This could be a watershed moment in the Israel-Palestine conflict. That moment when one side comes to the end of the road and realizes the assumptions it made were wrong and that a new path must be charted. Until now, the Israeli, U.S. and Palestinian policy elites have chanted the two-state mantra. They did so long after there was any real hope that this option could be realized. Now it’s time to move on.
Perhaps the only bright side to Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem is that it lays totally bare the contradictions of the past. In only one way Trump is absolutely right in what he said: past presidents only promised to recognize Jerusalem, but he did it. By this, I mean that Trump has laid bare the hypocrisy of U.S. policy: you simply cannot promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem, recognize it as Israel’s capital and still claim you support two states and reject settlements. That’s a set of burden so heavy it would break any camel’s back. And that’s what past presidents going back to Lyndon Johnson did.
So now we have the full ugliness of U.S. policy exposed for the world to see. It can hardly be any clearer now to the world that Israel and the U.S. stand against the rest of the world in this matter, as they do in so many others (like Trump’s rejection of the climate accord) as well. Now, the question is: what will they do about it? Will they sit back and stare in disbelief at the mess Trump has made, paralyzed into a stupor? Or will they organize a united resistance and present a coherent alternate agenda?
The nations of the world like to complain about U.S. hegemony and indifference to the interests of those outside our shores. But, now is the time to do something about it. To present a coherent policy alternative. Among the concrete actions that may be taken:
- The Security Council must recognize Palestine as a full member of the UN. If the U.S. vetoes the resolution, it should be brought before the General Assembly for approval, bypassing U.S. opposition
- Every nation that hasn’t recognized Palestine must do so. All nations recognizing Palestine must demand the right to open consulates and embassy in Palestine’s capital, East Jerusalem. Israel must be forced to intervene to prohibit such developments and should be penalized as a UN member for doing so.
- Sanctions: any country opposing U.S. policy must refuse to recognize either the U.S. or Israel as useful parties on this issue. They must refuse to schedule meetings with U.S. and Israeli diplomats, including prime ministers. Bibi Netanyahu, Rex Tillerson and Donald Trump must become personae non grata. Yes, I’m talking about you, Emmanuel Macron. Don’t give Bibi a platform.
- BDS: the momentum for this non-violent resistance movement must be strengthened. U.S. laws against BDS must be vigorously fought in the courts and legislatures. We must pressure members of Congress to break from the Israel Lobby and uphold democratic, free speech values on this issue.
- Arab and Muslim oil producers must consider instituting a trade embargo or slowdown of production to the U.S. and Israel. Though this is a complicated process and may not prove feasible, it should be discussed. It worked in 1973. Though the world is much different today, there may be similar financial, commercial pressure that can be exerted.
One State, Finally
We have lingered far too long under the two-state delusion. I realize that many of my readers haven’t had such illusions. But the U.S. and PLO leadership, along with liberal Zionists and even Israeli-Palestinian political parties like Hadash have ploughed this ground over and over until it turned barren. I too until the past decade or more believed in two states.
Saeb Erekat has told international journalists that the Palestinian movement has given up on two-states. I’d like to believe that’s so. But I’ve heard too many promises broken by these guys to trust what he’s said. The PLO is now meeting in emergency session. We’ll see what results. If it does present a clear, coherent program turning away from two-states, all to the good. If it continues with empty threats and whining (without concrete action), then it will mean nothing.
One of the major reasons the PLO hangs on to two-states is that they have a sweet little deal going that permits them to strip Palestine bare and line their pockets with lucre. If they adopted a one state solution it would mean that as politicians their role would be unclear. The development of different political parties and alignments would take some time. In the meantime, the gravy train would be stalled. Corrupt politicians prefer the devil they know than the one they don’t.
Any journalist, politician, or policy analyst who pretends that two states is viable (you hear that Bernie Sanders?) is not just fooling himself, he’s standing in the path of progress toward a real, viable solution. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. In this case, the turnip is the Israeli leadership. Not just the current far-right government, but all governments going back to 1967, or even 1948. There is no Israeli government that will do what’s necessary to achieve two-states. There never has been. Therefore, we must stop this nonsense.
