Liberal Zionism and the Two-State Delusion Two-States is Greatest Impediment to Israel-Palestine Peace
For decades, the two-state solution has been the consensus advocated by liberal and left-Zionist groups, political parties; and foreign states (including the US and EU) seeking to mediate the Israel-Palestine conflict. US administrations (with the glaring exception of one) have routinely criticized Israeli settlement policy as endangering the chance for such a two-state agreement. Based on such a consensus one might think that the world could then proceed to implementing such a proposal. But the opposite has been the case.
The two-state solution has proven to be a chimera: an object that appears to exist, but never has and never will. One might argue that two-states is a viable plan if agreed to by the parties. But one party in particular has defied this consensus for a generation, while falsely maintaining (for a considerable portion of that time) that it agrees with it. That party, Israel, no longer even maintains such fig-leaf position. For the past decade or more, Israeli governments have at first implicitly, then explicitly rejected it. Leaving the rest of the world which endorses it looking like utter fools. But governments like the US and European Union have been only too happy to continue the charade, because without two states their approach would appear even more bankrupt, and make them look even more ridiculous.
So two-states has been a useful tool to pretend the world has a plan, when it doesn’t. To admit the truth, would force anyone serious about peace and justice issues to either throw up their hands in futility; or admit failure and devise a different approach.
That approach, a single state comprising both Israel and Palestine, is derided as unachievable because the Israeli side “would never accept it.” But this is a fallacy based on a hypothetical future result which no one has even bothered to attempt. The same argument was offered during the South African apartheid era. Advocating for majority Black rule seemed impossible given the intractable opposition of the ruling white majority.
But with enough political, moral and economic pressure, that same apartheid regime recognized the handwriting on the wall and conceded that its continuance was doomed. During an extended process of negotiation between the parties, a transition to majority rule was successfully implemented.
Now, South Africa is by no means a shining example of state-transformation. It is a state facing the same problems as many other African states (crime, corruption, entrenched power elites). But at least it is a democracy in which the people have an equal say in the political life of the nation.
One state is a similarly achievable outcome. But given Israeli opposition, it cannot happen until the very world political elites which have decided two-states is the only viable option, give up this illusion. In addition to embracing one state, they must do something they have hitherto refused: to put political, moral and economic muscle behind their position. Israeli refusal must be met with isolation in all the areas mentioned above: the Israeli economy must be boycotted; it must be denied financial opportunities and access to capital offered to other states; state sponsored institutions in such fields as the arts and academia must be isolated; and Israel must be ostracized from international bodies and denied access to opportunities to normalize itself before the world.
Obviously, this will take a force of will so far not in evidence. It will take resolve the world has lacked. It will take a global movement exerting incessant moral pressure for action. It will take continuing change in the foreign policy consensus among academic elites such as that seen here and here. Books such as Ian Lustick’s recently published, Paradigm Lost along with his NY Times op-ed, Two-State Illusion, also chip away at this poisonous consensus. But despite the slow transformation of opinion, the resistance has so far been unable to make radical change due in part to the powerful counter-force of the Israel Lobby throughout the west (especially in the UK and U.S.).
That being said, students of history must remember the powerful states which appeared impregnable, only to fall due to their inherent instability and internal contradictions (USSR and its East European client states, Nazi Germany, Yugoslavia, Rhodesia, apartheid South Africa, Argentina’s military junta, Somoza’s Nicaragua, Battista’s Cuba, etc.). We should remember as well the collapse of the post-WWII colonial era with Britain and France’s loss of colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Despite Israel’s apparent stability and economic vitality, it too could, and likely will suffer a similar fate.
Merkel’s Two-State Mirage
פתרון מדיני הוא אינטרס ישראלי. פתרון שתי המדינות הוא הדרך היחידה לקיומה של מדינת ישראל דמוקרטית. אין פתרון אחר https://t.co/SfrxHDkrWF
— שלום עכשיו (@PeaceNowIL) October 10, 2021
This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel chose as her last foreign trip a visit to Israel-Palestine. Germany has maintained a strong interest in serving a role in mediating the conflict. Perhaps this is a lingering result of German guilt at its role in extermination European Jewry. Perhaps Merkel wanted to cement her legacy of German political leadership in the world.
