Over the past 15 years or so, Israel has repeatedly demonstrated that it has little to no interest in achieving a two-state solution with the Palestinians as it continues to build new settlements in the West Bank on internationally-recognized Palestinian land, not to mention the continuing shift in Israel’s political landscape toward an even more reactionary, far-right position.
This discourse by the Israelis has brought the one-state solution, an idea unthinkable a few decades ago, into mainstream Palestinian advocacy as many argue settlements are the biggest obstacle to any two-state solution as more than 550,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank.
Diplomats in the West, the Arab world as well as in Palestine are now arguing that settlement activity has become too invasive to reverse. Many pro-Palestinian activists and academics are today saying the best solution to solve one of the world’s most contentious conflicts is through establishing a single state that would be home to all residents of British mandate Palestine.
While this is a well-grounded proposition and argument, there are also several reasons to push for a two-state solution that deals with the situation Israel and Palestine on the ground.
To begin with, the Israeli public’s increasing hostility toward Palestinians and Arabs would be a major obstacle in realizing a bi-national state. Even if forced into such a situation by international actors, the Jewish population — with more international financial and logistical support — would not allow non-Jewish compatriots to receive the same civil rights.
Two recent polls indicate that the Jewish population in Israel has no interest in granting Palestinians equal rights.
One conducted in June by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University show that “a majority of the Jewish public, 55 percent, prefers continued Israeli rule over the Palestinians, whether it means sustaining the existing situation or annexation (of West Bank) without giving equal rights to the Palestinians.”
A separate poll from October 2012 points to similar sentiments. More than 70 percent of Israeli Jews said the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank should be denied the right to vote if the area was ever annexed by Israel, effectively constituting an apartheid state.
A one-state solution would mean defeating the very purpose of the founding of the Israeli settler state, which explicitly states it is to be the Jewish “homeland.” Founded through the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinians, the very notion of a single, inclusive state contradicts the history Israelis have championed since 1948.
Zionism was founded and flourished as a result of this idea. Today as in the past, many highly-influential, wealthy Jews and supporters of Israel have invested political and financial capital into its settler-colonial project. They would be the leaders of a fierce, and most likely successful campaign, against a one-state solution.
Another reason to stand behind the two-state solution is because the current global and international mood is in favor of such a solution, one that is supported by and pushed for by Israel’s Western allies who possess significant leverage to ultimately force Israel to act in favor of peace.
Compelling Israel to dismantle its all-pervasive West Bank settlements and end the decade-long blockade on Gaza is more likely if Israel’s own powerful allies, the U.S. and the Europeans, see settlements and the occupation as illegal while also seeing the blockade on Gaza as an obstacle to peace.
While the United States’ military aid to Israel, which will reach a record US$38 billion over the next 10 years, is seen as a major roadblock to peace, that very policy could be Palestinian’s hope for a sovereign state.
In “On Palestine,” a book co-authored by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, the renowned linguist argues that the Boycott and Divestment Movement, or BDS, as well as other Palestinian advocacy groups, could ignite enough international support to pressure Washington and its allies to use their generous support to force Israel to embrace a two-state solution.
However, Chomsky does not see the two-state solution as the final step but one toward the ultimate goal of a one-state solution. In 2012, speaking on the issue, he said that "for 70 years, I've advocated a bi-national settlement. However, I have advocated achieving that objective, not merely talking about it.”
Chomsky argues that achieving a functional and truly democratic bi-national state for Jews and Palestinians cannot be realized through current circumstances when Palestinians lack basic rights and have no negotiating power.
“That means that it is necessary to pay attention to real-world circumstances, and … sketching a feasible path from here to there. Barring that, it's like saying 'let's have peace in the world.’”
Whether for a one- or two-state solution the Palestinians have been negotiating from a position of weakness for decades. The Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the hailed peace agreement that kicked off negotiations for a two-state solution, have proven that sitting at the negotiation table is nothing more than a PR stunt unless both parties have enough bargaining power to exert pressure on the one another.
Israel, with its rich allies and advanced weapons, has no reason to compromise for peace when it has the capacity to unleash successive wars and endless blockades and occupation on Palestinians and get away with a slap on the wrist and “we are deeply concerned” statements from the U.S. and the United Nations.