One State to Rule Them All?

In the comments to my earlier post on Israel/Palestine, North and Michael Drew got into a very intelligent (and spirited) back and forth.

Michael eventually wrote the following (way down in the thread of comment #9):

The question is why or whether they [The Palestinians] would be interested in a state for themselves, knowing at this point what it would consist of (not what it might have done). You are eliding the question by saying that they should want it if they have interest in a state on that territory. That is the question. Palestinian nationalism is largely a thing of the 1980s and to some extent 90s. Since then, it has largely been a crutch for the U.S. and Israel’s efforts at peace. Whatever reason Palestinians once had to desire the state on offer has been long since spoilt by war and economic siege. I honestly don’t see what reason they would have to accept what they can now get. It would not even come with any guarantee of security from Israeli interference pursuant to “security interests’ — no Israeli government could ever take that off the table. Given the history, and given that the Palestinian “state” would be effectively demilitarized, the “state” would amount to nothing more than a voluntarily promise of nonintervention from Israel. The cumulative effects of economic isolation and sense that historical wrongs had only been institutionalized would guarantee eventual violence directed at Israel from the new “state,” and the cycle of intervention and retaliation would begin anew.

This is a very important and well articulated point of view.  As a quick review, my own sense of how crippled the Two State Framework is, led me to argue (in the comments) for the out-there idea that the US should take over the West Bank to create a kind of state-tutelage for the Palestinians, cover security for the Israelis, and separate the two populations.  An admittedly somewhat insane idea*, only surpassed in its insanity (I think) by the current state of affairs and its seemingly unstoppable trajectory towards Israel ruling over a stateless ethnic majority disenfranchised politically.  The consequences of an increasingly unstoppable Accidental Empire.

Michael’s argument gains support from Juan Cole, who in the conclusion to a classic takedown of Jeffrey Goldberg (always in good order), says the following:

Does Goldberg have a plan “B”? Because his two-state solution is so 1993. The problem is, it is almost certainly past the point where any such thing is possible, given the size and extent of Israeli colonies in the Palestinian West Bank. Goldberg admits that the only two likely outcomes of the current policies of Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman are Apartheid or a one-state solution.  (boldface in original)

For those interested, the best argument I’ve ever read towards a a one state solution is that of Ali Abu Nimah (titled One Country).  The book makes some strong arguments and is definitely worth reading and considering, but I still admit to thinking there are serious potential flaws in the idea.  Flaws that push (as discussed in this interview with Abu Nimah) even people like Jimmy Carter and Noam Chomsky to favor a two state solution.  In that same interview Abu Nimah counters:

What I argue in the book [One Country], of course this isn’t about destroying Israel. It isn’t about turning things over from one day to the next. Palestine-Israel is not the only country that faces this sort of power struggle along ethnic, religious, and other lines. We have to look for structures, and I talk about this in some detail in the book. How they did it in South Africa, where by the way, the same sorts of arguments were made against ending Apartheid and against one person, one vote. We have to look at countries like Belgium, we have to look at Northern Ireland.

There are many models out there for dealing with those sort of things. So that you have one person, one vote, full democracy, full equality, while at same time, ethnic communities, the Israeli-Jewish community, the Palestinian community, will have mechanisms for expressing their national identity, for decision making over issues that concern them. We have to stop thinking this very simplistic, binary way. And this is where I’m trying to take the discussion with this book.

While I generally think the idea of Two States is much more workable in theory, I’m leaning more towards the notion that it is has become unfeasible in practice, however preferred it might be at the hypothetical/policy level.  I think these kinds of discussions need to take place–what do we do if the Two State Solution fails?  What do we do if the Two State Solution is not workable, if there is no realistic path from here to there?

If the Two State Solution is dead (or at least becoming incapacitated with little to no hope of legitimate recovery), then we are left only with the choice of Israeli domination of a (soon to be) ethnic majority without political rights, which would call into question the legitimacy of the state of Israel and continue the horrible, right-less existence of the Palestinian people.  Or one state.  Again that binary choice occurs IF the Two State Solution is dead.  My own view is that The Two State Solution is increasingly on the precipice–while for others we’ve already fallen off that edge.

I think much more work needs to be done on thinking about what safeguards there would be in a One State framework.  Abu Nimah begins that discussion, but I think it needs to go much further.

* I didn’t know these previous to TEH GOOGLE telling me, but apparently this fellow has argued that the united Israeli-Palestinian state become the 51st State in the US.

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33 thoughts on “One State to Rule Them All?

  1. Woo-hoo! A shout out!! I’d like to thank the Academy and of course Michael Drew (and I am really glad that I didn’t start calling him an ignorant slut though I managed to somehow stop posting under my blue name /cry).

    Certainly the two state solution is an ugly and unworkable option being surpassed in ugliness and unworkability only by the status quos or some kind of one state solution. I agree that in the failure of two state we’re pretty much stuck with a one state solution (at least in terms of ethical alternatives). I can feel my hands shake with fear though in imagining how badly things could turn out if the Israeli polity finds itself backed (or self dragged) into a situation where the only ethical option is surrendering themselves into the hands of a hostile majority. The unethical alternatives would begin to tower in such a situation, may it never come to that.

