Article By Daniel Gavron

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

The One-State Idea

And Recent Events

The HopeWays web site is replete with suggestions concerning restructuring our society in a manner that will allow Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians, religious and secular to run their own affairs and express their religious, cultural, and educational traditions. The ideas are bold, refreshing, and stimulating, but a significant majority of Israelis and Palestinians find it impossible to make the necessary leap of imagination to envisage the new reality of a single entity for both peoples. Almost everyone I talk to tells me that such a proposal is utopian, impractical, or even wildly unrealistic.

The major challenge for anyone espousing some sort of one-state solution is to convey to this sceptical majority the every-day reality of Israel/Palestine, CIP, USIP, Isratine, Palistrael, or the State of Jerusalem. One way of doing this is to try to imagine how the events of the past few years would have unfolded, if, instead of the attempt to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel, one of the above models had been implemented.

Undoubtedly the most dramatic events of recent weeks have been the targeted killings of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel-Aziz Rantisi. Without getting into the argument of whether the actions were justified, sensible, or effective, lets take a look at what might have happened in a unified state, federation, confederation, or community democracy.

In such an entity, Yassin and Rantisi would have been arrested - probably by a joint Israeli-Palestinian police unit - and put on trial. Of course, Yassin was previously tried and convicted by an Israeli military court, only to be released, following the unsuccessful attempt on the life of Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Jordan. Furthermore, after his release, Yassin continued to incite to violence. He and Rantisi were far from being righteous men. Nevertheless, their assassinations were clearly a cases of execution without trial.

Because he is a citizen of Israel, the fate of Sheikh Raad Salah, leader of the Israeli Islamic Movement's northern branch, has been very different. He has been arrested and is awaiting trial on charges of encouraging terror. He will be tried in a court of law and given the chance to defend himself. If Salah is found guilty, many of Israel's Arab citizens may not like the verdict, but it is unlikely that the resulting prison sentence will infuriate them and their fellow Arabs to the same degree as the killing of Yassin and Rantisi. It need hardly be added that a "targeted assassination" against Salah would never have been contemplated - let alone implemented.

Now lets take a similar comparative look at the tragic events, which followed the outbreak of violence in September 2000. There were violent demonstrations both in Israel and the Palestinian territories, but the consequences were entirely different. In Israel, twelve Israeli Arab citizens and one Palestinian lost their lives as a result of police gunfire. The situation was swiftly calmed, further confrontations were avoided, and an official Commission of Inquiry was established. It is certainly true that many - maybe a majority of - Israeli Arabs were dissatisfied with the commission's findings, but the situation inside Israel remains peaceful, if far from ideal.

In contrast to this, the conflict between Israel's security forces and the Palestinians is still raging, with thousands killed on both sides, thousands wounded, thousands imprisoned, fearful destruction of property, economic harm to both societies, and lasting damage to the psyches of both Israelis and Palestinians. Had the Palestinians been citizens of one Israeli-Palestinian entity, it can be confidently assumed that there would have been far greater efforts to control the violence, and that some sort of inquiry would have ensued. To put it simply: you don't wage war against your own citizens, you deploy the police.

Regarding the current cycle of violence, with the continuous Palestinian suicide attacks followed by Israeli retaliations, we can postulate that, if there were one overall national authority - and it doesn't make any difference which of the HopeWays models is adopted - its security forces would be there on the ground, controlling violence and incitement everywhere. The courts of this entity would have authority in Gaza and Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Nablus, Hebron and Haifa.

Surely this state of affairs would be satisfactory to the most security minded Israeli. At the same time, if all the country's citizens are free to live according to their religious beliefs, ethnic origins, cultural preferences, and educational systems, no Palestinian could legitimately object. A single entity, albeit structured to grant its citizens maximum autonomy, is surely the best solution to our current situation.

Daniel Gavron, 13/May/2004

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