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Posts

The Magnes Zionist writes on the binational state

magneszionist

Alexander Yakobson on the One-State Solution

There are some good arguments against creating a binational state in Israel/Palestine, but you wont find them in Alexander Yakobson’s op-ed in today’s Haaretz.

Instead, Yakobson uses the same tired-old arguments that the statist Zionists gave seventy years ago against Magnes and his cohorts. That was when there were around 650,000 Jews, who formed a third of the population, and who did not have a state. Now there are five and a half million Jews (!) who control all of mandatory Palestine (minus the Kingdom of Jordan). And yet Yakobson still says that inevitably the Jews will be a minority in a secular democratic state. Why? No argument is given. I suppose the assumption is that no Jews would want to share power with — yuk — Arabs, and that they would rather go back to Brooklyn where they will share power with – yuk- goyyim.

So what are some of the arguments that Yakobson brings? Here’s one: If there were one state, then it would be swamped with Palestinian refugees demanding the right of return. But if there were two states, then Palestinian refugees would only return to Palestine. Now, in my view, Israel should recognize the right of the refugees to return to Israel proper. But let’s leave that aside and ask Yakobson the simple quesiton,  “Why would five and a half-million Jews agree to their state begin swamped with Palestinian refugees? Because their “golus” mentality doesn’t alow them to assert their rights?

Here’s another argument: There is no Arab state in the Middle East where there is binationalism, and where the dominant culture is Arab. Ergo, any binational state in the Middle East, even if it is based on constitutional agreement, will not last.

Is it conceivable to assume that the Palestinian people will, over time,
agree to be the only Arab people whose state does not have a clear-cut
Arab character and is not considered a part of the Arab world? Is it
logical to presume that this concession, which no Arab people has agreed
to undertake for the benefit of a non-Arab minority population that is
indigenous to the land, will be granted to the Zionist “alien presence”?

The champions of the “one-state solution” pledge that all the legal
arrangements that will safeguard the binational character of the state
and protect the rights of all ethnic groups in the country will be
spelled out in advance. The problem is that written guarantees cannot
determine what will happen in practice. Does the world – especially the
Middle East – not have enough examples of the discrepancy between the
content of state constitutions and the true nature of those states’
governments?

Let’s call this the argument from lack of precedent. Not exactly the sort of argument that one would expect a Zionist, of all people, to advance. What precedent is there for a viable Jewish ethnic state in the Middle East? Ergo, such a state is doomed to fail?

The assumption running through all this is that nothing has changed since Magnes debated Ben-Gurion, that the Arabs are the same Arabs and the sea is the same sea,. The fact that Israel has great cards to play; that t is a in a position of strength in negotiations — none of this means anything to conventional-wisdom folks like Yakobson.

Were Yakobson to propose a serious two-state alternative to the one-state scenario, at least he would have some positive arguments for that. But, no, his two-state differs little from the consensus Israeli position, which is one state plus (Israel) and one state minus (Palestine).

Yakobson’s arguments only are valid if you supply some suppressed premises, e.g., “The Arabs cannot be trusted,” “They are a mendacious lot,” “They will wait for the first opportunity to break their agreements.” If you are a tribalist, there are good reasons for opposing any scenario that empowers the Palestinian people. If you are a liberal tribalist, you will claim to be in favor of two-states but you will still want to control the other state.

What are good arguments against the one state solution? Well, the best so far is that neither side wants it.  That may change — it is changing on the Palestinian side — but majorities are for two states. And since we are talking about self-determination, that is pretty decisive.

What the one-staters should do is to flesh out, more than they have done already, just how binationalism will work. In particular they will have to convince both sides that binationalism is in their interest. And since the one state solution is favored mostly by secular intellectuals, they should also deal with the position of religion in that state.

In any event, people would to be educated, and education requires among other things, hammering out details. Of course, the idea has no chance of gaining traction now. But who knows what will happen in the future, as Israel sinks further in the morass.


haaretz.com

A bi-delusional state

This land will either be home to two nation-states for two peoples, or one nation-state – a Palestinian Arab state. The concept of a nation-state is not going to disappear from here; it would behoove us to make sure that Israel doesn’t disappear.

Alexander Yakobson

While decades overdue, the realization is starting to sink in for some on the right that in the modern world – mostly democratic, but non-democratic too – it is not possible to exert permanent control over a territory without granting its residents citizenship.

It has been clear since 1967 that Israel does not have the option of annexing the territories and naturalizing its inhabitants. Such a scenario would spell the end of Israel. Recently, figures like Reuven Rivlin and Moshe Arens have embraced the option of annexation and citizenship. Arens is proposing a Greater Land of Israel Lite, without Gaza. In his view, a Jewish majority will remain even after annexation. This is a delusion. Any arrangement whereby Israel annexes the West Bank and leaves out Gaza is inconceivable.

Moreover, it is not just Gazans who will have to be given Israeli citizenship, but the descendants of Palestinian refugees.Since it is obvious that any final arrangement would need to include a Palestinian right of return.

Any two-state deal would have to stipulate that a right of return applies solely to the future Palestinian state. However, if there is just one state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, there will be no alternative but to grant a right of return to this country. Such a situation would create an Arab-Muslim majority, which would only grow bigger.

Contrary to the fantasies of the right, it is obvious to all that such a state will not be Israel. On the other hand, the state will not be binational either, to the dismay of those on the left. It will be an Arab-Muslim state through and through, even if it officially calls itself binational upon its founding.

Is it conceivable to assume that the Palestinian people will, over time, agree to be the only Arab people whose state does not have a clear-cut Arab character and is not considered a part of the Arab world? Is it logical to presume that this concession, which no Arab people has agreed to undertake for the benefit of a non-Arab minority population that is indigenous to the land, will be granted to the Zionist “alien presence”?

The champions of the “one-state solution” pledge that all the legal arrangements that will safeguard the binational character of the state and protect the rights of all ethnic groups in the country will be spelled out in advance. The problem is that written guarantees cannot determine what will happen in practice. Does the world – especially the Middle East – not have enough examples of the discrepancy between the content of state constitutions and the true nature of those states’ governments?

In an op-ed piece that appeared on these pages last month, Carlo Strenger argues that Arens’ proposal is tantamount to supporting a binational state, and that the idea is worthy of consideration. According to Strenger, the state that emerges from such an arrangement must be completely secular. After the founding of such a state, Strenger wrote, “Arab rejection of a fully liberal Israel-Palestine would no longer have a case.” Well, that makes perfect sense, since the root of the conflict, of course, is that none of the multitude of secular and liberal players in the region can stomach agreeing to a non-secular, illiberal state in their midst.

How does one realize this idea of creating a secular and liberal binational state? It’s simple, really. We just bring together the secular liberals of Israeli Jewish society, the secular liberals of Israeli Arab society, the secular liberals of the West Bank, the secular liberals of Gaza, and the secular and liberal masses of the refugee camps in the neighboring countries. Then we establish a “fully liberal” secular state.

When faced with this coalition of the delusional, one must say clearly: This land is home to two nations, both of which have the right to national independence. A binational state is an extreme rarity that is nonexistent in our region. This land will either be home to two nation-states for two peoples, or one nation-state – a Palestinian Arab state. The concept of a nation-state is not going to disappear from here; it would behoove us to make sure that Israel doesn’t disappear.

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