But Germany under her leadership has also served a damaging role as a major exporter of advanced weaponry to Israel, most notably six nuclear-armed Dolphin submarines capable to igniting a regional Holocaust. Not to mention the millions in bribes related to this transaction allegedly siphoned off by Bibi Netanyahu and his cronies. These vessels are now patrolling waters off Iran, a country which Israeli leaders have already threatened with nuclear annihilation.
In her meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, she stressed her support for two-states. A position summarily rejected by Bennett who labeled any potential Palestinian state a “terror state.” The irony was apparently lost on the Israeli leader that Israel is far more powerful terror state which routinely violates the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors to pursue its own regional interests including assassinations, invasions, drone killings, and even incineration of entire cities.
The tweet by Peace Now above offers this lie:
The two-state solution is the only path to a democratic State of Israel. There is no other solution.
Actually, two-states is a path to continue the current situation in which Israel is an apartheid state. Because Israeli Palestinian citizens would continue to suffer as second class citizens as they do now. It would perpetuate Israel as an ethnocracy, rather than democracy. Two states constitutes nibbling around the edges of a systemic problem and offering a fix, rather than a comprehensive solution. On the other hand, a single state with equal rights for all would guarantee both Israeli Jews and Palestinians, and Palestinians in the Territories, would exercise full equality and rights.
Bennett’s slap in the face should have been received by Germany and the world as an unpardonable violation of bilateral relations. It should have reacted with anger to Israel’s rejectionism. It should have threatened to reconsider future diplomatic relations. Of course, Merkel did nothing of the sort. Both sides carried on business as usual, as if the two-state matter was some arcane dispute both sides had to mention in order not to lose face, but which neither intended to pursue in any real way.
US: Mouthing Two-States
The US is an equal offender in this regard. Excepting Donald Trump, every president going back to George HW Bush has lip-synced the words of the two-state song, while refusing to actually sing them for a world audience.
Even progressive Democrats like Bernie Sanders and his putative leftist foreign policy advisor, Matt Duss, insist two-states is the only way forward. As a result, time and energy is lost on a hopeless pursuit of the impossible, when the left should be presenting a united, coherent vision of the future for Israel-Palestine.
In effect, this liberal Zionist fixation advances the interests of the Israeli apartheid state. As long as the global left is divided on its approach, the status quo remains the only game in town.
Another characteristic of the liberal Zionist approach is the focus on symptoms of the apartheid disease, rather than root causes. So when Israel attacks Gaza as it did in May, killing 250 Palestinians, the US response was initially total silence. After the killing continued and entire residential towers were destroyed by a ruthless aerial attack, Biden demanded a ceasefire. That soothed the world conscience somewhat. But feeling remained raw over the damage inflicted on Gaza, so the US president proposed offering Gaza humanitarian aid. Of course, it did not specify how much, to whom, or how it would be distributed–all contentious issues in the fragmented reality facing both Israel and Palestine, and a Palestine riven by internal dissension. Though the US has budgeted $150-million and pledged a return to UNWRA (which Trump had abandoned), this is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions humanitarian aid organizations project are needed. As but one of many examples, only a few thousand of the 18,000 homes Israel destroyed in its 2014 war there have been rebuilt. Imagine how long it will take to repair what has been destroyed last May.
Humanitarian aid does not address the root causes of the conflict. It puts a band aid on a cancer tumor. It does not lead toward a long-term resolution. It only allows the status quo to continue limping along.
A similar example is the recent US Congressional vote on Iron Dome funding. As a gift to Israel, pro-Israel Congressional forces proposed replacing the Iron Dome weaponry which had been exhausted in defending against the rockets fired into Israel during hostilities last May. Progressive Democrats scored an unprecedented victory by defeating the proposal in committee. But the Democratic leadership, with decades-long financial support from the Israel Lobby, forced an immediate vote to repair the damage caused by the defeat. The Israel Lobby put a full-court press on members whom it had supported financially in past election cycles. They responded like Pavlov’s dogs on hearing the bell. Four hundred dutifully lined up to vote Yes. Nine intrepid members defied the Lobby.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez caused a storm of protest when she switched her No vote, after arm-twisting by Nancy Pelosi captured on video. AOC apologized for her change of heart, but her explanation lacked conviction or coherence. She implicitly acknowledged she had been threatened in some unspecified way, but continued to defend her retreat by saying a No vote would somehow have damaged intersectional solidarity between Palestine and her Bronx constituency.
