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The Israeli Far-Right’s One-State Solution

I was reading this article which recounted a statement by an Israeli government minister, who declared his support for the one-state solution.  No, he wasn’t a member of Hadash or even Meretz, he was a member of Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi, as ultra-nationalist as they come.  But what really struck me was this language:

Kalfa, who is a member of the Israeli Knesset, told The Times of Israel newspaper that Palestinians should be treated equally and given the rights of complete citizenship in Israel as part of the one state solution. He also called for giving them the right to invest in infrastructure.

Renowned for his strong opposition of the two-state solution, he called for establishing one state on the whole area of ‘Israeli land” where all people, Arabs and Jews, become full citizens with equal rights.

This way, the extremist MK claims, Israel would distance itself from the accusations of marginalising Arabs and that it racially discrimination against them.

There is a reason why neither I, nor many other observers of the Israeli-Arab conflict, took these proposals by the far-right seriously.  They appear to contradict every principle they should hold sacred.  Most importantly, a Jewish majority in Israel.  There is no doubt that if Israel absorbs the Palestinians from the Territories, they will become, if not immediately, then eventually a majority.  Then the idea of Jewish sovereignty dies.  The Jews will become just another ethnic group within a panoply of Israeli ethnic groups.

Indeed, if you read the entire Yisrael HaYom article, you’ll find plenty to make you wonder whether Kalfa’s ideas are sincere or even well thought-out:

“It is obvious that we cannot go the way of a two-state solution,” Kalfa told Israel Hayom. “I am in favor of one country for everyone. Palestinians? There has never been and there currently is no [Palestinian] nation.”

Kalfa, who was once a resident of Atzmona community in the since evacuated Gush Katif settlements, also provided an answer for his detractors who claim that Israel will no longer be a Jewish state if his suggestion is followed. “One way or another, the Jews will remain the majority in the state,” he said.

First, it appears clear that these far-right proposals intend to leave Gaza out in the cold.  I haven’t heard of any far right advocate of this idea suggesting Gazans should be part of it.  And if they’re not, it’s a non-starter.  If the Gazans are included, then the new Palestinians citizens (4-million), together with the existing Israeli Palestinian citizens living within the Green Line (1.5-million), would be a sizable minority.  If not now, then certainly within a short period of time, they’d become the majority.

That’s why I always believed this idea was some sort of feint or trick.  Surely, they’re not suggesting full citizenship and equal rights?  And some of the far-right proponents are suggesting a set of stages whereby the Palestinians would gain citizenship.  That plan surely won’t fly.

But if there are no tricks involved, if the far right is willing to embrace all the Palestinians living in the Territories, then who are we to stand in their way?  Let’s ditch the two state solution advocated now only by John Kerry and an increasingly embattled set of liberal Zionists and turn to a solution that, while complicated, makes far more sense.

Back in 2010, Moshe Arens (no left-wing radical, he) was one of the first to advocate one state.  Though I detected an unwillingness to include the Gazans in his plan, it seemed straight-forward enough.  He offered the Palestinians full citizenship and voting rights.

But I wonder if he doesn’t still believe he has a trick up his sleeve.  As an Israeli-American friend with whom I’ve been discussing this warned:

Divide and conquer is a principle thousands of years old, and Israelis have practiced it with great determination.

Perhaps Arens and the far-right believe that the Israeli Jews, who’ve exercised democratic rights for decades, will be a much more coherent political force; while their newly-enfranchised Palestinian counterparts will be a splintered lot.  This is, after all, entirely possible.  The Palestinian majority may, for a time, maintain a variety of parties and political stances that prevent them from uniting to exert political control.  If that were the case, Jewish parties might have more coherence and homogeneity.

But I’d guess that after a time, the various ethnic forces would coalesce into a more stable set of political agendas.  Then Palestinians would take control.  And then, I can’t see how the ultra-nationalists would be happy.  But if they want to make such a proposal now, who are we to stand in their way?

In science, they say that the simplest solution is always the best.  You may find another solution that is more complicated that works–but always stick with the simplest.  Given Israel’s long history of rejection and intransigence in adopting the provisions of a two state solution, it appears the Israeli ultra-nationalists are onto something.  And we should take note.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • ToivoS February 11, 2014, 3:59 PM

    Dear Richard as much as I like reading your take on ME politics let me correct you on this one.

    “In science, they say that the simplest solution is always the best. ” Nope not right . You are making a garbled reference to what is often called the parsimony principle or Occams razor. It should read ” the simplest explanation is the the one with with the least number of assumptions”. Not solution, but assumptions. Science always has to live with the reality, especially in biology, the best solution is rarely the simplest one. Using your definition we could conclude that the simplest explanation for everything is that god did it. There is another, supported by science, that in the beginning (of visible time) there was a big bang that can be approximated by the laws of quantum physics. Here is one solution that one is not simple.

    • Richard Silverstein February 11, 2014, 8:20 PM

      Thanks for the correction. Though you are undoubtedly right about all you said, I think there is a genuinely rational expectation (let’s not call it Occam’s Razor) that when offered a choice between a complicated solution and a simpler one (each of which might conceivably solve the problem), the simpler one would be best. Of course, we can argue in this case about whether one state or two is simpler or more complicated. One can make arguments on both sides. But as time goes on, two states becomes more and more complicated and one state becomes less & less so.

      • ToivoS February 11, 2014, 11:31 PM

        I agree with you that, but just don’t call it science. It is in the realm of politics and as far as I can tell that has not yet become a science in spite of the fact that many universities do have departments call political “science”.

