Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Are One State
Practical solutions appear unavailable especially now, but recent events have revived well-intentioned calls for the “two-state solution.” In this scenario the West Bank and Gaza would be partitioned from Israel and granted sovereignty. Like most everyone, I have supported this in the past. I no longer think this is viable, even in the long run.
The principal alternative concept is a democratic, secular state, wherein somehow Jews, Arabs, and others are governed by a single entity. There are some exotic variations on this that I won’t go into.
The sad truth is that presently, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza are one state. They are controlled by a unified military with some limited devolution of responsibilities to Palestinian entities on the ground, but the entire territory is controlled by the Jewish state, its parliament, and its armed forces. Among its residents, basic human rights are highly disparate in application.
The West Bank has been atomized into a hodge-podge of Israeli-Jewish settlements and checkpoints. Jewish settlers run amok, killing and brutalizing Arab residents at will, while the Israeli Defense Force and police look on, doing nothing.
The inability of people on both sides to countenance solutions, for different reasons and with different justifications, argues against most any real solution. But there is a difference.
If you’re an incrementalist of a practical sort, I think you have to go with a unitary state that covers the entire contested territory. Naturally it has to be democratic and provide full citizenship and rights to all. Why is this more conceivable?
My view is that partition is more of an all-or-nothing thing. Among other difficulties, it would entail the timely relocation of all those illegal and otherwise intrusive Jewish settlements on the West Bank. I recall serious trouble over the mere transfer of Jews out of Gaza, years ago. In view of the political ascendance of the Israeli far right, Jewish edition, and the extensive proliferation of Israeli incursions into the West Bank, clearing it out in one swoop would be just but appears grossly unlikely.
By contrast, towards a single, secular, democratic state, the citizenship rights of all could be advanced, inch by inch, as they have been in other places, such as the U.S.A. Of course more advance is urgent, and recently even here there has been some regress, but incremental progress looks more attainable than partition and sovereignty for a Palestinian state.
So in the realm of fantasy, a democratic secular Israel, from the river to the sea, looks to me less fantastic than two states.
It’s possible that presently the ritual invocation of a two-state solution, not least by the U.S. State Department and the state of Israel itself, is more of nuisance than otherwise. None of the relevant parties are interested in negotiating for two states, for different reasons. So the TSS just becomes a distraction from the impending disaster.