    Absolutely the madhouse settlement by Jews in the West Bank is a terrible thing and makes the two state solution more difficult. I do feel obliged to observe, though, that it is a crushing indictment of the Palestinian and Arab people that in Israel millions of Arab-Israeli’s can work, live and vote in relative equality and peace with their host nation while the idea of Jewish minority living in Palestinian evokes plausible predictions that lead down an alley full of violence and end in a blood soaked sandy grave. This is not to excuse the settlers. It’s blatantly obvious that they’d be hauling their Kocher asses back to Israel proper at warp speed if the Israeli government were ever to have the chutzpah to tell them that they could stay in Palestine but they’d be on their own under Palestinian rule.

    I love the idea if Israel-Palestine being some kind of 51st state but of course it would be a validation of all of the most wild eyed conspiracy theories about the “Great Satan” in all Arabic circles and utterly unworkable in practice since neither ethnic group speak English as their first language. Nor would the U.S. ever allow anything like the right of return for an Israeli 51’st state and I’m dubious the Israelis would ever consent to essentially locking the rest of the Jewish Diaspora out of the holy land.

    I haven’t read Ali Abu Nimah myself though I’ve heard his book described as very optimistic and naive. If it starts to look like the two state solution is truly dead I definitely will need to brush up on my reading. After I start trying to tackle “The Kraut” of course; Bob would be vexed if I put it off too much.

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    • I do feel obliged to observe, though, that it is a crushing indictment of the Palestinian and Arab people that in Israel millions of Arab-Israeli’s can work, live and vote in relative equality and peace with their host nation while the idea of Jewish minority living in Palestinian evokes plausible predictions that lead down an alley full of violence and end in a blood soaked sandy grave. This is not to excuse the settlers. It’s blatantly obvious that they’d be hauling their Kocher asses back to Israel proper at warp speed if the Israeli government were ever to have the chutzpah to tell them that they could stay in Palestine but they’d be on their own under Palestinian rule.

      What is to say? What actions are you saying indicts “the Palestinian and Arab people” of what wrongdoing? Settlers are not petitioning for immigration into an existing Palestinian state. They are there precisely to effect the exclusion of that space from any Palestinian state. They are “changing the facts on the ground” by further dispossessing Palestinians of land. The Palestinians have no state into which to welcome Jews. Your comparison is absurd.

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      • So then Michael, assume for the moment that Israel withdrew it’s military forces and the Jewish settlers became Jewish residents of a state of Palestine under the power of said state and dependant on said state . Absent any forceful intervention from Israel or some other outside military force what would the lifespan of these Jewish groups in Palestine be? I’m skeptical that it would be a very long one. Is there a Jewish community of any size in any of the Arab states of the Middle East?

        This isn’t really central to the main issue of course and again the settlers have no business entrenching themselves where they do and of course any acts Israel takes to enable them to do so are horrible and deserve the strongest of condemnation.

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        • How is asking me to assume what is clearly not the case a defense of a claim that a huge group of people have been indicted on the basis of what they might do under that assumption? Israel will either keep that land or pull the people off of it. Is there a Jewish community of any size in any of the Arab states of the Middle East? I don’t know. What would it prove one way or the other? This is not a discussion that is in touch with reality. I think you should come out and say whatever it is you are trying to say here.

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          • Well I came out and said what I meant to say in the first place and you raised the issue. I’ll attempt to poke around it a bit more for you if you’d like.

            My original point remains the same. Palestinians are able to live peacefully and practice their religion under the rule of a Jewish majority state; Jews are not able to live peacefully and practice their religion under the rule of an Arab majority state. That is the extent of my indictment such as it is. It’s merely an observation of what we already know. We hold Israel to a higher standard than its neighbors because they are a pluralistic modern society (and despite their right wings best efforts remain one) and their neighbors are for the most part not.

            Though the issue of Arab intolerance doesn’t have the importance that the right wing claims it does (you’ll not often find a National Review screed about Israel for instance that doesn’t carp on and on about this) it does bear some salience on the matter at hand of course because it impacts directly on the issues involved in granting the Palestinians their own state. At the moment due to this issue the Israeli’s will need to physically and in some cases forcibly remove these Jewish settlers (and again I’d like to re-iterate that the settlers are nutbars and certainly deserve to get dragged out if they insist on making trouble). If Israel could instead just say to the settlers “We’re handing sovereignty of this region over the Palestinians. You’ll be paying your real estate taxes to them now and if you want to complain about road maintenance address it to Ramallah instead of Tel Aviv” it would make the two state solution a lot easier to implement. But instead we are faced with the unpleasant reality that if (hopefully when) Israel withdraws that the Palestinians would either forcibly (possibly lethally) evict any Jewish residents that were left behind or would merely stand by while their more hard core compatriots murdered them. It just makes things more difficult.

