Who’s Afraid of a Binational State?

No more stagnation. No more sitting on the fence. It’s time to roll back our sleeves and start working, for us and for our children.

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The border fence between Israel and GazaCredit: Ilan Assayag

For many years Israeli politics has been struggling, zig-zagging and fluctuating between two ideas to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One is to establish a single binational state and the other is to establish two states for two peoples. Each idea has enthusiastic supporters and opponents, as well as those who recoil from both in alarm. But in practice, neither idea is being advanced.

Until recently I, too, believed in the two-states-for-two-nations solution. But when I look around me, I see no chance of transition from the idea stage to the implementation stage. So I want to call for the binational-state solution, which I think is the most appropriate for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Instead of separating the land into two states, one state will be established between the Jordan River and the sea, encompassing the territories of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. All the Arab and Jewish people living in it will have equal citizenship and equal rights under one combined entity. Some 6 million Jews and 5.5 million Palestinians live between the river and the sea and I think they’ve all understood by now that you cannot really divide the state. Not even Jerusalem/Al-Quds. All the more so because Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t really want to give the Palestinians a state. So if this is the way things are, why not go all the way?

When 400,000 settlers are setting the tone in the country and their influence is much greater than their actual number, I realize there is only one way to go. It won’t be easy, it won’t be acceptable to all and it certainly won’t be simple, but we can no longer do nothing. The existing situation is intolerable and the sizzling, raging flames will burst in our face. So it’s in everyone’s interest – Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians – to solve this mess as soon as possible.

One state, two nations, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. It will be called Israel-Palestine. It will have an anthem, a flag and a new parliament and its people will have equal civil rights, economic equality and equal opportunity. They will all be able to live anywhere and the state’s institutions will serve everyone. The prime minister can be Jewish or Palestinian – it doesn’t matter as long as the system is egalitarian.

I’m not deluding myself – even if it works, and even if all the problems on the way to the binational state are solved, other issues and controversies will pop up. Israel was never short of divisions and ruptures. But the important thing is that the state be social democratic, not just nationalist. Does this sound like a pipe dream? Maybe. But I believe it’s possible. An independent Palestinian state doesn’t really have an economic raison d’etre and there’s no need for one, either. Already most of the construction and industrial workers in Israel are Palestinian. So let’s take it one step forward and make a dream come true.

What will we get out of it? The joint state will fulfill the Jews’ national aspirations – the Greater Land of Israel and united Jerusalem. It will also fulfil the Palestinians’ national aspirations – a state in the whole territory of Palestine and the right of return. In fact, this is already how things are, except for the fact that the Palestinians are imprisoned in an apartheid regime. In view of this, the Palestinians too will agree to a binational state.

It is necessary to understand that the world won’t allow the existing situation to last forever. Ultimately both sides will be compelled to agree to a binational state solution. I want to live in this country and in such a state. I know that in the past the prevalent opinion was that the right solution is two states for two nations, but in our days this solution is no longer on the agenda and is not really possible. In the territories that Israel occupies many people are not represented and in Israel itself there’s a growing minority – Israel’s Palestinian citizens – that will probably support this solution.

Ultimately, the two nations have a lot in common – religious roots, the Eastern culture with prominent elements of the Arab world, music, cuisine and tradition. So no more stagnation. No more sitting on the fence. It’s time to roll back our sleeves and start working, for us and for our children.

The writer is an advertising agent.

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