One State for Israelis and Palestinians? A Romantic Recipe for Civil War

Idea of 'one-state' solution appeals to those who don't have a clue about the way the human soul operates and who don’t learn anything from history.

Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler
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Woman waves Palestinian flag as Israeli youths with Israeli flag walk by in Jerusalem.
Woman waves Palestinian flag as Israeli youths with Israeli flag walk by in Jerusalem. Credit: Reuters
Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler

What better time than Yom Kippur to do a little soul-searching. Perhaps the “two-state” idea really has gone bust and we ought to move ahead toward a better “one-state” solution? One state that is an exemplar of democracy, egalitarian and merciful, a state of all its citizens that treats all its inhabitants equally, without discrimination or prejudice, and is a global model for peace and tranquility — And the wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the goat.

The idea is an attractive one. It appeals to all those romantics who don’t have a clue about the way the human soul operates and who don’t learn anything from history. They don’t understand that by nature man is a tribal creature. Two or three million years ago, ancient human lived in small groups that offered them social, physical and nutrition security, and equally important: a sense of belonging. Later on, humans organized into tribes, which enabled them to survive amid menacing surroundings.

Today the tribe has been replaced by the nation, organized as a state, whose purpose is to protect citizens from external and internal threats by means of the military and the police, as well as a social safety net in the event of illness or other hardship, in the form of allowances, grants and mutual aid. The state also fulfills humans’ strong need to belong to a defined group, as can be seen from the fact that its members are willing even to sacrifice their lives on behalf of the state.

For it to be clear to a person just which group he belongs to, the nation gave rise to differentiation, manifested in particular characteristics of language, culture, history and religion.

That is why the Jews preserved their national identity for 2,000 years and then here, in the one place in the world to which they have a historical connection, founded a refuge state.

That is also why the Palestinians, having coalesced as a nation, want to establish their own independent state. No less. And so, the “one-state” solution is impossible. It runs counter to human nature.

Just take a look around at the states that attempted to artificially merge several nations. All of them suffer from internal wars — sometimes hidden, sometimes open and brutal, depending on the depth of the gap between the nations.

Turkey has experienced a long and bloody civil war because the Kurds want their own nation-state. Iraq, Syria and Libya are undergoing a bloody process of disintegration. The Soviet Union dissolved into a broke up into a number of nation-states, as did Yugoslavia. In Belgium, the Walloons hate the Flemish. Spain has a Basque underground as well as an entire region, Catalonia, that seeks independence. There is a powerful separatist movement in the Canadian province of Quebec, and many Scots want their country to be an independent state.

The situation here is much more difficult. Here we have two peoples with a deep national consciousness that differ from one another in nearly every way. If compelled to live together in “one state,” it would be a state of never-ending civil war filled with bombings and murders and terror attacks. Each nation would try to achieve a majority, in a situation where the populations are roughly equal in size.

The violent struggle would encompass all areas of life, from the implementation of the Law of Return for Jews or the Right of Return for Palestinians to the conduct of the army and the allocation of budgets. Citizens would be loyal not to the artificial state that is created, but rather to their own nationality. They would fight their neighbor with all their might, if the neighbor is from the other nation, but would feel a bond of brotherhood to every member of their own nation.

The “one-state” solution is therefore a pipe dream. A single state would not survive. Some citizens would leave upon its establishment. Others would be drawn into a bloody civil war, until they come to the understanding that when the prophet Isaiah spoke about the vision of the wolf and the lamb living together, he was referring to the End of Days, but that time is slow in coming.

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