When we hear journalists like Mark Landler of the NY Times say that one state won’t work because Israelis won’t accept it, we must respond: why must we beg Israelis to accept one state? Why should they stand in the way of one state if they refuse any other reasonable option? Did Slobodan Milosevic stand in the way of Kosovo independence? Did he force the world to accept Serbian war crimes against Bosnia? Did the world need Franco’s or the fascists’ permission before Spain became a democracy? Did anyone need Gorbachev or the Soviet Communist Party’s permission before the Soviet Union fell? Did Honecker approve the scaling of the Berlin Wall?
No, the world came to understand that all these historical figures represented the past and that the future belonged to others. That was how they were swept away by events and the power of mass movements to bring radical change. In some of these cases, international bodies like NATO used force to implement the change. In some cases, sheer people power did the trick.
Clearly, in Israel’s case neither the fascist right nor its supporters will agree to such a national transformation. It will require a unified international opposition that exerts massive pressure on Israel. That will include economic sanctions and more. Neither that unity nor pressure exists today. But it must someday, and our jobs as activists are to move the world toward that day. And it will come. You can be sure that Israel through its intransigence, its hubris, its blind violence, will make it come.
When I saw the tree graphic above it made me think of the slogan on the U.S. dollar bill: e pluribus unum (“from many, one”). There is no reason in the long run two, in this case, can’t become one. There are, of course, a thousand reasons Israelis can come up with against it. But in terms of democracy, equality, economics and common interest, Israelis and Palestinians have much more to gain from union than to lose. If the arc of the moral universe…bends toward justice, as Martin Luther King so famously said, it does so in the case of Israel-Palestine as well.
There was never any possibility that partition of the land would solve the conflict. Arabs and Jews are not fated to hate each other so much that they need to be kept apart to prevent them from fighting. The heart of the conflict is that the Israeli-Jewish people and the Palestinian-Arab people both claim sovereignty over the same land, all of Mandatory Palestine. They have to find a way to share the land in peaceful co-existence, within a single sovereign state.
The present situation is that both the States of Israel and Palestine exist as legal entities. Neither is going to allow itself to be absorbed by the other. A one-state solution can only come about by a union of the two existing states.To be acceptable to both peoples it must be a union in which each preserves its national life and identity. See “The One-State-Two-Nations Proposal” for ideas on how that might work in practice.
Richard, I apologize for making almost identical comments today and yesterday, I hope you will not regard that as trolling. I would appreciate it very much if you (and your readers) could read the proposal and let me have your comments.
Why would you make these suggestions when you know they’re not going to happen? No state in the world, Arab or otherwise, cares enough about the Palestinians to pressure Israel in any real way, let alone to sanction or impose an oil embargo on the US or anyone else. Why do so when they can ally with Israel instead and reap the benefits? Maybe the fact that Arab governments are lining up to normalize their relations with Israel would have given you a hint?
This isn’t to mention the fact that as much as I support the Palestinian cause and see it as completely just, the Palestinians do make it hard for people to sympathize or support them in any real way. What with all their insistence on using futile violence, antisemitic rhetoric, and the fact that they’re deeply conservative religious Muslims which, Let’s face it, isn’t very popular outside of the Muslim world right now, unlike the Israeli model of liberal secular society. Even today the Palestinians can’t organize a single peaceful protest instead of having young men and boys rioting and throwing rocks.
I believe the Palestinians are the victims in this conflict and they have legitimate grievances, but if they can’t do anything right we can’t really help them. It’s a last cause, mate, just give it up and move on. Israel already won.
Richard Silverstein says
@ We: Ah, yet another example of the Hasbara maven. He speaks cycnically of the Arab world claiming it sees clearly that Israel is biggest and best and is falling into line, while it’s only the pesky Palestinians and their diehard supporters around the world who stand in the way of a reasonable solution (with Israel getting all it wants, natch.
