A section of the Israeli right wing has now graduated from their unabashed opposition to advocating a one-state solution. This is not a passing affectation, I think, but a strategic choice that is gaining support, with good reason.
The right-wing idea is built on the fatal flaw that progressive advocates of a one-state solution have never been able to adequately address: that the Arab population, whether minority or majority, would be disenfranchised in this one state, leading to the very apartheid scenario the left wishes to avoid (or, as some would put it, erase). Thus part of the strategic goal of a one-state solution among the right is to permanently destroy Palestinian nationalism.
There are different ideas among right-wingers for how a one-state solution would work. One common thread, though, is that it would not include Gaza. Since there are no longer any Jews in Gaza, and the actual land is neither significant to Jewish religion or history nor worth much in terms of real estate, they can let it go.
So, Israel would annex the entire West Bank, solving the problem of Jerusalem. Palestinians would be given citizenship, in some scenarios immediately, in some gradually. Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem would have the right to vote, but would certainly also be expected to abandon their fellows in Gaza, the refugee camps in the neighboring countries, and scattered around the world.
Here’s how Hanan Porat, one of the giants of the Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement, puts it:
“In my view, every Arab has three options. First, those who want an Arab state and are ready to implement that goal by means of terrorism and a struggle against the state, have no place in the Land of Israel. Second, those who accept their place and accept Jewish sovereignty, but do not want to take part in the state and fulfill all their obligations, can be considered residents and enjoy full human rights, but not political representation in the state’s institutions. By the same token, they will also not have full obligations, such as military or national service. Third, those who say they are loyal to the state and to its laws and are ready to fulfill the obligations it prescribes and declare loyalty to it, can receive full citizenship. I consider this a moral and human principle: citizenship is not forced on anyone or granted just like that. We tried this in East Jerusalem, and the fact is that we failed… Already 30 years ago, we in Gush Emunim were against solutions of fear – both withdrawal and transfer – and said that in the Return to Zion there is room for the Arab population who desire this, as long as we are not naive about the process.”
You have to love that phrase, “…those [Arabs] who accept their place.” At least we’re not hiding the racism here, nor the fact that in this vision, Arabs will remain second-class citizens. Still, Porat is no fool, and he must be aware that a class of Arabs who will certainly outnumber Jews before long will raise the specter of apartheid much more strongly than it is now.
The notion (whether or not this consideration is part of Porat’s thinking) is that this measure would reverse a trend that is very worrisome for the right-wing in Israel today, and that is the increasing identification of Palestinian citizens of Israel with Palestinians under occupation.
For many years, so-called “1948 Arabs” (those Arabs who remained inside Israel after the 1948 war and eventually
became citizens of Israel) were alienated from the Palestinian movement, and were also being very slowly integrated into Israeli society. Both those processes have been reversed in the past decade, with potentially serious consequences for the state (many predict that the third intifada will start within Israel proper, for instance), and the issue of discrimination against Arabs in Israel is increasingly being melded to the occupation. Absorbing the West Bank would, the right hopes create an issue more akin to racial divides that are familiar in many Western countries. It would, they hope, also sever the concerns of the most visible part of the Palestinian community from those of Gaza and the refugees, which would ease a lot of the diplomatic burden on Israel, certainly in terms of the threat of “de-legitimization.”
To a great extent, this is calling the bluff of left-wing one-state advocates, who have often theorized that transforming the Palestinian struggle into a civil rights struggle would tip the balance of world opinion, and especially American opinion, against Israel. But, by definition, a civil rights struggle only involves those who are within the country in question, so the right fears that less than they do the unified efforts of Palestinians and their supporters.
The key is that the right believes that by recognizing individual and human rights of the Palestinians, they can defuse the tensions without recognizing Palestinian national rights. And, I suspect, they may be correct.
The needs of Palestinians are already very diverse, and this often causes problems between different sectors. Palestinians trapped in refugee camps in Lebanon necessarily have different priorities than those who are suffering under the siege of Gaza, whose needs are also different from those living under the direct occupation of Israel in the
West Bank. However much many Palestinians may empathize with their cousins in different places, their first concerns, like everyone else’s, are how to feed their children and give them a better future than they have. And the things Palestinians need to do that are different in different circumstances.
That’s what this plan exploits.
Yet it is also noteworthy that Porat, Moshe Arens, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, Likud Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and the leading thinker behind new plans for one state, Uri Elitzur are actually spending a good deal more rhetoric on Palestinian human rights than most of the more centrist or center-left leaders.
Consider Hotovely’s words: “I do not ignore the fact that there are Palestinians here. Both the left and the right chose to shut their eyes to the fact that there are human beings here. The left chose to do it by building a fence and deciding that they just don’t want to see them, and the right simply said, ‘We will continue and see what happens.’… I want it to be clear that I do not recognize national rights of Palestinians in the Land of Israel. I recognize their human rights and their individual rights, and also their individual political rights – but between the sea and the Jordan there is room for one state, a Jewish state.”
Or Arens: “…[Revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, father of the Israeli right] talked about a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, but for him a majority meant even 51 percent, too. In his last book, he suggested that the president might be a Jew and the vice president an Arab, and also the opposite… If Zionism means ‘as little as possible for the Arabs,’ I have to say that I do not accept that. Jabotinsky did not accept it, either. You call that Zionism – as few Arabs as possible in Israel? That is the Zionism of [Avigdor] Lieberman. If what is implied by the rhetoric of Tzipi Livni is that we need as few Arabs as possible in Israel, it’s not so far from Lieberman.”
This is actually classical right-wing thinking in both Israel and the pre-state Zionist movement: recognize the rights of Arabs, but also always recognize that Jewish national rights trump all. Still, it should be said that there is some, at least comparative merit to this thinking: after Jewish national rights have been served, Arab rights should be protected to the maximum degree possible.
At least in theory. These folks are right in terms of the results center-left ideologies have brought to the situation, as embodied in first the Labor Party and later, in Kadima. But surely those folks would argue that such was not their intent. Similarly, this all sounds reasonable, if not agreeable, in theory, but what would it look like in practice?
I think we’ve seen it. Continued marginalization of Arabs, and mounting Arab frustration over it, bringing greater fear and discrimination against Arabs, a cycle that ends in strife. And, of course, these are not typical voices of the Israeli right. One need only look at the foremost such right-wing politician in the current government, Dan Meridor, who is so often separated from his fellow Likudniks on issues of democracy and civil rights. The actuality of such a plan would look very different from the theory, much as Labor’s peace process did.
The hard left advocates of a one-state solution have never adequately addressed just how a disenfranchised minority (which would eventually become the majority, but would never be likely to be the overwhelming majority blacks in South Africa were and are) in Israel would solve the problem. The right is at least saying they will be second-class citizens flatly.
It seems we end up back where we started. If a two-state solution is rendered impossible, as many believe it already has been, then endless conflict is the sole alternative.