Palestine After Israel and Palestine? (2 State 1 State) (Ian Lustick)

One State

For those who are going to argue that the 2 state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is a dead dog, it’s up to them to envision what then comes next, something else, a 1 state solution, how it might work and on what possible bases. I think it’s probably not best to let political scientists at it. They know how to game out systems and structures, but it’s been my experience that they can be pretty dense when it comes to what in the humanities we still like to call “culture.” A case in point is Ian S. Lustick, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, writing in the New York Times Sunday Review about Israel and Palestine.

According to Lustick, the 2 state solution is a chimera to be replaced by what he won’t want to recognize as the chimera of a 1 state solution. In what looks like a sick joke, Lustick writes this op-ed, featured on the first page of the Sunday Review, as all the multiethnic, multi-sectarian or multi-religions populations are violently fracturing. I’m not sure why anyone would assume that Jews and Palestinians are more amenable to federating at this point in time. I’m also wondering if a single bi-national state had been established in British Mandate Palestine in 1948 under this or that constitutional system why anyone thinks the situation there would be any more stable today than it is in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria? Or would the Jews have been run out of the Middle East, pretty much like the Christian Arabs? It’s not touted as such. But as even a staunch critic of Israel such as Norman Finkelstein has recognized, the problem is that the 1 state solution is most probably a zero sum game, in which one side takes it all and the other is left with nothing.  That’s the way it also appears in Lustick’s article, as I’ll suggest below.

But first, let’s mention this red flag. Lustick claims that the 2 state solution is an impossible one because it would demand evacuating 500,000 Israelis on the other side of Green Line. But this scenario is on no one’s picture. Most proposals being seriously considered, especially the Arab League proposal, are based on the idea of land and settlement swaps that would include the vast majority of Israeli citizens living over the Green Line. The 2 state solution is impossible only if you set unrealistic goals for it. Ditto re: the notion that all a 2 state solution offers the Palestinian people are an archipelago of separated bantustans.

Then there’s the false comparison of Zionism to the Soviet, Pahlavi Iranian, apartheid South African, Baathist Iraqi, and Yugoslavian regimes. All of these eventually unraveled, and when they did so, it happened quickly. But this comparison makes no sense. The regimes with which Lustick wants to compare the Israeli one were purely ideological constructs with no national and demographic base or democratic superstructure to support them. And that’s probably why most of those upheavals turned out to be so disordered and violent. It’s not a condition one would want to wish on anyone.

As for Lustick’s argument, there are at least two two-part claims that are logically disconnected:

The enumeration is mine, but here’s one such argument: [1] Fresh thinking could then begin about Israel’s place in a rapidly changing region. There could be generous compensation for lost property. Negotiating with Arabs and Palestinians based on satisfying their key political requirements, rather than on maximizing Israeli prerogatives, might yield more security and legitimacy. Perhaps publicly acknowledging Israeli mistakes and responsibility for the suffering of Palestinians would enable the Arab side to accept less than what it imagines as full justice. And perhaps Israel’s potent but essentially unusable nuclear weapons arsenal could be sacrificed for a verified and strictly enforced W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East. [2] Such ideas cannot even be entertained as long as the chimera of a negotiated two-state solution monopolizes all attention.  Why is this illogical? Because the ideas in the first part of the claim are actually the very basis for a 2 state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine rejected in the second part.

Here’s another two-part statement that doesn’t hang together logically. Or if there is a logic involved, then it’s zero sum: [1] It remains possible that someday two real states may arise. [2] But the pretense that negotiations under the slogan of “two states for two peoples” could lead to such a solution must be abandoned.  On what other basis short of catastrophe will either option develop? It’s true indeed that a single state might be the route to eventual Palestinian independence, but what then about Israeli independence? If the author has given up on that concept, it’s best to understand why he wants to support the other against the one.

As for the 1 state solution envisioned by Lustick, the true mirage is demographic: In such a radically new environment, secular Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank could ally with Tel Aviv’s post-Zionists, non-Jewish Russian-speaking immigrants, foreign workers and global-village Israeli entrepreneurs. In fact, I find it hard to see Mizrachi Jews and non-Jewish Russians supporting the mutation of Israel and the occupied West Bank into a single so-called secular, Muslim majority state in historical Palestine. As for the Tel Aviv post-Zionists, there simply aren’t that many of them, and they have no electoral clout; foreign workers are by definition non-citizens, while the entrepreneurs are deeply enmeshed in their own “Israeliness.”

I have no doubt that conditions are malleable and that the status quo as it now stands is an unjust and an unstable one, and works towards the situation envisioned by Lustick. But I don’t see how the 1 state solution is supposed to work out. While the Israeli-Jewish identity formation might morph this way and that, I don’t see any way out of this or that manifestation of the identity formation itself. And I don’t see how this identity formation does not constitute one of the negotiating contours of a political settlement. Otherwise, you’re just trying to wish away the existence of one party of the dispute you are trying to settle. You end the dispute by theoretical fiat. As for the difference between what’s real and what’s a “mirage,” maybe that’s a metaphysical question best left for analytic philosophers. Or to quote journalist Rami Khouri, writing about poli-sci experts in a different but not entirely unrelated context, “The complexity of the cause-and-effect debate is what interests the pretzel makers, whose own fine handiwork defies the attempts of rational people to determine with precision where the pretzel starts and where it ends.”

[P.S. Sometime since, responding to his critics, Lustick wrote this at Open Zion. I still don’t think much of the argument as it appeared in the NYT, but the reasoning here at Open Zion cuts much better, much more profoundly, to the issues at hand, and in ways with which I find it harder to disagree.]

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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