Rethinking the Two-State Solution

by NEVE GORDON

In the 2012 elections, J Street, the relatively new pro-Israel lobby whose stated purpose is to promote a progressive peace agenda in the Middle East, says its PAC disbursed more than $1.8 million to candidates from 26 states, thus helping eight Senate and 63 House hopefuls win their races. Among the winners are the chairs and ranking members of five committees, including the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Armed Services Committee, as well as chairs and ranking members of more than 30 subcommittees.

Within a mere five years of its establishment, J Street has gone a long way toward fulfilling its initial goal of becoming an alternative voice to the powerful, hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which reportedly has 12 full-time lobbyists and spends nearly $3 million annually on its efforts. At its annual conference, which ends today, J Street expects about 3,000 attendees — AIPAC’s drew 13,000. Still, the fledgling organization has succeeded in making room for welcome dissent within mainstream political debates about Israel, and it has begun to redefine what it means to be “pro-Israel” on Capitol Hill.

But J Street also has a deep-seated problem that it will need to address if it wants to continue being politically relevant.

Basically, J Street presents the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in starkly binary terms: Either the rivals have to reach a two-state solution or disaster will ensue. Why disaster? Because entrenching the status quo, in which millions of Palestinians living in areas controlled by Israel are not citizens, would amount to an apartheid state, while any one-state solution would eventually lead to the demise of the Jewish majority. Both apartheid and the end of Israel as a Jewish state are, in J Street’s view, disastrous.

But J Street needs to start thinking outside this box. Many experts from across the political spectrum now say the two-state solution is no longer viable. Two decades after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo peace accords, more than 500,000 settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the settler lobby boasts a compliant Knesset coalition, and the Palestinians continue to be beset by deepening divisions. Notwithstanding the current negotiations initiated by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, if J Street does not want to find itself promoting an irrelevant political program, it will need to begin thinking about an alternative that guarantees both democracy and a certain strain of Zionism, but also advocates a single state in which Jews and Palestinians live together as equals.

Northern Ireland offers a real-life model of a just and equitable one-state solution because it accommodates ethno-national distinctions between citizens. In political science it’s called “consociationalism.”

Premised on collective and individual entitlements, a consociational government guarantees group representation, ensures power sharing in the executive branch and offers group vetoes. It could assure both the Israeli and the Palestinian communities that no important decision would be made without the broad consent of representatives of both groups. No less important is the notion of “parity of esteem,” one of the core concepts of the Northern Ireland peace process. It requires each side to respect the other side’s identity and ethos, including linguistic diversity, culture and religion.

In order to guarantee political equality to the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland, the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement assigned essentially equal status to two executive roles — the first and deputy first ministers. Each group has an equal number of legislative committee chairmanships, and membership balance on public bodies, including the judiciary and police forces. Israelis and Palestinians would have to create their own model, and at least initially, it might be good to add to this basic setup internal territorial partition of certain areas, but with porous borders.

Consociationalism offers a tenable framework for beginning to address the contradictions arising from Israel’s wish to concurrently sustain its Jewish character, control territory in which 4.5 million Palestinians live, and maintain a democratic system.

Granted, the odds appear to favor the long-standing, widely desired two-state solution. For J Street to switch to a one-state option would be like betting on a horse whose odds are 50 to 1, instead of the two-state horse’s 25 to 1. But the two-state horse is very old and there is little chance that it will ever win. The one-state is still a colt and just began its training.

The demographic reality calls upon J Street to choose between a strictly Jewish state and a democratic state. The question now is whether the new lobby will have the foresight and audacity to follow the footsteps of major Zionist intellectuals who supported a binational state — like the great philosopher Martin Buber and the founder and first president of Hebrew University, Judah Magnes — and take the road less traveled.

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel’s Occupation. He can be reached through his website.

Neve Gordon is the co-author (with Nicola Perugini) of the newly released The Human Right to Dominate

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future