This post is part of “What Comes Next?: A forum on the end of the two-state paradigm.” This series was initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace as an investigation into the current state of thinking about one state and two state solutions, and the collection has been further expanded by Mondoweiss to mark 20 years since the Oslo process. The entire series can be found here.
Just so you know, I spent part of the summer of 1950 picking plums at Ein Hashofet, the first American kibbutz in Israel. On a side trip to Tel Aviv, Martin Buber, the famous philosopher, graciously agreed to be interviewed if I agreed to accompany him on a shopping trip to a local market. We had, not surprisingly, a fascinating conversation; much of it was devoted to our shared vision of Israel as a binational state.
But that was then and this is now. As a human rights lawyer nothing is more alien to me than ethnic compartmentalization. But as a diligent observer of the political scene, I can see no possibility of a binational state, comprising the present Israel and the occupied territories, coming into being in the foreseeable future. It is not a matter of right and wrong; it is, rather, a matter of Israel being so wedded to the notion of a predominantly Jewish state and, for that matter, Palestine being equally unwilling to accept a state with a Jewish majority, that makes the one state solution unworkable for the time being.
I have emphasized the last four words because I am not wedded to the idea of a Jewish state forever and a day. But I am horrified by the prospect of another ten, twenty or fifty years of status quo, with Israeli jails filled with Palestinians separated from their families, periodic intifadas and never ending humiliations at checkpoints and Israel becoming even more of an international outcast, if such a thing is imaginable. And yet, that is the prospect which “one state now” conjures up.
I am tempted to say that what is desperately needed now is “a decent interval,” except that Henry Kissinger has given that expression a bad name. Let us call it a pause, a respite, a truce. I can think of only one way to bring that about with dignity for both sides. It is called “two states,” with peace and justice for each.
If it lasts, as well it may, a time may come to think of a new structure; a federation, perhaps, or even a single state with enforceable constitutional guarantees of fundamental human rights for all of its citizens.
Some years ago, I got into a conversation with a taxi driver on the way from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion airport. I asked him if he had a thought about how to bring peace to the region. “Yes,” he said, to my surprise. “We should have one state with three kings, a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian. They should take turns every year.”
Not a bad idea. A bit premature, though.
Peter Weiss is a member of the Executive Committee of Americans for Peace Now and a Vice President of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He is speaking here only for himself.