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In a diary yesterday, I proposed a Middle East peace plan resting on the creation of a single binational state in Israel, to be called Israel, to use the Israeli currency, to have Hebrew as the official language, and to use the Israeli flag.  It would also, however, annex the West Bank and Gaza, grant full citizenship rights to the Palestinians living there, and allow Palestinian refugees in third countries the right to return to Israel.  There were some more details of my plan, and you can read them in that diary if you so choose.

Today's Ha'aretz contains two stories -- one news, and the other opinion -- which make it appear that my plan wasn't complete pie in the sky.  In fact, it may be the only way to save Israel from the historical forces that threaten to destroy it forever.

On the other side, I'll show you what I mean.

Let me deal with the opinion piece first.  Written by peacenik journalist Gideon Levy, it starts like this:

A great surprise: The overwhelming majority of Israelis support a one-state solution. After years in which the binational solution was anathema, it has suddenly become apparent that this is the preferred solution. You don't believe it? Look at the opinion polls. Benjamin Netanyahu is again leading them. You don't believe Netanyahu advocates this solution? Listen to his words. Once again, Netanyahu "does not find" a Palestinian partner. The conclusion: Wait and do nothing.

Levy discounts the opinion polls that show most Israelis prefer a two-state solution, because by endorsing Netanyahu and his strategy of "waiting and doing nothing" the majority in effect endorses the creation of a binational state.  That state, he writes, is "coalescing before our very eyes."

Levy goes on to note that Likud and Hamas are in fundamental agreement about how many states there should be.  Their only difference:

one favors an apartheid state and the other an Islamic state.

Levy's pessimism runs deep:

All of the talk about the questions concerning the future of Israel is misleading. While Netanyahu is running on his favorite ticket, the danger of a holocaust emanating from Iran, a more acute question mark hovers over the declared character of Israel: Has it not already become a binational state? It will soon be divided into two equal halves, and later there will be an Arab majority. What is Israel if not a binational state? And what are 3.5 million Palestinians, who have already lived under Israeli occupation for 40 years, if not subjects of a state that has existed with the occupation for twice as many years as it has existed without it?

....Enough empty talk about "a Jewish state." There is no such thing. The fact that the Palestinians live under unequal conditions does not make them subjects of another entity. On the contrary, the state's control of their lives is immeasurably greater than its control over its Jewish citizens.

He goes on to wonder what will happen when the Palestinians become a majority in Israel, whether the Jewish minority will continue to abuse the non-citizen majority.  He hints that the South African example suggests the outcome of such a state of affairs would be the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

The news story in Ha'aretz discusses a recent report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which calls on Israel to:

to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their property and land in Israel and to ensure that the bodies responsible for distributing property, such as the Jewish National Fund, not discriminate against the Arab population.

This committee was established to oversee the implementation of the UN International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, a convention Israel signed in the late 1970s.  Under its terms, Israel is expected to submit a report every two years, but its recent report was its first in nine years.

The committee had taken testimony from the Israel government, from Arab civil rights organizations in Israel, and from Jewish peace groups in Israel.  In its report, it

recommends that Israel scrutinize its policy in a number of areas. Among them, it recommends that "the state party ensure that the definition of Israel as a Jewish nation state does not result in any systematic distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin." The committee also said it "would welcome receiving more information on how [Israel] envisions the development of the national identity of all its citizens."

In addition to calling on Israel to allow for a Palestinian Right of Return -- which has been a key sticking point in Arab/Israeli negotiations, leading in part to the breakdown of the Oslo process and the 2000 Camp David talks -- the committee did commend Israel for recent

positive developments, among them the ministerial appointment of Raleb Majadele and the High Court decision on the petition of the Ka'adans, an Israeli Arab couple, to buy land in the community of Katzir.

Can Israel sustain itself over the longterm as an exclusively Jewish state?  The demographics of the Middle East suggest not, and the emerging international legal order is beginning to question the basic mechanisms Israel uses to keep itself Jewish.

A binational secular state is the way out.  Make peace with your enemies, rescue the name, the language, the flag, secure Israel as a safe haven for Jews in the Middle East, and the country can be a beacon for generations to come.