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                • Well, you’re either right or wrong as things stand already, it’s not still to be determined. Arabs are either by-and-large intolerant murderous racists or they’re not. I suppose on the Jews-in-Palestine question you could be surprised, but the question is not going to be tested — as I said israel will either keep the land via swaps or pull the people off of it. Maybe there will be some complete die-hards on whom your theory can be tested. But the point of settling is not to live on land for which your government will not speak. It is to force your government to speak for the land on which you live. When the gov’t relinquishes and the argument is over, there will be no point to staying.

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                  • On that we’re fully agreed. I have no doubt as to the motivation of the settlers and they are 100% facts on the ground oriented with a hefty sprinkling of religious mania added for flavor. I would never mean to imply anything else.

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  2. This is really poor analysis. (And your flip back-patting of Cole’s Goldberg smear is doing you no favors, Chris. Whatever you think of either man’s politics, that “take-down” is simply absurd, and anchored in almost nothing Goldberg writes.)

    Whenever I talk to people who advocate for a single state, what I find most stupefying is their total disregard for the self-determination of the people they’re idly theorizing about. Most Palestinians don’t want a single state. (Well, they do, but the single state that they want is Palestine, not Israel/Palestine. And I don’t mean that they want a Palestinian state with a Jewish minority. They want no Jews, period.) And I can count the number of Israelis I have met who are willing to entertain the idea of a single state on one hand.
    Does Cole — do you — honestly believe that people are advocating for two states because it is pretty? Easy? Please check back in to reality: it is not a good option, it is the *only* option. Apartheid would be the end of Israel. One state would be the end of Israel. This math is simple (though some in the current Israeli government may not be able to do it, that’s no excuse for those of us with a bit of brain power, including you, your readers, and even the wretched Juan Cole.)

    There is not a single fact on the ground — outside of Israel’s stupid settlement expansion — to support anything like a single state. You cast your half-joking “Israel-Palestine as 51st state” as insane. I think you don’t realize how close one-state is to that, on the spectrum of insanity. One of your citations in turn cites Belgium and Northern Ireland, and I can no longer tell if he is giving us reasons to support his plan, or laugh at it. While we’re at it, let’s take a look at how great things are going in Quebec. If a bunch of Western countries with mostly cultural or religious (rather than racial) distinctions can’t hack this kind of plan, why on earth would we pick the Middle East as the next place for this sort of experiment?

    And by the way, we have a readily available example of what happens when two religious ethnic groups with competing claims attempt to live in a single state, and one much closer to home: Lebanon. Is there anyone out there crazy enough to want a repeat of Beirut circa 1981?

    Look, when Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank happens — and it will happen, that much I believe — it will not be pretty. But I’m struggling to understand why you, or any of your readers, are insisting that somehow Israeli settlement infrastructure will remain in place. Remember, we already have a model for how this works — Gaza. When the Israelis withdraw, they won’t leave an Israeli civilian minority. (Not because, as Michael bizarrely claims, they would high-tale it out of the territory on their own. Quite the contrary — they would begin viciously attacking Palestinian civilians, which is the last thing any Israeli government would want.)

    Will a West Bank Palestinian state be demilitarized? Definitely. So long as the West Bank happens to be geographically located on top of the capital of Israel, and within easy striking distance of its largest city, that’s inevitable for the near-term. But “economically isolated”? It’s not economically isolated now, so I struggle to see why anyone would believe it would become so in the event of state formation. If anything, the (dwindling) economic constraints on that territory would be lifted entirely.

    In sum: one-state will never happen. And Palestinians have a great deal to gain from a state in the West Bank, as most Palestinians (unlike, it seems, an alarming number of your commenters) thankfully know.

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    • Max man,

      Hold up a second.

      I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear on this one, but I really think you are missing what I was trying to do here and got me pegged for somebody else.

      As I said in this post and the last one I have real serious question marks about a one state solution. I think it’s extremely problematic in all kinds of ways–given attitudes on both sides (including serious concerns for a minority Israeli Jewish population–as for example North mentioned above).

      As I said (again in this post and the other one), I think 2 States is a much preferred scenario. By a long shot.

      What I’m working through (and these are posts intended to open debate, to show where my thinking is at, to “think”, I haven’t got all this figured out) is what happens if the, er, ground upon which the 2 State Solution rests erodes?

      What then?

      I agree with many of your criticisms of a one state scenario. On both sides.

      That still doesn’t answer my original set of questions…..”Is the 2 State Solution increasingly impossible?” There are a number of voices (who certainly tend to come from one side of the spectrum, there view is certainly open to some critique) who are making I think a strong case that needs to be examined that the 2 State is in serious (if not fatal/near-fatal) circumstances.

      Is that right? If not, why not? If not, how do we get out of the current downward spiral?

      You say that you think the disengagement from the West Bank will happen. What evidence can you cite for that claim? An announcement that 1600 new homes will be built in East Jerusalem is not exactly evidence of a coming withdraw.