I’ve faced down hasbaroids like you often in the past, often advancing precisely the same stupid arguments. This gets to be so dreary after a while…
That’s just what Honecker said before the Wall came down. What Gorbachev said before the Soviet Union fell. What Milosevic said before NATO started bombing him. You forget that Erdogan has threatened to sever diplomatic relations. We’ll have to see what happens. Unlike you, I’m not ready to write off the moral conscience of the entire world.
Yes, benefits like murdering Palestinians in their thousands and launching an attack on Iran that could embroil the region in blood for years to come. THose are some mighty attractive benefits. You are like the predator who offers a child candy. That candy looks mighty attractive, until it doesn’t.
Let’s see who all those “Arab governments” are: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf States. But Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Malaysia, Pakistan? Not so much. So much for the entire Arab world beating a path to Bibi’s door. And those who are doing so are doing it for one reason: they hate IRan more than they fear Israel. And the only reason they hate IRan is because their patron Saudi Arabia told them to.
Now, this is the truly cynical manueveur. When the hasbaroid pretends to shed crocodile tears for Palestine, declaring his undying support for the cause…except for the zinger he adds at the end. I suppor them with my whole heart…except for their nasty tribal habits like anti-Semitism, violence and well, simiply existing. If they ceased to exist then I could get behind them 110%.
You are a cynical wonder, I must say.
Ah, I see. That’s why women are wearing chadors and burqas in the streets of Ramallah…oh wait, they aren’t. That’s why so many Palestinians became shahids and went to fight for ISIS and al Qaeda. Oh wait, they didn’t. That’s why the West Bank is a hotbed of religious fundamentalism. Oh wait, it isn’t. You are so full of shit, it ain’t funny.
Yup, that liberal secular society in which half the men and women don’t serve because they have religious exemptions. In which birth, death, marriage and divorce are controlled by a bunch of grey beard rabbis. In which gays can’t marry and never will because of same. In which women are raped and abused at an unconscionable rate. In which, a bunch of old greybeards determine that Jewish religious expression that deviates from their own sectarian brand is excluded from the holiest Jewish site in the country. In which, fanataical religious settlers control all the levers of political power. You mean that liberal secular society?
No, I believe WE are victims. We are your victims. Except that I refuse to be your propaganda victim. I’ve got your number, bub. Publish another comment like this & you’ll be outa here. Take your Islamophobic cynicism and shove it where the sun don’t shine.
[comment deleted: READ THE COMMENT RULES & respect them. Comments which are Islamophobic will not only not be published, but may cause you to lose your commenting privileges altogether.]
Erdogan needs to stop killing Kurds, and support their independence, before telling Israel what to do.
Richard Silverstein says
@Zionauts: Erdogan doesn’t need your advice about what policies he should follow. And his views on Palestine are irrelevant to his views on Kurdish rights. Of course Erdogan is wrong on Kurds just as you are wrong about Arabs and Muslims. The issue is correcting both errors, not ratifying both as proper policy because one has views to which you object (conveniently I might add, since I doubt you give a crap about Kurds).
Heidi Wilson says
Advocates for Palestinian rights need to hit the Zionist apologists with the same question, publicly, over and over: if Israel gave the Palestinians under its control the same civil (and human) rights as Jews, as they promised, how would Israel be a “Jewish state”? If they do not do so, how can Israel claim to be a western democracy, entitled to consideration as such? Demand that they DEFINE “Jewish state” in a way that permits democracy. We have to show the mindless public that this whole idea is illegitimate.
Walter Ballin says
Richard, I absolutely agree with you!
Walter Ballin says
This is to add to a short comment that I already made. Regarding “Not just the current far-right government, but all governments going back to 1967, or even 1948. There is no Israeli government that will do what’s necessary to achieve two-states. There never has been,” actually Yitzhak Rabin when he was Prime Minister was working for two-states and very much wanted to settle this conflict. Unfortunately the Israeli Shin Bet which is more or less like our Secret Service, let Rabin’s assassin into the square in Tel Aviv where he just completed giving a very eloquent speech for peace, to kill him. About Bernie Sanders, he was the first major presidential candidate to rightly state that his policy as president would be an even-handed one. Recently he was one of only 8 senators who voted against the Pentagon budget that gives even more aid to Israel and Saudi Arabia. If he is elected President in 2020 which I hope he will be, perhaps confronted with the facts he will recognize the need for a one-state solution. Other than this, I fully agree with you Richard. The need is here for one state with full civil rights for everyone in the land, both Jews and Palestinians.