Or, Israel can continue along its current path and be plagued by generations of continued war.

Originally posted to litho on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 08:18 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (20+ / 0-)

    cause mojo is good...

    Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

    by litho on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 08:18:48 PM PDT

    •  Oy vey (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zemblan, rumky

      Litho, although we generally agree on the I-P issues, we definetely disagree on this one. The reasons I oppose a bi-national state are simple and you have probably seen them before:

      1. An ideological reason: A bi-national, democratic state would become ultimately a Palestinian-dominated state. This would effectively put an end to the existance of Israel as a Jewish country whose goal is to be a safe haven for the Jewish people. As a decendant of holocaust victims, I personally cannot accept that, but also as a progressive I cannot accept that. The Jewish people has a right, like any other people, to self-determination in a land were they are free from oppression.
      1. A practical reason and Most important: IT WOULD NEVER WORK. Most Palestinians are not willing to share a secular state with the Jews. Most Jews would rather die fighting before giving up on the existance of Israel as a Jewish state. If you try to create a bi-national state, you will have a la Iraq civil war 10 times worse in 2 months. Ultimately, the creation of a bi-national state could only be possible after decades, maybe centuries of collective reabilitation and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. It took the French and the Germans thousands of years to settle over the lands of Alsacia and Lorena. To believe a binational state can be the inicial solution to this conflict is utopic at best.

      In summary, I am against the binational solution because I believe it is important for the Jewish people to have a democratic, Jewish-dominated state (but not a Jewish-only state) to exist as the only homeland for a collective that has been oppressed and massacred for thousands of years; and because I believe it is extremely probable that the implementation of such a solution in the short term would conclude in a bloody and chaotic hell.
      The Palestinians must agree to an interim Two-state solution for at least 60 years. Then we'll see how things go.

      "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people." Howard Zinn

      by Chilean Jew on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 10:01:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Mira compadre (0+ / 0-)

        quisiera escribir todo esto en castellano, pero no quiero dejar de lado todos los otros lectores -- posibles o reales -- de este diario...

        I honestly think a one-state solution would be more stable in the long and the short run than a two state solution.  Two states would have incentives to arm themselves and try to seize the territory of the other.  In one state, however, all parties would have incentives to find political solutions to their differences.

        Van en siete años desde que abandoné a Chile.  Pucha que lo extraño...

        Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

        by litho on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 10:08:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

          Israelis and Palestinians have far less common ground than Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, far greater historical animosity, and fully developed military machines just waiting to be unleashed at each other. The moment that Palestinian refugees begin streaming into Israel under the right of return, you would see the outbreak of full-blown civil war. Not the slow burning, policed civil war that you see in Iraq, but a total war with sophisticated weapons, that will not end until one side has achieved the utter political annihilation of the other.

          The best comparable would be Yugoslavia in the late '90s, but that would likely not begin to describe the disaster that a one-state solution would be.

          The two-state solution has to work, because there is no other one.

      •  I agree a two state solution is best (3+ / 0-)

        but it must be recognized that there is no guarantee, and should be no guarantee, that the majority of Israelis will always be of a predetermined ethnicity/religion--in other words, you can't engineer the majority in a true democracy. To specify this only for some finite time period (sixty years for instance) would seem OK IMO.

        You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

        by Opakapaka on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 10:08:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That seems very reasonable to me (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          At best, the Israeli government could give monetary incetives to any Arab who would be willing to leave the country. Please don't equate this to a Lieberman-style transfer. Offering monetary compensation right now to the Arab-Israeli population is ethinic cleansing because they are being pressured to leave by horrible living conditions and discrimination. In the optimal scenario we are discussing, the Arab-Israeli population lives in good conditions and has an equal status to the Jewish population.

          Litho, I'll send you an e-mail soon, this is a remarkable coincidence. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one, although I understand your point of view.

          Viva Chile mierda!

          "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people." Howard Zinn

          by Chilean Jew on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 10:51:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Gideon Levy (0+ / 0-)

    has performed a remarkable feat of linguistic gymnastics. Taking Benjamin Netanyahu's position and twisting it into the support of a bi-national state is a thing of beauty.

