Now is the time to discuss the one state solution | A response to APN’s Lara Friedman

Posted: August 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now (APN), writes in the forward against even talking about the one-state solution:

Anti-Zionists and some post-Zionists imagine a Palestinian-majority, secular, democratic state; some Israeli right-wingers envision Israel annexing the West Bank, using ploys to disenfranchise its Palestinian residents and finally getting rid of Gaza.


Those of us who care about the future of Israel and the Palestinians should be doing everything we can to capitalize on this realism and to realize the two-state solution, before the opportunity is truly lost. And we should be pushing back hard against casual talk about post-two-state paradigms — because the “alternatives” are just illusions.

I respect Peace Now’s work on the settlements issue in Israel, as well as APN’s lobbying for a more firm US approach towards Jerusalem (Lara Friedman herself is doing a great job on this issue). However, their insistence on regarding the two state solution as the only possible one is both mistaken and counter productive, even with regards to their own goals. Now more then ever, when the US is forcing the Palestinians to negotiate even when the two sides can’t agree what to talk about, it’s essential we discuss other approaches.

To me, it’s clear that even if you oppose it, the one state solution frames the debate better. The essential problem for the Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza is the lack of human and political rights, not the absence of an independent state. There are many ethnic groups in the world that are not independent, but he Palestinians are the only people without citizenship (not to mention under military rule). In the current international system, where rights go hand in hand with citizenship, this has a tremendous effect on their life. The Palestinian problem, at its heart, is a civil rights issue disguised as a diplomatic problem. An independent Palestinian state is a possible solution to this issue, but it’s nothing more than this.

Discussing the one state solution is essential, because is reminds Israelis that their choice is not between the status quo and two states, but between a joint state and ethnic separation. Right now, many Israelis might understand that, but it’s not a notion that shapes their political behavior.

Lara Friedman writes:

“…Still others are adopting a ‘variation-on-the-status-quo’ approach. They suggest that the current situation can be tweaked to be bearable for both sides, until Israelis and Palestinians evolve to the point where a permanent, conflict-ending agreement is possible. This idea is disconnected from reality.”

But the status quo is exactly what Israelis have been choosing for decades now, and will continue to choose as long as they can, because the cost of retreating is simply too high in the eyes of most of them, whether from security reasons or from ideological ones. In other words, faced with a choice between dismantling the settlements and leaving the West Bank or doing nothing, Most Israelis, and above all their leaders, will probably take the latter. On the other hand, if there was a clear choice between one or two state, things could have been different. So even from APN’s perspective, talking about one state might carry real political benefits.


Like many in the Israeli Left, Lara Friedman praises the Oslo agreement and deems the one state solution as something that will promote violence and prolong the conflict. But in the last two decades, it’s the two state paradigm that led to bloodshed. After Oslo ended in the second Intifada and the Gaza withdrawal resulted in Cast Lead, what guarantee we have that the next round will be better? Yet the one state solution is still considered the dangerous one.

Here is just a thought: imagine the Israeli left had spent the time it argued for separating the two societies in fighting against the military laws enforced in the West Bank, and demanding the Palestinians to be tried in civil courts. Wouldn’t that have made the life of Palestinians – and ultimately, Israelis – much better?

This leads me to the most important point, which is the false tendency to see the solution in binary, mutually exclusive, terms. It’s not either the one-state solution or the two states. It could actually both, or neither. We could have a federation or one state with two parliaments, or a federal system, or a regional one. The two states could be a faze on the way leading to a joint system, or the other way around – we could have a civil rights campaign that will lead to the Palestinians gaining individual political rights, and only after that collective ones. That’s the power of looking into the problems in terms of people’s rights (like the one state solution suggests), rather than states’: a whole variety of ideas opens up.

Personally, I don’t consider myself either a two-state or a one-state person. I oppose the status quo, and I want to explore all other options.


After my Haaretz piece on the growing support for the one state solution in the Israeli right was published, I got many responses, both from Israelis and Palestinians. Curiously enough, the only person to criticize me from the Israeli right was one of those opposing the one state solution whom I talked to (he argued that his views were misrepresented in the article). Even more surprising was the fact that the Palestinians I heard were actually pleased with the piece. They didn’t share the settlers’ vision of one big Jewish state, but nevertheless, they tended to see it as some sort of recognition of their problem, and ultimately, a step in the right direction.

When I talked to Saeb Erekat, the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, he expressed his commitment to the two state solution, but he didn’t rule out the idea of a joint state. “I am ready to talk about it,” he said, and made it clear that the real problem is the occupation, not the nature of the solution. In a phone call from Gaza, the PLO’s Sufyan Abu Zaydeh expressed similar ideas.

The only real opposition my piece got was from the Jewish left. A torrent of articles, letters to the editor [Hebrew] and comments came, calling the rightwing people I interviewed “frauds”, questioning their motives and blaming me for asking them the wrong questions. Reading these comments, I started suspecting that at least some of these supporters of the two states solution never had the Palestinians’ freedom in mind, but something else completely.

