One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict
One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict
Benny Morris
Yale University Press, 2010
256 pp., $20.00

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Paul C. Merkley

One State, Two States

Recovering the history behind the slogans.

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In short, the secretaries of state and foreign ministers who speak about how much has been accomplished recently toward achieving acceptance on all sides to the "two-state solution" are refusing to acknowledge that the original "solution" was a two-state one, the one that Israel has been abiding by from the first day. Furthermore, Morris shows that what the statesmen portray as recent Palestinian acceptance of the two-state solution is all smoke and mirrors. "Palestinian Arab Islamic fundamentalists, of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad varieties, have always advocated the elimination of Israel and a one-state - a Muslim Arab state-solution for the Israel/Palestine problem," he writes. This is generally conceded. But what is not understood in our part of the world is that this is the program of all the principal players on Arab Palestine's political scene—that even the "moderate Palestinians … had always believed, and continue to believe, that all of Palestine belongs to them, the Palestinian Arabs; that a Jewish state in any part of Palestine is illegitimate and immoral; and that in the fullness of time, the whole country will eventually revert to Arab sovereignty."

During the 1990s, the Fatah Party and the PLO publicly espoused "a two-state solution" as the price of admission for their freedom fighters into the land, and their establishment as the government of the Palestine Authority. The PLO promised solemnly and publicly to amend their Charter so as to accommodate the thinking preferred by the Western statesmen and required by the terms of the Oslo Accord - two states, living side by side in peace. But in fact they have never done so (see especially, pages 118-123, 130-133, 166-169). It should have been clear to even the starry-eyed that when Arafat cast off with contempt Barak's proposals at Camp David in July 2000 and President Bill Clinton's "parameters" for further negotiation in the first days of 2001, that he was spitting upon the vision of a world in which a Palestinian State, or indeed any Muslim state, and a Jewish State could co-exist. Arafat's oft-expressed disdain for the notion that there had ever been a Jewish presence at any time upon the Temple Mount (page 150) reflects contempt for historical facts and historical claims based upon them. This note, Morris writes, "has been the constant refrain of Palestinian leaders, from [Haj Amin] Husseini [the leader of the Arab jihad against the Jews in the 1920s and 1930s] through Abbas, throughout the history of the Palestinian Arab movement."

While the Palestinian nationalists have been performing what Morris calls their "duplicitous and reluctant" recital of the American and European governments' "two state-mantra," a number of anti-Israel intellectuals in the West have been going back to the "one-state" vision with which the PLO began, and have been turning it against the Israelis. Leftist intellectuals argue, for example, that "[in] a world where nations and peoples increasingly intermingle and intermarry … Israel is truly … [a] dysfunctional [anachronism]" (quoting an article written by Tony Judt, "Israel: The Alternative"). Clearly, says Morris, "it is not "Israel's reform or the reform of its policies" that the anti-Zionist intellectuals want, "but its disappearance."

If we could compel all those statesmen and commentators who are currently rehearsing their two-state sermons to take two weeks off and read this scholarly, calmly argued, thoroughly researched book, there might then be a true "breakthrough"—one which brings the controversy back to where it began, with the Two State solution of 1947. But they should be warned: brief as it is, this book is tightly packed with history. History is harder to digest and less amusing than the briefings which the State Department provides for the use of policy-makers whose vocabulary derives from Schools of Conflict Resolution and whose arguments stand upon colorful "narratives'" in lieu of documentation.

Paul C. Merkley is the author of American Presidents, Religion and Israel (Praeger).

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