Bernie Sanders approached matters differently when Iron Dome proceeded to the Senate. He held out his own Yes vote on the appropriation in return for a vague agreement from the Biden administration that it would dedicate $1-billion in humanitarian aid to Gaza:
“President Biden is attempting to restore America’s position in the world as a supporter of human rights and dignity for all people. For us to provide an additional billion dollars in aid to Israel while ignoring the suffering of the people in Gaza would be wrong and unconscionable,” Sanders told Americans for Peace Now’s 40th anniversary gala on Thursday.
“That is why I asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for his commitment to work with me to ensure that we significantly increase U.S. assistance for Palestinian people in Gaza in the very near future. And Sen. Schumer agreed to work with me on this.”
…If the goal of this supplemental [$1-billion] funding is to help Israel replenish Iron Dome after the war that took place in May, in my view it would be irresponsible if we do not at the same time address the enormous destruction and suffering that caused the Palestinians in Gaza.”
Notice that nowhere in his statement does Sanders say that he’s agreed to fund a massive Israeli-US weapons system, one which will do nothing to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, he directly contradicts himself when he follows with this statement:
Sanders said the U.S. must actively work to oppose and end the occupation, including being “willing to bring real pressure to bear, including restricting U.S. military aid in response to moves by either side that undermine the chances for peace.
…“I believe that we must adopt an evenhanded approach, one that upholds and strengthens international law regarding the protection of civilians as well as existing U.S. law, holding that the provision of U.S. military aid must not enable human rights abuses,” he continued.
You can’t have it both ways. Iron Dome directly enables such abuses. Israel can unleash full firepower on Gaza at will with no concern for any response by Palestinian miltants. It has done precisely this since 2014, killing nearly 3,000 Gazans during that period. Iron Dome is precisely the sort of military aid he should be strenuously opposing.
Again, this is the same piecemeal approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict which has delayed fundamental change for decades. If Israel can confine its critics to focusing on the symptoms of conflict like repairing damage inflicted by Israel, it prevents them from uniting around an approach that will end the conflict once and for all. Such a comprehensive approach would, of course, end the need for such stopgap measures entirely. A result those who refuse a one-state solution seem to ignore.
30 thoughts on “Liberal Zionism and the Two-State Delusion – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.
An immediate two state solution is not realistic. A one state solution that absorbs Gaza is less so. Westerners seek quick fixes that too often ignore stages of development. East Germany was absorbed by West Germany. There were and still difficulties; however both previous states are better as one. If Jerusalem can be successfully absorbed as a Jewish, Muslim, Christian , democratically run city than the possibility exists for an expanded multireligious Israel. This will take time, patience, many failures, generations of effort and for many God’s help. All but the last in short supply
@ GOrdon Glaser:
There is neither time nor patience. Palestinians have been waiting for justice and their rights for 70 years. It is well past time. You may have time. But luckily you don’t make decisions on behalf of Palestinians.
[comment deleted: I already strongly advised you to read the comment rules. The comment threads are not the place to debate ancient history. If that’s your thing, find another place to do it.
“…But luckily you don’t make decisions on behalf of Palestinians…”
More luckily, Richard, is that you don’t make decisions on behalf of us! Hopefully your idea of “another Lebanon” will not happen and instead a two state solution will materialize in spite of our messianic zealot hooligans.
Please post a thumb down emoji if I’m sentenced to “no more posts in this thread”
@ Eli Gal:
There is no reason a single state would be like Lebanon. Lebanon is a dysfunctional sectarian marginally democratic country. Israel could very easily be a full-fledged decmocracy, if Israeli Jews accepted it and didn’t become white Afrikaners trying to desperately cling to the vestiges of apartheid.
As for 2 states “hopefully materializing”: “hopefully” I will become the King of Siam, win the Boston Marathon and bring world peace. For anyone to believe any of these is delusional.
sad to read you and toto dont wanna be in kansas anymore
richard you know by now that religion and democracy are opposed poles never to meet, ergo since israel embedded the litzmans smotriches and deri never such a thing as a 2 anything will come to pass
“That approach, a single state comprising both Israel and Palestine, is derided as unachievable because the Israeli side “would never accept it.”