      If one doesn’t hold your faith (which I hope you’re right btw) in future disengagement….then what is Plan B? That was my original post….what is Plan B? I think we’ve reached a point where it is time to at least think about that idea–which is not the same as throwing out Plan A.

      You disagree, cool. I’d be glad to debate it with you, but don’t do [what I think was] a hack job on what I’ve written please.

      Such as there is a Plan B out there it’s a Single State. Unless Plan B is total all out war between the two and the continued blockade of Gaza unendingly, the continued buildup of settlements in the West Bank and so on. That’s not a Plan B I want to see happen for either side, especially for Israel as I said I don’t know how many times in both posts and the comments to both posts.

      A single state as Plan B has all kinds of problems associated with it. I really question it. BUT IF the 2 state fails (emphasis but and if), then I think of those two options, a single state is preferable. I don’t think a single state is preferable to a two state, but I’m not sure how the two state is going to come at this point.

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      • also max,

        my idea was not Israel/Palestine become a 51 state.

        My “insane” idea was that the US take control over the West Bank, allowing the Israelis to exit while still protecting their flank, and then helping the Palestinians build up a state. Instead of imagining one can just be created–particularly given the status of the West Bank and Israeli security concerns.

        Even if your view is the correct one, what is Israel going to do….get Jordan (like Egypt) to agree to blockading the entire West Bank? How are they realistically going to dismantle all the settlements in the West Bank when there are so many more, including much more established/enmeshed ones than in Gaza? Particularly after the electoral smack that Kadima received after the Gaza pullout was seen to be (by many) a failure that allowed too many attacks into Israel?

        Will Israel have to have a West Bank invasion on the scale of the recent Gazan one in response?

        Those are serious questions. I think for a whole mess of reasons, the Gaza withdrawal which I had hoped would be a new way forward failed. We could argue over causes (percentage of blame, etc.) for why that it is, but I think a number of people, across various sides of this debate would agree with that. And that as such, I can’t imagine where the political will is going to come to repeat that on the massive scale of the West Bank. This was a point discussed by North and I.

        I hope I’m wrong and you’re right on that one, but right now I don’t see it.

        As I said, the only more insane idea than mine (I thought) was the current state of affairs and its (in my opinion, minus some radical change) inexorable momentum.

        I hinted that radical change could come at the point of an Iranian bomb. I would not want it to come to that; I’m not hoping for that situation, but I could see that reversing the current trend.

        But absent that scenario, I think a radical shakeup in the trajectory needs to occur or else Israel will be left with only a series of very bad choices.

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        • “My “insane” idea was that the US take control over the West Bank, allowing the Israelis to exit while still protecting their flank”
          1. The Israeli military does not need any protection from the PA police. They work closely together and anyway the Israelis outmatch Palestinian military capacity in every respect.
          2. The US would never put itself in a position where Israelis might, for whatever strange reason, need to shoot at them. This is the same reason why you will never see a NATO or UN militarized deployment to the West Bank. The political repercussions of an accident or a misunderstanding would catastrophic for everyone concerned.

          “get Jordan (like Egypt) to agree to blockading the entire West Bank?”
          First of all, as I mentioned before, the West Bank is not under blockade. I am trying to keep a measured tone, but I find it really frustrating that you are conflating the West Bank’s trade situation with Gaza’s. They are not even remotely similar. That said, if you’re merely referring to a blockade on military equipment, the short answer is: yes.

          Of course, Israel doesn’t need to do this (though it could, since it has a warming peace with Jordan.) Jordan enjoys a good working relationship with the US, which could easily demand this service. And I suspect in the event of the creation of a PA state, some kind of semi-regular inspections would be required anyway, so even assuming breaches in the Jordanian border, it’s not as if the PA could (or would) attempt to build a military force.

          “How are they realistically going to dismantle all the settlements in the West Bank when there are so many more, including much more established/enmeshed ones than in Gaza?”
          Evacuation is the difficult part, not dismantling. And Israel’s infrastructure is more than capable of both. The maps making the rounds right now are maps of Israeli-*controlled* territory, not Israeli *built* territory. In short — Israel jury-rigs the zoning process to give settlers control over territory far beyond where they actually live and have built.

          Never mind the idea that Israel could simply leave buildings and farms in place, and subtract their estimated value from the reparations that will need to be repaid to the PA state for Palestinian refugees unable to return to their parents’ or grandparents’ homes.

          Finally, heavily established settlements won’t need to be evacuated or dismantled. Land will be swapped to keep things on an even keel. This aspect of the agreement has been in place since Oslo.

          “Will Israel have to have a West Bank invasion on the scale of the recent Gazan one in response? ”
          This is built on a series of enormous suppositions, which I think you probably recognize. Suffice it to say that the West Bank is controlled by Fatah, who will not mount an insurgent campaign against Israel. If that changes, Israel will have a difficult situation. But this is nothing compared to the fallout from your proposed alternatives.