    Of course it is nothing but mental masturbation and certifiably false.

    •  If I read Levy correctly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rusty Pipes

      he himself supports a two-state solution.

      I believe he thinks Netanyahu wants to annex the West Bank.  I'm certain there are elements on the Israeli right that would love to do so...

      Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

      by litho on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 08:34:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  True (0+ / 0-)

        I expect that Netanyahu does wants to annex the West Bank but that is not the same as a bi-national state, it would be something altogether different.

        When persons of differing opinions debate topics, in particular sensitive and important ones, there is an understanding of how terms are defined. "Bi-national State" is a well understood term, and one that you yourself favor.

        For Levy to warp that meaning is flat out dishonest.

  •  A Jewish State (13+ / 0-)

    What's important about Israel is not its name, its language or its flag.  

    It's that a couple of years after the Nazis killed a third of the world's Jews, there finally was a state in which Jews would have control, and be able to ensure that the state worked to protect Jews.

    A solution to the P/I problem should be one that leaves a Jewish state in place.  By returning occupied territories and creating a Palestinian state, this can be done.  And it should be.

  •  The right to thrive (8+ / 0-)

    I believe in cultural diversity as much as biodiversity - every culture has the right to thrive.  It would be a great loss if Israel lost its unique Jewish character.  And it would if Jews became an increasingly smaller minority in their own country.

    That's why I think Israel needs to start behaving reasonably towards its neighbors.  The time for Israelis to hide behind their "secret" nuclear weapons and to threaten to wipe other countries off the map (as the Israeli ambassador said about Lebanon) is over.  The time to renege on treaties and ignore UN resolutions is over.  The time to see their own actions as simply predetermined reactions is over.

    The neighborhood bully in that region for years has been Israel.  American support has allowed it to continue its delusion that it can survive on a policy that might makes right.

    If talking about a binational solution makes Israel see its incentive to take more constructive positions, fine.  But I see no reason to seriously consider a binational country when a 2-state solution has never been attempted in good faith.

    •  well, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      What would you call Camp David 2000? That was a as good of a two-state solution as the Palestinians are ever going to get. And Israel's neighbors need to start treating Israel reasonably as well.

      •  propanganda and mythology (7+ / 0-)

        is what we call the "best deal ever" claim about that.

        Renewal, not mere Reform.

        by killjoy on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 02:48:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How (0+ / 0-)

          is it propaganda and mythology?

          •  Two cites (3+ / 0-)

            Agha and Malley:

            In accounts of what happened at the July 2000 Camp David summit and the following months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, we often hear about Ehud Barak's unprecedented offer and Yasser Arafat's uncompromising no. Israel is said to have made a historic, generous proposal, which the Palestinians, once again seizing the opportunity to miss an opportunity, turned down. In short, the failure to reach a final agreement is attributed, without notable dissent, to Yasser Arafat.

            As orthodoxies go, this is a dangerous one. For it has larger ripple effects. Broader conclusions take hold. That there is no peace partner is one. That there is no possible end to the conflict with Arafat is another.

            For a process of such complexity, the diagnosis is remarkably shallow. It ignores history, the dynamics of the negotiations, and the relationships among the three parties. In so doing, it fails to capture why what so many viewed as a generous Israeli offer, the Palestinians viewed as neither generous, nor Israeli, nor, indeed, as an offer. Worse, it acts as a harmful constraint on American policy by offering up a single, convenient culprit—Arafat—rather than a more nuanced and realistic analysis.

            Shlomo Ben-Ami:

            if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.

            Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

            by litho on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 09:24:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  it involves ruby-covered slippers (0+ / 0-)

            and repeating "there was no offer like taba, there was no offer like taba."

    •  Oddly enough.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...this 'neighborhood bully' hasn't turned the region into a glass parking lot at any point over the past several decades, in spite being repeatedly provoked.

      Says something, no?

      •  Wha? (4+ / 0-)

        We're supposed to be grateful Israel hasn't tried nuclear genocide?

        Take this talk to Free Republic.

