given the generally unpromising history of binationalism elsewhere in the world, a century of bitter Jewish-Palestinian conflict, and the huge disparities in military and economic power between the Jews and the Palestinians, it is far more likely that a binational state, rather than ending the conflict would be a recipe for inequality, instability, and a bitter struggle for dominance.

In any case, there is next to no chance that a binational state can be established in the foreseeable future. Even if most Palestinians came to accept it–and they are far from doing so today–it is just about unimaginable that the Israelis would. Put differently, all the Israeli attitudes that currently make a two-state settlement increasingly difficult to achieve make a one-state settlement impossible. And if one should counter that attitudes can change, then it would almost certainly be the case that the changes in Israeli attitudes that would make a two-state settlement feasible would occur long before the changes sufficient to support a one-state settlement.

In short, if it is true that the two-state settlement is dead, then the one-state solution is even deader. However, it is premature to declare the two-state settlement dead; even today, somewhere between 40-60% of Israelis say that in principle they support such a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To be sure, when asked about the specific concessions Israel would have to make in order to bring about a two-state settlement, all of them are opposed by Israeli majorities, so there is a long way to go before a two-state settlement can be made feasible.

The only course that offers any hope is for the international community in general and the U.S. in particular–especially the American Jewish community–to adopt serious and sustained political and economic pressures on Israel and to increase efforts to morally “delegitimize” not Israel’s “existence,” but its occupation and repression of the Palestinians.

We live in an imperfect world, full of injustices, tragic dilemmas, and circumstances we can’t control. There is no perfectly just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even in principle, let alone in practice. If those who rightly abhor Israeli policies give up on a two-state settlement, however dim its current prospects, in favor of a quixotic venture to create a fantasy–a stable democratic state in which Israelis and Palestinians live in peace, harmony, and equality–they will make it even more likely that the Palestinians will receive no justice at all, and will be condemned to live indefinitely under Israeli occupation and repression.


8 comments on “Reconcile Yourself to the Two-State Solution

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  1. I put up a quote and a link to Slater on one of Weiss’ posts.

    Three hours since it went up and no comment on it in reply.

  2. @ fuster:
    little birdie tells me that the Slater piece will be MWd pretty soon. Could even go up as a type this comment.

    Saw you arguing with your gf about the piece. Such a fisticufferous amphib you are…

  3. @ fuster:
    I was just guessing about what Slater intended… projecting a little bit since once upon a time I liked to debut pieces here before posting them to the wide world… I’m not sure how things work at MW for well-established friends of the blog, whether they have independent authoring privileges or whether everything goes through PW and Adam Horowitz first. Not sure how anything works over there exactly…

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