The single State approach was tried and rejected by the Palestinians who didn’t want Jews returning to Zion.
And BTW, in the 1930’s. British Courts decided lawsuits that adjudged Mandatory Palestine to be a State.
@ Ben G:
That is a lie. There never was an attempt to create a single state. Ever. There was a UN partition plan dividing up the land into two separate entities.
I’m supposed to care that a colonial power declared Palestine to be a state? Why? And what bearing does it have on anything?
Stop dredging up meaningless historical footnotes. Nor do I have any interest in dredging up your past historical grievances. For every one you can dust off I can dust off ten. The entire effort is a waste of time.
Do not post again in this thread.
“But this is a fallacy based on a hypothetical future result which no one has even bothered to attempt.”
‘One State’ was unsuccessfully attempted in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Cyprus and Iraq and Rwanda.
Succession movements from ‘One State’ were attempted, with bloody results, in Nigeria, Bosnia, the United States, Pakistan, etc.
Don’t piss on my back and tell me it’s raining.
Don’t even try.
@ Ben G: What did or did not happen in other states has no bearing on what might or might not happen hypothetically in Israel-Palestine. Not to mention that Yugoslavia disintegrated because Serbs sought dominance and went to war against their neighbors. This is something like what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. Czechosolovakia separated peacefully with the approval of both Czechs and Slovaks. Cyprus is only two separate entities because Turkey refuses to permit reunification. Again Turkish rejectionsim is quite reminiscent of Israeli rejectionism. Iraq is a single country incorporating three different religious sects and ethnic groups. It is not unsuccessful nor has it split into separate entities. Rwanda too is a single country incorporating two separate ethnic groups now. By your definition, Rwanda should be split up into two separate countries and it isn’t.
I have no idea what secession movements have to do with the creation of a single democratic state in Israel-Palestine. Unless you want to claim that Israel would try to secede from Israel-Palestine.
The only one who is pissing here is you–on your own back. It’s anatomically difficult, but you’ve managed somehow.
Do not post again in this thread.
Thank you! Continually saying one is for “two state solution” when it has not been achievable has helped delay and ironically continues to support the present defacto impossibility of two states. Israel has been thoroughly disingenuous about this for a long time. In the meantime Israel has solidified to one state, apartheid. “One state” is not on the table. It produces even more fear. Right wingers maintain their power this way. Then they creep further towards one undivided state, apartheid,(wishing Palestinians will all leave). This is also ironic.
A democratic one state Israel (Israel/Palestine)is not going happen either unless maybe we demand it, threaten.That would bring an uproar here and there. So we will not. We too are too divided.
I resent sending aid to Israel to replenish the iron dome.That specifically helps occupation, destroying Palestinian life such as it is and their resistance and giving the Israeli public peace, which is all they want apparently.
So saying “two states”(some Palestinians say this too) continues.The dog still hunts.Who believes this? But this gives people on the spot, politicians, an out. Sanders and AOC disappoint. They must know better. Merkel, also disappoints, should know better but seems too blinded by German guilt.
“I resent sending aid to Israel to replenish the iron dome.”
it must be obvious to you that the iron dome is completely defensive and does not penetrate the Hamas enclave. if there was not a ‘refill’ much more powerful weapons would be used to intrude on the Gazans resulting possibly in thousands of fatalities.
A threat? You do not consider the repercussions to Israel. I am sick and tired of excuses. It is not obvious that the iron dome is defensive since it allows for quiet or a sense of protection in Israel while military occupation and suppression of resistance continues. Defensive, narrowly. How about giving Palestinians the dome for defense. Occupation 50 plus years now! Impunity. Gimme a break!!
In other words, is Israel defending itself or defending it’s occupation?
@ Naor: I have refuted your claim in this post. Other analysts to whom I linked in that post have done so as well. I also added a paragraph to this post summarizing briefly the argument that disproves your claims.
oh sure, come live in ashdod next to me, iron dome, what a joke, make work project good for naught.
hey idea lets send f35s insteadh
To borrow from the silver-tongued Greta Thunberg, the two-state solution is just a bunch of “blah, blah, blah”!
you got it. finally
died the day the first container was planted and fortified and the rest is history
The Palestinians could declare their own state in Gaza, which would probably give them the legitimacy of a state which they do not have at present.
