This piece was written Sept. 14 2012 in response to a posting by Don Ellis: http://peaceandconflictpolitics.com/2012/09/14/procon-one-state-or-two-states/
This is itself a copy of a posting at Procon: http://israelipalestinian.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000632
Don invited comments and if you have any comments to this post, you should probably post them here AND copy them on Don’s blog as well.
I edited my comments for clarity and also for the present context, in which I am not re-posting the Procon item.
This is a response to brief arguments, pro and con, responding to the “Two State Solution,” signed by Moshe Ya’alon (con) and Ziad Asali (pro), and unsigned pro and con arguments about the One State Solution.
One problem with the approach of all these statements is that there appears (to me at least) to be a false binary here. In a very important way, the Pro and Con excerpts can be harmonized by readers wishing to do so, just by saying that many of those involved, if not most, agree about the likely eventual emergence of an independent state called “Palestine” alongside Israel. The author of the “con” argument, Yaalon, would appear to agree as well, as long as this State was prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, and to live in peace and harmony.
In fact, the “two state solution,” as usually articulated, includes “the peace and harmony” idea, and it might be said that this argument for or against the “two states” boils down not to whether there should be a State of Palestine, but whether the issues raised by the “con” side can be solved at all, and if so whether the “two state solution” can solve them.
In my humble opinion, the nomenclature may be part of the problem rather than part of the solution of the problem: I think some of those who support the “two state solution” really think in exactly those terms: the creation of a Palestinian State will provide the actual solution to the “Palestine Question.” Many readers familiar with the history of Political Zionism will recognize a kind of parallel with Herzl’s thinking about sovereignty as the simple solution to Antisemitism. On the other hand, many who accept the emergence of an Arab State—indeed, welcome it as not only inevitable but ideal—actually endorse a “two state result” rather than a “two state solution.”
I think there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the mere creation or existence of a sovereign state, even a democratic one, does not alone solve all the problems it was meant to solve. One must only look at such entities as the Weimar Republic, or post-colonial/post-imperial states in Asia and Africa and for that matter in the Former Soviet Union, or to Southern Sudan—itself a highly significant partition of Sudan, a largely Muslim state. Certainly one can adduce Israel as an example: it did not entirely provide the solution of the Jewish Problem and anti-Semitism, as envisioned by Herzl. The “Two State Result” or some other nomenclature which implies that a “solution” is not automatically implied strikes me as the better approach.
As for the false binary: it’s false because this debate is between slogans or broad ideas–not really an “up or down” between specific propositions. My colleague Menachem Kellner used to talk about the great distinction between “belief in” and “belief that,” and this debate often seems to me to have the problems attendant to the “belief in” paradigm: people “believe in” a “two state solution” but problems arise when they have to express their belief that this or that specific element will have a specific result.
To conclude: I am not sure that the arguments pro and con for “a two state solution” or “a one state solution” are really to the point. They express belief in a concept, or binary choices about one or another very specific plan, with flaws always raised by the other side.
Since there have been many years of discussing all sorts of “two-state” solutions and plans, perhaps this suggests that a “two state result” may well be the outcome–rather than the solution–and confusing outcome with solution may indeed be part of the problem.