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.
Do you just wish the two-state solution would be declared definitively dead if only to dissipate the clouds providing cover to the fatally flawed peace process and masking Israel’s relentless dispossession of Palestinians and violations of human rights?
It won’t happen. The two-state solution is still the official political platform of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a vote would be needed by the Palestinian National Council to change it (and the PNC has not been truly representative since 1988 — ironically the year it formally adopted two states). Plus the PLO/Palestinian Authority are using the diplomatic means at their disposal to breathe life into two states. And the international community needs the moribund peace process based on two states; they find the alternative vacuum too frightening to contemplate.
At the same time, the two-state solution will never see the light of day. There has been no indication that any Israeli government, the late Yitzhak Rabin’s included, is willing to accept a truly sovereign Palestinian state (see Camille Mansour’s excellent Al-Shabaka policy brief contrasting Israeli and Palestinian negotiating positions).
In short, the two-state solution is “undead,” which, the dictionary tells us, is something “no longer alive but animated by a supernatural force.”
The other political scenarios include the status quo of continued occupation and colonization, and the one-state solution supported by some 30% of Palestinians in the occupied territories and many more refugees and exiles. Israel has the power to maintain the status quo, but the Palestinians at present do not have the power to bring about either a two-state solution or a one-state solution.
This means Palestinians as well as supporters of a just peace have to work without a political framework. An understanding of this reality underlies the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). The BDS Call opts for a rights-based rather than solution-based approach and sets out three goals for self-determination – freedom from occupation, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and justice for Palestinian refugees. One of the values of the three goals is that they help us know when our activist work is done. E.g., a two-state solution that maintains discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel means we still have work to do.
What to do? Good news: Activists for justice are already on track. Still, here’s a priority list for the agenda:
1. Keeping the Palestinians on their land. Israel could soon reduce the number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem to a tiny minority as it has already done in the Jordan Valley. It is also busily “cleansing” Area C, some 60% of the West Bank. All our activist tools must address this reality, by making the human impact of Israeli settlement policies crystal clear in our education and outreach; placing a cost (through BDS, challenging the non-profit status of U.S. settlement-supporting charities, etc.) on practices depopulating East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley; and supporting Palestinian capacities and goods.
2. Going to the heart of the issue. The dominant strand of Zionism has since the earliest days focused on the dispossession of the Palestinians to create their “land without a people.” Focusing on the apartheid nature of the regime against the Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as in the occupied territories enables people to see the injustice inherent in the original Zionist enterprise as it was implemented, and builds the ground for a just peace. This is becoming much more widely acceptable in the discourse, as can be seen from recent positions by the European Union.
3. Placing a cost on occupation and discrimination. This is flagged above, but is so important it needs to be highlighted separately. Israel is able to act as it does because – for over 60 years – it has rarely been forced to act differently. BDS places a direct cost on the occupation and discrimination/apartheid, as does portraying Israeli practices as beyond the pale.
4. Educating around one-state. While much is known about what a two-state solution would look like, if it could be achieved, less is known about one-state. It would be important to address fears that one-state would lead to the elimination of Israel – it wouldn’t. But it would challenge ethno-religious privilege, which has no place in either one or two states. Whichever one supports as the hoped for solution, that is a vital point to make.