Is one-state solution an answer to Greater Israel dreams?

The following article is from JTA.  It is an extremely interesting look at how Israeli politics and how openness to solutions is fluid.  I doubt a one-state solution would happen any time soon as it is a major departure from the recent (public) peace process trajectory.  Although, progress seems not to be being made so I guess most every option is worth exploring.

I guess we will see what comes of this…

Is one-state solution an answer to Greater Israel dreams?

By: Leslie Susser

JERUSALEM (JTA) — In one of the more curious twists in Israeli politics, prominent figures on Israel’s right wing have begun pushing for a one-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians as equal citizens with full voting rights.

The one-state solution previously had been the preserve of the post-Zionist left, Palestinian hard-liners and left-leaning European intellectuals who envisioned turning Israel proper, the West Bank and Gaza into a single state in which the Palestinians soon would become the majority and assume the reins of government.

For the overwhelming majority of Israelis, the idea has been anathema because it seemed to spell the end of the Zionist dream of a sovereign Jewish state.

So what has changed? In a word: Gaza.

For the new Greater Israel proponents of a one-state solution, the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which they opposed vehemently, suddenly has become a strategic game-changer.

The single state they envision includes only Israel and the West Bank — an area of about 5.8 million Jews and 3.8 million Arabs. Without Gaza’s estimated 1.5 million Palestinians, the Jews would constitute a 60 percent majority in that territory — enough to preserve an enlarged Israel as a Jewish majority state for the foreseeable future.

As these proponents see it, there are several advantages to this solution: The settler movement would be able to keep intact its West Bank settlements; Israel would not have to withdraw from territory and expose itself to the sort of rocket fire it has seen from Gaza; and the international community would not be able to paint Israel as an apartheid state because the annexation of the West Bank would grant full citizenship and voting rights to West Bank Palestinians, perhaps putting Israel out of its international isolation in a single stroke.

While support in the Knesset for the one-state idea is limited, if Israeli-Palestinian negotiations make headway over the next few months, the one-state model could surface as a ploy to torpedo Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the dismantling of dozens of Jewish settlements.

For now its most outspoken advocates in the Knesset are Speaker Reuven Rivlin and newcomer Tzipi Hotovely, both of the Likud Party.

“I would prefer the Palestinians become citizens of the state than for us to divide the country,” Rivlin declared in a recent meeting with the Greek ambassador in Jerusalem.

The one-state idea gained currency two months ago when Moshe Arens, a former defense minister and foreign minister from Likud, penned a column in Israel’s daily Haaretz asking “Is There Another Option?”

Arens argued that it is patently obvious that there will be no two-state solution with the current Palestinian leadership and that the Jordanian option — returning the West Bank to Jordan — no longer exists.

“Therefore, I say we can look at another option: for Israel to apply its law to Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and grant citizenship to 1.5 million Palestinians,” he wrote.

Israel already is a binational state, with an Arab minority of approximately 20 percent, Arens wrote. Therefore, in his view, Israel could have an Arab minority of 40 percent and continue to function as a Jewish state.

The pioneer of this sort of one-state thinking is journalist Uri Elitzur, a former chairman of the Yesha settlers council and Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau chief during his first term as prime minister. Elitzur argues that after more than 40 years of occupation, the international community is tired of Israel and no longer will accept the status quo. In his view, Israel needs to do something to break the deadlock or face the prospect of growing international isolation.

The two-state model won’t cut it because the obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement are insurmountable, he says. Moreover, Elitzur insists, other one-state visions from Israel’s political right wing — such as annexing the West Bank and having the Palestinians who live there vote in Jordan, or according the Palestinians only limited voting rights for local government — will be rightly dismissed by the international community as occupation by another name.

That, according to Elitzur, leaves the unitary democratic state — with Israelis and Palestinians enjoying equal political, social and individual rights — as the only option.

There should be no misunderstanding, Elitzur cautions: He is talking about a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, like the Israel of today. That, he says, is the big difference between him and the left-wing “one-staters”: Where they see a Palestinian state with a Jewish minority, he sees a Jewish state with a Palestinian minority.

