One or Two States

The self inflicted crises in the still less than one month old Trump Administration keep coming so fast and furious. There was the immigration ban, now pushed out of the news, though there still remains on the table whether the scale of deportations has increased since Trump took over. There was the Flynn resignation, the furor over which suggests that that there is much more to be said about the connection of the Trump campaign and the Trump Cabinet with the Russians than has yet been made public, but that insiders already know there is something to it, for otherwise why care so much that one official proved unsuitable for his job. Then there is Netanyahu coming into town to announce with the President that the time of the two state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over, to be replaced, possibly, by a one state solution. This, actually, may be a good idea, even though the New York Times dismisses it simply because it is not what has been United States policy for twenty years now. Let us sort out the meaning of the proposal, Netanyahu, we may assume, fully comprehending what this initiative is while the President, as usual, falls for a phrase and can’t look beyond that.

It has always been known that granting the Palestinians a state would not make them a state in the sense of what that means in the European context, where the idea of a state was developed in the Seventeenth Century or before, an idea that was successfully exported to the New World and in the past few generations to Asia and Africa, where national borders were less important than empires and ethnic groups. The Palestinian state would have representation at the UN, would have its flag and Olympic teams, but it would not have other things thought to go along with statehood, the most important of which is an Army rather than just a police force carefully supervised by the Israelis. The Palestinians would not be allowed to have their own airport and Israel would keep control of egress in and out of the country, and that would include at the border with Jordan. This was because the Israelis do not trust the Palestinians not to start a war with Israel as soon as they can. They have to be kept on a short leash because confidence building measures between the two peoples have never worked to calm Israeli fears or convince outsiders that the Palestinians do not still intend to push the Jews into the sea, even if the date for the accomplishment of that goal has been pushed back indefinitely.

What a two state solution means, then, is that Palestine will have considerable autonomy to run its affairs, will be in charge of its own domestic order, and be free to pursue economic development through loans and investments from Arab countries. But one of the reasons the Palestinians never accepted any of the accords for a two state solution was that they did not want to face up to the reality of what being a Palestinian state would be-- not much different from what it is right now, except with no settlements within its territory and with an ambassador in each of the major capitals of the world.

Now, what is a one state solution? It would not mean, as the Times says, that the Israelis would have to choose between being democratic and being Jewish. The Palestinians would stay within their boundaries and not be part of the Israeli electorate. They would elect their own government if, that is, they kept hold of democratic forms, though that seems unlikely, no matter how long their exposure to Israeli democracy has been. A one state solution would be the same as a two state solution except that the Palestinians wouldn’t have the ambassadors and the flag, although even that would be negotiable. Trump is correct in thinking, to the extent that it amounts to a thought, that the Arab countries would back either version of that solution because the Palestinians are, as always, a nettle under their saddle, not worthy of their trust, that becoming all the more irritating what with the ever closer ties developing between Sunni nations and Israel over security issues and economic exchange, what with Israel becoming an energy exporter and the developer of pharmaceuticals and other high tech products for the entire region. Now might indeed be the time to try for some formula that settles things down and forcing Palestine to accept the deal would not be a bad idea.

But is it worth the effort?  The Palestinian officials and the Palestinian people are against it, and why should the Arab nations exert any energy to get the Palestinians what they might reasonably hope for when it would be greeted by the Palestinians with ingratitude, portrayed as the Arab World selling out the Palestinians one more time? Let things remain as they are: a long relatively peaceful  truce with Israel dominating Palestine, and no de jure recognition of the de facto reality. Netanyahu is free to toy with the idea of a one state solution because this is more or less what he has wanted all along.