Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

The One-State Solution and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Palestinian Challenges and Prospects

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

The One-State Solution and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Palestinian Challenges and Prospects

Article excerpt

As the Israeli-Palestinian peace process continues to stalemate, voices calling for an inclusive single state in Israel/Palestine as an alternative to the two-state solution have grown louder. This article reviews the Palestinian debate around the one-state solution and analyzes the challenges its advocates face in generating political support, central among which is the difficulty of redefining the Palestinian cause in terms of a struggle for equal political rights within a single polity rather than in terms of a struggle for a separate state.

Since the collapse of the Oslo peace process in 2000 and the eruption that same year of the Al-Aqsa intifada, the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have grown increasingly bleak. The doubling of the Israeli settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem between 1993 and 2009 to over 494,000 settlers, the construction of a 709 km separation wall that cuts into Palestinian land in the West Bank and once completed would incorporate 11.5% of it into Israel, and the institutionalization of more than 99 Israeli checkpoints that cut Palestinian areas into over 12 disconnected geographic areas, have killed the prospects for any viable sovereign Palestinian state.1 This reality has been further aggravated by Israel's 2009 war on Gaza, the rift between Hamas and Fatah, and the failure of the international community to push the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations towards fulfilling the 2003 "Road Map" to peace, which endorsed the idea of the Palestinian state as the only solution to the conflict.

In view of this impasse, a growing number of scholars and political activists have been calling for the alternative of a one-state solution in all of Palestine, inclusive of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. Since 2009, a number of major conferences took place across the globe to discuss the prospects and viability of one-state solution.2 Numerous books and articles have been published over the past few years advocating this idea, as well as vehemently opposing it.3 The Palestinian civil society-led campaign calling for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, which began in 2005, is gaining ground among political activists for the Palestinian cause in Europe, South Africa, and North America. These activists argue that Israel has created an apartheid reality that can only be dismantled by promoting a democratic one-state solution.4 Within the Palestinian community, a number of politicians have threatened to reconsider this option if Israel fails to give the Palestinians a viable and independent state.5

The aim of this article is to analyze the extent to which the one-state solution is or can become a clear political movement for the Palestinian people, one which can enable them to achieve their rights that the two-state solution failed to protect. This question seems all the more pressing today as the one-state solution is an old idea that was often found morally attractive but politically unfeasible. First proposed by Judah Magnes, Martin Buber, and Brit Shalom in the late 1920s and 1930s as a way to enable Jews and Arabs to live in a bi-national state in Palestine, it was rejected by both Zionists and Palestinians for compromising their national rights. Although it was presented to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) in 1947, and then reformulated by Fatah in 1969 and the PLO in 1971 under the slogan of a democratic state in Palestine inclusive of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, the one-state idea did not find political support among the international community. It continues to be rejected by the majority of Israelis who claim sole Jewish sovereignty over Palestine.6 It is thus inevitable to ask how advocates of the one-state solution can meet this opposition and turn their ideal into a concrete political movement that can galvanize local and international support. This is especially challenging given that supporters of the one-state solution have not yet formed a clear political party or cohesive political movement. …

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