But what happens if and when the Palestinians, with their significantly higher birth rate, become the majority? Some suggest major modifications to the Elitzur plan to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Hanan Porat, a former Knesset member and leading figure in the Gush Emunim settlement movement, wants Israeli law applied gradually to the West Bank — first to areas with large Jewish populations, and a decade or a generation later to the rest. Even then, Porat would condition full citizenship for Palestinians on loyalty to the Jewish state expressed in perhaps military or national service. In other words, in Porat’s version of the one-state solution, very few Palestinians would have the right to vote, and only in the distant future.

“The attractive leftist vision of the one-state solution may grow up into a rightist monster,” observed critic Uri Avnery, one of the earliest and most passionate two-staters on the political left.

Hotovely, who organized a Knesset conference on “Alternatives to Two States” in May 2009, has been actively promoting the one-state solution over the last year; she is working on a major position paper on the issue.

She will have to address many questions concerning the one-state theory — for example, what to do about flags, anthems, school curricula, a constitution. There are larger questions, like how the state would manage the transition period from Israeli annexation to Palestinian citizenship, and how to deal with religion-state issues.

In addition, under the two-state solution, Arab refugees could return to the Palestinian state without harming Israeli interests. Where would they go in the one-state proposal?

The biggest problem, given the Palestinian birth rate and the possibility of international pressure for refugee return, is that the one-state dream could turn into a South Africa-style nightmare with a dominant Jewish minority under pressure to accept Palestinian majority rule.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership has shown no sign that it is eager to surrender its vision of a Palestinian state. For now, the two-state model is the only goal of the recently restarted Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic talks.

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Blog Post for MASA/JAFI

As I have posted before, I studied abroad in Israel from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  The Ginsberg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering studying in Israel.  Be’er Sheva may not be the usual destination, but it is a great city and BGU is consistently ranked the top university by Israeli students.

The Overseas Student Program (OSP) is also sponsored by two quasi(?) governmental organizations, MASA and the Jewish Agency For Israel.  These groups encourage students to come to Israel and even give scholarships to do so.  I was recently contacted to write a blog post for them about my experience.  It will be posted in the near future and perhaps may also be printed in a Jewish newspaper.  Here is the article:

In 2005 I traveled to Poland and Israel with United Synagogue Youth (USY), one of two Jewish youth groups I was a part of, along with BBYO.  The five weeks I spent in Israel were some of the best of my life.  But it wasn’t enough.  I wanted more and I knew I would have to return.
I spent five months studying at Masa Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  I attend the University of Denver where approximately 70% of the undergraduate students study abroad – so I knew I would be spending part of Junior Year in another country.  What country that would be was an easy choice.  I knew that I had to be in Israel.  The question was what school.  My options were pretty limited because of the University of Denver’s quarter schedule.  Nevertheless, I knew that there were ways to get around this.
I was trying to decide between Hebrew University in Jerusalem or Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva.  I wanted to have the opportunity to explore Judaism while experiencing the “real” Israel.  I wanted to learn Hebrew and I knew that English was pervasive in Jerusalem.  Much to the surprise of almost everyone I knew, I chose Ben-Gurion.  It ended up being a phenomenal choice.
I loved every minute of classes at Ben-Gurion.  Be’er Sheva is an amazing city, regardless of what anyone says.  The people are amazing.  Our first night there, about 30 lost Americans stood on the street corner trying to figure out where we were and how we could find someplace close by to eat.  A student came up and offered to make us pancakes.  We got to know him well over the next several months.
I kept a blog for the summer to share my experiences and stories with anyone who cared to read them.  I made the following observations in my first real post:
  • There are a lot of stray cats (and some dogs) in Be’er Sheva.
  • The Israeli students are actually finishing up their semester with the next few weeks being their final period. Their schedule got messed up with two different (one professor and one student) strikes this past year. Many of these students will be moving out of the dorms. Their new semester will not begin until mid-November.
  • The school week in Israel is Sunday – Thursday. It is going to take some getting used to.
These observations seem laughable now that I have spent time in Be’er Sheva and Israel for as long as I did.  There were so many meaningful things that happened.
At home now in St. Louis, Missouri for the summer, I have been experiencing an extremely hot and humid summer.  The heat is familiar from Be’er Sheva, the humidity, not so much.  St. Louis is missing the sand though (which really gives the city some character).  The other day I was working in a building looking out at the sun and blue skies.  Someone mentioned spending time at the pool over the weekend and I flashed back to the days of Ulpan, when we would spend the afternoons at the pool, across from Mayonot Gimel.  We would swim, tan, or play volleyball and matkot (Israeli paddleball) with the Israeli students.  We were always welcomed and we began to feel part of the Israeli society.
Back in Denver, I began to get involved in Israel advocacy and programming with student groups and formed relationships with StandWithUs and other organizations.  I took classes on the Israeli-Arab conflict and wrote my honors thesis on Israeli communities rising from discrimination to power.  As part of a liberal international studies program, I often found myself defending Israel, but I was always happy to do it.  I had immediately been a part of the controversy mix, returning to the United States just before my Israeli dorms were evacuated after being hit by a rocket from Gaza (don’t worry, there were no injuries).
I knew that I would not be able to see everything that I had wanted to see during my five months.  I knew I would want to go back.  What was surprising though was how much of Be’er Sheva I did not experience.  Sure, I traveled and explored, but I always figured, “Be’er Sheva only has 200,000 people.  How much can there be here to do?”  Apparently, a lot.  I always said I would return to visit those small museums, but never did.  Hard as I knew it would be, I wanted to get up early on a Thursday morning to go to the animal auction at the Bedouin Market.  I missed it.  That is my only regret.
My Masa Israel experience was amazing.  I would never have given it up for anything.  Now, I know that I need to return.  I hope to do so this December (when I can once again eat way too many sufganiyot! – jelly donuts).  Until then, I will think of Israel often.  See you soon!

