The one undemocratic state solution

March 23, 2017

Publications like Socialist Worker stand for a "one-state solution" in Palestine--but the version advocated by Israeli leaders would continue apartheid, writes Daphna Thier.

DONALD TRUMP doesn't care, and he's made that perfectly clear. One state? Two states? It's whatever the Israelis and Palestinians want.

At his first press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said, "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like...I can live with either one."

This sounds like a comically open-minded approach, but scratch beneath the surface, and the options he and Netanyahu are discussing are alarmingly different than the widely understood definitions of two states or one. And as reported in the Guardian, both heads of state were vague at the time about what "the alternative to a two-state solution would look like."

Trump's abandonment of the longstanding commitment of the U.S. government to separate Israeli and Palestinian states existing side by side in Palestine--what is commonly known as "the two-state solution" in diplomatic circles--came days after Israeli President Reuven "Rubi" Rivlin announced his support for the full annexation of the West Bank in exchange for Israeli citizenship and "equal rights" for Palestinians living there.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (left) talks with a group of military commanders near the Gaza border
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (left) talks with a group of military commanders near the Gaza border

"It must be clear," said Rivlin, "if we extend sovereignty, the law must apply equally to all. Applying sovereignty to an area gives citizenship to all those living there."

But what Rivlin envisions is strikingly different from what those who stand for Palestinian solidarity have historically meant when they call for "one democratic state."

THE PALESTINE liberation movement has long argued for a secular, democratic state in all of Palestine that is a state of all its citizens, regardless of race, religion or creed. We have criticized the two-state solution for failing to address the demands of Palestinians whose homes, land and villages have been erased and replaced by the state of Israel.

Since becoming president in 2014, Rivlin has made several calls for "morality" and "civility" in managing Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. But while Rivlin's verbal commitment to Palestinian rights has ruffled some feathers among Israel's right wing, the fact is that Rivlin has spent his political career advocating for a Jewish state encompassing all of Palestine, known as Eretz Yisrael HaShlema (Greater Israel).

This can only be described as a thoroughly right-wing aspiration. Though he calls for "democracy," he is as committed as ever to the Jewish character of that state and opposes the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Rivlin's rhetoric aside, the annexation he advocates will result in the same kind of citizenship that Palestinians living within Israel proper presently "enjoy"--namely, the de facto denial of equal rights and social benefits. More than 35 laws discriminate against Palestinians, despite their "full" Israeli citizenship.

Ninety-three percent of agricultural, residential and commercial land is only leasable to Jews. More than 70 Palestinian villages, some that pre-date the establishment of Israel, are unrecognized by the government. Even recognized towns lack basic services and provisions.

And while Jews are encouraged to build and develop, Palestinians fail time and again to obtain the necessary permits for construction. Social services and public school funding are unequally distributed between Jewish and Palestinian communities.

Finally, countless families have been broken up through the denial of the right of return and the prevention of residency or citizenship status to spouses of Palestinian citizens.

ALL OF these laws create apartheid even within the 1948 borders of Israel for the 20 percent of the Israeli population who are Palestinian.

And while Rivlin condemned the Settlement Regulation Law passed in early February, retroactively granting ownership of some 3,000 illegal Jewish homes built on Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank, he also gloated about a 40-year-old deed that he said granted him ownership of a parcel of West Bank land.

When the Palestinian he supposedly bought the land from challenged his right to the land, Rivlin prevailed in court. Afterwards, he asserted his victory in racial terms, saying, "This Ashkenazi [a term for European Jews] is registered in Ramallah."

Rivlin's position is consistent with a far-right tendency within the Zionist movement. "I, Rubi Rivlin, believe that Zion is entirely ours," he said. "I believe the sovereignty of the State of Israel must be in all the blocs [of the West Bank]." This is the legacy of Vladimir Jabotinsky's right-wing current of Zionism dating from the pre-state Yishuv period, which covered the years 1920 to 1949.

This right wing of the Zionist movement argues that the two-state solution falls short of the ultimate Zionist goal--one Jewish homeland from the river to the sea. During the Yishuv period, the Jewish bourgeoisie initially sought to build the Jewish state on the model used by the French to colonize Algeria--cultivating cash crops with hyper-exploited Palestinian labor for the purpose of export to Europe.

In other words, the far right didn't seek separation at all, but rather the drawing in of Palestinians as a source of cheap labor. It was actually the Jewish labor current in the early settler colonial movement that fought for the exclusion of Palestinian workers and issued calls for hiring only Jewish workers.

