The Death of the One-State Solution in Israel

The idea that multi-national states have indeed been proven to fail in the on-going Arab Spring, will stand as the premise for this article, and the work will analyse why any option for one-state, arguably an acceptance of the status quo, will fail. The article will also look towards Israel within the newly established Islamist Middle East, arguably within a framework of ‘Islamist Democracies’, a region at the crossroads to democracy, and will explore what other options are on the table for the Israeli government and international community in light of these changes. The concepts of nationalism and individual national identities have been fluid since the 20th centuryi, therefore the ability to foster new national identities, with innovative solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are possible.

Before one can even begin to explore at the multitude of options on the table for conflict resolution for both Israel and the Palestinian Territories, it is crucial to investigate the various attempts at peace throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries. The period in the run-up to the establishment of the state of Israel, until 1977, can be termed ‘The Period of the Gun’, where boundaries to the various states, as outlined and amended in the period during and after the First World War, I the Sykes-Picot period, were altered by violence, not diplomatic effortsii. The purpose of this piece is not to look at individual wars and portion out blame, but to look at the various aspects of the peace process that have altered the borders and what numerous actors have attempted to do to resolve the problems. Only can we look at how those involved today aim to solve the conflict.

In 1947 a UN delegation adopted the 1937 Peel Partition plan through the UN Resolution 181 in order to create two separate states; one for Jews and one for the Arabs who lived under the Mandate of the Britishiii. Arguably the Palestinian reaction to this plan, their rejection, established the path that we now face today. The state they would have received was incorporated through the 1948 war into the states of Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Israeliv. This led to the 1949 Armistice lines, agreed through bilateral negotiation, only following the initial military action, with the various states and Israel.

The key event in this period of the gun was in the 1967 Six Day War, through which Israel captured the Sinai and Gaza from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syriav. In the post-war period, two significant events occurred that have transformed the peace process. Firstly the Khartoum Resolution from the Arab League Summit of that year outlined the ‘three no’s’ to Israel; no peace, no negotiation, no recognition. This assumed a bloc-Arab state position of dismissal of any chance of peace between the state of Israel and her Arab neighbours. Secondly, UN Resolution 242 demanded Israel withdraw from the West Bank and occupied land, with the USA rejecting this call stating that Israel needs to be included in any agreement that would be bi-lateral. The 1967 Allon Plan, suggested by the Israeli Member of Knesset Yigal Allon, was a reaction to the war, and one of the first attempts for full peace and recognition with Israel’s neighbours. This outlined a framework for negotiations between Israel and Jordan to allow Jordan to annex the West Bank with Jerusalem remaining in the State of Israel. Additionally Allon put forward the concept of a Druze state in the Syrian provinces captured by Israel in the War. However, in light of the Khartoum resolution, the Jordanian King Hussein rejected the plan.

The second major period that extends until today, arguably, is what Biger has determined as the period of ‘Bilateral Diplomatic Boundary Negotiation’, beginning in 1977vi. 1977 marks the period when Israel’s Arab neighbours began to recognise her right to exist, as Egypt signed their peace treaty with Israel that yearvii. The Camp David Agreement was structured in this period to ensure Israeli and Egyptian bi-lateral negotiations, with the presence of American President Jimmy Carter. Israel agreed to give back the Sinai to Egypt.

The One-State Solution

Edward Said, who famously penned Orientalism, proposed the concept of a one-state solution with Palestinians and Israelis living side by side in one multi-national state. The concept of one-state can be dissected into one-state with one national identity, or a bi-national state, where Israelis and Palestinians live in one state but with two separate national identities. However, the two groups that support this solution can be found in two separate camps; those who are outwardly anti-Semitic, often labelling and calling for a solely Islamic state, and those who support human rights as a response to the lack of action the West has seemingly taken on Israeli abuses in the Palestinian territoriesviii.

