In recent months the press has been flooded with articles by left-wing writers,
including former Knesset Speaker Avrum Burg and author A.B. Yehoshua, who have
argued that long-=standing Israeli settlement policy in the Territories has
rendered a two-state solution irrelevant. The only remaining option, they
say, is a single state west of the Jordan River.
Since Israel’s continued
occupation of the West Bank without annexation is not a long-term option, and
since these writers reject the option of a non-democratic Jewish state in
“Greater Israel,” the only remaining options, in their opinion, are a
bi-national state or “a state of all its citizens.”
The idea of the
bi-national state is based on the principle that it is not exclusively the
national state of either of its two component nations, but that each group has
basic national rights that are not dependent on its relative numerical
The implementation of this concept can take various forms,
including parity (a 50:50 distribution of parliamentary seats, government
positions, seats on the Supreme Court, etc.) or separate institutions (for
example – two separate national parliaments, in addition to a single joint
There have been several bi-national (or multinational)
states of this sort. With the exception of Switzerland, however, all have failed
(e.g. Czechoslovakia) or are in dire straits (e.g. Belgium).
state-of-all-its-citizens solution, on the other hand, is based on the principle
that all citizens have absolute equal rights on the personal level, irrespective
of their national (or ethnic) affiliation or religion. As individuals each
citizen has a right to belong to whichever religion or ethnic group he chooses,
but as a collective each national group, and each religion is subject to the
general laws of the state, which may, of course, grant them certain exclusive
rights as well.
I don’t believe either of these two solutions is feasible
today, for the simple reason that an overwhelming majority of Israelis insist on
Israel remaining a national state, and among Palestinians who advocate these
solutions today, the majority regard them as interim tools towards achieving the
ultimate goal of an Arab state in the whole of Palestine.
But even if
there were agreement as to the desirability of these solutions, their successful
implementation requires a much deeper commitment to democracy, and willingness
to forgo old dreams, than exists today either in Israel or among the
Palestinians – whether in the Palestinian Authority or in Gaza.
conclude that these two solutions are nothing but intellectual pipe dreams, we
are left with the following options:
• Israeli annexation of the West Bank, and
the formal establishment of Apartheid;
• A two-state solution enabling Jewish
settlements to continue to remain inside the Palestinian state, just as Arab
towns and villages exist in the State of Israel today;
• A two-state solution
involving land swaps that would leave most Jewish settlers within the borders of
the State of Israel.
• A two-state solution involving the transfer of all
Jews out of the territory of the Palestinian state to Israel.
In all the
two-state options the Palestinian state could include the West Bank and Gaza
only, or could form part of a federation with Jordan, the majority of whose
population is Palestinian.
None of these options is simple, and some
might actually prove to be unfeasible. The international community (including a
Republicanled US) would be highly unlikely to sit back and twiddle its thumbs if
Israeli tried to implement an Apartheid arrangement, and could likely not stop
the Muslim world from reacting with force.
For the second option,
unfortunately, those Palestinians who seek a two-state solution are unwilling to
accept the symmetry between Arab towns and villages that have existed in what is
today Israel for hundreds of years, and Jewish settlements established (in their
eyes illegally) in territories occupied by Israel in 1967.
solution was the basis of negotiations with the Palestinians, by prime ministers
Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, and encountered difficulties, though not necessarily
The fourth solution is abhorrent not only to the
Jewish settlers, but to most Jewish Israelis, even though history has taught us
that such solutions, traumatic as they may be, can resolve impossible
situations. This is what happened in the case of over a million Frenchmen who
were obliged to move back from Algeria to France in 1962, following De Gaulle’s
decision to end the war there by simply quitting.
Whether we like it or
not, one of the four latter scenarios is what will actually occur eventually,
and it is from among them that we shall have to choose.The writer
teaches at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College. She is the author of
Bi-national Idea in Palestine in Mandatory Times.