Whether US President Donald Trump and his administration and supporters appreciate the magnitude of Trump’s anti-Palestinian policies and pronouncements (as Jesus intoned on the cross: ‘they know not what they do…’), Trump’s dubious achievement has been to force a total recasting of the Israel-Palestine logic. It is thus no longer a question of land, but of democracy. And as might apply to that old pre-Trump logic, there is the old saying: ‘You can never go home again,’ ‘home’ being the ‘peace process’ mantra of Camp David, Oslo and the Quartet: the ‘two-state’ delusion a la Padrig O’Malley . International reactions following Trump’s Jerusalem bombshell has shifted discourse definitively in the direction of ‘one-state’ as the only realistically inevitable outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But does that automatically put paid to the two-state scenario? Not necessarily, though it certainly places this outcome far into a long-term future if not ruling it out altogether – not that ‘one-state’ is imminent either. It is the pure sequencing logic of the two/one-state dynamic that requires critical interrogation.
To be sure, the bi-national one-state option is not what Jews and Israelis wedded to an Israel, both democratic and Jewish look forward to given the demographic future of political geography stemming from the eastern Mediterranean to the Jordan Valley. A two-state solution is the only path to a genuinely democratic state that is also Jewish. Yet the ultra-rightwing, pro-settler drift in Israeli politics, augmented by the powerful US Israel Lobby spearheaded by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and financing from such ultra-right oligarchs as Sheldon Adelson (a major financier in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as well as an underwriter of rightwing pro-settler politics in Israel) has all but buried the two-state scenario.
The Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace process’ might better be dubbed the Israeli ‘piece process’ as Tel-Aviv, under successive Likud regimes, backed by a bipartisanly captured US Congress relentlessly gobbles up the West Bank. Whether or not such a stealth strategy was the original intent, Israel and its over-zealous backers face a ‘beware what you wish for’ trap as the Piece Process rolls on! Israel-Palestine is de facto one state. As such, Israel’s presumed democratic character has long since eroded into what can now only be candidly described as a minority-ruled settler-dominated, military occupationist state.
Many in the US seemed emotionally traumatized by former President Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid when it came out in 2006. Yet 12 years later, we are looking at a repressive regime in Tel-Aviv that has tracked almost to the letter the path of racist minority-settler regimes in Algeria, Kenya and throughout a Southern Africa that also veered increasingly to the repressive ultra-right before ultimately succumbing to majority-rule. Is this now the scenario awaiting Israel? For like apartheid South Africa, Israelis seem hell-bent on turning Israel into a pariah state on the international stage, repudiating the Liberal Zionist Project.
So what might be done? It may well be that the long-term solution – and it will be long-term and bitterly protracted – is one that turns the two-state vs. one-state logic on its head instead of ruling out the two-state option altogether. The emphasis, instead should shift to democratizing the repressive one-state reality; this calls for a new discourse that no longer marginalizes the one-state option, but openly and honestly recognizes it as a plausible though daunting path to Israel-Palestinian peace (as opposed to Israeli ‘piece’!).
As such, the one-state option could be hypothetically linked to an eventual two-state possibility (in theory) in a two-stage process: First, an internationally-backed ‘anti-apartheid’ movement throughout historical Palestine aimed at transforming racist and militaristic minority-settler occupation into a non-sectarian, multi-ethnic democratic state with equal political and civil rights for Arabs and Palestinians residing within and outside Israel, including in the West Bank and Gaza. The Second stage would be optional.
This would involve a bi-national referendum among Israelis and Palestinians on whether-when-how to move toward negotiating two democratic states – or remain a one-state bi-national democracy. In other words, it may well come down to realizing that two-states may only emerge after a one-state transition to democracy in historical Palestine. But ‘two-states’ becomes purely an optional possibility, no longer the centrepiece of a ‘piece process.’
Meanwhile, the bottom-line should dictate that democracy and human rights for Palestinians not be held hostage to what has evolved into nothing more than a morally and politically bankrupt expansionist colonial-settler ‘apartheid’ charade. As it is, the plight of the Palestinians now takes a back seat to the US and Israel prioritizing with Saudi Arabia a dangerous sectarian geopolitical power-struggle against Iran at the expense of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Thus is democracy for the Palestinians and the two-state charade interlinked with wider geopolitical power dynamics in the Middle East.
Francis A. Kornegay, Jr. is the senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA and Global Fellow of The Wilson Centre in Washington is co-editor of Laying the BRICS of a New Global Order (AISA).
The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent IGD/Unisa policy.