8 Comments on “Now is the time to discuss the one state solution | A response to APN’s Lara Friedman”

  1. 1 David said at 1:42 pm on August 20th, 2010:

    I find it astonishing that Americans, so used to demanding that other nations (most in the Middle East) duplicate American democracy, have NOT demanded that Israel move to a secular democracy as well. I certainly don’t want an Israeli-style “democracy” here in the US, so why NOT a one state democracy? The preservation of an ethnocracy called for by liberal Zionists is not really all that liberal.

  2. 2 Daiva said at 11:12 pm on August 20th, 2010:

    Just a minor detail: there are more people without citizenship in the world, e.g. large shares of Russophones in Latvia ( and Estonia (8%). Some people lost their citizenship after the breakup of Yugoslavia if they lived in another republic than their ‘ethnic homeland’.

  3. 3 noam said at 1:38 am on August 21st, 2010:

    Daiva: thanks for the interesting info. There is, however, a difference from the Palestinian case, since here we most of the ethnic group and not a minority living in foreign countries deprived of citizenship.

    By that I don’t mean that the cases you mentioned are not important, just that the Palestinian issue is still unique.

  4. 4 Michael LeFavour said at 3:20 pm on August 21st, 2010:

    Noam, you are wrong once again in your grand standing for the Arabs. Ever hear of the Chitmahal peoples? There are about 50,000 of them living in India without citizenship or voting rights. A border issue and persecution by Bangladeshi forces put them there. The Bidoon in the United Arab Emirates are another group that are stateless with no citizenship. They all live in the UAE, but jus soli is not recognized there, it is an internal matter, but who cares. The Biharis in Bangladesh live in refugee camps and are stateless. Created by choosing the losing side in a civil war. Nobody cares about them. The Rohingya fled from Burma to Bangladesh to escape persecution. They have no citizenship. Again, nobody cares. American Samoans are not citizens of the US and they are not killing Americans to resist the brutal occupation of American Samoa.

    And there are many citizens that have been expelled or denationalized. Not recent immigrants or refugees like the Cambodians and Burmese in Thailand. I am talking about long term generational citizens that lost their citizenship due to politics. Ethiopia for example expelled the bulk of its population registered as Eritreans in 1998, I am not sure of the exact numbers but many still have no permanent identity papers in Eretrea and of the 150,000 or so that were not expelled and remain in Ethiopia, some still have no citizenship even after much work has been done to address the problem.

    Ever hear of the Fula people in Mauritania? They don’t live there any more, because the Arabs demanded a racially pure country in 1989 and threw most of the black Mauritanians out. Nobody cares. The black farmers and peasants do not have oil rich friends willing to cut the West off from vital resources if they do not get their way, so they are handled by the UNHCR and forgotten about because there are no self righteous Noam’s making shrill calls and pointing fingers. Maybe they should massacre some athletes or hijack some airliners for attention, huh?

    The Arabs you assist in covering up their genocidal intentions for are unique. They are the least needy of refugees but receive the most aid and by far the most attention to their self created plight, which you and others blame on the Jews. They are unique in the fact that no Arab nation will accept these Arab children born in those Arab nations, because to do so would give up a weapon. Misery.

    The solution to the morass is to place the UNRWA people under the UNHCR and define them exactly as all other refugee peoples are. The so called Palestinians are the only people in history that refugee status ludicrously increases over time for. Why? And why do you ignore it?

    Further, what makes you think the Arabs even want to live in peace? Because some snake oil salesman like Saeb Erekat says so? Keep the millions coming and we will talk about peace, right? Where is the evidence? Do you suppose they will dismantle the apparatus of demonization over night? Will the parks and sports teams remain named after mass murderers? How naive you are, Noam.

    Erekat’s problem is he is occupied with lying to the world. It only makes sense you would side with him.

  5. 5 cogit8 said at 9:43 pm on August 21st, 2010:

    noam, I saw your article on the Mondoweiss site and wish to add the following comment: For all intents and purposes, Israel’s borders are the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan River. She rules the high seas, preventing aid from getting to Gaza. She puts barbed wire around 1.4 million of her unwanted and demonized citizens, and treats her other minorities as if they were vermin, squashing them in their houses if they don’t get out of the way of giant bulldozers. If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, than it is a duck: Israel rules over all of Palestine, which already is One State. The charade which most Jews believe in is Two States, and the only kind of state they will ever give the Palestinians is a State of Poverty, because all terrorists use phones, water, power, roads, and etc. Most Jews are aghast at the possibility of accepting 6 million Palestinians as fellow citizens in a federated state “oh it will be the end of the Jewish State”. Ahem, what about the United States of Israel where only 3% of the population are Jews: the stat

  6. 6 cogit8 said at 10:30 pm on August 21st, 2010:

    the state of these Jews is just fine and doesn’t require demographical demagoguery.
    So get over it Israeli Jews: you wanted the land, but you got millions of new captive citizens and you hope they’ll act the same as their grand-parents did in 1948 and run off to somewhere else. Instead of dropping more burning phosphorous on them, accept these people as citizens and draw your boundaries so you can get back to plotting war on your existential threats, because you will never have internal security as things stand now.

