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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe LevantIsrael’s One-State Reality

Israel’s One-State Reality

Authors: Michael Barnett, Nathan Brown, Marc Lynch, and Shibley Telhami 

Affiliation: George Washington University/University of Maryland

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs

Date/Place: May-June 2023/USA

Type of Literature: Article

Word Count: 5500 

Link: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/middle-east/israel-palestine-one-state-solution

Keywords: Palestine, Israel, One-State Solution, US Foreign Policy

 

Brief:

This article focuses on examining the implication of Israel’s One-State vision that has especially grown stronger after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power. Netanyahu with his extreme right-wing coalition has not only destroyed the illusion of a two-state solution, but also created a one-state vision of a Greater Israel that perpetuates Jewish supremacy over all Palestinians. Drawing from this reality, the authors examine the structure of this ‘One-State Reality’ which presents the failure of democracy and human rights. Finally, the authors conclude by explaining policy recommendations for the US government to avoid further instability in the Middle East. 

 

The 1993 Oslo accords promised a two-state solution where there was a possibility for compromise on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides. However, such a promise no longer remains today as the new Israel’s radical government has insisted on creating a One-State reality that has become impossible to deny and has made the occupation of Palestinian territories a permanent reality. Policymakers and analysts that refuse to acknowledge this reality condemn themselves to failure or irrelevance. 

 

Israel’s one-state reality is not a state that upholds democratic rule and equal citizenship. When Netanyahu is forced to choose between Israel’s Jewish identity and liberal democracy, he chooses the former. Netanyahu’s vision of Greater Israel is clear: to create a less liberal, more religious Israel that is not hesitant to structurally discriminate against its non-Jewish population. This reality has long been obvious to those who live in Israel, however, public acknowledgement would either be ignored or even punished.

 

Furthermore, to dismantle the undemocratic structure of this one-state reality, the authors urge us to see the one-state reality for what it is through a perspective that distinguishes between the concept of state and sovereignty. Basically, the definition of a state is determined by its sphere of control, while the concept of sovereignty relies on other states acknowledging the legitimacy of that control. Obviously, Israel has control over Palestinian territory through occupation and has the monopoly of power to maintain a blockade against Gaza. From this perspective, Israel is a de facto state that encompasses territory from its border with Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. However, Israel has not yet declared sovereignty over the territory its control and only a small number of states would likely recognize its sovereignty over that territory. According to this distinction, the authors claim that by controlling territory and maintaining institutional domination without declaring sovereignty, Israel is enabled to carry out its one-state reality. In doing so, by not formalizing sovereignty, Israel can pretend it governs in a manner that ensures democracy only for their citizens, yet not to its residents, as the majority of its residents, who are Palestinians, do not hold citizenship. 

 

Even if Israel declares democratic rule for its citizens, it still comes with several restrictions. The one-state reality holds that the State of Israel uniquely exercises the right to national self-determination, which specifically applies to the Jewish people, without explicitly addressing democracy or equal rights for its non-Jewish citizens. Therefore, Palestinians who possess Israeli citizenship are still confronted with limited rights, responsibilities, and protections. All of these above facts are clearly enough to classify Israel’s one-state reality as a form of “apartheid” rule. This makes calling Israel a free liberal and democratic state a severe contradiction due to its structural discrimination against its non-Jewish residents. 

 

But for Israel to go along with this process is not without challenge. This vision of a one-state reality will eventually complicate Israel’s relationship with its own citizens and with the rest of the world. Continuing control over its territory will require more than brute strength, which Israel may indeed have the material power to accomplish. Rather, by continuing with this process and defending its one-state reality, Israel will be increasingly branded as a defender of colonialist principles in a postcolonial world, the authors argue. 

 

Regarding efforts to resolve the conflict, the authors suggest that a deeper understanding of how the one-state system operates and evolves is necessary for policymakers. Additionally, it has long been assumed that peace with the Arab world would require resolution of the Palestinian issue. However, efforts such as the Abraham Accords, in which the US attempted to normalize relations between Israel and Arab states without resolving the Palestinian issue, will only deepen the quagmire in the Arab world. Thanks to this agreement, Netanyahu was able to maintain his government with extremist ministers. However, abandoning the Palestinians would be risky for the Arab rulers. 

 

Finally, the authors argue that the US is also responsible for Israel’s one-state reality. This is because without US diplomatic efforts and resources, Israel could not have continued to control Palestinian territory or conclude peace agreements with Arab states. And notably, U.S. attitudes for a two-state solution have declined and support for one-state that would ensure equal citizenship has risen over the past few years. Yet, the situation in Israel highly contrasts with that assumption. Israel’s commitment to liberalism has always been weak especially with its ideology of ethno-religious nationalism. 

 

There are at least four recommendations the authors offer for policymakers in the United States. First, Washington should stop looking at Israel based on old assumptions. It is crystal clear that Israel no longer even pretends to maintain liberal values. This means the US and Israel no longer have any “shared values.” Hence, US policymakers should advocate for equality, citizenship and human rights for Jews and Palestinians living in Israeli-controlled territory. Second, Washington should cease its military and economic aid to Israel that is being used by Israel military to maintain brute control over the Palestinians. Third, Washington should stop covering for Israel’s crimes in international organizations when Israeli government faces allegations of breaking international law. Lastly, Washington should not ignore the apartheid nature behind this one-state reality and acknowledge the fact transparently. 

 

By: Salman Nugraha, CIGA Research Intern

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