        ...i'm searching for a color...don't think it's got a name...

        by Diaries on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 11:18:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ah yes.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          EnderRS, jhritz

          ...the old 'if you support Israel you must be a stealth freeper' argument.  Honestly, this one should be added as a kossack addendum to Godwin's.

          Since you seem to be deliberately missing the point... let me restate it.

          At any point over the past several decades, Israel could have nuked huge regions of the middle east, and they have in fact arguably been heavily provoked into doing so.

          They have not done so.

          This suggests a level of restraint that is inconsistent with the 'Israel is teh evil' mindset that seems so prevalent here from time to time, and ergo would suggest that Israel, in spite of the accusations of apartheid and oppression and such, is not in fact teh evil.  Can you honestly say that Hamas or Fatah would have shown the same level of restraint?  Without clubbing yourself in the head with a two by four several times first?

          •  Well (5+ / 0-)

            Actually, we don't subscribe to your paranoid ideation or your assertion of pure savagry of the opponents of Israeli expansionism.

            If Israel ever uses its nukes, it will entitle its opponents to nuke it.  Israeli PMs know that do use its nukes makes its own annihilation inevitable.  You evidently can't think that far outside the tribal mythological box.

            Renewal, not mere Reform.

            by killjoy on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 02:56:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Fuhgeddaboudit. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Wise up before it's too late." - Sister Sledge.

    by Andy Lewis on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:20:41 PM PDT

  •  Eh... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    litho, Eiron, zemblan, Corwin Weber

    ...I find this sort of reasoning rather contemptible on the part of Levy.  He's being deliberately deceptive.

    These things that you are suggesting, litho, promise little but civil war.  I have no enthusiasm for such; indeed, perhaps the most admirable quality that Menachem Begin possessed was that whenever his disputes with Ben Gurion and the Labour leaders began to escalate, he invariably backed down and ceased the violence on the part of his supporters (after 48, of course).  At best, some sort of binational federalism between Israel and Palestine should be the goal (which is an excellent idea that is never discussed, by the by).

    I find even legally enforced secularization problematic; indeed, the rationale behind rejecting Uganda and other potential sites for a Jewish state is that it intends to be a state for all Jews who want it, including the Haredi and other orthodox branches.

    There are, IMHO, other far better options to move this process forward.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 10:37:23 PM PDT

  •  Starting Point should be (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Corwin Weber, jhritz

    a total un-brainwashing of all who grew up on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the 19th-20th Century anti-Jewish propaganda that makes people believe Jews are evil and subhuman.

    We could do with something similar inside the USA to de-program the xenophobes here, too.

  •  Bottom line(s) (3+ / 0-)
    1.  The international community wants a resolution to the I/P situation.
    1.  Consensus has stabilized around a two state solution, with a recognized Israel within the pre-1967 borders.
    1.  Israel rejects this, it can't/won't give up the settlements and the aspiration for control over the west bank and Jordan valley.
    1.  Our (US foreign Policy) move.  What is Dem/progressive position?

    Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

    by Eiron on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 12:25:34 AM PDT

  •  I don't think Israel will exist 50 years from now (0+ / 0-)

    Can Israel sustain itself over the longterm as an exclusively Jewish state?  The demographics of the Middle East suggest not, and the emerging international legal order is beginning to question the basic mechanisms Israel uses to keep itself Jewish.

    I think Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen was correct when he said the creation of Israel was a "mistake."  I predict Israeli Jews will find their new homeland inside the USA with the creation of a Jewish country in a region of one of America's 50 states. Hell, only 5 million Jews live in Israel. That's fewer people than live in New York City!

    "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it." - Abe Lincoln

    by munky on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 01:51:33 AM PDT

    •  not as a nineteenth century-type (4+ / 0-)

      ethnocentric state, anyway.

      Beyond the temporary segregation called 'the two state solution' lies integration and 'the one state solution'.

      Judaism in Israel will have to change when integration begins.  It will have to become attractive and make active converts of people from Muslim backgrounds.  Yes, I know, utterly unimaginable.....

