If one state is impossible, why is Olmert so afraid of it?
The central argument of the two-staters is that the one-state idea is impractical and therefore worthless of consideration. Their rallying cry is that it is at least possible to imagine a consensus emerging behind two states, whereas Israelis will never accept a single state. The one-state crowd are painted as inveterate dreamers and time-wasters.
That is the argument advanced by
Given Avnery's high-profile opposition to a single state, many in the international solidarity groups adopt the same position. They have been joined by an influential American intellectual, the philosopher Michael Neumann, who wrote the no-holds-barred book The Case against Israel. He appears to be waging a campaign to discredit the one-state idea too.
Recently in defence of two states, he wrote: "That
Unlike the one-state solution, according to Neumann and Avnery, the means to realising two states are within our grasp: the removal of the half a million Jewish settlers living in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Both believe that, were
There is something surprisingly naive about arguing that, just because something is called a two-state solution, it will necessarily result in two sovereign states. What are the mimimum requirements for a state to qualify as sovereign, and who decides?
True, the various two-state solutions proposed by Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and George Bush, and supported by most of the international community, would fail according to the two-staters' chief criterion: these divisions are not premised on the removal of all the settlers.
But an alternative two-state solution requiring
Importantly, Neumann and Avnery remind us that those with power are the ones who dictate solutions. In which case we can be sure that, when the time is right,
But let us return to the main argument: that the creation of two states is inherently more achievable and practical than the establishment of a single state. Strangely, however, from all the available evidence, this is not how it looks to
Prime minister Ehud Olmert, for example, has expressed in several speeches the fear that, should the Palestinian population under Israeli rule -- both in the occupied territories and inside
According to Olmert, without evasive action, political logic is drifting inexorably towards the creation of one state in
"Once we were afraid of the possibility that the reality in
Olmert's energies are therefore consumed with finding an alternative political programme that can be sold to the rest of the world. That is the reason he, and Sharon before him, began talking about a Palestinian state. Strangely, however, neither took up the offer of the ideal two-state solution -- the kind Avnery and Neumann want -- made in 2002. Then
Instead an alternative version of two states -- the bogus two-state solution -- has become the default position of Israeli politics. It requires only that
When Olmert warns that without two states "
Or maybe both of them understood rather better than Neumann and Avnery what is meant by a Jewish state, and what political conditions are incompatible with it.
In fact, the division of the land demanded by the real two-staters, however equitable, would be the very moment when the struggle for Israel to remain a Jewish state would enter its most critical and difficult phase. Which is precisely why
In the unimaginable event that the
Let us examine just a few of the consequences for the Jewish state of a genuine two-state solution.
Given the politics of water in the
We can understand why by examining the current water situation. At the moment
In a stark warning last month, Israel's Water Authority reported that overdrilling has polluted with sea water most of the supply from the coastal acquifer -- that is the main fresh water source inside Israel's recognised borders.
Were Palestinians to be allowed a proper water ration from their own mountain acquifer, as well as to build a modern economy, there would not be enough left over to satisfy
In addition, for reasons that we will come to, the sovereign Jewish state would have every reason to continue its Judaisation policies, trying to attact as many Jews from the rest of the world as possible, thereby further straining the region's water resources.
The environmental unsustainability of both states seeking to absorb large populations would inevitably result in a regional water crisis. In addition, should Israeli Jews, sensing water shortages, start to leave in significant numbers,
It can be expected that in a short time
Water shortages would, of course, be a problem facing a single state too. But, at least in one state there would be mechanisms in place to reduce such tensions, to manage population growth and economic development, and to divide water resources equitably.
Second, with the labour-intensive occupation at an end, much of the Jewish state's huge citizen army would become surplus to defence requirements. In addition to the massive social and economic disruptions, the dismantling of the country's military complex would fundamentally change
The experience and reputation Israel has acquired -- at least among the US military -- in running an occupation and devising new and supposedly sophisticated ways to control the "Arab mind" would rapidly be lost, and with it Israel's usefulness to the US in managing its own long-term occupation of Iraq.
With the waning of
Third, the Jewish state would not be as Jewish as some might think: currently one in five Israelis is not Jewish but Palestinian. Although in order to realise a real two-state vision all the Jewish settlers would probably need to leave the occupied territories and return to
These Palestinians have been citizens for six decades and live legally on land that has belonged to their families for many generations. They are also growing in number at a rate faster than the Jewish population, the reason they are popularly referred to in Israel as a "demographic timebomb".
Were these 1.3 million citizens to be removed from Israel by force under a two-state arrangement, it would be a violation of international law by a democratic state on a scale unprecedented in the modern era, and an act of ethnic cleansing even larger than the 1948 war that established Israel. The question would be: why even bother advocating two states if it has to be achieved on such appalling terms?
Assuming instead that the new Jewish state is supposed to maintain, as Israel currently does, the pretence of being democratic, these citizens would be entitled to continue living on their land and exercising their rights. Inside a Jewish state that had offically ended its conflict with the Palestinians, demands would grow from Palestinian citizens for equal rights and an end to their second-class status.
Most importantly, they would insist on two rights that challenge the very basis of a Jewish state. They would expect the right, backed by international law, to be able to marry Palestinians from outside Israel and bring them to live with them. And they would want a Right of Return for their exiled relatives on a similar basis to the Law of Return for Jews.
Israel's Jewishness would be at stake, even more so than it is today from its Palestinian minority. It can be assumed that Israel's leaders would react with great ferocity to protect the state's Jewishness. Eventually Israel's democratic pretensions would have to be jettisoned and the full-scale ethnic cleansing of Palestinian citizens implemented.
Still, do these arguments against the genuine two-state arrangement win the day for the one-state solution? Would Israel's leaders not put up an equally vicious fight to protect their ethnic privileges by preventing, as they are doing now, the emergence of a single state?
Yes, they would and they will. But that misses my point. As long as Israel is an ethnic state, it will be forced to deepen the occupation and intensify its ethnic cleansing policies to prevent the emergence of genuine Palestinian political influence -- for the reasons I cite above and for many others I don't. In truth, both a one-state and a genuine two-state arrangement are impossible given Israel's determination to remain a Jewish state.
The obstacle to a solution, then, is not about dividing the land but about Zionism itself, the ideology of ethnic supremacism that is the current orthodoxy in Israel. As long as Israel is a Zionist state, its leaders will allow neither one state nor two real states.
The solution, therefore, reduces to the question of how to defeat Zionism. It just so happens that the best way this can be achieved is by confronting the illusions of the two-state dreamers and explaining why Israel is in permanent bad faith about seeking peace.
In other words, if we stopped distracting ourselves with the Holy Grail of the two-state solution, we might channel our energies into something more useful: discrediting Israel as a Jewish state, and the ideology of Zionism that upholds it. Eventually the respectable façade of Zionism might crumble.
Without Zionism, the obstacle to creating either one or two states will finally be removed. And if that is the case, then why not also campaign for the solution that will best bring justice to both Israelis and Palestinians?
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His new book, "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" is published by Pluto Press. His website is www.jkcook.net