Is the one state more viable? Can you bring any example of Arab country where people of different religions or movements within the same religion bridged their differences.
Syria, Egypt, Morocco? Even in Europe it doesn’t really work. Spain, Belgium.
Walter Ballin says
Actually before the Zionists came to Palestine, throughout the centuries Jews who were there and the other Palestinians got along very well there. Another thing is that a Jew sits in Iran’s Parliament. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/irans-jews-on-life-inside-israels-enemy-state-we-feel-secure-and-happy-a6934931.html
And Israel has Muslim, Christian and Druze Knesset members. So what?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Ginger: Being a Knesset member has little value. It’s what status you have within the Knesset that matters. Can Palestinian MKs become ministers? Rarely. Can their parties participate in governing coalitions? No. Do they have any real power to shape policy in Knesset? No. Are they subject to routine harrassment, including police investigations? Yes. Look harder and deeper. You’re only seeing skin deep, if that.
Folks, this one is a junior hasbarist. Hasn’t yet earned her wings. Definitely of inferior quality…
Colin Wright says
‘Is the one state more viable? Can you bring any example of Arab country where people of different religions or movements within the same religion bridged their differences.
Syria, Egypt, Morocco? Even in Europe it doesn’t really work. Spain, Belgium.’
This is an argument against Zionism — not for its perpetuation.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Ginger: And you’re arguing that ethnic, racial homogeneity and purity does work? Hmm, where have we seen examples of that which worked? Oh right, we haven’t. We do have the example of Nazi Germany. Nope, didn’t turn out so well. We have African countries which throw out ethnic minorities by the hundreds of thousands because they’re not members of the racial majority tribe. Nope, that doesn’t work. We have the Burmese in Burma ethnically cleansing the Rohingya by the hundreds of thousands. Nope, doesn’t work too well either.
As for countries existing with ethnic & racial minorities: there are numerous examples including the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, etc.
No one said minorities couldn’t exist within a country. No one spoke about purity. So don’t put words in my mouth. You block commenters who do it to you.
When there are several large groups that compete for leadership, it often fails and in the process of failing, phenomenas such as alt-right occurs. So, the US is an example of this shift.
One State was tried under the British Mandate, and failed. One State Palestine saw savage pogroms in the 1920’s, a violently suppressed Arab Revolt in the 1930’s, and finally, a vicious civil war that became an international conflict in the 1940’s.
You are seeking to artificially graft two very different peoples together. Different religions, language and cultural.
Also, consider that in one State, one vote, the Jews would start off holding all the cards. They would run all the institutions and they would be inclined to hold onto all their guns and money. Richard. Would you willingly hand over a large portion of your wealth power and privilege to your enemy? Honestly.
Please consider the wisdom of your own rabbis, who settled disputes thus:
Richard Silverstein says
Since when is a colony a state? The Mandate was a British colony in which neither Palestinians nor Jews had any sovereignty or political power. Your example is totally wrong.
Nope, hardly different at all. In fact, many historians believe that the current Palestinians have their roots in the ancient Jewish communities which remained in Palestine after destruction of the Temple. Besides, you already have “two very different peoples” (your term, not mine) living together inside Israel itself. If the Jewish elite gave them half a chance at equality it would enrich the country a hundred fold compared to their current treatment.
Israel is a country composed now of different languages, religions & cultures. It’s even inscribed (at least for now) in Israel’s Basic Law. I suggest that if you don’t like the current system you adopt Kahanism and expel the non-Jews from your midst and make Israel a racially pure nation-state. Maybe even hold a Nuremberg-style rally on Masada to proclaim your racial purity.
In an egalitarian state Jews would not “hold all the cards.” They would barely be the majority. They would likely need to forge political coalitions with non-Jewish political parties. Which is precisely the way democracies work.