      Renewal, not mere Reform.

      by killjoy on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 03:12:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Am Israel Hai (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zemblan, dfb1968

    and it will not be surrendered to people who want its destruction. There is no incentive whatsoever for the Jewish people to give up a guarantee of a Jewish state after so many people have tried to kill the Jews in the last 2,000 years. No thanks.

    And these proposals to coexist with people who hate Jews as much as the nazis did? Yeah, Israeli Jews are just itching to coexist with Palestinians.

    SwordsCrossed "To discuss evil in a manner implying neutrality, is to sanction it." AR

    by EnderRS on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 07:05:06 AM PDT

    •  Israeli Jews have no choice (3+ / 0-)

      about coexisting with the Palestinians, unless their next step after expulsion is extermination.

      You're not suggesting that, are you?

      Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

      by litho on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 07:14:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  not at all (0+ / 0-)

        I support withdrawing from most of West Bank and setting the final borders from Israel unilaterally (just like Kadima initially proposed and Barak on the left supports). And then just not deal much with Palestinians and let them establish whatever state they wish. Occupation ends and life goes on.

        SwordsCrossed "To discuss evil in a manner implying neutrality, is to sanction it." AR

        by EnderRS on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 07:46:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And Jews have to coexist with (3+ / 0-)

          their neighbors in the Palestinian state...

          And those neighbors continue to feel like they've been fucked over by Israel, and will continue to support political parties that want to overthrow Israel.  Militant factions will continue to recruit naive, impressionable, and idealistic youth who are willing to walk into Israeli cafes and bus terminals with explosive vests and blow themselves -- and all the innocents around them -- into a million pieces.  And Israel will, like it did in the West Bank in 2002 and like it did in Gaza last year -- will periodically reinvade and perhaps even overthrow the existing Palestinian government.

          And how will any of that be any good for any of the people involved?

          Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

          by litho on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 07:49:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  you are missing it (0+ / 0-)

            They will be separate countries and Israel does not need to let Palestinians into their country. So they can scream against Israel all they want at that point but they will be behind the wall and would have to go through Israeli military to get into those cafes. Sure some will possibly get through, but not nearly as many as now.

            At least at that point of full separation, Israel will no longer be responsible for aggravating Palestinians and if someone lobs a missile over the wall, can just respond without much remorse.

            Full separation is going to be how it will look in the end. Very very soon I might add.

            SwordsCrossed "To discuss evil in a manner implying neutrality, is to sanction it." AR

            by EnderRS on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 08:05:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Coexistence (0+ / 0-)
            There used to be an argument on the left that asserted that Israel should simply withdraw to the 67 borders. Then if it was attacked, it would receive the world's support as it defended itself
            because there would no longer be any moral ambiguity. After recent events in Lebanon and Gaza, that argument's stock went way down. I think people tend to confuse what could be accomplished if there is a solution (2 states or whatever) with a solution.
          •  So let me get this straight (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Even after we give the Palestinians their own state, on all of the land they are asking for (currently, at least), then the bombings will continue until they say we're all friends now.  Just tell me, exactly when do the bombings stop?  Because I'm a little tired of cleaning up after them.

            •  If I could stop them (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              anonymousredvest18, Diaries

              they would stop today.

              I think the way to stop them is to eliminate the legitimate grievances Palestinians have with Israel.  There are an awful lot of people running around the Middle East who feel like Israel has screwed them because ... Israel has screwed them.  A small minority of those people are whackos who like to blow things up.  A larger minority think what the whackos do is ok, because they believe the Israelis in some way deserve it.

              An enlightened policy by Israel would recognize that you could drain the ocean the whacko fish swim in by providing people with concrete incentives to support the existence of the state of Israel.  Such incentives could include the redress of real grievances and the promise of prosperity.

              Giving the Palestinians an impoverished, dependent state is a recipe for disaster.

              Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

              by litho on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 01:20:48 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  What a complete misrepresentation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Levy isn't actually saying that Israeli's support a one-state solution.  He is saying that the policies of Palestinian terrorists and Israel's far right would lead to a one-state solution.

    Today's Kossack - fighting charges of anti-semitism one Jew at a time.

    by dmsarad on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 08:45:23 AM PDT

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