Thursday, May 8, 2008

Israel at Sixty: The Right to Exist

Israel at Sixty: The Right to Exist

Today's LA Times marks the sixtieth anniversary of Israel's independence with a report extolling the virtues of the so-called "one-state solution."

It's no secret that advocates of the two-state solution are worried that the prospects for such an outcome are being eroded - as the LA Times piece makes abundantly clear, with quotes from, among others, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Condoleeza Rice.

However, to argue that there needs to be a renewed effort in underscoring the credibility of a two-state solution is one thing; to ditch it in favor of the "one-state" option is something else entirely.

Here is the nub of the problem with the LA Times piece. If this article was your first exposure to the "one-state" idea, you would come away thinking that it's eminently reasonable. That rather than being the preserve of genocidaires and antisemites like the Iranian theocrats, Hamas and Hezbollah, the "one-state solution" truly belongs to visionary democrats.

In the abstract, there is, of course, nothing wrong with states pooling their sovereignty or even merging with each other. Indeed, a principle rather like this has driven Europe's political development since the Second World War. Israel, moreover, offers a democratic beacon in a region blighted by tyranny, corruption and reactionary ideas. In the LA Times piece, Sari Nusseibeh suggests "that many Palestinians would feel more at home in a democracy shared with Israelis than in a Palestinian state run by Hamas."

Nusseibeh qualifies this statement by insisting that such an arrangement would need "to come about by consent." But it is nigh impossible to imagine any circumstances whereby such a proposal would secure the agreement of Israelis.

To begin with, it would mean abandoning the ideal of a Jewish state. Someone like Tony Judt would argue that there is no cost in abandoning an "anachronism"; I would respond that there is nothing anachronistic about Israel. if the European Union is the model for the one-staters, they would do well to remember that the member states of the EU are precisely that - member states. These states have not been asked to abandon their independence and their identity, nor have they been compelled to do so. Conversely, Israel is not being asked to join a regional community of states; it is being told to dissolve itself, and to do so in a neighborhood which exhorts the slogan "Kill the Jews!" with alarming frequency.

Moreover, those who would demand that Israel dissolve itself are hardly duplicating the notion of equal legitimacy which underlies the EU. To the contrary, they regard Israel as a colonial usurper, born in "original sin" - a citadel of "neo-Jews', in the words of a recent inchoate rant published on the one-statist website, Counterpunch.

For such people, a single state is an opportunity for Israeli Jews to atone for the historic crime of forming their own state, rather than an instrument for them to live with their neighbours as equals.

Continued - Right to Exist

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