As you can tell, they edited it. 🙂 Once it is posted to their blog, I’ll be sure to share the link.

More On The Flotilla

The response to the Gaza flotilla has been overwhelming.  Stories from every angle are all over the home page of The Jerusalem Post.  Most countries seem to be using this as an excuse to condemn Israel, even without knowing the truth of what happened.  This is no surprise.  The United Nations has called for an impartial inquiry into what happened between Israeli commandos and the “pro-peace” activists.  With the UN’s history of discrimination against Israel, this is almost laughable.

This morning I came across a TIME Magazine article about whether or not Obama and Netanyahu could bridge their personal gaps to create peace talks.  I was going to post that here as an interesting story, but then came across a post by Joe Klein about the flotilla incident.  I generally agree with what Joe Klein writes.  In this instance, my opinions waver.  In terms of Israeli politics, I tend to consider myself moderate, wavering to the left or to the right depending on the situation or topic.  Klein gives blame on the Israeli side to Netanyahu and his right-wing government, giving added credence to my International Studies thesis. Klein’s article is as follows:

Well, this certainly doesn’t look good. Israeli commandos attack a flotilla of peace activists and supporters of the Palestinian cause–including a Nobel peace laureate, a holocaust survivor and the mystery writer Henning Mankell–in the waters just off Gaza. Ten are killed; several Israeli commandos are shot, apparently by activists who seized their pistols. I have several immediate reactions:

First reaction: This is an insane use of disproportionate force. It is a product of the right-wing radicalization of the Israeli government, an extremism that Peter Beinart wrote about in his recent, much debated New York Review of Books article. And it will further isolate Israel from the rest of the world. The US will be asked to condemn this behavior in the inevitable Security Council resolution–if Obama doesn’t veto the resolution, there will be hell to pay among the Israelophilic leaders of the American Jewish Community. If he does veto the resolution, his outreach to the Islamic world is kaput. If he abstains, everyone is offended.

