Crossposted at MyDD
Since the Oslo accords, the majority of American statespersons have adhered to a belief in a Two State Solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that may not be, and may never have been achievable. Platforms of major Israeli political parties such as Labor and Kadima might indeed embrace the concept in name, but the current impasse may have less to do with disagreements regarding the final configuration of borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the questions of refugees and reparations than it does with a potentially irresolvable conflict over the institutional parameters of the future Palestinian state. Israel is highly unlikely to accept a Palestinian state that is fully sovereign with regard to its military, water rights, and border control. And setting aside competing narratives of how we arrived at this point, doing so would likely entail very real and enormous security risks to Israel’s population. On the other hand, Palestinians will not accept anything less than a full state with regard to these functions, and it’s awfully hard to argue that they should. Add to this the economic implications, and it becomes difficult to avoid seeing the outlines of the Two State Solution as deeply compromised, and a difference between what each side can and should accept as beyond compromise.
If the implementation of the oft endorsed “two states for two peoples living side by side in security and peace” instead results in the formalization of a system wherein one community dominates another with regard to military and economic resources, the conditions of the conflict will simply be enshrined in law. They will fester, and nothing will be solved. And even if, on the other hand, Israel were to agree to full statehood for Palestinians, it would be deeply unrealistic to expect those Palestinians ascribing to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad platforms to allow a period of stability to erode their support. Whatever hudna (ceasefire) they would agree to would only be acceptable as part of a staged struggle aimed at full liberation of Palestine and the creation of an Islamic Republic. Whether such a republic would tolerate or eradicate Jewish inhabitants, both of which have been advocated by leaders of those movements, is not something that most Jews are open to testing.
My point here is that even if one adopts a view that removal of the occupation and cessation of appropriation of Palestinian lands is necessary for peaceful coexistence, a point with which I agree with wholeheartedly, I also remain unconvinced that these necessary moves are sufficient to establish a sustainable ethical and productive relationship between these two communities. Furthermore, while I believe Jewish settlement of much of the land was accomplished through anti-ethical or insufficiently ethical means, I cannot accept the justice of instituting a Two State Solution wherein Jews are prevented from living as fully enfranchised citizens anywhere they establish themselves legally and with full respect for the rights and dignity of their non-Jewish neighbors. Currently, the Two State Solution is often articulated as two hypothetical political entities, one for Jews that tolerates and fully enfranchises minority communities, and one that either legally or practically excludes Jews. I have no sympathy for the Jewish settlers in Hebron, for instance, because of the framework through which they have imposed themselves there and given the way they hide behind the IDF while treating the Palestinians horribly. On the other hand, I ultimately cannot accept the exclusion of Jews from Hebron and embrace the necessity of a framework that enables them to reside there peacefully and respectfully.
So if the Two State Solution has become, and perhaps always has been something of a proverbial red herring, we must look at other options. In doing so we need to consider what might be accomplished in the short term, but also what promises sustainability. These are not always the same thing and often stand in conflict. Is there a way to achieve a secular democratic republic of a bi-national character? My inclination is that there may be some middle ground. Can we establish a confederated bi-national entity wherein the land is divided in such a way that Palestinians may live in Jewish administered areas as citizens of a Palestinian province and Jews may live in Palestinian administered areas as citizens of a Jewish province? There would need to be a federal entity that coordinated between these two provinces and a constitution that recognized the “historic rights” of both populations and guaranteed their full enfranchisement regardless of demographic minority or majority status. Even this seems more than a little utopian at this point.
I invite here input that takes into account abstract principles of distributive (as opposed to retributive) justice and ethical government, but also the historical, material, and political factors that continue to inform this conflict, and to envision a solution that might be realistically implemented and sustained. Let’s get out of the box. Neither Jews nor Palestinians are going to abandon their commitments. I endorse an immediate cease fire, international intervention to impose stability and provide humanitarian relief, and I believe that the question of war crimes should be investigated. My question here is: What do we want to happen next?