In the hours since President Trump said he was agnostic about whether Israel and Palestine should be two states or one, many supporters of Israel have taken to the airwaves to cite the danger that a one-state outcome would pose to Israel’s Jewish majority. These folks also said that one-state would bring violence; but the emphasis was the threat to Israel’s status as a Jewish state.
Last night on MSNBC, for instance, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of the liberal Zionist group J Street, said that Israel cannot be both democratic and Jewish if it is one state; and all its military leaders say so. In the same episode, Chris Matthews spoke of one state in alarmist terms, describing the bomb that Israel faces in Palestinian population numbers in a one-state scenario. He said the number of Jews between the river and the sea is only slightly more than the number of Palestinians, so Palestinians would soon outnumber Jews in a combined state.
Today Senator Ben Cardin, who identifies as an ardent Zionist, expressed the same concern at a hearing. “I don’t see how Israel can remain Jewish and democratic” with a one-state outcome, he said. “The demographics are unambiguous in this regard.”
The Union for Reform Judaism also saw Trump’s statement “darkly,” saying that it spells the end of a Jewish, democratic Israel. Rabbi Rick Jacobs:
The question is: can Israelis and Palestinians live with it in a way that allows for a Jewish, democratic State of Israel and realization of the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinians. And the answer to that question remains “no.” Only a two-state solution can achieve the goals of the Israelis and Palestinians.
That is why we see President Trump’s abdication of the longtime, bipartisan support for a two-state solution so darkly. It is potentially devastating to the prospects for peace and Israel’s Jewish, democratic future.
Earl Blumenauer is a Congressman from Oregon, supported by J Street. He writes:
Astounding. Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse or more chaotic, Trump considers one-state solution–which is no solution at all.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, retweeted that, saying:
One state is the problem not the solution. For those like
@repblumenauer who want Israel to be democratic natl home of the Jewish people.
J Street’s statement on the Trump comments— “One State is the Problem, Not the Solution”– emphasized the likelihood of violence, though it also cited the state’s Jewish identity:
To be clear, there is no one-state configuration that leads to peace. There is no resolution to this conflict without full political rights and independence for both peoples. All so-called “one-state solutions” are recipes for more violence that will ultimately threaten Israel’s identity as a democracy and a Jewish homeland.
NY Rep. Jerrold Nadler emphasized the Jewish democratic angle, along with the violence:
Trump abandoning a 2SS–Jewish & democratic Israel living next to a Palestinian state–leaves Israel less secure & peace much more elusive.
Peace Now’s statement on the “terrifying” press conference also expressed those concerns, Israel’s Jewish future, and violence:
the two leaders are not only depriving Israel of the very possibility of reaching peace but also undermining Israel’s own future as a democracy and a Jewish state. They are delivering a huge victory to extremists on both sides.
In a piece that came out in USA Today anticipating the Trump indifference about one state, Senators Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico baldly stressed the population numbers, as the most important issue with one state– even more important than the potential for violence:
Perhaps most importantly, without an independent Palestine by its side, Israel cannot be both a democratic and majority Jewish state. Today, the Jewish people are already a minority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. There are 6.3 million Jewish Israelis compared to 6.6 million non-Jewish minorities, most of them Palestinian Arabs.
Since the Jewish people are already a minority, a one-state solution cannot be both majority Jewish and democratic. We have not heard a plausible proposal where a one-state solution wouldn’t require a Jewish minority to govern a non-Jewish majority
By contrast, on PBS News Hour last night, Shibley Telhami had a non-hysterical discussion of one state. Telhami spoke of the left’s support for one-state: “not a Jewish state– a democratic state for Arabs and Jews.” And he mentioned the rightwing support for “an apartheid state.” He also said that the one-state idea was appealing to many Palestinians, even if they did not regard it as realistic. Here he cited population numbers: “If they can have a full equal relationship within Israel, of course they would [support it], because ultimately they’re going to be a majority… It is a non starter for Israelis, undoubtedly.”
Two comments: It would be helpful if these speakers addressed the 20 percent of “Israel proper” that is not Jewish. About the same number of Americans are non-Christian; in the U.S. we would find it insupportable if the U.S. made it official policy that it’s a Christian state.
And as to the fear of greater violence in one state, this is surely legitimate. But the problem with emphasizing this fear is that it tends to be very Jewish-centric. What do I mean? Well, there’s one state right now in which violence is dished out regularly to Palestinians, so the real problem in Israel Palestine is not prospective, it’s before our eyes, but that’s never the problem; and the concern that Israel will become an apartheid state amounts to a denial of the reality for Palestinians today, that it is an apartheid state. As to the unstated but looming apprehension that Israel and Palestine will become Algeria, and many Jewish Israelis will flee– only a fool would say that that is not a possible outcome, and a concerning one. But that apprehension cannot justify the tyranny that exists right now, in which the conflict is “managed,” and Palestinians have no rights. The American revolutionaries were rather succinct about the use of violence to achieve their rights.