The bi-national solution calls for two semi-autonomous nationalities with equal rights and equal access to citizenship. However this option would lead to a retraction of the Jewish nature of the Israeli state and consequently the Jewish right of return; instilled in the post-World War II era where anyone deemed Jewish, through having one Jewish grandparent, would be classified as Jewish in the eyes of the Jewish state and therefore allowed to settle in the new State. Instead a form of Palestinian right to return would be implementedix. The first positive affirmation on the part of the Palestinians supporting the bi-national solution came in 1969; Fatah resolved to accept a “free and democratic society in Palestine” with Muslim, Christians and Jews living side-by-side at the Fifth PLO National Councilx. Israeli Ministers of Knesset have also supported the call for a one-state solution, such as those in the Knesset in 2010: Moshe Arens, Reuvlin Riven, Tzipi Hotovely and Uri Arielxi. This is linked to the democratic notion of one man, one vote, one value; the same principles linked to justice and morality we in the West are urging upon other Middle Easter states in transition in 2013xii.

One key, albeit surprising, supporter of a form of one-state solution is the son of the former Libyan dictator, Muamar Gaddafi. Saif al-Islam fashioned the concept of ‘Isratin’, which he envisioned to be a secular state entitled the ‘Federal Republic of the Holy Land’. Muamar Gaddafi incorporated this imaginative idea into his White Book on the subject where he outlined the form of the state he desired. He declared there should be a return of Palestinian refugees to the state, which would undermine the strategically Jewish nature of the current statexiii. Additionally, he stated there should be an international intervention with the United Nations supervising the elections in the new state. Gaddafi also affirmed that Jerusalem should become a city-state, separate from the Isratin state he aimed to establishxiv.

The creation of a new bi-national state appears to be problematic if we look at the surrounding region; how can we place two-self identifying nations in one state if ethnic, religious and national tensions are already starting to appear in the Middle East? For example, a poll conducted in 2010 observed that only 11.9% of Palestinians would be willing to live within one cohesive state with Jewsxv. One only needs to look North at the unfolding crisis in Syria where the Alawite Assad family are attempting to clutch onto power, facing down a majority Sunni population. An additional hurdle when attempting to create unifying nation with multiple self-identifying nationalities, is whether people will in fact label themselves as nationals of any Israel-Palestinian state. People living in Egypt are more likely to label themselves as Egyptian, representative of their connection with the geographical territory, than someone of Palestinian decent, who would crucially be labelled as Israel under current citizenship laws, but would they be willing to self-identify as an Israeli national?

The Two-State Solution

The two-state solution is the concept of two autonomous states abiding by the Green Line as established in the aftermath of the 1967 War. The concept would bring about two separate national states, two separate economies, and two separate governments with two separate militaries who coexist as neighbours. My purpose is not to critique in depth the different solutions in terms of exactly where the boundaries would be, nor is it to fully comprehend the eventual solution to the major stumbling blocks to peace; refugees, the Jewish right of return, water sources and the status of Jerusalem. Instead my examination will explore the various solutions offered through peace negotiations.

The PLO first accepted the two-state solution in 1970, not just a bi-national one-state. The Palestinian Authority accepted the concept of two separate legal-states in 1988 with their unilateral declaration of independence where they called for an acceptance of the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Palestinian opinion polls seem to reflect this desire for a two state solution. In 2002 Palestinians agreed that they will abandon violence as a part of their repertoire of contention if Israel agreed to withdraw to the pre-1967 bordersxvi. An equal number of Israelis reflected this sentiment if violence on the part of the Palestinians would cease for “an extended period” of timexvii. Further acceptance can be seen in the same year, 2002, at the Annapolis Conference with a bilateral acceptance of George W Bush’s road map for peace with a two-state solutionxviii. In 2009, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, echoed this attitude at the Israeli Bar Ilan University. He stated he would accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but without Palestinian control of their borders, no Palestinian military, with Israeli control over foreign policy.

