The Binational State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Many Israelis view this solution as an anti-Semitic attempt to destroy Israel. However, as I have mentioned in a previous article on my blog, this is not a new idea at all. The idea was entertained by the well-known Jewish philosophers, Martin Buber and Judah Magnes in the 1920’s. The history of the establishment of the State of Israel is a tragic one. It provided hope for the Jewish people and the survivors of the Nazi holocaust while resulting in the displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population and the creation of a Palestinian refugee problem which remains unsolved to this day. The two state solution as the result of the partition vote in the UN of 29th November 1947 was rejected by the Arab states but was accepted by the majority of UN members.

The conflict has reached a total stalemate as Israel celebrates its 60th Anniversary .The attempts at reaching a two-state solution has not yielded any results. The whole situation in this area has to return to the drawing board for new, imaginative solutions that would be acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians. The numerous wars since Israel was established had taken a severe toll on all sides to the conflict. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss these wars except to mention that it never brought the conflict any closer to a solution. Apart from Egypt and Jordan, no additional Arab states have diplomatic relations with Israel. The Oslo Accords of September 13, 1993, did give some hope for a settlement but this hope was short-lived and time proved the Oslo Accords a total failure. The second intifada broke out in October 2000 and the Palestinian Authority was further weakened by it as Hamas, the extremist terrorist organization, became stronger and intensified its suicide terrorist attacks against Israelis in all public places. Communications between Israel and the Palestinians virtually broke down only to be replaced by violence and Israeli military retaliatory actions. The small amount of trust between Israel and the Palestinians ceased to exist.

The two-state solution which gained world support, even in Israel, became moribund. One of the reasons for this is the settlement policies of successive Israeli governments. The occupation of Palestinian lands by right wing settlers and the continuous building and enlarging of existing settlements in occupied territories in practice has destroyed the two-state solution. One does not have to use much imagination to realize that the future, independent Palestinian state would be in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. The right wing Zionist settler movements have rekindled the binational state solution by default. It is not the idea of anti-Semites and those who wish to destroy Israel as we are made to believe. The expansion of settlements in Palestinian occupied territory made it very difficult to ascertain where the future Palestinian state will be. Would settlers vacate their homes in the occupied territories and return to Israel or would they remain under Palestinian rule? It is highly unlikely that the settlers would agree to this.
The only alternative to the two-state solution is a binational state solution which could be a federation of Israel and Palestine with a central government represented by both Israelis and Palestinians. In order for this to be achieved both Palestinians and Israelis must make revolutionary changes in their attitudes towards one another. Both parties to the conflict must agree to a binational solution. The chance of this happening is zero when the hate between the two sides runs so deep. Both sides have strong national aspirations which under the present circumstances run contrary to each other’s interests. There does not seem to be any sign that attitudes of Palestinian and Israelis will change. The hate and mistrust run so deep that it seems that either the binational state or the two-state solutions will not be achieved for many years.

Both sides are intransigent and extremism is gaining the upper hand. The misery, squalor, check posts and lack of economic development in the Palestinian areas will continue. The Israeli Security Forces will remain on its guard for terrorist activity and will continue to enhance the status quo of no progress, no direction and no peace.

On the Palestinian side there is the moderate Fatah who are prepared to negotiate a peace treaty but their strength is being eroded at a rapid pace while the extremist Hamas and its Islamic Jihad ally are becoming stronger and gaining more Palestinian support. They have no intention of coming to terms with Israel’s existence. Hamas is not even in favour of a two-state or binational state solution as it runs contrary to their charter. They wish to destroy Israel and drive the Jews into the sea. Both extremist organizations believe in genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Jewish People. Unless they become pragmatic and are prepared to negotiate with Israel on any form of solution they must change their attitude towards coexistence which is at present not part of their lexicon.

Israel must be more accommodating and show its readiness to negotiate with Hamas if the latter is prepared to negotiate even if it does not officially change its attitude towards Israel’s existence. The fact that it would be prepared to negotiate with Israel does grant de facto recognition of Israel despite its claims to the contrary. At the same time, Israel should show willingness to negotiate the release of Palestinian prisoners including Marwan Barghouti. Settlement activity beyond the green line should be frozen including existing settlement expansion. Israel has not ceased its settlement activity beyond the green line. Israel has also not ceased demolishing Palestinian homes not because of terrorism but because these homes are “illegal”. Why illegal? The reason for that is to make way for further settlement activity in Palestinian lands.

Both sides to the conflict must show readiness to negotiate seriously. Israel and its US ally cannot ignore Gaza as part of the solution even though it is under Hamas rule. Bolstering the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas will not lead to any serious negotiations because of lack of Palestinian support.

According to Meron Benvenisti, binationalism is apparently inevitable. Israel and the Palestinians are sinking together into the mud of the "one state." The question is not whether it will be binational state, but which model to choose.

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Comment by Shimon Z. Klein on July 28, 2008 at 3:19pm
Catherine, thank you very much for your comment. Yes, indeed, the situation here is very complex as you understand. Creating trust between two peoples after so many years of animosity and hate is not easy and it cannot be achieved in a short space of time. This can take years if not generations. However, I do believe that we can make a modest start of a process of dialogue. This can be done on a grassroots level and here, I believe, that is an excellent tool for that purpose. We can make friends with people on the "other side of the divide". By doing this, the negative stereotypes that both Palestinians and Israelis have against each other can fall away when both peoples realize that we have a common humanity, common desires and common problems perculiar to the Middle East in general. We can cooperate in improving the environment, medical care, ecology and so on which are an example of issues that could be tackled. This can be done by encouraging meetings face to face like "Peace Cafe" whereby Palestinians and Israelis can meet and discuss their problems in a friendly atmosphere. We can play a positive role in this. Discussions on various topics, culture, religion, peace and even personal problems do bind people together and create the atmosphere for building trust. naturally the internet is a wonderful medium for encouraging dialogue.

As for people like you and me, I think that we could certainly use this site to initiate moves in the direction of building trust. If thousands of Arabs and Israelis were to join this site it could be the beginning of a new direction towards a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

If more people on both sides of the conflict are involved in peace making, it could influence the political leaders on both sides to accelerate the momentum towards peace. It is up to us to use the humble means at our disposal to encourage dialogue towards that goal.

It is the common people who desire peace and could pressure political leaders on both sides to move in that direction.
Comment by Catherine on July 28, 2008 at 2:30am
Shimon - I am enjoying reading your analysis. A bi-national state solution aligns with my world view, and during my travels in the WB, I came to believe that a two state solution is not what is being created. But, of course, I do not live there. My main concern is that whatever the solution created, it must respect individual dignity, equal rights and international law. I agree with you and the writers you cite, that it is critical to overcome the lack of trust on both sides. Many in this site, including myself have talked about how it is the "people" and not their leaders, that will make peace. What steps do you see the "people" being able to take to create trust and what role, if any, do you see for internationals like myself?
I am glad you have found your way here.
Be Well,


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