One-State Debate

Interview with Awad Abdel Fattah: ‘The PA is still using the discussion about one state as a way to frighten Israelis. The demand for justice and equality should not be used as a scare tactic: in fact, we should be making the argument that one state would be good for Israelis too.’

Philosopher Michael Neumann is wrong to assume that one has to be an idealist – believing in the political equivalent of fairies – to conclude that a one-state solution is on the cards. It does not have to be simply a case of wishful thinking. Rather, I will argue, it is likely to prove a realistic description of the turn of events over the next decade or more.

A fascinating debate is entering Israel’s political mainstream on a once-taboo subject: the establishment of a single state as a resolution of the conflict, one in which Jews and Palestinians might potentially live as equal citizens. Surprisingly, those advocating such a solution are to be found chiefly on Israel’s political right. The debate, which challenges the current orthodoxy of a two-state future, is rapidly exploding traditional conceptions about the Zionist right and left.

If Michael Neumann’s critics, myself included, have misrepresented his argument, as he suggests, it may be partly because he has been less than helpful in representing it to us. What is clear is that he intensely dislikes any advocacy of the one-state solution, characterising it at best as time-wasting and at worst as dangerous. In fact, it is the very vehemence of his denunciations of the proponents of a single state, published now in two separate articles, that prompted my rejoinder.

If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s most intractable, much the same can be said of the parallel debate about whether it s resolution can best be achieved by a single state embracing the two peoples living there or by a division of the land into two separate states, one for Jews and the other for Palestinans. The philosopher Michael Neumann has dedicated two articles, in 2007 and earlier this week, for CounterPunch discrediting the one-state idea as impractical and therefore as worthless of consideration.