One of the key hindrances to a two-state solution that has been suggested, is the increasing establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, such as those that were scheduled in December 2012 in the strategic E1, East Jerusalem, area by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as a reaction to the unilateral Palestinian bid for ‘non-observer status’ at the United Nations. Some analysts seem to suggest that a de facto one state solution is being moulded into the groundxix. Further cementing this position into the ground, is Israel’s new President, Reuven Rivlin elected by 63 votes to 53 in the Israeli parliament in June of this year, who is a hard-line one statist who opposed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. However history teaches us that settlements do not influence the outcome of peace negotiations. The only time settlements have physically moulded a boundary is the settlement of Metula in Northern Israelxx. Reflective of the 1977 agreement with Egypt, Jewish settlers were removed from the Sinai to establish a state of peace between Egypt and Israel. Similarly in Gaza in 2005 the Israeli state ignored the pleas of settlers and instead forcibly removed them from their homes in a unilateral attempt to establish peacexxi.

An additional obstruction to the two state solution is the disbelief that the Palestinians will accept Israel, as their neighbour, as a Jewish entity. In 2009, research was conducted that revealed only 50% of Palestinians would recognise Israelxxii. This is reflective of the Hamas, the terrorist group in power in the Gaza strip, policy towards Israel that refuses to accept the two-state solutionxxiii. The Hamas charter unequivocally states “our [Hamas] struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave”xxiv. Furthermore the Charter quotes the founder of the Muslim Brother, al-Banna when he states “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors”xxv. Finally, the Charter’s virulent anti-Semitic nature is clear when the Charter declares that “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims”xxvi. The connotations and rationale behind the charter still remains to an extent, despite Hamas claiming that the charter is only a piece of history; Haniyeh asserts that it cannot be rebuked because of “internal reasons”xxvii.

Multiple organisations, states and actors have endorsed the concept of the two-state solution. The first positive sign of an acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state with a right to exist is reflected in the Saudi Peace Initiative which was proposed in 2002 by the then Crown Prince Abdullah in the Beirut Arab League summit, in an attempt to offer a plan for a diplomatic relationship between Israel and the Arab states. Despite this clear attempt, from a state that is viewed as having extreme-Sunni Wahhabi interpretation for their basic laws, to normalise relationships with Israel, the 2002 Summit itself faced problems that can undermine the positive effect of the Initiative. For example the key states of Egypt and Jordan, the two states with which Israel has a peace agreement, were absent. The Palestinian Authority was also missing, leading to an Initiative without the input of either government involved -Israel or Palestine. A further drawback that hindered Israel’s acceptance of the Initiative was the timing, during the Second Intifada – the Palestinian uprising against Israel. The Passover Massacre, in March 2002, by the al-Qassam Brigades, military wing of Hamas, murdered scores of people in Netanya, and overshadowed the Arab Summitxxviii.

Many criticisms have been placed on the Saudi Peace Initiative despite the fact it is a clear sign of progress for relations between Israel and the Arab states. For example, Ariel Sharon states that any agreement focused around the Saudi Peace Initiative will not be bilateral, as outlined in various UN resolutions, as it states the actions Israel has to take, not those that the Palestinian Authority or Hamas should takexxix. This is in contrast to Shimon Peres who supports the initiative, and personally stated his support to King Abdullah, but agrees that pressure should be placed on the Palestinians to end terror atrocities against Israelxxx. The hesitation by Israel has been labelled a swing from Arab rejectionist policies in the 20th Century, to a period of Israeli rejectionism in the 21st Century, the aptly named “three no’s of Jerusalem”xxxi. Olmert states that Israel cannot accept a solution to the conflict that calls for the right of return for Palestinians that would cause Israel to accept responsibility for the Palestinian refugee crisis after the 1948 war. The Jordanian Foreign Minister has further reiterated this belief in a new Israeli rejectionism; he states that neither America nor Israel is truly serious about any two-state solution plan or one based on the Saudi Peace Initiative.

