Those who advocated for a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict under the slogan of ‘One land, two peoples’ took what was always the more principled stand, saying that was the only way to reconcile the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to the land they were living in with the need of the Jews who also wanted a homeland, was to have both groups live there together and work out a modus vivendi. It was idealistic no doubt, but made sense since the two groups shared so much in common, except for allegiances to their different tribal gods.
Those who favored a two-state solution took a more pragmatic stance and felt that given the history of violence and animosity, the only workable option for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was to separate the two people. In 2002, even the Arab League unanimously accepted the two-state solution.
Like many people, I used to support the two-state solution on pragmatic grounds although the one-state solution was always the more appealing one. But recently I have shifted to the one-state, because the two-state solution has become increasingly untenable. This one graphic below tells the whole story of how Israel has increasingly taken over Palestinian land with its settlements, forcing the Palestinians into an increasingly fragmented and smaller archipelago of regions that cannot conceivably be made into a viable state.
In his talk in Cleveland last October that I promised to write up but never got around to doing (but fortunately kept my notes), Jeff Halper of the organization Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions (ICAHD) said that the Israel lobby has worked hard to promote the myth that Israel repeatedly makes ‘generous’ offers of peace and land to the Palestinian but keeps getting rejected, which proves that the goal of the Palestinians is to destroy Israel and kill all the Jews. The 1988 talks at Camp David are repeatedly brought up as an example of this spurned generosity.
He says that this is false. In reality, the Israeli government has made offers that they knew would be unacceptable as a method of stalling while they keep taking over Palestinian lands. Seth Ackerman describes how the major media has relentlessly pursued this false narrative of short-sighted, foolish, and ungrateful Palestinians rejecting the Israeli hand of peace in direct contradiction of easily verifiable facts.
This account is one of the most tenacious myths of the conflict. Its implications are obvious: There is nothing Israel can do to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors. The Israeli army’s increasingly deadly attacks, in this version, can be seen purely as self-defense against Palestinian aggression that is motivated by little more than blind hatred.
To understand what actually happened at Camp David, it’s necessary to know that for many years the PLO has officially called for a two-state solution in which Israel would keep the 78 percent of the Palestine Mandate (as Britain’s protectorate was called) that it has controlled since 1948, and a Palestinian state would be formed on the remaining 22 percent that Israel has occupied since the 1967 war (the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem). Israel would withdraw completely from those lands, return to the pre-1967 borders and a resolution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee their homes in 1948 would be negotiated between the two sides. Then, in exchange, the Palestinians would agree to recognize Israel (PLO Declaration, 12/7/88; PLO Negotiations Department).
Although some people describe Israel’s Camp David proposal as practically a return to the 1967 borders, it was far from that. Under the plan, Israel would have withdrawn completely from the small Gaza Strip. But it would annex strategically important and highly valuable sections of the West Bank–while retaining “security control” over other parts–that would have made it impossible for the Palestinians to travel or trade freely within their own state without the permission of the Israeli government.
Note that even the original 1967 partition gave the Palestinians only 22% of the land they lived in while Israel got 78%. But even that was not enough and the Israeli government has steadily encroached on that 22% by driving Palestinians away by demolishing their homes and subsidizing settlers in those lands. In addition they have created a network of massive walls that split Palestinian lands and require people to pass through onerous checkpoints (over 600 of them dotting the region) all the time, similar to the one I showed two days ago.
Halper explained how all this is done ‘legally’ using zoning rules. Almost all the land owned by Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories is zoned as agricultural and thus no houses can be built without first obtaining a variance and then a permit. For 46 years, Palestinians who own the farmland have not been able to get permits to build homes on their own farms. As a result they cannot work their land because they are forced to live far away. But Jewish settlers can easily get variances for permits to build houses because the zoning commissions are made up of Jews. Hence the steady displacement of Palestinians by settler housing continues to this day.
If the Palestinians do go ahead and build a home on their land, the Israeli government forces come without notice but with assault weapons and order the homes to be vacated within 15 minutes. The families living there collect whatever they can in that brief time and then bulldozers crush their homes while the families watch in despair and horror while their lives are destroyed. ICAHD tries to help people by rebuilding the homes but one family’s home was demolished by Israel six times. Halper was present during this and said that one child in the family was so traumatized by seeing what happened that she became blind but fortunately recovered her sight later in hospital. This is the ‘legal’ system that exists today in Israel.
Who are these 500,000 settlers who now live in the occupied territories as a result of these policies? Halper says that about 70,000 are religious fanatics who are driven by their belief that Jews are somehow special in their god’s eyes and have been commanded to occupy all that land. The others are ‘economic settlers’, people who have been essentially bribed by the Israeli government with the promise of cheap housing (which is in turn subsidized heavily by US taxpayers) and encouraged to move there as part of the government’s plan to take over Palestinian land. Many of them are recent immigrants from the former Eastern bloc countries seeking a better standard of living.
Halper says that he has come to the conclusion that Israel will never give up the occupied territories and that the government’s policies have doomed the two-state solution. He says that Israel is not a democracy but an ‘ethnocracy’, a state that believes that the only rightful inhabitants are those that belong to one ethnic group, in this case the Jews. He says that what is happening in Israel is even worse than what we saw with the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa. He calls what is happening the ‘warehousing’ of Palestinians, making their lives so hellish that they will leave.