There would no reason for the major powers not to accept it then.
sure lets shifts the territories palestinians to gaza, great melting pot
gaza is an open sky jail, no ports of sorts no way in no way out,
picky picly picky
will never be , becaaaause
israel’s money power will never relinquish power, further entrenched in above and under board agreements with arab money states.
at best palestinians “may” become a state without territories. Israel “may’ concede additional economical power so as to raise the poverty level and so quench the desire of some while hypnotizing the lack of country.
gaza will remain an open sky jail, and the west bank will be full of immense settlers fortified chalets built on judicially anointed stolen lands
there is no institution in this globe that will force israel to concede zip.
white house + congress + china hands off policy (israel bizniss talks) = marihuana dreams. sadly
do you see hamas gas filled balloons against f35 , really
what the hell does israel need f35s to fight ?????? palestinians throwing rocks.
I would say the Israelis need the F35s to defend itself from attack, and not necessarily from Palestinians.
and your line… ‘Israel’s money power’ sounds antisemitic to me.
Given half a chance, I am certain a number of countries would attack the USA if it were to give up much of its military arsenal.
Are you seriously suggesting a country should not build up a defence industry? Throughout history the right to land has been through conquest and not ‘indigenous rights’. A military is what ensures security.
Sorry no cigar, buddy.
@ Fake Arab:
It is laughable for you to claim that F-35s are “defensive” weapons. If Israel negotiated peace with its neighbors it wouldn’t need nuclear weapons or F 35s. As long as it continues to be an aggressive, war mnogering country it will need them. But not to defend itself. But rather to enforce its will and dominance in the region–in violation of international law.
You idiot. Nessim IS an Israeli.
Israel does not have a defense industry. It has a war industry and is a garrison state in a state of perpetual war with its neighbors.
This isn’t the era of Alexander the Great and Arik Sharon was no Julius Caesar. This is the era of international law and the Geneva Conventions, when blatant land grabs are prohibited.
there you go , today headline
‘Jews, Arabs must focus on common values to foster coexistence’ says Rabbi David Stavnot a word about arab land or country or respect, naaah, foster coexistence,
yaahhh lets sell that to shas or litzman,
let those respect the rest of us FIRST AND FOREMOST , OR EVEN DECLARE THE EXISTENCE OF ISRAEL.
am done, going back to my helium world. long time broken hearted
[comment deleted: Calling Palestinians “cancer” is a blatant comment rule violation. You are now banned.]
[Comment deleted: your hatred of Palestinians shines through crystal clear. Hatred of this kind is prohibited here.]
How can business and industry in the future One State successfully integrate Jews and Palestinians?
Same question applies to the military.
@ Cillian Keogh: Your question presumes that this has never happened before. Of course, it has. States through the ages have gone from civil war to [re]integrating former opposite sides into a single state. The US Civil War is a perfect example. The US today is a single integrated nation both in commerce and the military. But in 1860, the South sought to secede and create a separate nation. After the war, hostilities subsided and the two former enemies reconciled.
There was a brutal English Civil War between monarchists and parliamentarians. Despite the slaughter and savagery on both sides, England today is a unified nation. South Africa fought its own version of a Civil War to overthrow apartheid with Blacks and whites engaged in armed conflict. Today, the two races co-exist in a democratic state in which Blacks are the majority and run the country.
What you suggest is an experiment where Jews and Palestinians ate the lab rats.
There is no comparison to anything else in history and going back to South Africa, where a minority ruled the majority, is not convincing.
The history of the whole western culture is concentrated in that piece of land and in this fight. Which is why we see such a split between the muslim and Christian world on the subject.
Making it into a KUMBAYA solution and saying hopefully it will be OK is not working and is not going to work.
Whenever I read such sweeping statements from people like you I know: 1. you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about; and 2. you’re dead wrong.
Another piece of vast overstatement. Of course there are numerous examples. South Africa is only one. I’ve offered many of them both in the post and in this comment thread.
There is only one reason it would not be OK. Because Israelis, who have been rejectionists for decades, would continue their desperate opposition through terror attacks, etc. But the majority of Israelis will, as the majority of Serbs did before them (Kosovo), resign themselves to losing their supremacy and learning to live with their fellow citizens peacefully.