In contrast to Hamas, who at the 2007 Riyadh Arab League Summit abstained against a re-adopted of the Arab Peace Initiative, Fatah under the leadership of Abbas have very clearly expressed their support for the Initiative. Firstly, Fatah voted in favour for the Initiative to be accepted again in 2007. The political organisation went a step further and placed controversial adverts in various Israeli newspapers in 2008 demonstrating their support for a two-state solution under the influence of the Peace Initiative of 2002. The other states in the Gulf Cooperation Council, accepted the Peace Plan in a consultation in Dammam two months after the Beirut Summit. Rachel Bronson of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights the urgency for aspects of the plan to become more accepted within the Israeli government. She suggests, with the recent death of another Saudi Crown Prince and the uprisings in the predominantly Shi’a eastern region of Hasa in Saudi Arabia, an agreement needs to happen imminently, perhaps before Saudi Arabia itself falls into a state of turmoil due to their aging and unsuitable process of Kingship successionxxxii. The government of Israel needs to realise this is the foremost recognition of their state by the Arab states and act on this positive step.

The time to act upon a two-state solution is gradually drawing to a close. Firstly the movement towards an Israeli policy of rejectionism has begun. In the January 2013 elections in Israel, the person to bring about a coalition, Netanyahu dragged his feet with regards to establishing peace between Israel and Palestine. Additionally, the parties who gained seats, such as the newly established Habayit HaYehudi, The Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett, lays claim to the West Bank, strategically labelling to it by its biblical names, Judea and Samariaxxxiii. This therefore rejects any formation of a Palestinian State. The party gained a significant amount of seats in the Knesset, therefore signifying the Israeli public’s shift against dealing with the Palestinian conflict. Furthermore outside observers, such as William Hague, the Foreign Minister for the United Kingdom, have noticed that time is become ever more pressing. In Hague’s address to the House of Commons in November of 2012, Hague suggested that the time was about to pass for a serious two-state solution peace agreement in especially in light of the escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel in Operation Pillar of Defence.

The Three State Solution

The concept of a three state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be defined in two different ways. Firstly the idea that there should be two new separate states entirely; one in the West Bank under the rule of Fatah, and one in the Gaza Strip under the leadership of Hamas. The second idea is that Jordan would absorb the West Bank and Egypt would absorb Gaza; leading to three states with responsibility for the Palestinian refugees, an outline for peace relating somewhat to the 1949 Armistice Lines.

If the solution to peace comes at the cost of a separate Gaza state and West Bank state, the former concept of three-states, the uneasy acceptance of Hamas into the concept of a single Gaza state must be to some extent eradicated if Israel is to accept peace. Hamas was given a political legitimacy, however unsavoury, in the 2006 elections before their coup of the Strip against Fatah in 2007xxxiv. The separation with two new states based within the Palestinian Territories, it has been argued, makes historical sense, despite with the new unity government announced on June 2nd 2014, formed of Hamas and Fatahxxxv. Aaron Miller, who is a former US Middle East negotiator, has stated that the Palestinian Territories already has two of everything, a kind of “Noah’s Ark”, between Fatah and Hamas; the West Bank and Gazaxxxvi. A fear with regards to this form of three-state solution appears to come from Israeli society with a ‘Hamastan’ on their doorstepxxxvii where minorities are persecuted, where Israel is not recognised as a legitimate state entity and terrorist atrocities eminent from.

The second concept for a three state solution, with the absorption of Palestinian Territories into the already established states of Jordan and Egypt appears to cause mixed reactions and understandable controversy within the states. Prince Hassam al Talil, the uncle to the Jordanian King Abdullah, claims that Jordan will annex the West Bank, to reflect pre-1967 lines, if Israel withdraws from the area. This will negate any attempt for an autonomous Palestinian state with the West Bankxxxviii. It must be understood however that the concept of a Jordanian West Bank, as espoused by al Talil, undermines the official policy of Jordan since 1988 against their rule in the areaxxxix. This appears to make more historical sense than the creation of two-new states with Israel alongside them, as 50% of the Jordanian population was born in what is now known as Israel and the Occupied Territories, or descended from Palestinians. The Israeli Member of Knesset, Aryeh Eldad, has suggested that all Palestinian Arabs should be given Jordanian citizenshipxl. Additionally the concept of a Jordanian West Bank echoes the sentiments of Ariel Sharon in the 1970s. There are clear established cultural and economic links between the Palestinians and the Jordanians, such as the granting of citizenship by Jordan to some Palestinians in the 1950sxli.

