More and more people see ‘one state only’ but Remnick fears it will be like Bosnia

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David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, said last weekend that more and more people say “there will be one state, and one state only” in Israel and Palestine, though he endorsed the idea that such an outcome would produce “Bosnia”– in other words civil war and ethnic cleansing.

Remnick discussed the issue in some depth on the New Yorker Radio Hour with three rightwing/centrist voices: Israeli ambassador Dani Dayan; a Labor member of Knesset, Merav Michaeli; and the Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki. All said they were for a two-state solution.

Many of Remnick’s observations were very helpful, inasmuch as they conveyed an irreversible one-state reality:

“The Obama administration’s ambition to make peace failed miserably, we’ve got to acknowledge that…. It seems to me after so many failed attempts at negotiation… that we’ve reached a point now that’s called a frozen conflict….

“It seems to me that more and more people are saying, there will be one state, and one state only. That Oslo, that two states and all the rest, is dead… Isn’t it clear Netanyahu despite some earlier statements will refuse to negotiate the establishment of any Palestinian state. Isn’t it clear that he has no intention whatsoever of altering the status quo unless he decides in the end to make it even more draconian?”

Remnick, photo at UCLA site

Remnick suggested that “enormous violence and upheaval” would result if settlers were removed from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and he pressed Shikaki on whether the two-state solution was over. Shikaki insisted that it was not, and that polls show a majority committed on both sides.

“I don’t think we have reached a point of no return…. For most Palestinians, this notion of independence and sovereignty and self-determination is a very very rooted interest.”

The two then talked about what a one-state solution means. Neither was very positive:

Shikaki: Basically equal political and civil rights, in one state. Two communities, but one single state. Jews of Palestine, of Israel, and Palestinians of Palestine, Israel, including Israeli Arabs in other words– would all live in one single state. Basically the South African model.

Remnick: A post apartheid South Africa… Now people who object to a one-state solution say Yeah, the solution sounds like Bosnia. In other words it’s a solution that will end up in inevitable conflict. Do you agree?

Shikaki: I tend to agree with that. I don’t see the one-state solution as viable.

Shikaki went on that some Palestinians endorse a one-state approach because they see that one state is “here to stay.” These Palestinians reason that in 5, 10 years, the apartheid reality will become more evident to all the world; and it won’t be tenable. Remnick spelled that out: Some Palestinians think things might well get worse before they get better. And that when there is “unambiguous” apartheid, Israel will come to be isolated diplomatically and finally yield to a more just form of government.

Remnick saved liberal Zionist Merav Michaeli for last:

Q. Is the two state solution absolutely dead in your mind?

A. Oh no. Oh– so no!… The two state solution is so possible, and there are so many partners who can make it possible. Yes it’s going to be so much more complicated than it was ten and twenty and thirty and of course fifty years ago.

Remnick offered that few Labor members of the Knesset are talking about a two-state solution, that Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog is “not a powerful presence,” and the faith in two states “seems to be disintegrating all the time.” He asked:

“Has liberal Zionism died and has religious nationalism won in Israel?”

Michaeli said it hasn’t died. Life is not a movie with a simple ending. This is just the latest act, and the right is winning. They won’t win in the end.

Remnick concluded by endorsing that view:

“I think Merav Michaeli is right, history doesn’t end, it doesn’t lock into place. Things can shift, in the most unlikely way….

“This is a conflict that has been going on for fully a century and it’s not going to end anytime soon. But with the future of so many people at stake, Israelis as well as Palestinians, not to mention the ramifications for the United States, the region, and the world, despair shouldn’t be an option for any of us.”

It was a very good show journalistically, but it ended with that bromide. No one would accept that as an answer to injustice in the United States: let’s kick the can down the road and hope that the white southerners change their minds; and meantime no one should give in to despair. Surely Remnick is concerned about violence. It’s a worthy concern; but as anyone who has visited the permanent occupation understands, There is a great deal of violence right now; it is impossible to imagine any peaceful resolution of this conflict; and if you’re not going to despair, well then take some action: support or at the very least give airtime to a nonviolent movement that is pressuring and isolating Israel now (when apartheid is already unambiguous): the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). BDS was unmentioned.

The segment leaves me wondering how many American liberal Zionists are going to adopt a quietist pro-status-quo stance rather than do what it is in their capacity to do: stop believing in Zionism, admit the failure of a separationist ideology, come out for “equal political and civil rights,” to quote Shikaki. There was in the show no acknowledgment of anti-Zionism as an ideological force that might shape outcomes. Michaeli is wrong when she suggests that there was any kind of two-state consensus 50 years ago. That consensus developed 25 years ago in the face of great opposition. Today one might say the same thing about one-state ideas.

Thanks to Jefferson Morley of Alternet


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I listened to that audio show; the really right wing guy just kept reverting back to nothing can be done because the Palestinians won’t recognize the Jewish state’s Israel’s right to exist. I came away feeling nothing positive will be done to help the Palestinians; especially if Jared Kushner, Phil’s… Read more »

The Two-State solution is dead in the water and no amount of external political intervention can save it. Expecting anything to change the status quo from the US political establishment is a pipe dream. Even at the end of one of the most antagonising eight-year relationships in US/Israeli history, neither… Read more »

“‘enormous violence and upheaval’ would result if settlers were removed” The problem is not merely the radical Jewish terrorists (i.e. “settlers”) and their violent beliefs. The bigger problem is the cabal who finance them, who silence the main Western media and politicians, and who profit from the resulting conflict (e.g.… Read more »

An interesting exchange. Though I’m interested in knowing what the new blood think of this. It’s no surprise that the old guard think this way, this is their vested interest. As Upton Sinclair once said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon… Read more »

“BDS was unmentioned” I have not listened to the show and it would be good to have a link to be able to do so. BDS was not mentioned – was there any specific mention or any specific reference to the 1.5 million and growing Israeli Arab population in Israel… Read more »