Occupied Palestine is never far from violence, but a recent spate of tit-for-tat revenge attacks, brutal murders and violence against demonstrators by the Israeli military has seen commentators nervously asking whether we could be about to see a bloody Third Intifada unfold. Frustration with the non-existent peace process, continued settlement building in the West Bank, in violation of international law, and a new hard-line, right-wing and openly racist government in Israel have sent relations plummeting to a deep low. Prospects of peace seem further than ever.
It is clear that current methods aren’t working, but still Western governments continue to weakly push the same failed agenda of a two-state solution, and Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority continue to pay lip service to the idea while neither show any support for it. This is particularly true of the Israelis, who continue to deliberately undermine any chance of two states becoming a reality by building settlements, ramping up building of the dreaded “security fence”, and deliberately and systematically annexing East Jerusalem. The failure of Western governments to even recognise a Palestinian state is a serious impediment to the two states they claim they want to see ever becoming a reality. The grim status quo continues, and so does the violence.
The problem with the two-state solution is that at its heart lies an insurmountable problem, one that went totally ignored at the Oslo summit because sweeping it under the carpet was easier than having to think about it. Long touted as the capital of both Palestine and Israel, the Jerusalem question casts a long shadow over everything that happens in Occupied Palestine. The Western Wall is the heart of Jewish worship, and Jerusalem’s position as the God-promised centre of Judaism make it an integral part of Israeli national identity. Likewise, access to al-Aqsa, the stunning mosque and third holiest site of Islam, is an absolute cornerstone of Palestinian claims to Jerusalem and completely non-negotiable. The Western Wall and al-Aqsa are part of the same complex; they are inseparable. A wall down the middle of Jerusalem, as the arbitrary ‘green line’ tried to demonstrate, is totally unworkable; populations are too entwined, religious sites are too close together, a city split in half is too ridiculous to seriously consider. If both states want Jerusalem as their capital, and neither would ever relinquish control of it, how can a two-state solution ever be viable?
There are other problems with the Two State Solution also. Palestinians living in Israel fear that the creation of two states would see them ‘encouraged’ to move to the Palestinian side, losing their possessions, homes and communities. The current status of the Palestinian Territories, split in half by Israel’s almighty land grab into fractious Gaza and the West Bank, each in turn governed by different political factions with clashing political agendas, makes the feasibility of these two territories forming one cohesive state totally impossible. And the status of Israel’s illegal settlements across the West Bank, some deep inside Palestinian territory, would also be called into question; is this ugly land grab allowed to remain, and how could that even work in practice? Division of resources including the monumental amount of water sucked by Israel from the West Bank aquifer is another crucial problem.
In short, the Two-State Solution is a failure, a political non-starter than is impossible to implement. Instead, a One-State Solution offers a far higher chance of success and lasting peace. And while in current tensions it may seem impossible to imagine, the One-State Solution actually represents a far less implausible compromise than the Two-State Solutions problematic central premise.
So how would it work?
The state would function with quotas that demanded 50% of parliament was allocated each to Jews and Arabs perfectly, ensuring a balance of power. Conveniently, combining the populations of Israel and the Occupied Territories would actually create a fairly even balance of Jews and Arabs, creating a functional democracy with no demographic bias. The state would no longer be able to be a solely Jewish state; either it could adopt two (or perhaps three if you include the significant Christian minority) state religions, or preferably it could become secular, guaranteeing religious freedom for all but an absence of religion in politics. Human rights would have to become a cornerstone of a new constitution and compromises would have to be made on both sides. The wall would come down, a triumphant moment for all involved. Most importantly, the right of return would have to be guaranteed to all Palestinian refugees trapped outside the country; significant resources would have to be allocated to ensuring their reintegration into society, on parity with the resources offered to migrant Jews on a per capita basis.
An agreement of non-violence would have to be signed by all involved, including Hamas, and all weapons would have to be declared and decommissioned by a joint-operated demilitarisation commission. Perhaps best of all, the One-State solution reaches a compromise where both sides get to retain the claim to the entire land area, but only if they agree to share it. The Palestinians are right to argue that the state was theirs and that it was unfairly taken from them in a colonial land grab, but they are also unrealistic in expecting Israel to leave, and fail to understand that too much time has passed for newer generations of Israelis not to call the land their home also. Both the Palestinians and Israelis have much to offer each other; Palestine’s rich culture and history combined with Israel’s highly advanced democracy would make this a golden nation in a new era of progressive global co-operation and dialogue.
The One-State solution might seem far-fetched. It might seem like a pipe-dream when peaceful protestors are being shot and others are being stabbed to death in the street. But unlike the Two-State solution, the shared state confronts the realities of the situation that neither side is willing to recognise; that the Israelis are going nowhere, and their position is too entrenched for their departure to be either realistic or fair; that Jerusalem cannot simply be divided; and that it is perfectly possible for two different races to live together in peace if only they are willing to look critically at their own positions, and not just sling mud at each other. Just look at East and West Germany, look at South Africa. The greatest racial, political and cultural divides can be overcome when compromise and diplomacy trumps anger and selfishness. When the international community is moved to action, when we seriously commit to ending the conflict, peace can happen. The right pressure, signs of goodwill, and an end to antagonism are all needed to make the One State Solution work, but it is possible. In the meantime, we can all dream of a United States of Israel and Palestine, where two peoples can eventually live in peace.