In 1985, Yasser Arafat, the former head of the Palestinian Authority, along with the government of Jordan, attempted to create a confederation between any future Palestinian state and Jordanxlii. This would have led to some form of self-determination and emancipation for the Palestinian population in the West Bank. The Secretary General of Fatah in Jordan, Qaddouini, has further endorsed the suggestion of some form of coalition with Jordanxliii. However this has clearly not materialised. Moreover the Palestinian-Jordanian journalist Daoud Khattab has indicated that the Hashemite monarchy of Jordan is well respected by both Israeli society and the Israeli government, and therefore any solution with the Palestinians would work under the control and security of the Jordanians in the West Bankxliv. This attempt does indeed reflect the wider trend towards single-national states, nation as defined as outsiders, where the Palestinians are seen as part of a wider Jordanian national make-up. The idea of a Jordanian Palestine, in whichever form is considered, reflects the separation of distinct nation identities, real or imagined, as similarly found in the former Yugoslavia and in the current Middle Eastern states where minorities are being singled out based on religion and ethnicities, for example.

Despite the positive indicators for a strategic annexation of the West Bank to Jordan, the fate of Gaza remains unclear within this concept of an Egyptian absorption of Gaza. The former Egyptian ambassador to the UN, Abdel Raoud el-Reedy has stated that “Gaza is no longer Egypt’s responsibility and Egypt is determined it won’t take it back”xlv thus indicating a rejection of Egyptian accountability to the Palestinian and by default accepting a two state solution; with Israel and Palestine, or a three-state solution with a lone Gaza compromising one state. Regardless of Prince Hassam’s positive statement towards the goal of a Jordanian-controlled West Bank, the former advisor to King Abdullah, Adnan Abu Odeh claims that any absorption of the West Bank into Jordan is “a real concern” and “it would destroy the fabric of [Jordanian] society”xlvi. The indicators towards any form of three state solution, with the separation economically and politically between the West Bank and Gaza are apparent. The negative consequence falls on the Gaza strip however. Economically, Gaza’s unemployment rate soared at 42% with a relatively low comparison in Jordan whose unemployment figure stood at 25% in 2010xlvii. This suggests any tying between the West Bank and Gaza would ensure the West Bank’s future government would have to tackle the issues that Gaza has economically, and would risk the decline in relative prosperity in the West Bank. The former Secretary of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Abed Rabo has labelled the suggestion of two states with Jordan playing a key role as naive. Rabo totally denies the potential of a Jordanian-Palestinian Federationxlviii. However, with the obvious failure of unity schemes between Arab states, to reflect a wider Arab national identity, failed. This suggests that any such unity between Egypt and Gaza and Jordan and the West Bank will be futile and end up breaking down, partly due to personality politics.

The Other Options on the Table

Outside of the traditional one, two or even three state options, there are numerous supplementary innovative solutions that have been offered to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. These do not appear to have gained much endorsement by the mainstream in either Israel or Palestine, or indeed within the wider international community.

The relationship between the United States and Israel and Palestine, has led to the formation of two solutions for the conflict. This diplomatic connection is acutely linked to the funding that both governments receive from the United States. The current figure of aid stands at over $4 billion, as of 2013, for the Palestiniansxlix, with over $3 billion annually being given to Israell. Dr Martine Rothblatt has proposed the ‘Two Stars for Peace Solution’ that sets out a path to incorporate both Israel and Palestine as the 51st and 52nd states of Americali. This would still ensure a separation between nations; Palestine and Israel, and the problems of how to divide the states, the borders, the refugees, water, and the state of Israel, would still need to be negotiated. Garcia put a similar proposal forward in his book titled ‘The American State of Canaan’. This would follow the concept of a one state solution, a bi-national state of both Israel and Palestine, and this would become the 51st state of Americalii.