          Finally, you need to realize that a ton of research has already been done on everything you’re asking, and the overwhelming majority of these questions have already been answered by people who have been studying this conflict for years. You can start at my old digs: http://www.ipcri.org. (Don’t let the horrible website fool you – the research is good.) It’s perfectly acceptable not to know these answers, but I’m having a hard time believing that you’ve made very much effort to seek them out. This seems more like an indulgent exercise in crystal-balling, with all respect (and I do generally enjoy your other posts.)

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      • “don’t do [what I think was] a hack job on what I’ve written please. ”

        This is a bit rich coming from somebody who’s applauding Juan Cole’s most recent foray against civility and dialogue. But yes, I’m sorry for the harsh tone.

        I’m not misunderstanding the genesis of your post: the general sense that two-state is going to be out of reach soon.

        To give this a calculus spin (sometimes a discussion just needs a calculus spin), what I’m trying to emphasize is that there is a vanishing point of impossibility, and a single state lies well closer to that point than just about anything else you could propose. It is right up there with claiming the territory for the USA. It just. Won’t. Happen. You would see a bloody civil war first, and when that was over — it still wouldn’t happen.

        100 years down the line? Maybe, if the recriminations stopped today. 200 years? Sure, and I hope we see that time come, just as I hope (like most liberal-minded Westerners, I assume) that we one day see the dissolution of all political boundaries between nations. I’m a big fan of Carl Sagan. I’d like to see our attentions and intellects turned to the stars. But this is not the time, and Lord knows Israel is not the place.

        I am making two salient points:
        1. You and other readers have vastly underestimated the impossibility of a single state, and so this discussion is really just wheel-spinning (even more so than regular blogging.)
        2. Two-state is a lot less out of reach than you seem to be assuming.

        Before the Obama administration took office, when the US was still playing the “see no evil” game with settlements, talk about the diminishing chances for two-state was mostly limited to wonks. What’s changed since then? Not the facts on the ground. The West Bank is just as parceled out now (no less, *no more*) as it was a couple of years ago. 1600 units in East Jerusalem is a drop in a large bucket, and its significance is solely as a political gesture.

        What’s changed is that suddenly the rest of the world is paying attention to this issue, and they’re alarmed by the maps they see (and rightfully so.)

        But none of what you’re seeing is irreversible. Settlements can be evacuated and demolished. Condos in East Jerusalem can be vacated. It would take no more than the Israeli Prime Minister signing a piece of paper to begin this process.

        So here is a question: why does this seem out of reach to you? Because the Israelis haven’t done it yet? That may make it hard to accomplish, but out of reach? Not exactly.

        The Israeli government may be spinning out right now on its right wing bravado, but it’s a democracy. It can, and will, correct for these kinds of spin-outs. Will the Netanyahu coalition be the one to dismantle the West Bank project? Not as it stands today. But that tells us nothing about a couple of years down the line (and knowing the Israeli political landscape, “couple of years” is probably optimistic for Netanyahu.)

        Settlements have always been tolerated by mainstream Israeli politicians because they’re a bargaining chip in final status negotiations. When Palestinians are ready to renounce the right of return, as I also have faith that they one day will, I suspect Israelis will be ready to renounce settlements. If Obama is as smart as I think he is, he understands this, and this is his primary goal.

        As for why I have this sort of faith: because on that line of impossibility reaching out to its vanishing point, everything I’ve just said is in spitting distance compared to one-state, or ethnic cleansing, or apartheid, or whatever other doomsday scenarios observers are cooking up these days.

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        • I don’t think I’ve vastly underestimated the possibility of a one state solution. I didn’t specifically refer to what I think it’s chances are, so I guess that’s a fair read into it. Or at least a read of what I should have made more explicit.

          So here goes. I think the One State Solution has an extremely low (I don’t know a number to put on it) chance of happening within say a 50 year time period. That I’m even considering it suggests how low I think the situation has gotten.

          So that’s the second point–I’m more pessimistic at the current time than you are. I hope you are right; I hope I’m wrong.

          The reasons I mentioned as to why I think the 2 State situation is in serious danger are: problems that occurred after the Gaza pullout (rockets, blockade, war) and multiplying that by whatever factor is appropriate relative to the West Bank.

          Perhaps we will reach a point where an Israeli PM says, “we have no choice for the future of our country except to extricate from the West Bank. This means forcibly removing our own citizens even though it could very likely cause us to get attacked more in the near term.”

          And then goes about doing it. And the images on TV of women and children being dragged out (multiplied again by some a large factor relative to the West Bank) and manages to hold it through the entire process. Even after potential attacks.

          Such a thing could happen. It’s not going to happen now or anytime soon I think but maybe 10 years down the line, I don’t know.

          The problem I see with that is that’s exactly what Olmert said and he didn’t do it. In point of fact, he kept with that status quo of buildilng settlements. You could blame him personally for being weak, his low poll numbers, I don’t know, but he said basically in effect “either we get out, either there are two states, or we are going to be heading towards *apartheid* state status. Or whatever word that is not controversial we can use for apartheid there. I haven’t heard a neutral one, if there could be such a thing as neutral in such a situation, but I’m willing to put the ‘a’ word in quotation marks or something.