As for using the Talmud to solve latter-day disputes, no thanks. I’d rather solve problems the way they do in democracies. Real democracies. Not as they did under theocracies.
“many historians believe that the current Palestinians have their roots in the ancient Jewish communities”
Can you please share links to good articles about the issue?
Richard Silverstein says
@Ginger: can you get off yr behind & do your own research. I’ve even written about it here. Try a keyword search here or in Google.
‘Real democracies’ brought Hitler, Hamas and Trump into power.
Two peoples. two States and one good strong fence. That’s the answer.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Zionauts: Nonsense. In Palestine’s case, bringing Hamas to power was a good thing. It helped discredit the kleptocratic octogenarians running the PA and shake them out of their torpor.
In the case of Hitler & Trump democracy had nothing to do with what they became while in office.
Nor do these examples having anything to do with how a unitary Israeli-Palesitnian state would function. Claiming that such a state would produce a Hitler is odious & Arabophobic. Again, watch yourself.
Permit me to interject here. Richard’s formula calling for one binational state is problematic for 2 reasons:
1. Neither of the sides wants it (unless by “one state” you mean a Palestinian state instead of a Jewish state)
2. Exhortations and persuasion don’t change people’s minds. I say this to hasbarah people too. Ultimately what affects people’s attitudes (or changes them) are new historical events/developments that people are exposed to. So you can forget about trying to convince people– this is NOT about reason or logic. Its about emotion and empathy with people you identify with (or don’t).
If you are familiar with Thomas Kuhn’s book “The nature and structure of scientific revolutions”– I think that is relevant here too. Either something big happens (catastrophic or not), or one generation dies off and another with different attitudes takes over.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Yehuda: Readers note how the hasbara brigade takes the actual words I wrote and substitutes words he wrote which he believes are more convenient to his own prejudices. I never mentioned a binational state. You did. Don’t put words in my mouth. Had I wanted to mention binational state, I would have.
The Palestinians hardly care whether they get one state or two. They want A state. One is just as good as two. In fact, if a pollster explained to them that if they had a political majority they would have a chance to rule the single state, they would willingly adopt this mode.
As for exhortations & persuasion, we’re way beyond that. Israeli Jews have had decades of it & it doesn’t work. The only thing that will work is draconian isolation, pariah status, full-on boycotts & sanctions. Till the Israeli economy howls in pain.
” I never mentioned a binational state. You did. Don’t put words in my mouth. Had I wanted to mention binational state, I would have.”
What pray tell does one state mean, Richard? Don’t be so evasive. You calling for the one state solution. So what does one state with 2 national/ethnic groups equal? A bi-national state. Regardless of who is a majority. (I assume you are not calling for a Palestinian State with evacuation of Jews, are you?)
” The only thing that will work is draconian isolation, pariah status, full-on boycotts & sanctions”
That is precisely my point. I know that’s your wet dream, but in order for that to happen (and I hope it does not), you’ll have to persuade a whole lot of people and countries to do radically change policy, who presently do not see it in their interests. And unless something dramatically changes in the landscape, they will not change their minds because of the shrying of radical progressives. Whose minds do you have to change? Moderate Arab countries, most countries of the West, India, China, Russia and African countries who are helped by cooperating with Israel. If anything, its going in the opposite direction, right? With the notable exception of the barking idiot from Turkey, they’re all moving closer to Israel, not farther.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Yehuda: If you don’t understand the difference between “one state” and a “binational state” it’s not my responsiblity to educate you. Go and learn as Hillel said. A bi-national state means there are two nations in a single state. That’s not what a single state is. It is a state in which every citizen is equal. It has nothing to do, at least directly, with recognizing nationhood. Of course, in a single state there would be provisions for recognizing and protecting the religious, ethnic rights of all groups. But offering political recognition to them would be different.
Boycotting Israel is NOT my wet dream. Not only is your analogy disgusting (my feelings about Israel have nothing to do with sex!), it is just plain wrong. I don’t like boycotts. Only when there is no tool left & all other reasonable ones have been exhausted is it advisable. Keep this sort of nonsene up & you’ll be outa here in no time.