THE OSLO Accords of 1993 and the subsequent "road map to peace" of the early 2000s, which promised the erection of a Bantustan-style Palestinian state, underpinned the successful efforts of the Israeli political establishment to normalize business relations in the international market.

Even the right wing governments of Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Netanyahu have tacitly accepted the two-state premise. However, the disillusionment of Israeli society with this so-called peace process and the rightward lurch of Israeli politics have given credence to the long-standing position of that section of the Israeli bourgeoisie calling for full annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Noam Sheizaf, founding editor of +972 Magazine who interviewed various right-wing figureheads such as Rivlin and Elitzur, explained their vision for a Jewish one-state:

Gradually and unilaterally, Israel would annex the West Bank (different time frames were given for this process--from five to 25 years); beginning with Area C [currently under Israeli military rule] and then moving to B and A [governed by the Palestinian Authority]. Barring security clearances (and according to some--loyalty oaths), all Palestinians will end up having blue Israeli identity cards with full rights. The army will return to dealing mostly with national defense, and the police will take over civilian policing duties in the annexed territory. Constitutional measures that will define Israel as a Jewish State would take place in advance [these are currently being discussed in the Knesset]...Palestinian refugees will not be allowed back.

Gaza will not be annexed and will turn [in] to a fully independent region, separated from the State of Israel. Separating Gaza from their model is necessary for right-wing one staters in order to maintain a Jewish majority in the unified state.

There is also a slightly revised version of annexation--advocated by Naftali Bennett, who is the leader of the racist pro-settlement Jewish Home Party--in which areas A and B would be given a "degree of autonomy short of statehood."

But Bennett also calls for the immediate annexation of Maale Adumim as a first step in a staged annexing of all of Area C, which is 61 percent of the West Bank territories. Bennett's more limited proposal likewise offers Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians in Area C.

Like other pro-settlement advocates, Bennett is also a proponent of dismantling Israel's separation wall, which divides "the West Bank from Israel proper." Couching this in what sounds like liberal terms, Bennett says this will allow freedom of movement for Palestinians and the promotion of their economic development, development which Israel should actively encourage.

But Bennett, who gleefully declared after Trump's election that "the era of the Palestinian state is over," is using progressive-sounding talking points to paper over the injustice he is advocating.

Bennett and others of his ilk see the wall as establishing a barrier to the colonization of all land between the river and the sea. Thus, dismantling the wall is an essential part of advancing the project of annexing the Occupied Territories and legally establishing West Bank Jewish settlements as part of Israel.

The differing solutions--whether two-state or one-state with full or partial annexation of the Occupied Territories--reflect the varying interests of the Israeli bourgeoisie. Certain sections of the capitalist class benefit primarily from ongoing occupation, whereas other sectors would benefit from incorporating more Palestinian labor and/or normalizing relations with the Palestinian capitalist class.

FOR THE Palestinian ruling class, the ideal resolution has long been two states. Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank, and his allies would like to strengthen their authority over Palestinian society and economy, even as they help entrench a system of dependency on the Israeli economy.

For the majority of Palestinians, the two-state solution is not a path to liberation. This does not resolve the plight facing the 6.5 million Palestinian refugees worldwide--fully a third of the world's refugee population is Palestinian.

The West Bank and Gaza together constitute only a fifth of what was once Palestine, and the conversion of even the entirety of those territories into a Palestinian mini-state would do little for the 1.3 million refugees in Gaza and 775,000 in the West Bank, many of whom have been separated from their families or live a few miles away from homes and land inside Israel proper that they have been denied the right to return to.

The two-state solution also does nothing to address the needs of Palestinians living as second-class citizens in the state of Israel.

Finally, if Oslo has proven anything, it is that the call by U.S politicians and liberal Zionists, who are the historic proponents of the two-state solution, for Palestinians to "compromise" and exercise "patience" has failed to stop the expansion of settlements on stolen land, with three times as many settlers living in the West Bank today compared to when the Oslo "peace process" began.

Apartheid--in a single undemocratic state or in two--is not an answer to injustice or ethnic cleansing, because all citizens must enjoy basic freedoms, such as the freedom of movement, the right to own property, and freedom of expression. And all must benefit from social provisions and civil rights equally, regardless of religion or ethnicity. The rights of refugees to their property, to return to their homeland or to receive reparations would likewise be granted in a truly free country.

The call for Palestinian liberation should be one that includes not just all of Palestine, but also all Palestinians. This is the only real democratic solution.

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