          But he still acted in complete opposition to what he said was happening. iow, I think you would agree it’s actually much harder than the PM just signing on the dotted line. Or at least, signing on the dotted line is way harder (politically) than is often imagined.

          This makes me wonder whether either side is really serious at this point or whether talk of 2 States is in fact (for not all but some major players), a way of not dealing with the reality that maybe that shipped has already sailed.

          Maybe the Iranians get a nuclear bomb and the calculus changes. Maybe that would force the Israelis to deal. That’s a possibility–hell it might even be more likely the one state scenario. In point of fact, I think the Iranian bomb scenario is likely the only thing to re-start the 2 State solution seriously….absent my crazy US scheme, which admittedly is not going to happen outside of some horrendous set of circumstances I don’t want to contemplate but that doesn’t mean it might not be the right solution to a problem.

          That counterfactual was raised to suggest the point that the 2 State may be in more trouble than is typically imagined.

          Whether it was “only” wonks who thought about that idea before and has now become a media thing because people are paying attention is (while true I think) not particularly relevant. Or said another way, the question isn’t whether it was a wonk only thing and now has media backing. The question is: is the idea valid (popular or not)?

          I’m shading in that direction, I’ve not made up my mind. I think it is worth seriously considering the question about the viability of the 2 State solution (which is what I tried to do in these posts).

          I’m glad to hear a different point of view, one more optimistic than mine.

          I still don’t think that imaging other scenarios (as I said Plan Bs) at this point is just spitting in the wind. I realize it’s further out a field, but I think it is still worth considering.

          You don’t, fair enough.

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          • Olmert was derailed by the escalating violence out of Gaza. Whether to ascribe this to Hamas (who have a vested interest in prolonging the conflict) or Olmert’s government (which does not have such an interest, but may have mistakenly believed it did) is a matter of opinion, I suppose. There’s certainly no question that Israel is suffering from a lack of leadership. Whatever you may think of Sharon, he was someone the country could comfortably stand behind. The same cannot be said of anyone who has vied for the premiereship since. So I agree with you in part, but it’s a dangerous elision to look at Olmert’s mistakes and see the unseriousness of an entire country.

            I have not addressed the Iran issue that you have been bringing up because I don’t think anyone can know what that would do to the peace process. It is not at all obvious to me that it would move things forward.

            Your crazy US scheme is never going to happen under any circumstances outside of a full-scale invasion of Israel — and the fact that it is not going to happen is precisely the reason that it is not the right solution to the problem, a concept I have been driving at throughout this conversation and which you have not engaged directly.

            I’ve repeatedly asked you to consider the ways in which Gaza and the West Bank are not similar (no economic blockade, a different ruling faction), and you have not addressed those points.

            I’ve also suggested why and with what capacity an Israeli leader might begin a drawdown, and you are also not directly addressing those points.

            In short, it seems to me that you’ve not really responded to much of anything I’ve said. Instead, you’re shrugging your shoulders and ascribing our disagreement to a mere difference of opinion. This is your prerogative, but you should not be surprised to find yourself so pessimistic if the way you investigate alternative points of view is to always be certain to spit them out after you taste them, so to speak.

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            • I did say that Gaza and the West Bank were different in at least one (major league) important respect: scale. And thereby difficulty of extrication.

              It’s certainly true that in the current climate, Hamas does not have the support in the West Bank that it does in Gaza. If Fatah continues to be unable to achieve a deal, Fatah’s control in the WB may not last forever, but let’s assume they do hold some control for a while going forward in the West Bank.

              The West Bank is economically in better shape than Gaza, though I’m not sure anybody would count that as a great thing.

              But they don’t have (for all that) the institutions of a state. Even if an Israeli withdraw were to occur, nature abhors a vacuum (particularly in the ME) and that vacuum would be filled–in some (I imagine) positive ways and also I would have to guess very negative ways.

              What happens when some of those negatives spill over into Israel? What is Israel’s response? A Gaza-like incursion (even if on a smaller, more targeted scale) is not out of the question. And at the point, if the West Bank has been declared a Palestinian state, then that is an act of war. In fact anything that comes over from said West Bank (say a rocket) into Israel would be viewed as a declaration of war.

              This gets back to your point that the WB would be de-militarized—by whose decision and how? Doesn’t strike me Fatah is going to go for that particularly. If there are still Israeli soldiers in their territories, can we call the Palestinian state (if it is declared) a state?

              If it doesn’t have monopoly of violence (a la Weber) within its territory is it a state?

              It doesn’t have to turn into Gaza overnight to become a serious problem. It need not turn into Gaza to have the place swarming with mafia-like types, even hardcore open-source insurgents still hell bent on destroying Israel, and all the rest.

              I grant your point about Olmert as well as the current crew of pols, but I don’t think you’ve really given a plausible account of how a future Israeli politician is going to gain the political will to be able to make the pullout. Even granting vast differences between Gaza and West Bank (which I agree are different but not the degree you I think do), how is that going to be sold to the average Israeli on the street? Especially if said politician gets an opponent attacking him/her from the right, saying “Remember Gaza!!”? Even granting wonks (or bloggers) can parse out various differences, can that realistically be sold in a media world, with the Gaza experience so fresh?

