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Alan Dershowitz: The Case Against the Left and Right One-State Solution

Palestinian demonstrators, joined by Israeli and foreign peace activists, shout slogans during a demonstration

Palestinian demonstrators, joined by Israeli and foreign peace activists, shout slogans during a demonstration
Photo Credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90

Both the extreme left and the extreme right are now calling for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of course, the one-state solution each seeks is completely different: the left wants yet another Arab state in place of Israel; the right wants a Jewish state that encompasses what is now the West Bank, in place of any Palestinian state. Both are prescriptions for undemocratic disasters and for the ultimate delegitimation of Israel as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people.

I have advocated a two-state solution, based on secure borders for Israel, since the early 1970s, when I debated Noam Chomsky, who was then an advocate of a secular bi-national state. I advocated a version of what was then known as “the Alon Plan,” which, in effect, would have annexed portions of the captured territories that were necessary for Israel’s security but would have precluded Israeli civilian settlements in other captured areas. This plan was consistent with Security Council Resolution 242, which allowed for some territorial annexation by Israel to achieve secure borders. I did not, and do not now, advocate a return to the indefensible 1967 lines, which reflected nothing more than temporary truce lines following the attack on Israel by the surrounding Arab states in 1948.

Now the hard left wants to eliminate these borders and create one state which would soon become another Arab Muslim state in which Jews would be a minority, while the soft left wants Israel to return all the territory captured in the defensive war of 1967, with mutually agreed acre-for-acre land swaps (to which the Palestinians now seem unwilling to agree).

The hard right, on the other hand, wants Israel to annex and settle the entire West Bank, make it part of Israel, but deny its Arab residents the right to vote and become citizens (If the hard right position were to grant voting and citizenship to the Arab residents of the West Bank, they would be agreeing with the hard left’s position on a “democratic” one-state solution that would quickly turn into an undemocratic Muslim state based on Sharia law, as specified in the Palestinian Constitution).

Both one-state solutions would end in Israel’s delegitimation as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people. That’s why the vast majority of Israelis, as well as every centrist Israeli leader, rejects both the left and right wing versions of the one-state solution.

An Israel that would permanently deny millions of Arab residents the rights of citizenship would become illegitimate not only in the eyes of the international community, but even more important, in the eyes of most Israelis and Israeli supporters around the world. Israel would cease to be a democracy if nearly half of its residents could not vote. Some on the hard right would “solve” this problem by expelling the Arab residents of the West Bank. That too is not a solution that is consistent with democratic values.

In a recent article entitled “Disputing Dershowitz,” Martin Sherman tries to make the hard right case against the two state solution. In doing so, he never even addresses the issue of democracy. This is perhaps because he doesn’t care whether his “one state” is or is not democratic. But the vast majority of Israelis, and their leaders and supporters, do. But because Sherman doesn’t value democracy, he seems willing to impose his undemocratic solution in an undemocratic manner on unwilling Israelis and Palestinians.

He makes the absurd argument that the Palestinians are not a people based on the fact that they don’t have a unique language, script, religion, heritage or history. By that standard, the United States should still be part of Great Britain, because the American Colonists, who were being denied full citizenship, also lacked those characteristics. The Palestinians are a people because they regard themselves as such and seek to govern themselves. They will secure self-government, however, only if they come to the bargaining table, with no preconditions, and with the realization that they must accept borders and other conditions that assure Israel’s security. They must also realize that they are not coming to the negotiating table in the same bargaining position as the Israelis. The Israelis secured the West Bank after winning a defensive war started by Jordan, in whose place the Palestinians now stand. By demanding preconditions from the Israelis to receive what they claim is their land, the Palestinians remind us what Abba Eban said in 1967 when the Arabs rejected Security Council Resolution 242:

“This was the first war in history which has ended with the victors suing for peace and the vanquished calling for unconditional surrender.”

The major reason there is still no two-state solution is the Palestinian unwillingness to accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, to acknowledge the need for border adjustments necessary for Israel’s security, and to renounce the phony “Right of Return,” which is simply another ploy to secure a one-state solution.

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