Opinion

A one-state Israel-Palestine solution is a bad and dangerous idea

By Paul Rubenstein
December 9 2023 - 5:30am

Australian newspapers have published various articles calling for a "one-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which would supposedly fulfil the rights of both Jews and Palestinians.

WATCH: Thousands of school students block city streets and staged a sit-in at a major shopping centre in pro-Palestine protest. Video via AAP.

Let us pause there and note this is actually advocating dismantling the sovereign State of Israel, a member state of the United Nations for 75 years that was explicitly endorsed by the United Nations in 1947 as fulfilling the Jewish right to self-determination.

This raises so many alarm bells for Jewish people like me it is hard to know where to start.

First, one state shared by Palestinians and Jews - which always includes an expectation of a "right of return" for millions of Palestinians around the globe - inevitably means Jews will become a minority. They will lose power over their own safety, security, destiny and connection to their ancestral homeland - that is, the right to self-determination the international community endorsed for the Jewish people..

This idea would be opposed by virtually every person in Israel or international Jewish communities with any shred of respect or modicum of seriousness - on the right or left of the political spectrum.

Second, although this appears to be a secret to those rallying on our streets and signing petitions, apart from Israel, there are no established democratic traditions anywhere in the Middle East. The post-sectarian age never arrived there. Civil wars are common and generally fought to the death with minorities especially targeted (witness Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Libya, just to name a few, and the fate of the Yazidis, Kurds and dwindling Christian sects of the region).

There has been pretty much zero readiness to respect minority rights, across the region, with often dire human rights consequences.

A two-state solution is needed here. Picture Shutterstock
A two-state solution is needed here. Picture Shutterstock

The Jewish history of minority existence in Arab countries certainly reflects this reality and is not one to which Jews would wish to return. It is a history marred by centuries of persecution, diminished and unequal status, pogroms, intolerance and racism, all of which culminated in roughly 900,000 Jews fleeing or being forcibly removed from Arab countries in the years immediately after 1948.

There are almost no Jews left in any of the countries which once housed great and ancient Jewish communities: Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia, among others.

Virtually the only exception to the dismal state of minority rights in the Middle East is the current state of Israel, where 2 million Israeli Arabs citizens have full equal rights to vote, to healthcare, education and full economic participation, a reality which totally dispels the lie that Israel is an apartheid state.

Third, this is not a solution wanted by Palestinians, either. They do not wish to share a state with a large Jewish minority. They want an independent state for themselves at best. At worst - such as with Hamas - the goal is to wipe out the State of Israel altogether and to replace it with an Islamist theocracy.

This is underlined in the latest AWRAD (Arab World for Research and Development) poll of Palestinians - only 5.4 per cent of those polled supported "one state for two peoples". By contrast, 17.2 per cent supported a two-state solution and no less than 74.7 per cent want a "Palestinian state from the river to the sea" - which does not exactly suggest great solicitude for the needs and rights of Israel's 7 million Jewish citizens.

So, a one-state solution is a bad idea. It is not only a recipe for ongoing violence, and possible ethnic cleansing, but in most cases is put forward simply as part of an ongoing campaign to delegitimise and demonise the State of Israel and dehumanise its citizens. It is an unworkable and destructive option that should be rejected by anyone wishing for genuine peace and mutual coexistence.

The only viable idea still remains a two-state resolution. The tragedy is for many years it had broad-based acceptance among the Israeli population, but was not achieved principally because of a failure at every level of Palestinian society to accept any claim to the land by the Jewish people in historic Palestine, even though Jews are indigenous to it and have always had a substantial presence there.

Obviously, achieving such a resolution involves hard choices and doing so cannot undo all alleged past injustices. But in the same way it is not realistic for 900,000 Jews and their offspring to seek to return to the Arab countries from which they came, it is just unrealistic for millions of Palestinians to seek return to Israel. The only path forward is for the parties to accept each other's right to exist independently in peace and security and negotiate a compromise of the sort Israel proposed in 2000, 2001 and 2008. Despite the October 7 atrocities, given acceptance of these conditions, I believe there would still be a broad acceptance for such an outcome in Israel and Jewish communities around the world. But the Palestinian leadership has so far refused these conditions , and with Hamas controlling Gaza, it has, for now, become impossible.

People who wish to support a just resolution should focus their energies on helping the Palestinian people to identify leaders who can help achieve such a historical compromise.

  • Paul Rubenstein is the NSW chairman of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

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