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              • Well the current right wing overreach is certainly going a good ways towards laying the foundation for the Israeli correction and return to withdrawal motivation. All of my small circle of friends in Israel are just livid about Bibi’s antics. If Bibi and his clown car of right wing party supporters continue their idiotic capering they’ll demonstrate to the Israeli’s that there really isn’t any realistic alternative to withdrawal. There’s nothing like having any good alternatives for focusing the mind on what needs to be done.

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        • Arguing about what is more or less im/possible and holding out the possibilities of what can still happen can extend out in time as long as these two peoples remain on the land. What will remain throughout that time until such things happen will be actual oppression and dispossession. Discussing alternative outcomes should not in that circumstance provoke this level of ire.

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            • Max, there is an application in the commenting function at this site that allows you to provide a link to a website of one’s choice, presumably where one provides information about oneself and expresses one’s views in however unrestrained a manner as he sees fit. To my regret I have no such site of my own at this time other than I twitter feed, but in a spirit of comity and openness I will provide it going forward. Obviously you are entirely within your rights to decline to provide such a link. But I wonder if you might agree it would be valuable for the community here to know where such a link might lead, and what views you have had occasion to express there. Either way, I will suggest to the community that Google is also a useful tool.

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  3. Just a couple points to get myself out of hot water with some above comments. First, I did not mean to say that Palestinian nationalism is a completely dead letter. But I think it is clearly on the wane (at least based on even unrealistically optimistic approximations of 1967 borders), and that the U.S. and Israel at this point objectively have more to lose, and increasingly so, than the Palestinians in a failure to establish a Palestinian state. Second, saying it was guaranteed that the cycle of violence would restart after two states were established was obviously saying more than I know. I think it would likely occur, and that avoiding it would require a great deal of very difficult restraint on the Israeli side indefinitely. Last, I myself at least make no claims about the viability of a one-state solution. I was merely pointing out the difficulties with a two-state solution, and rooting them in (to my mind) clearly decreasing objective interest, especially relative to the other parties, in the estabishment of a Palestinian state among Palestinians. That is an objective assessment on my part, and may not match actual sentiment.

    Appreciate the discussion — thanks Chris.

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  4. In fairness, as you refer to Cole’s “classic takedown” of Goldberg – when in fact it was a totally tendentious sliming – you should also have provided this even more classic and quite persuasive follow-up takedown of Cole by Jonathan Chait:

    Juan Cole’s Mania

    One of the odd things about people with very left-wing views on the Middle East is that they’re obsessed with the political influence of American Jews yet almost completely unfamiliar with the actual beliefs of the subject of their obsession. This was among the numerous methodological flaws of Walt and Mearsheimer’s widely-panned polemic “The Israel Lobby.” It’s also exemplified, in unusually stark and entertaining form, in a recent contretemps between blogger Juan Cole and the Atlantic Monthly’s Jeffrey Goldberg.

    The episode begins with Cole jumping into one of the regular disputes between Goldberg and fellow Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan. Cole wrote a post setting out his own belief, which is that the formation of Israel was a colonialist crime:

    The first original sin was the contradictory and feckless pledge by the British to sponsor Jewish immigration into their Mandate in Palestine, which they wickedly and fantastically promised would never inconvenience the Palestinians in any way. It was the same kind of original sin as the French policy of sponsoring a million colons in French Algeria, or the French attempt to create a Christian-dominated Lebanon where the Christians would be privileged by French policy.

    Winding his way through his version of history, he eventually turned to Goldberg:

    People like Goldberg never tell us what they expect to happen to the Palestinians in the near and medium future. They don’t seem to understand that the status quo is untenable. They are like militant ostriches, hiding their heads in the sand while lashing out with their hind talons at anyone who stares clear-eyed at the problem, characterizing us as bigots. As if that old calumny has any purchase for anyone who knows something serious about the actual views of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, more bigoted persons than whom would be difficult to find. Indeed, some of Israel’s current problems with Brazil come out of Lieberman’s visit there last summer; I was in Rio then and remember the distaste with which the multi-cultural, multi-racial Brazilians viewed Lieberman, whom some openly called a racist.

    I’ve read this paragraph several times, and it never fails to amuse. Cole begins by invoking a type — “People like Goldberg” – that he declines to define. He proceeds to accuse Goldberg of failing to state his view of the Palestinian question — which, as we’ll see, is like accusing Jonathan Cohn of failing to state his view of the American health care system. He then produces a metaphor that sounds like something out of a hallucinogenic Monty Python cartoon – “militant ostriches”? – before making the baseless claim that Goldberg has called him a bigot. (Goldberg hasn’t, though I’m sure one of the “People like Goldberg” has.) Cole then begins free associating about Avigdor Lieberman, either in some attempt to link Lieberman’s views with Goldberg’s without quite saying so, or to make the point that Cole can’t be a bigot because Lieberman is, or possibly because he got started on the topic of Zionists he doesn’t like and couldn’t stop himself.