BTW, I don’t have to change anyone’s mind about Israel. Israel does an excellent job of that itself.
“They’re all moving closer to Israel.” Really? All? You’ve got a small group of Sunni states who are cynically moving closer to Israel due to a single issue. Once that issue disappears or changes Israel will have nothing to show for its efforts. Not to mention the scores of Arab & Muslim countries who are not in the Sunni alliance with the Saudis. So stop inflating this thing. Stop exagerrating the numbers of overall impact. It’s an alliance which eventually will fall apart once natural interests return to their equilibrium point.
My apologies for the off color analogy, it is in common colloquial use here.
The difference between one state and a bi-national state is not coherent. You’re taking two groups that already have an existing and well established national/ethnic identity and putting them together to run a single country. Do you expect their national identities to just disappear? Do you believe in leprechauns? If you’re using Lebanon as a model (which is not very successful anyway) it would not be similar at all. Palestine/Israel would be a bi-national state.
“Stop exaggerating the numbers of overall impact”
Well, all I know that quiet diplomatic, scientific and economic cooperation has only been increasing at a global level. Even with Turkey, despite Erdogan’s rhetoric. As you know, many Muslim countries (such as Malaysia) have no formal ties with or recognition of Israel but have quite cooperation and significant trade.
Interpret that any way you want.
You’re still left with the problem I have posed to you–how will you convince all of these countries to change that?
I know that this is my third comment on this post so according to your rules it will be my last.
Richard Silverstein says
I could care less whether it’s in use anywhere. It’s not in use here.
Last I checked you weren’t a political theorist, nor a political scientist, nor an expert on one state, two, three or any state solution. So I could care less whether you think the distinction between one state and binational state is “coherent” or not.
It’s quite funny that hasbarists like you have been denying Palestinians a separate national identity for decades. But now that your rejectionism brings the possibility of one state that much closer you trot out that it’s the Palestinian national identity which will destroy the chances of one state being a success.
I note that you neglected to address the list of countries comprised of two or more ethnic or national groups which are doing anywhere from decently to quite well. What happened about those examples? Cat got your tongue?
Interesting that you claim Lebanon is “not very successful.” Actually, considering that Israel, the U.S., Syria, France and others have been assaulting it for nearly a century it’s doing pretty well, thank you. Without all those interventions I’m certain Lebanese religious groups could’ve found a peaceful way to govern their country. So thanks to your country for screwing up Lebanon as well for two decades! But you don’t get to complain about how badly Lebanon is functioning after your country shares a large measure of blame in Lebanon’s historic troubles.
Regardless of the above, Lebanon isn’t doing that much worse than Israel in a number of areas. And that’s a sign of some success.
Yes, and global warming has been increasing at a global level as well. So what. It only means that the Sunni states under the Saudi banner have determined Israel is a convenient ally in destroying Iran. An alliance which will be dropped as soon as Israel isn’t a convenient ally, which could be next month, next year, or in five years. But Israel and the Muslim world have little in common till Israel makes peace fully with it.
Funny you should mention Malaysia, where a government minister just said its military was ready to fight in Palestine on its behalf. I guess he must’ve missed your memo.
As you wrote, don’t comment in this thread again.
Your one-state, binational-state distinction is rather confusing, since a binational state is still a single state, and also because a binational state can be one in which all citizens have equal rights. What you mean, I suppose, is that in the Israel-Palestine context, those advocating for a one-state solution (see the one-state declaration of 2007) are advocating a state where the two national identities are not expressed either geographically, religiously or politically. I advocate a binational solution where Israel and Palestine continue to exist as largely autonomous nations with defined but open borders within a United State of Israel and Palestine. (See “The One-State-Two-Nations Proposal”.)
Richard Silverstein says
@ djfincham: No, it’s not confusing at all. In a binational state, two nations exist within the same boundaries, but they can have quite separate means of governing each other politically & otherwise. There could be two legislative bodies, two national executives, two police forces. A unitary state puts both peoples within the same governing structures.