Two States? Too Late

Two States? Too Late.


Leonard Zwelling

         Peter Beinart, a professor of journalism and political science at the Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY and an editor of Jewish Currents writes in The New York Times an opinion that I have shared for a number of years—at least since my last trip to Israel. That opinion is that it is time to give up the notion of a two-state solution as a resolution of the conflict between Jews and Arabs in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

In the two attached articles, Beinart goes to great lengths to explain how he came to abandon the traditional liberal Jewish idea of an Israeli state next to a Palestinian one. In essence, the Israelis have made it impossible. He estimates that there are 640,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and the Israeli Army controls the entire territory anyway. Over the years, the Israelis have encroached on enough of the land on the eastern side of the Green Line to leave the Palestinians with next to nothing to call their own. Bibi and Trump’s plan is ludicrous in what it leaves the Arabs.

It’s been a long time since the 1967 War. There has been no meaningful progress toward a two-state solution. Furthermore, Israel has become one of the most powerful nations on Earth, militarily and economically. Israel has nothing to fear from the Arabs on the West Bank or in Gaza IF they give them equal citizenship in a united land of Israel. But that’s a big if.

         This is the reality of Israel anyway. The Joint List is a powerful political party in the Knesset made up primarily of Arab Israelis. East Jerusalem is about half Arab. The Palestinian Arabs are fully aware that their right of return to the lands they occupied before 1948 is far in the rearview mirror at this point. In places as far flung as Northern Ireland and South Africa the reality of people on the ground becoming one country tends to decrease violence and allow progress going forward. Everyone would benefit from one Israel, even if that one Israel were not a 100% Jewish state.

         As Beinart points out, the idea that Israel should become something other than a Jewish state is distressing to many Jews throughout the world. The Holocaust is still alive in the minds of many and Israel the solution, but the truth is Israel can handle this. It will always be the Jewish homeland even if not a 100% Jewish state. It’s not 100% Jewish now.

         I have been on the ground in Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Jericho and Bethlehem. I have walked the Arab markets and enjoyed the Arab food. I have enjoyed the Arab company even more. Arabs are not Nazis. Many are the friendships between Arabs and Jews in the land between the river and the sea. It’s time to formalize this into one great nation even if that means Israel is not solely for Jews any more.

         This position may seem radical and it would be very challenging to get the Israeli people behind it. But this movement toward one state—Arab and Jew—ought to get started now so that fifty years from now it will be a reality.

         New York City is not a Jewish state. Nonetheless, Jews play a huge role in the life of the city. The idea of creating a state for a single religion anywhere else in the world is a dated idea and doesn’t end well. After WWII, it was a necessary one for Jews. They had no place else to go besides America, Great Britain and South America. It’s not any longer. Everyone between the Jordan and Mediterranean deserves a rest.

One state. Everyone votes. Everyone serves in the army. Two languages or three if you count English. Surely there will remain Jewish enclaves and Arab ones. There will be Hebrew newspapers and Arabic ones. The different food is all there now and the overlap of the signature dishes is considerable. So really are the people. It’s not that Israel is an occupying power that needs to be defanged. It’s that that domination is no longer needed. I agree with Beinart. I no longer believe in a Jewish state, but I most definitely believe in Israel as the Jewish homeland. There’s room in this great country for everyone—Jews and Arabs, Russians and French and anyone else who wants to come. Israel has matured a lot since 1948. It can handle this.

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