One-state or two-state solution

The parties should neither underestimate the binational state movement nor be surprised by the announcement of a Palestinian state.

July 21, 2010 22:06
4 minute read.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

fayyad 311. (photo credit: AP)


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“State of Israel is born” – The Palestine Post, May 16, 1948
“At 4 p.m., the State of Israel will be established” – Yediot Aharonot/Haaretz, May 16, 1948
“United Nations approves State of Palestine” – date approaching

It is conceivable within the course of realpolitik that despite obfuscation, political filibustering, dancing the diplomatic two-step (direct, indirect), wading through a plethora of plans, initiatives, thinktank reports, white papers and expert opinions (from Madrid to Oslo to Allon to Arab to Fayyad), it appears increasingly likely that all might boil down to a single resolution enacted by the UN Security Council.

When in August 2009, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad laid out his design for perfecting the infrastructure and institutions necessary to support statehood and slapped a two-year time frame on the plan, few realized the speed and intensity with which it would resonate throughout the world, picking up support from a wide range of interests.

Domestically, the Palestinian street became energized with perhaps its first tangible, reachable goals that diverted the populace from the mounting cynicism and skepticism with which it viewed virtually all promises made by its leadership until then. Supplemented by highly visible events showcasing growing private sector entrepreneurialism, the mood on the street improved markedly from where frustration was the dominant emotion slightly more than a year ago.

The international community has bit big time. For reasons ranging from the dynamics of domestic politics to a sense – right or wrong – of supporting the underdog, Fayyad’s start of the “countdown clock to statehood” is allowing Western leaders to vouchsafe support for the Palestinian cause with greater zeal and less personal/political risk.

In Israel, leading security officials acknowledge the success of American and European efforts to train a competent security apparatus and the success of the PA security forces in maintaining the peace wherever they have been given the opportunity to do so.

In response, 60 Israeli tour guides are now being permitted to enter PA areas and it appears that other Israeli citizens will soon be allowed to traverse the checkpoints at will.

SINCE ALL of these developments clearly buttress the mantra of the “two-state solution,” it belies the growing conventional wisdom that it’s primarily the fringe of each camp that prefers the less-fashionable “one-state” option.

On the Israeli right – but hardly “fringe” – former defense minister Moshe Arens recently wrote in Haaretz that Israel “is already a binational Jewish- Palestinian state,” a position echoed by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. Those who adhere to this thought are diametrically opposed to those who argue that the “one-state solution” spells death by demography for the democratic Jewish state.

Opponents offer a vision of a dramatic handing over to Israel’s Arab population the keys to the kingdom on the morning that census figures show an Arab majority of one. They even point to support for the one-state approach Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi took in a recent New York Times op-ed as proof positive that it must be “bad for the Jews.”

Supporters of the one-state option respond to the demographic argument in part by pointing to minority rule in Jordan and Syria. Some even cite a 1946 piece by Albert Einstein considered supportive of a single binational character for fledgling “Palestine” – the term predominantly referring to the region’s Jewish population at the time.

The Palestinian side, too, offers mixed views on the question of one- or two-state option. Adopting the demographic argument, some Palestinian leaders have employed the one-state idea as a threat to push the Israelis toward final concessions. It’s an argument many Israelis accept: lose some now or all later.

Munib al-Masri, the Palestinian billionaire whose esteemed position has landed him in the unenviable role as mediator between Fatah and Hamas, recently told The Media Line that “Palestinians can go either way, but the two-state solution is better for Israel.”

The sole factor both sides agree upon is that the status quo is not sustainable, an opinion shared – albeit reluctantly by some – with US President Barack Obama.

Throughout years of interviews with Israelis and Palestinians, it has become noticeable that fewer and fewer still offer references to Jericho cafes filled with Jewish Israelis on Saturday nights or recall what Jewish Israelis not clad in army green and manning checkpoints look like, visions lost to both Israeli and Palestinian youth.

In that vein, the Fayyad plan and the apparition of a UN resolution establishing the state of Palestine loom large in catalyzing Israelis to take a position before one is imposed upon them. Conventional wisdom sees Israeli leadership as being more malleable in the aftermath of the Goldstone and Gaza flotilla image debacles and most believe that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Obama share a clear understanding of what the final agreement is going to look like.

Many also see the American interlocutor as losing patience with Palestinian obfuscation in the form of seemingly endless preconditions: the latest being Israel’s formal acceptance of the ’67 borders and an international force to enforce them.

Those who preach stagnation have it wrong.

Although timing and details are not yet clear, the parties should neither underestimate the movement at hand nor be surprised when the announcement from the UN fills the headlines.

The writer is president and CEO of The Media Line Ltd, an American news agency specializing in coverage of the Middle East, and founder of the Mideast Press Club.

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