Second Reaction: But wait a minute. The blockade the Israelis were enforcing is a joint Egyptian-Israeli effort, caused by the intransigence of Hamas (which, in turn, may be a result of groups even more extreme than Hamas, a new generation of militants who may be the next wave). The sticking point is the Hamas refusal to release its Israeli Army prisoner, Gilad Shalit. And the blockade is not total–food and humanitarian supplies are allowed through by the Israelis, which renders the humanitarian aspects of the flotilla redundant. The real purpose of the flotilla is to dramatize the inhuman conditions in Gaza. But those conditions are as attributable to Hamas’s behavior, especially its refusal to release Shalit and to negotiate, as they are to Israel’s intransigence. If I were an Israeli–even an Israel opponent of the Netanyahu coalition–I would be utterly opposed to making concessions to an organization as historically intransigent and violent as Hamas, unless there were signs that Hamas was willing to behave more reasonably. The first such sign would be the release of Gilan Shalit.

Third Reaction: As I wrote a few months ago, the Gaza situation is–to coin a phrase–a bleeding ulcer that requires aggressive US diplomacy. That means acting as an intermediary between Hamas and Israel. I was led to believe by senior US officials at the time that there were no contacts–not even secret or third party contacts–with Hamas. That seems hard to believe. There is an obvious deal to be negotiated here:  the release of Shalit in return for a limited lifting of the blockade, especially construction supplies so that the Gazans can start rebuilding their homes.

Fourth Reaction: Hamas has achieved a propaganda “victory” here and will be even less likely to negotiate immediately, enjoying every last moment of the international condemnation of  Israel.

Update: Here’s an Israeli account of the incident, which–in Orwellian fashion–calls it a trap set by the pro-Palestinian activists. It is claimed that the Israeli commandos were armed with paintball rifles (huh?)…but they were apparently also armed with pistols, which they used and were used against them.

Update2: Right on schedule, the Likudnik Israel-firsters over at Commentary throw down the gauntlet. It’s up to “liberal zionists”–that is, people who believe in Israel but not in Likud’s neo-imperialist policies–to “choose” between Israel or Hamas. Sorry, but it’s a false choice…and I’m certainly not going to submit to some juvenile ultimatum thrown down by right-wing extremists whose knee-jerk support of Netanyahu’s sado-masochistic coalition is hurting Israel grievously. I understand Israel’s position on the Gaza blockade, though not its crazed macho military nonsense against the flotilla. I believe it’s up to Hamas to initiate negotiations that will lead to the lifting of the blockade. But I also believe that Likudnik policies created Hamas just as surely as the disastrous 1982 Likudnik invasion of Lebanon created Hizballah. It is just astonishing how these shameless people can be so noisy and so wrong for so long. In truth, the one thing that might deter Netanyahu from his disastrous course might be if responsible American Jewish leaders quietly sent the message to Bibi that enough was enough, that they’re happy to support reasonable acts to ensure Israel’s survival, but not this Goliath-like stupidity. (It’s interesting that some of the Palestinian activists were using slingshots against the IDF commandos; that’s an image no Jew wants to see).

The Washington Post article that Klein quotes is interesting in itself.  While essentially tearing apart the flotilla organizers and supporters, the article simultaneously blames Netanyahu and the Israeli government.

We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla — a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists. Israel says that some of the organizers have ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. What’s plain is that the group’s nominal purpose, delivering “humanitarian” supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation. The flotilla turned down an Israeli offer to unload the six boats and deliver the goods to Gaza by truck; it ignored repeated warnings that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza. Its spokesmen said they would insist on “breaking Israel’s siege,” as one of them put it.

The article says that the only way for Netanyahu to get out of this “disaster” is to take credible and solid steps towards a Palestinian state.  Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are in a place for this to happen right now.  Making such major decisions as a result of a diplomatic crisis will only end in failure.  If  the writer of the editorial had read my thesis, the writer would know this.

Gaza Flotilla – Not About Freedom

Last night (U.S. Time), Israel attacked a flotilla that was bound for Gaza.  Israel has blockaded Gaza due to the rule of Hamas and terrorist activities.  While this blockade is well-known, some groups (mostly humanitarian but many with pro-Palestinian and/or pro-extremist ties) have tried to run the blockade and reach Gaza.  Israel and the UN allow humanitarian aid in and offered the flotilla the opportunity to pass the aid on, after a security check.  The offer was turned down.

