Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Two states are neither possible nor desirable

While still small, the percentage of activists supporting a single-state solution to the Israel-Palestine question is, for the first time in decades, growing.

December 1, 2003
4 min read

The debate over the issue has become so lively that in November an International Herald Tribune editorial was moved to comment that a shared state’s code for the end of Israel and must be strenuously opposed.

Such sentiments would be widely shared by Zionists. Many prominent Palestinians are also unhappy with the idea, but this is not reason enough to dismiss it. The two-state solution is neither feasible nor desirable.

Israel’s progressive colonisation of Palestinian land has made a Palestinian state impossible. A glance at the map of the West Bank, with its colonies, bypass roads and separation wall, affirms this reality.

The West Bank now houses 400,000 Jewish settlers (excluding the 200,000 Israelis in East Jerusalem), and 80 per cent of its water has been siphoned off to Israel. When the wall is completed about 40 per cent of the land will be left in uncontiguous parts incapable of being formed into a state. Awareness of these facts has prompted calls from Europe and the US for Israel to remove the settlements and abandon the wall – so far to no avail.

Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land has been pursued relentlessly by every Israeli government since 1967, and has defied every effort to create a Palestinian state. It is no wonder that increasing numbers of Palestinians – and some Israelis – are starting to reconsider the one-state option.

Some Israelis are beginning to fear for the moral and existential future of the Jewish state. Most are Zionists who argue that Israeli society is corrupted by oppressing another people, and that hatred of Israel may one day lead to its destruction – its victims will not always be so weak.

They now speak of a bi-national state, with Arabs and Jews sharing the same land. Though this would limit Zionist territorial ambitions, it would help preserve a Jewish homeland. For Palestinians who see no logistical possibility of a separate Palestinian state, such a solution also provides a base for Palestinian self-determination and nationhood.

Even if it was logistically possible, a two-state solution would involve an inequitable division of the land (the occupied territories comprise 22 per cent of original Palestine) and could not accommodate all the refugees claiming a right to return.

Supporters of the Zionist project need to understand that Zionism was an idea forced on the Palestinians. Israel was created on Palestinian land, at the Palestinians’ expense – for reasons that have nothing to do with them. Hence, the survival of Israel as a Jewish state is not the problem of the Palestinians but of those who supported the Zionist project.

The Palestinian goals of regaining their lost land, repatriating their refugees and building a normal society cannot be realised while Israel, as a Zionist, exclusivist state, remains.

The only humane, just and practical outcome is sharing the land between the Israelis and Palestinians already there, and allowing those who were displaced to return. I would argue for a secular, democratic state on the model of the Western liberal democracies.

Numerous objections will be raised, most of which boil down to current realpolitik. Israelis will resist the dismantling of their dreams, and the balance of power favours them. But the moral force of this solution remains and, like all issues of principle, will outlive the vagaries and shifts of politics and history. To abandon it because it is too difficult to implement today is to cede victory even before battle begins.Dr Ghada Karmi is a research fellow at the University of Exeter and the author of In Search of Fatima: a Palestinian memoir (Verso). She is currently working on a book about the one-state solution scheduled for publication next summer.


Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.

Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani

Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week

A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes

Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.

Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu

Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism