Israel/Palestine (OpenDemocracy) – A two-state solution has international legitimacy, while a deeply integrated polity seems the only realistic option on-the-ground. Does Two States One Homeland square the circle while giving dignity and human rights a chance
The UN’s extraordinary resolution 2334 of December 23rd 2016 has confirmed the gaping hole between the consensus of the international community and the realities on the ground. On the one hand, the resolution sanctifies the legal and international framework for future settlement as two states based on the 1967 borders. This strengthens the Palestinian leadership’s adhesion to a national struggle, while the option of a human rights struggle that many have hoped for has been significantly weakened. The resolution is also quite explicit in rejecting the tactic of acquiring territory by settlement. Netanyahu’s dream of sharing the West Bank with a puppet Palestinian state suffered what may be a terminal blow. In the face of a recent unanimous resolution of the security council such as this one, it will be very difficult for any Palestinian leader to sign a deal conforming to Netanyahu’s vision, or for any Arab state to endorse it.
So much for what has happened in the realm of international law, agreements and the future of negotiations. The realities on the ground, on the other hand, are very much becoming those of a single polity. The number of settlers increases by the day, and the political impossibility of evacuating even the tiniest of settlements is now a basic constraint to any solution. A new law allowing expropriation of private Palestinian land is another step in turning Israel’s fifty-years of military occupation into de facto annexation. With or without formal annexation of some areas of the West Bank, such as Maale Edumim, the Israeli government is purposefully tying the economies of the West Bank and Israel’s in ways that have not been seen since the 1980s.
Two States One Homeland is an Israeli and Palestinian civil society group that believes that it has a solution to this apparently impossible puzzle that resolution 2344 has only reinforced. Here is the vision in all its simplicity: the local reality is of a single Homeland – that is, an organised, coherent and cherished geographic entity. But there is nothing about a State that says that two of them cannot simultaneously occupy a single Homeland. Two sovereign states could still recognise the right of citizens of Palestine, including current refugees, to reside in Israel and the right of citizens of Israel, including the current settlers, to reside in what would become the Palestinian state. The states will be separate, but will also be deeply interdependent, and the intensity of the interdependence will require many joint political, legal and economic institutions.
Two States One Homeland tries to bridge the gap between the international commitment to two states and the mixed demographic and economic realities. There will have to be two states based on the 1967 borders. This is, and will be, the only game in town as far as the international community is concerned. But both states would have mixed demographic structures, a shared, undivided capital city, and they would recognise their tight economic and environmental interdependence. In effect, open borders are a practical necessity for any implementation of the two state solution. Two States One Homeland thus believes it has a realistic vision for partition in a such a mixed space.
Two States One Homeland not only offers a truly pragmatic approach to the material and demographic aspects of partitioning an indivisible land, but also recognises that the land is both shared and plural. This vision is not driven by the facts on the ground created by the illegal settlements, and does not absolve Israel of moral blame and legal responsibility. But, fundamentally, long term reconciliation can only come through a recognition of all the collective national aspirations within the territory. Palestinians expect the right to travel, visit and live anywhere between the river and the sea, not as individual refugees, but because they feel this is their homeland. Jews – Israelis as well as many others – feel and expect the same.
Putting an end to the settlements under this vision would not put an end to (or necessarily discredit) the Zionist ideology that originally brought Jews to Israel/Palestine; on the Palestinian side, recognising Israel wouldn’t make the Palestinian sense of displacement disappear. The two states of Israel and Palestine will live together not only as a mixed space, but also in a shared homeland. The deeply held values and beliefs on both sides will not change. Most importantly, equality in a shared land, and mutual respect and recognition of the political rights of both nations represents a future for which Jews and Palestinians together can fight.