After being warned to turn around/stop, Israeli soldiers boarded the flotilla ships.  They were attacked by the people on the ships.  According to one Israeli Navy commander, the people on board “came for war”.  The soldiers responded, believing their lives were in danger, and ended up killing several (10 – but number still uncertain) on board the ships and wounding others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been in Canada, canceled a trip to Washington to meet with Obama on Tuesday in order to return home and deal with the impending international crisis.  Obama called Netanyahu today and the two discussed the need to know the facts as soon as possible.  European leaders are already using the incident as a call to end the Gaza blockade and instead act against Israel.  Obama and Netanyahu plan to reschedule their meeting.

Israel has the right to stop ships and check their contents for security reasons (as do all sovereign countries), nevertheless, extremists are using the opportunity to call for attacks against Israel.  To some extent, Turkey is even giving credence to these calls and encouraging some sort of protest against Israel.

"A television grab from Turkish station Cihan shows Navy troops storming the Mavi Marmara" - From Times Online

While it is clear that my views are pro-Israel (which does not mean that I am anti-Palestinian), I try to have a fairly balanced view of situations like this.  The mainstream media, including the BBC article linked to above, almost always represent Israel negatively.  This is biased and untruthful, yet continues to happen.  As such, below are some notes and quotes on the situation, from Stand With Us.  Stand With Us is obviously pro-Israel, but I think these notes are obviously true regardless of whether or not one agrees with the situation that is unfolding.  Clearly we need more information on what actually happened – and it is unlikely to come from unbiased sources.

• Activists carried out a pre-planned violence, armed with knives and metal bars, each sailor being attacked by a mob of a dozen extremists

• The provocateurs were organized by an Islamist organization that has links to fundamentalist jihadi groups.

• The extremists brought small children on board knowing that they intended to violate international maritime law.

• Israel offered to transfer the aid to Gaza again and again – they refused – and chose confrontation.

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “Weapons found on board; the organizers intent was violent, their method was violent and the result was, unfortunately violent”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “We repeatedly called on the organizers to stop this provocation”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “The maritime blockade in Gaza is because of the terrorism of Hamas”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: Allowing the illegal flotilla to reach Hamas would have opened a corridor of smuggling of weapons to Gaza and resulting in civilian deaths.

• Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.

• “We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us, they are going to have to forcefully stop us,” said one of the flotilla’s organizers

• Using the Arabic term ‘intifada,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world.

• Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this week: “If the ships reach Gaza it is a victory; if they are intercepted, it will be a victory too”; Hamas is responsible for the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis.

• Israel left Gaza in hopes of peace in 2005 and in return received more than 10,000 rockets and terrorist attacks.

• Israel has said that it will deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza, as it does daily.

• No country would allow illegal entry of any vessel into their waters without a security check.

• Any police force in the world would respond to aggression; the provocation is the reason for this regrettable outcome.

• Wounded, including violent activists, are receiving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.

Al-Jazeera TV Report from “Freedom Flotilla” Before Its Departure for Gaza: Activists on Board Chant Intifada Songs and Praise Martyrdom.
http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2489.htm

Israeli Navy addresses a ship in the flotilla and offers it to dock in the Ashdod port:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKOmLP4yHb4

BBC report shows violent, masked activists on ship:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/10195838.stm

Read StandWithUs Statement:
http://www.standwithus.com/app/iNews/view_n.asp?ID=1444

Ironically, all of this is unfolding on the United States’ Memorial Day.  The flotilla claimed to be pro-freedom, but their preparation for violent attacks and resulting occurrences show that freedom may not have been the main or entire purpose of this group.

My friend offered the following thoughts on Facebook:

Dear Palestinian “Peace Activists,” You don’t approach an area under blockade and NOT expect to be stopped. THOUSANDS of heavy weapons have historically been smuggled into Gaza so don’t blame Israel for wanting to ensure its own security by searching your ship. Moreover, why not just submit to the search and be on your way… No, go ahead and attack Israeli commandos and see how that works out for ya. Morons. That said, its truly sad for so much loss of life…

Syria and Lebanon claim the attack could lead to war.  This is not surprising and could be a way to once again delay any sort of peace process.