  7. 7 Michael LeFavour said at 6:59 am on August 22nd, 2010:


    What an unfitting moniker. Here is a list of lies and shallow thinking in just one ignorant posting.

    1. Israel prevents aid from reaching Gaza.

    All the trucks carrying handouts to an enemy that respects no human rights are what? Just for show?

    2. Israel fences in 1.4 million of its citizens.

    The racist Arabs in Gaza are not citizens of Israel. If those non-citizens were not murdering and destroying innocent Jewish lives with impunity there might not be a fence today.

    3. Israel treats minorities as if they are vermin.

    The Baha’i faith was founded in Iran. There is not a single Baha’i shrine left standing there. Why? The intolerant Muslims there treat Baha’i like vermin. Where is the world headquarters of the Baha’i now? In Haifa Israel. I challenge you to name one law in the Israeli justice system that discriminates against minorities to the level of “vermin” as you charge.

    4. There is a place called Palestine.

    Can you define where Palestine starts and ends? Didn’t think so.

    5. There is a people called Palestinians.

    If there is a people you can name some of their unique holidays? What form of government did the have? Who are some of their kings or rulers? What cultural trait do Palestinians have to define them? We know what separates an Irishman from all the rest of the Europeans. We know what separates a Kurd from all the rest of the Middle Easterners. We know what separates a Zulu from all the rest of the Africans. What nobody has ever told me is what defines a Palestinian aside from Jew hatred and a desire to have what the Jews have for themselves.

    6. Israelis want the Arabs living in poverty.

    You are as ignorant as they come. What are all the economic conferences with the PA about? The so called Palestine Investment Conference held in Nablus invested in seven new projects valued at $510 million in November of 2008. MASHAV has held seminars empowering Arab women since 2004, the 2009 seminar was titled “Women Making Business”, organized by
    MASHAV of course. Read for yourself a small report of 2008, the evidence to refute this lie is so overwhelming it is ludicrous.

    7. The Arabs need the Jews to give them a state.

    Had they accepted UNGA 181 the Arabs would have had a state of their own now. What is preventing Gaza from declaring independence now? Nothing except they want all of the land Jews own, because the conflict has little to do with land, it has everything to do with Arab racism and Muslim bigotry.

    8. Jews are repulsed by neighbors that are not Jewish.

    They are fine with neighbors that are peaceful. It is the ones that say they want to murder every last Jew in the final days. It is the ones that think that the world itself will hate Jews so deeply that the very stones and trees will come to life and shout warnings to the faithful that Jews are hiding and to come and kill them. This selfish desire for survival is not a trait unique to Jews as you make it sound.

    9. Life is a bowl of peaches for Jews in America.

    According to the FBI crime statistics Jews account for almost half the victims of the violent attacks based on religion even though they are a tiny fraction of the population. You are spreading Antisemitism by promoting the canard that Jews control America.

    10. Demographics do not matter.

    The fact is there is not example of pluralism anywhere in the Arab world. What model of society would you point to as evidence that an Arab majority will be a responsible steward for civil society? Demographics do matter if there is to be Democracy and equal rights, which ironically are absent anywhere else in the Middle East. Who cares about those causes? There are no Jews to hate there.

    11. Jews have captured, enslaved, or somehow imposed on Arabs as usurpers.

    It is true that Jews wanted to return to their ancestral home. As immigrants. The Mandate for Palestine allowed them to do just that. At the same time Arabs were allowed unlimited illegal immigration. They came to take advantage of economic prosperity that the Jews brought. Once the racist Mufti convinced them that it was their Quranic duty to dominate the infidel Jews they took up arms and went on rampages. Any mistrust and violence that followed was a direct result of Jews defending themselves from Arab bigotry.

    12. Jews are plotting war.

    Every nation is plotting war. The US has a war plan to attack and to defend itself from all nations. That is what being prepared is all about. You train for the most likely scenario and hope the need to go to war never comes. You make it sound like something sinister, which is Antisemitism. Do you deny Israel is under existential threat? The Iranians have said that Iran is not important, they would sacrifice all of Iran if Islam could be advanced. If they get the bomb how do you propose that a strategy of deterrence would work based on mutual destruction given the Apocalyptic desires of the fanatics in charge of the launch code?

    13. Israel will never have internal security as things stand.

    Israel had internal security after 1967, but Jewish kindness was taken as weakness. What has followed has been an escalation of violence proportional to every act of compromise and generosity since.

    Cogitate that and get back to us. Bring your Mondoweiss friends, I am banned there and refuse to use an alias. I could use some sport.

  8. 8 maayan said at 1:56 pm on August 22nd, 2010:

    If a single state solution is what you seek, the better option for the Palestinians is to join Jordan. The population there is majority Palestinian and they have a history that would be extremely different without Jordanian involvement. Take, for example, Jerusalem. Without Jordan’s involvement, there would not be an “East Jerusalem” at all. Language would also be the same and so would Muslim customs that the Jordanian state supports.

    It seems absurd to push for a single state between Jews and Palestinians when neither group wants to live with the other while you deny the obvious candidate for a single state “solution” which is Jordan.