Ian Lustick’s requiem for two-states, “Two-State Illusion,” which was prominently featured in this weekend’s New York Times, was a pitiful illustration of the absurdity of arguments for a one-state “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At the most basic level, what one-state advocates like Lustick are calling for is not actually a solution to the conflict. Instead, as Lustick makes clear, the hope is that the absence of diplomacy will “set the stage” for an escalation in the conflict – “ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, [and] terror” to be precise – which, in turn, “might be the route to Palestinian independence.” Stated otherwise, Lustick’s plan is to set aside diplomacy, stir up another violent explosion, and hope that through “blood and magic” a Palestinian state may someday emerge from the rubble.
Plainly this is a ridiculous proposal. Particularly given the sectarian civil wars broiling across the Middle East it is unbelievably foolish to predict that Israelis and Palestinians would ever give up their independent national aspirations or that a joint state would ever be peaceful.
In fact, Lustick’s lopsided treatment of the right to self-determination demonstrates well why the one-state approach is all but guaranteed to produce perpetual strife. While Lustick shows an admirable concern for the idea of Palestinian self-determination, he attaches no importance whatsoever to the idea that Jewish residents of the area should enjoy the same right. Instead, he asks the reader to accept the fact that “Israel may no longer exist as a Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders” and that this would not be “the end of the world.” This double-standard makes no sense and would be greeted with the utmost hostility by Israel’s Jewish inhabitants.
There is simply no way to explain why Palestinian self-determination should be assigned the highest importance, while the Jewish right of self-determination is completely dismissed. If vindicating the right to self-determination is important – which we strongly believe it is – the one-state “solution” can never offer anything more than an unsatisfactory half-solution.
Lustick attempts to prove that the single state he and the others promote could actually be harmonious, but he’s far from convincing. The “strange bedfellows” he predicts will emerge “once the two-state fantasy blindfolds are off” are not merely strange, they are also virtually unimaginable. For instance, he posits that “secular Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank could ally with… non-Jewish Russian speaking immigrants,” which, incidentally, is among the most conservative demographic groups in Israel; he also predicts that “Israelis who came from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as ‘Eastern,’ but as Arab.” Given the fact that many of Israel’s “Eastern” Jews either fled or were expelled from Arab states, it’s ludicrous to forecast such an identity shift taking place.
Finally, Lustick comes up far short of proving that the current peace negotiations are merely an exercise in futility and only ends up illustrating just how illogical his arguments are. One of the key pieces of evidence he marshals to try to prove this point is that both Israelis and Palestinians currently hold “contradictory fantasies” as to what two states would look like. But this line of reasoning completely overlooks the fact that the reason we need negotiations is because, while the parties agree that two-states is the desired outcome, they disagree as to what two-states would look like. If they agreed on both the fact that two-states were the ideal and how these states should look, we wouldn’t need negotiations in the first place.
In short, proponents of one-state such as Lustick have a long way to go before they can make a persuasive case that the idea of a single state offers a “noncatastrophic path into the future.”
One-staters like Lustick may themselves oppose the Zionist goal of creating a Jewish and democratic state. They may not care that implementing the one-state solution would once again return the Jewish people to their historical role as a people without a land of their own, a people denied the right to self-determination. They may not be troubled by the prospects of casting the Holy Land into a state of perpetual conflict either. But for all who do care about these things, the alternative to two-states would be anything but “noncatastrophic.” We must continue to do our utmost to ensure such a “one state” never comes to be.
David A. Halperin and Danielle Spiegel-Feld are Executive Director and Associate Director of Research & Policy of Israel Policy Forum