A further solution, which has a strong following from the religious-Zionist camp, is the State of Judea. This concept is heavily supported by the decedents of the Kahan movement; a radical West Bank movement that has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States. This proposal is for a halachic, Jewish law, state in the West Bank and heavily supported by Jewish settlersliii. Further figures who support this move are the prominent author and political actor, Chabad Rabbi, Shalom Dov Wolpoliv, and the Republican congressman Joe Walsh. Walsh stated that Israel has the right to annex the West Bank if the Palestinians declare a statelv, which they arguably have done previously in 1988 and with the successful bid at the United Nations at the close of 2012. This would either lead to a one-state solution, or open up the avenue for a religious-Zionist controlled State of Judea in the West Bank. This will automatically counter any nationalistic independence claims from Palestinians in the West Bank, the very call for a state of Judea leads to a negation of the Palestinians as a separate national identity.

The negotiations, both those that have failed and the successes, have been part of the road that has led us to the crossroads of today; whether to accept a traditional two-state solution, based bilaterally negotiations, or to go down a new path. Ellen Laipson, the President and CEO of the Stimson Centre has claimed that peace between Israel and Palestine is “dead in the water” but both states, and the international community, need to understand the requirement for “formal peace”lvi. The various solutions that seem to be on the table include a bi-national solution of two-equal nations under one state, or one state with no nation-differentiations. This concept however is negated by the tensions erupted in the North Africa and Middle East area; religious minorities and ethnic clashes are aplenty; how can we expect a new nation-state, moulded on those failing around it, to emerge triumphant? The time for a settlement consisting of two-states is ending and if this fails, we need to look towards other options available. For example the idea of three-states, with either the creation of two new states of the West Bank and Gaza, or the absorption by Egypt and Jordan appears to be the next most viable option. Or the more extreme solutions of a new Jewish State of Judea or a set of states with a legal tie to the United States have been proposed. However other solutions to a one or two-state solution are often neglected by outside observers and politicians alike, and need more analysis, understanding and debate to truly progress.

i Savage, 2007
ii Biger, 2008, p.89
iii Biger, 2008, p.81
iv Biger, 2008, p.84
v Biger, 2008, p.89
vi Biger, 2008, p.81
vii Biger, 2008, p.84
viii Goldberg, 2012
ix Goldberg, 2012
x Gresh, October 2010
xi Zrahiya, April 29th 2010
xii Ghanem, 2011
xiii Gaddafi, 2009
xiv Gaddafi, 2009
xv Palestinian Centre for Research and Cultural Dialogue, 2010
xvi World Public Opinion, 2002
xvii World Public Opinion, 2002
xviii Draft, November 21st 2007
xix Tilley, 2003
xx Biger, 2008, p.78
xxi Biger, 2008, p.79
xxii PSR Survey Research Unit, 2009
xxiii Haaretz, May 9th 2009
xxiv The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement, 1988
xxv The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement, 1988
xxvi The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement, 1988
xxvii Adas, May-June 2010
xxviii Gozani, 29th March 2002
xxix Hoffman, March 4th 2002
xxx Charbonneau, November 12th 2008
xxxi Siegman, 2007
xxxii Elis, May/June 2011
xxxiii The Bayit Yehudi, 2013
xxxiv Moran, 2007
xxxv Savage, 2007
xxxvi Elis, May/June 2011
xxxvii Moran, 2007
xxxviii The Telegraph, January 11th 2013
xxxix Khattab, December 26th 2012
xl Ilan, May 2009
xli Savage, 2007
xlii The Telegraph, January 11th 2013
xliii Khattab, December 26th 2012
xliv Khattab, December 26th 2012
xlv Slackman, 2009
xlvi Slackman, 2009
xlvii Sherwood, June 2012
xlviii Khattab, December 26th 2012
xlix Zanotti, 2013, p.1
l Zanotti, 2013, p.5
li Two Stars for Peace, 2013
lii Garcia, 2009
liii Haaretz, 2008
liv UPI, 2007
lv Wright, May 5th 2012
lvi Elis, May/June 2011

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