    Goldberg then replied by restating the views that Cole accused him of never having stated:

    I’m for the creation of a Palestinian state on one hundred percent of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (or a Palestinian state that equals one hundred percent of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, through land swaps); a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem that mirrors the Israeli capital in West Jerusalem; an immediate end to all settlements; Israeli negotiations with Syria that would bring about peace and an end to Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.

    He also pointed out that Cole wants “to deny to the Jewish people a state in their ancestral homeland,” a fair reading of Cole’s view that Jews never should have been permitted to immigrate to Palestine.

    Cole now retaliates with a screed that makes his previous rant appear measured. Entitled, “Jeff Goldberg’s Blood-and-Soil Israeli Nationalist Fantasy,” Cole goes on at length about how unfair it is that somebody as reasonable himself is so frequently smeared by Zionists. He sums up his subjects worldview as a kind of fascism: “wounded romantic nationalism of Goldberg’s sort is a pathetic remnant of the twentieth century, which polished off tens of millions of human beings over wet dreams about ‘blood and soil.’”

    Cole seems to think it’s important for his readers to know that Goldberg once served a stint in the IDF. Very important:

    I have provoked the ire of a burly former Israeli military prison guard at the notorious Ketziot detention camp during the first Intifada, who is among our foremost journalists of the Middle East and given a prominent perch at The Atlantic magazine — Jeffrey Goldberg….

    Israeli Army Cpl. Jeffrey Goldberg then corrects my assertion…

    Would Cpl. Goldberg like to specify which he would prefer…

    Goldberg is possibly still an Israeli army reservist and actively served in the Israeli Army

    That “possibly” is an especially nice touch. In fact, Goldberg is not an Israeli army reservist. But since Cole makes no effort to determine that one way or another, he can assert that it’s “possibly” the case without lying, since he doesn’t know it’s not true. Cole possibly learned this technique while serving in the KGB.

    It is true that Goldberg once dropped out of college, moved to Israel, and eventually served an Army stint before returning home. Cole sees this as a mortal wound to Goldberg’s credibility. I have no particular compunction about people who have moved to other countries with the intent of living permanently, or even current citizens of those countries, writing or reporting about those countries. It does not strike me as problematic that a Brit like Alex Massie writes about Irish terrorism. If Andrew Sullivan returned to the U.K., I doubt his countrymen would consider him too compromised to write about the United States. Cole sees it differently, and I’m willing to trust that he applies this standard to foreign countries other than Israel.

    Still, Cole’s view of this is unusual. Goldberg wrote a memoir about his time in Israel — “Prisoners: A Muslim and Jew Across the Middle East Divide” – exploring his disillusionment with the heroic Zionism of his youth, telling the tale through his friendship with a Palestinian militant he guarded in a prison. Observers did not reject his observations as hopelessly biased. A New York Times reviewer concluded, “Intelligent, open-minded and universalist in his quest for justice, [Goldberg] believes not only in Zionism but also in the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism.”

    A Los Angeles Times reviewer wrote:

    Realization of the humanity of the “other” is at the heart of New Yorker magazine correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg’s sharply observed and beautifully written memoir “Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide.” The journalist offers a bracingly clear-eyed, deeply emotional and often humorous account of his life as an American Jew in love with Israel. As he navigates the country’s endlessly complex realities, the narrative follows the arc of a love story: a lustful infatuation, the shock of reality and finally the mature acceptance of a nuanced bond.

    Goldberg’s book concludes, “If the settlers do not allow a Palestinian state to emerge, and soon, Israel will soon find itself ruling more Arabs than Jews. And that would be the end of the idea of a Jewish democracy.” He has written extensively in this vein, such as in this Atlantic Monthly story and this New Yorker feature on the settlers. I point this out to show that calling Goldberg somebody who has failed to explicate a view on the Palestinians, or an advocate of “blood and soil” nationalism, is so laughably far from reality that it’s hard to know what to make of such descriptions.

    As I said, this is not an isolated instance but merely the latest example of a pattern. Stephen Walt wrote sneeringly about “A journalist (Jeffrey Goldberg) whose idea of ‘public service’ was to enlist in the Israeli army.” Such critics routinely describe my views as “Likudnik” or even analogous to Avigdor Lieberman. (In case you’re unclear on this, my views on Israel tend to roughly align with those of the Labor Party. Even Marty Peretz, who’s to my right, has called Lieberman “repulsive” and a “gangster.”) So the general tendency among this ideological clique is to write about American supporters of Israel with almost total ignorance, in a tone of hysteria, and treating their target as a broad, undifferentiated mass. The conceit among writers like Walt and Cole is that they are dispassionate analysts beset by emotionally-driven foes. The reality is quite different.

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    • fair ball as br. scott would say. Max was right I shouldn’t have thrown that in, so it’s good to get some other pushback on it. I’m generally in the not a fan of Goldberg category, particularly his latest antics re: Andrew Sullivan.

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