        • free man February 12, 2014, 1:46 AM

          The right name for it is Alexander’s Sword and not Occam’s Razor.
          It comes from Greek legends and not science.

          • Elisabeth February 12, 2014, 12:19 PM

            Free man, the Gordian Knot (your Alexander’s Sword must be another name for that) and Occam’s razor are two completely different approaches to the solution of a problem.

          • Richard Silverstein February 12, 2014, 3:33 PM

            It may be hard for Israelis to distinguish between swords, razors, F-16s & WMD. They’ve amassed such an arsenal!

          • free man February 13, 2014, 4:07 AM

            Apparently it is harder for you than the Israelis here.
            Occam’s Razor – means finding the simplest explanation to a phenomena.
            Alexander’s sword – means finding (an unorthodox) solution to a problem many thinks is unsolvable.
            Two distinct things.

    • No, not quite right February 12, 2014, 7:02 PM

      “It should read ” the simplest explanation is the the one with with the least number of assumptions”. ”

      That is untrue, and a tautology to boot.

      Occam’s Razor says this: If you have two theories – one simple, one complicated – that equally explain the evidence then put your money on the simpler theory, and you leave your money there until such time as the more complicated theory begins to provide a MORE complete explanation of the evidence.

      It’s not a rule of thumb for defining the “number of assumptions” in a theory, which is what ToivoS is claiming.

      It is a rule of thumb for deciding which of two competing theories will hold sway until More Evidence Upsets The Apple Cart.

      • Richard Silverstein February 12, 2014, 11:59 PM

        @ No, not quite right: That’s actually much closer to what I originally meant to say in the post. Thanks for clarifying that while I may not have had the nuance completely right, I was on the right track.

      • ToivoS February 13, 2014, 12:49 PM

        The parsimony principle can be formulated in a formal algorithm. How does one distinguish between a simple and complicated theory?: The one with the fewest number of ad hoc assumptions is preferred until such time as previous assumptions become established scientific fact. My brief one sentence definitionis correct.

        That is not a tautology.

  • Arie Brand February 11, 2014, 5:53 PM

    In this Australian documentary, broadcast last Monday, one ultra-nationalist lady appears who claims that she planned with Sharon a pattern of settlements that would make a two state solution impossible. But it doesn’t look as if she can conceive of ANY future for the Palestinians in a Greater Israel.


    It does look as if the Israeli army is definitely out to harass Palestinians, in this case Palestinian children in Hebron, to such an extent that they lose any desire to live together with Israelis in the future. What about harassing school going children with a tear gas attack, as is shown in this Four Corners program? No wonder that a little boy of about fiver who had been arrested by the military when asked after his ordeal where he wanted to live said: Amman.

    • Deïr Yassin February 13, 2014, 3:47 PM

      Thank you for the documentary that I recommend particularly to the Israelis. It was good to hear news about Wadia Maswadeh the five-years old kid arrested in Hebron though he seems to be traumatized, but I guess that was the goal.

  • jg February 11, 2014, 9:00 PM

    I cannot find any petitions to end US aid to Israel (just one at moveon.org, with few signatures). Why?

  • Reginald Vernon February 12, 2014, 2:37 AM

    As an exile, who will, this year, be making his first visit to Israel since 1955, it ill behoves me to give advice to Israelis who have fought major wars to preserve the life they seek to live. However, my mind goes back to to the politically naive English schoolboy who, when visiting an uncle who lived in a house formerly owned by Arabs, in a formerly Arab village that looked over orange orchards towards the Ramat Aviv hotel, the Yarkon river and the then brand new railway station, wondered what uncle Reuben would do when the former owner returned to reclaim his family home and land.
    I endorse the one-state solution. I don’t suppose that reunification will be easy. For the Arabs it will require a wholesale change of mindset but it is the equitable solution. It will require considerable courage to do, but I am heartened by the growing support for this solution.
    Did I mention that I was politically naive?
    Reunification will mean that there should be no continuing reason for Palestinian aggression, and every reason for normal diplomatic relations with contiguous Arab states, Iran and no justification for wider accusations of so-called apartheid, Bantustans etc justifying BDS.

  • Igor February 12, 2014, 6:48 AM

    I think the key to understanding his position is the following phrase: “One way or another, the Jews will remain the majority in the state”.
    And it’s “one way or another” part that scares me the most.

  • ben February 12, 2014, 1:40 PM

    I always liked Daniel J. Elazar idea about confederation. Here is the just of it from an article he posted in 1991.
    Israel-Palestine Confederation The constituent entities remain the primary political units and the general authority has only limited federal delegated powers. Many postmodern confederations are linked through specialized functional authorities rather than a single general authority to assure that where full or substantial powers are transferred in specific areas the transfer does not offer the possibility of extending the powers of the confederal body. An Israel-Palestinian confederation could include two states with permanent boundaries within one general authority or encompassing several joint functional authorities addressing issues common to both states dealing with economic relations and land and water resources. Even foreign affairs or defense could be handled in that way. a) Each state would design and operate its own political institutions.
    b) The establishment of a Palestinian-Arab state would be irrevocable no matter what happens to the confederation.
    c) The confederation could resolve symbolic demands and demographic problems since each state would have appropriate forms of symbolic expression — flag, coinage, stamps, etc.
    d) Jerusalem could be the seat of both capitals and of confederative institutions, possibly as as separate federal district.
    e) A confederation provides greater autonomy for its constituent units. There would have to be clear limits to the authority assigned to the confederal institutions.
    In a confederation it is relatively easy for each constituent state to secede unless there are provisions to prevent that.

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