While the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict may have been viable at one time, most serious observers are now abandoning it because it is clear that it and the never-ending ‘peace-process’ seem to be merely stalling tactics for time as Israel increases its steady encroachment of Palestinian land.
So what might be the solution to this seemingly intractable problem?
A simple majoritarian democratic system is unlikely to be acceptable to all parties. In his talk, Jeff Halper said that a ‘consociational democracy’ encompassing Israel, Gaza, and the occupied territories seemed the only way out of this mess.
What is a consociational democracy?
Consociational democracy can be found in countries that are deeply divided into distinct religious, ethnic, racial, or regional segments—conditions usually considered unfavourable for stable democracy. The two central characteristics of consociationalism are government by grand coalition and segmental autonomy. Government by grand coalition is the institutional setting in which representatives of all significant segments participate in common decision making with regard to common concerns, whereas decision making remains autonomous for all other issues.
Switzerland has been characterized as a consociational democracy since 1943, Belgium after World War I, Austria from 1945 to 1966, and the Netherlands from 1917 to 1967. Czechoslovakia was a consociational democracy from 1989 until its partition in 1993. Where consociationalism has ended, it often did so not because of its failure but because of its success: it worked so well that it was no longer needed. Whereas India since 1947, Colombia from 1958 to 1974, Malaysia from 1955, and South Africa since 1994 can be considered successes from a normative view, Cyprus and Lebanon’s experiments ended in civil war.
In general, such a system has four characteristics.
First there must be a government by coalition, as well as a second element of segmental autonomy, such as federal arrangements that allow for autonomy in policy fields (i.e., education policy for which responsibility lays with the German Länder, or states). Third, proportionality must prevail in the electoral system but also with regard to civil service appointments and the allocation of public funds. Finally, consociationalism also foresees a minority veto for the protection of vital minority interests.
This Wikipedia article provides more details about how power sharing works in such a system.
In the article by Miko Peled that I wrote about yesterday, he says that the current heightened and critical look at what is actually going on in Israel and rapidly growing support for the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement are helping to clarify the situation that the two-state solution is dead and new thinking needed.
The movement to boycott, divest and impose sanctions on Israel, BDS, is a form of dedicated, principled resistance that is non-violent and mirrors the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. BDS has had some successful campaigns that have reached millions around the world, from petitions to encourage performers to refrain from performing in Israel, to campaigns against companies that do business with Israel and the boycotting of Israeli products. The BDS campaign has gained several serious supporters like Bishop Desmond Tutu, author Alice Walker, rock star Roger Waters, and, most recently, cosmologist Stephen Hawking and filmmaker Mira Nair.
Further resistance has developed in the U.S., as in other countries in the West, in the form of student organizations. Probably the best known in the U.S. is Students for Justice in Palestine, SJP. Over the last five years or so, this group and others similar to it, have spread across universities and colleges and have made a tremendous contribution to the discussion on the issue. With regular events, protests, and cultural gatherings, such groups are exposing thousands of university students to the Palestinian cause, while often having to face fierce opposition from university administrators and pro-Israeli groups. SJP also has brought about the passing of divestment resolutions in Student Senates on several campuses around the U.S. and Canada.
As always, when the victims of oppression decide to rise against their oppressors, it will fill the oppressors with fear. Yet would we have acted differently? My father said when asked about terrorism: “When a smaller nation is occupied by a larger power, terrorism is the only means at their disposal.” This may or may not be true, but what is certain is that Palestinian resistance will not stop until Palestine is free and democratic.
Peled actually sounds hopeful of a lasting, peaceful solution and that it has to take the form of a one-state solution.
A clear and realistic solution to the tragedy in Palestine exists. It is a free and democratic state in all of Mandate Palestine, with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians, with clearly stated protections for the rights of minorities.
Those who benefit from the status quo will make one of the following claims:
- That a solution can never be found because Jews and Arabs could never live together peacefully in one state. This is aligned with the Zionist claim mentioned earlier that Arab hatred is incurable.
- That discussing the merits of a single democracy is pointless, since the international consensus is for a two-state solution
Both claims are false, misleading, and completely disingenuous.
Prior to the establishment of the Zionist movement, Jewish communities in the Arab world fared far better than Jewish communities in the Christian west.
As for the two-state solution, it was adopted by the state of Israel in 1993 as a strategy whose goal is to strengthen the Israeli hold on all of Palestine. It began with the Oslo accords that led to nothing and it continues to this day with talks about talks that everyone knows are safe for Israel because they will lead to nothing. Israel’s deputy defense minister Danny Danon said as much on June 6, 2013 in an interview in The Times of Israel: “Netanyahu calls for peace talks despite his government’s opposition because he knows Israel will never arrive at an agreement with the Palestinians.” He went on to say that if “there will be a move to promote a two-state solution, you will see forces blocking it within the party and the government.”
The reality is that there is no longer a possibility for a Palestinian state to be established on the West Bank and, as long as the discussion of a two-state solution continues, Israel is free to ignore Palestinian rights and international calls for justice.
Israel has created one state on all of Mandate Palestine, and while this may be a democratic state for Jews, the reality is that close to half the population within the land of Israel is not Jewish. Today Israel governs about 6.5 million people who are Israeli Jews, and 6 million Palestinian-Arabs. The Palestinians, or the “non-Jews” as they are typically categorized in Israel, live under a different set of laws. Israeli Jews enjoy the rule of law and democracy. Palestinians who are Israeli citizens live under a growing number of discriminatory laws (for a list see http://adalah.org/eng/Israeli-Discriminatory-Law-Database), and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have no laws that protect them. They are at the mercy of the Israeli military and other security branches.
Israel is not a homogenous state, it is not a Jewish state, and it is not a democracy.
The Zionist claim to exclusivity can no longer be justified. The world’s indulgence of the Zionist state, largely due to a combination of belief in biblical promises and guilt for the holocaust, needs to end. If anything is to be learned from the history of the Jewish people, both ancient and modern, it is that the application of justice and equal rights is the best guarantee to people’s safety and well being.
Israelis, being the children of colonizers and immigrants have become natives and Palestine is now their homeland too. This is not true for Jews in other countries, who have no right to claim Palestine. While Palestinians will certainly not accept Israelis as masters, one may safely assume they will accept them as equals.
But the past cannot be erased. The bi-national democracy must recognize the right of refugees to return and ensure the release all political prisoners. This new political reality will also move Israelis beyond their current state of fear and militarism. This will mean the end of Zionist dominance in Palestine, the end of the so-called Jewish state, and the beginning of a new era with endless possibilities for both Israelis and Palestinians.
I think a single state with a bi-national, consociational democratic system is the way to go. There seems to be no other plan that has any chance of working.