By Abdallah Schleifer
3 April 2014
As the Israeli- Palestinian peace talks go from a languid lack of accomplishment to the edge of collapse, there is increasing talk about the impossibility of a two-state solution and increasing talk on the Palestinian and pro-Palestinian side of a one-state solution.
Back in the 1930s and 40s noble -minded Jews who connected at some level with Zionism were calling for a bi-national rather than exclusively Jewish state but neither the Zionist leadership nor the Palestinian leadership wanted it which in both cases, figures.
The whole thrust of the Zionist movement for most Zionists, would be a Jewish state theoretically ready to absorb as many Jews from Europe, America, and the Arab world as would be willing and able to immigrate.
And since the overwhelming population in Mandate Palestine was Arab, why would the Arab leadership in Palestine consider a bi-national state as just another way of denying the Palestinians the right to self-determination?
One State, Two State, No State
The one-state solution is more or less the same idea as the bi-national state in Palestine but this time it is coming almost entirely from the Palestinian side, whereas in the 1930s and 40s it was almost entirely from the Jewish side.
The one state solution still is a noble idea but noble ideas don’t cut much ice without significant power behind it, whether it is the power of popular movements or powerful leaders capable of imposing their vision. Unfortunately, neither a powerful mass movement nor the commitment of strong willed leaders exists as yet for the one state.
And it is as utopian as it is noble, given the deep suspicion and animosity that prevails in both Israeli and Palestinian Arab societies for each other. The only way to a one state solution is via two states, providing both sides with an opportunity to engage people to people without threats to their respective and very different concerns, apprehensions and fears.
The only other viable option to two states is a right-wing Israeli version of one state based on ethnic cleansing and annexation. In light of the failure of peace talks, the Israeli government, by cabinet realignment or by a new election, will get even more right wing than it is at present. This has been the trend since the 1967 War.
Imagine the current Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett as a future prime minister. He is opposed to two states, a firm defender of the settlements and their expansion in an area that he will not even refer to as the West Bank.
Given the hopelessness of the situation it is almost inevitable there will be Palestinian Jihadi attack killing a large number of Israeli civilians -- like a bomb going off at the western Wailing Wall when the plaza is filled to capacity during key Israeli holidays.
This would provoke a terrible ethnic cleansing of the Arabs of former Jordanian Jerusalem and the West Bank. The ultra right-wing government could then annex all of the West Bank and not worry at all about the "demographic threat."
Consequences of a Failed Deal
The latest crisis in the peace talks began with Netanyahu’s endlessly repeated insistence over the past few months, as a condition for any deal, that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state -- a trap the Palestinians are falling into, as has happened so frequently in the past.
So as not to take the rap for the imminent collapse of the talks, the Palestinians should take a page from the quite successful Israeli play book of saying "Yes, but.." instead of "No." Why can’t the PA authority bounce back and say, “Yes but – Israel will now recognize us (the PA, with borders yet to be negotiated), as a Palestinian Arab state.”
Since Israel to date has recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority only as the voice of the Palestinians and not as representatives of a Palestinian State, demanding recognition in return would be a sly move and the responsibility would then fall in Israel.
Meanwhile, the issue of a Jewish state is still another distraction from the critical issue of the settlements and their growth. As are the more recent measures that have tipped the scale.
Short of more sophisticated Palestinian diplomacy backed by a growing BDS movement, the settlements will continue to grow and more and more Palestinian land will be confiscated and more and more Palestinians will be harassed, if not injured or even murdered by the settlers. And the Palestinians will end up with no state.
Abdallah Schleifer is Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the American University in Cairo, where he founded and served as first director of the Kamal Adham Centre for Television Journalism. He also founded and served as Senior Editor of the journal Transnational Broadcasting Studies, now known as Arab Media & Society. Before joining the AUC faculty Schleifer served for nine years as NBC News Cairo bureau chief and Middle East producer- reporter; as Middle East corrrespondent for Jeune Afrique based in Beirut and as a special correspondent for the New York Times based in Amman. After retiring from teaching at AUC Schleifer served for little more than a year as Al Arabiya's Washington D.C. bureau chief. He is associated with the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C. as an Adjunct Scholar. He was executive producer of the award winning documentary "Control Room" and the 100 episode Reality- TV documentary “Sleepless in Gaza...and Jerusalem.”