Home Page

The ‘one-state solution’ is full of dangers

UAE National Editorial, 25.08.08

Every so often comes a remorseful Israeli leftist academic, a well-meaning Western peace activist, or a frustrated Palestinian official like Ahmed Qurie, the head of the Palestinian peace delegation, who pronounces the death of the two-state formula and advocates a one-state solution on the whole land of historic Palestine as a way to end the 60-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The appeal of this solution is indisputable. Imagine two people divided by decades of rancour and blood agreeing to share the same land, the same resources, the same future. Imagine reciprocal recognition of all suffering and dispossession. Imagine a new citizenship that would weave together all the complexities of Israeli and Palestinian identities. Imagine the power of this model for the Middle East and the world.
The problem with this dream? It is just that, a dream. Worse, pursuing this fantasy could deal a deadly blow to the national aspirations of the Palestinians and postpone indefinitely any peace agreement.
Those who advocate the one-state solution do so out of despair, demographics or delusion. Despair on the part of Palestinian negotiators and other peace-seekers who see the current talks going nowhere thanks to Israeli intransigence, and feel betrayed by the failure of the Oslo process. Demographics on the part of those who expect Palestinians to soon make up the majority of the population on the disputed land and thus overwhelm and then dissolve Israeli society. And delusion on the part of idealists who see potential for multiculturalism to succeed in a region where moderation is sadly on the wane and extremism on the rise.
Politically, Palestinians have much to lose from dropping the two-state outcome. Israel would use this shift to argue that Palestinians have maximalist ambitions irreconcilable with the international consensus around the two-state vision. Israel would then proceed to block any further concession to the Palestinians and in effect entrench even more its colonisation of the Palestinian territories. A one-state platform would also alienate a large segment of Israeli society that supports Palestinian statehood but insists on a separate future.
Renouncing the two-state objective would also strain relations with key outside players such as the United States and Europe on which the Palestinians depend so much in their struggle for a state.
Practically, designing a federal power sharing system, addressing mutual grievances on land and reparations, and gaining popular acceptance of any compromise in a single state framework will be a Herculean task, compared to which the current talks will look like a children’s tea party.
History shows that two people with a history of bloodshed can come together. But this must happen through free will and a genuine commitment on both sides. It must also be supported by a regional consensus.
Rejecting the two-state vision would be a mistake of historical proportions. The Palestinian people deserve the time and space to heal the wounds of dispossession, occupation, exile and infighting. A one-state solution would also deny them the opportunity to build a Palestinian identity based on other experiences and aspirations. Sometimes reality, as hard as it may be, is still preferable to fantasy.