By Elie Elhadj
For a durable solution to the Arab Israeli conflict, a single democratic and secular state for Jews and Palestinians needs to evolve. A single state promises a more durable long-term solution than the two-state solution, currently in vogue. The two-state solution is inherently unstable for four reasons:
1. First, demographically, a purely Jewish state is impossible to attain. Had Palestine been uninhabited at the time of Israel’s creation a refugee problem would not have arisen and a purely Jewish state could have been possible. However, around the time of Israel’s creation Palestine was a home to around 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs.
The Zionist dream of creating an exclusive state for the Jewish people in Palestine is unsustainable in the long-term. Presently, 1.4 million Palestinians are estimated to be citizens of Israel, or a quarter of Israel’s Jewish population. Due to their high population growth rates the Palestinian-Israelis will eventually become the majority. The Palestinian-Israelis are in addition to the 4.2 million Palestinians who live under Israel’s occupation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Outside Palestine, 2.6 millions are registered in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, plus 1.5 million scattered worldwide.
Unless the Palestinian-Israelis somehow vanish, Israel’s Jewish population will eventually become the minority and the Palestinian-Israelis the majority; the population growth rate of the Palestinian-Israelis is much greater than that of Israeli Jews. The number of Palestinians in Israel in 1948 was about 150,000. If Israel would allow the future Palestinian-Israeli majority full citizenship rights, they’ll control the government. If Israel subjects the majority to an apartheid regime, the system will eventually unravel. Apartheid regimes have short lives: Witness Rhodesia and South Africa.
2. Secondly, intractable issues stand in the way of a two-state solution: Jerusalem, borders, security for Israel and for Palestine, water rights, settlements, and the refugees’ right-of-return. Since the signing of the Oslo Agreement on September 13, 1993, none of the thorny issues has been resolved. When Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak, and Yasser Arafat attempted in July 2000 to tackle these issues at Camp David, the negotiations collapsed, leading to the second intifada and to Hamas’ gains in the 2006 parliamentary elections, which culminated by the take-over by Hamas of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, and Israel’s devastating war against Hamas eighteen months later.
3. Thirdly, even if a miracle patches up a two-state agreement the extremists on both sides would undermine the agreement. The extremists believe that they are divinely ordained to keep-up the struggle until they control the entirety of the land.
4. Fourthly, the Arab masses w ill shun a Zionist state. Judging from Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt (March 26, 1979) and Jordan (October 26, 1994), relations among the Egyptian and Jordanian masses and Israelis failed to develop beyond small diplomatic missions.
Western democratic and secular ideals should inspire the development of a single, democratic, and secular state for Palestinians and Jews. There are three reasons in support of such a development:
1. First, the intractable obstacles that have bedeviled the two-state solution would disappear.
2. Secondly, a single state will commingle Palestinians and Jews into an inseparable mix. The Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, estimated at about half a million in more than 125 settlements, could become instruments of integration between Palestinians and Jews, not segregation; a mixture of Jews among Arabs as difficult to unscramble as removing the Palestinian Israelis from Israel. A single state would lead the Arab governments to recognize the new state. Muslims everywhere, Arabs especially, would no longer have an excuse to boycott their Jewish “cousins.” Economic, cultural, educational, and social interaction would follow. The two sides would quickly learn=2 0how much they could benefit from one other.
3. Thirdly, a single state solution would allow Arabs and Jews full access to the entirety of Palestine.
The secular democratic one-state solution has been gathering pace. A well attended conference by Arabs and Israelis at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) was held on November 17-18, 2007 to address the various aspects of this concept.