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.
From its inception, the two-state solution lacked the potential to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In response to a political conflict characterized by existential questions and struggles for self-determination, the Oslo Accords partitioned disconnected lands into islands without challenging the institutions producing and rectifying power disparities between a state and a people. The Oslo Accords made no mention of authoritative law or human rights, and never contended with Jewish claims for self-determination on a territory with an indigenous population. The lack of historical and legal referents subjected negotiations to moving goal posts. Accordingly, “the pragmatic solution” became an ever shifting prescription to new realities created by ongoing Israeli expansionism and displacement.
Oslo underscored the raison d’etre of Israel’s establishment—to create a national homeland for Jews necessitating a majority Jewish population, thereby legitimizing a narrative of mutually exclusive humanities demarcated by ethnic and national markers. The purported solution did not respond to the reality of a singular territory comprised of multiple and overlapping nations and cultures whose treatment by the State corresponded to religious categories regardless of territorial boundaries. Unlike secular democracies committed to a supposedly indiscriminate rule of Law, Israel does not cultivate an inclusive civic polity. Instead, it affords its right to nationality to Jews only. Jewish nationality is attainable by Jews in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem, and anywhere in the world. Jewish nationals have the exclusive right to the Law of Return, and, by extension, housing and residency privileges that abridge the rights of Palestinian refugees and civilians in the OPT, as well as the State’s non-Jewish Palestinian citizens. While Israel’s 1.2 million-strong Palestinians are afforded citizenship, they are systematically excluded from the privileges of nationality. The policies meted out against the indigenous population intend to limit their territorial and historical claims as evidenced by the passage of recent laws, including the Nakba Law and the Ban on Family Reunification.
Those policies are applied in the OPT’s as well. While civil law within Israel distinguishes between Jewish nationals and citizens and non-Jewish citizens only, in the OPT military law distinguishes between Jewish settler-nationals and Palestinian civilians. In both contexts, the law privileges Jewish persons, and abridges the rights of non-Jewish others. No territorial partition can adequately treat an Apartheid institution.
On the other hand, a one-state solution that fails to account for historical, contemporary, territorial, and national claims will also be an inadequate model for conflict resolution. Though space here limits my ability to elaborate very much, the point is that even the one-state solution is not enough as a vision. There are questions about return, repatriation, forced migration, past and present, among Jews and Palestinians throughout the Middle East, and questions of national homeland—of future immigration policies, the prospects of bi-nationalism, competing claims to property, and this is to say nothing of restitution and redress for all the suffering wrong upon occupied lands and their populations.