Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Is One State Inevitable?

Is the one state solution inevitable? John Mearsheimer believes so (though he claims to prefer the two state solution.)

You can see and hear him say so in the video above, or you can read the transcript of his lecture in The Monthly Review.

I am not sure he is right, but he is certainly expressing the view of a large and growing segment of the anti-occupation crowd. Let me summarize his argument:
  1. Israel will not allow a two state solution to happen because:
    • There are too many settlers. (He uses the number 480,000, which includes the approx 250,000 Jewish residents of East Jerusalem.)
    • The settlers are too entrenched and stubborn (He quotes polls that show that 54% of settlers believe the government has no right to remove them, 36% believe that even a popular referendum of Israeli Jews would not have the right to remove them, and that 21% of settlers have said they would use armed resistance to oppose their removal.)
    • The idea of a Greater Israel is too entrenched in the "Zionist consciousness" of Israel's leaders to have them forcefully oppose the settler lobby. (This is no doubt true for Netanyahu, but Mearsheimer also claims this was and is true for Livni, Barak, and even Rabin.)
    • Israeli popular opinion has move significantly to the right in the last decade. There is no significant peace camp, to counter the right wing settler camp.

  2. Once it become obvious that the occupied territories will remain under Israeli control for the long run, there are only three options: a democratic bi-national state, the forced expulsion of most Palestinians, or an "apartheid state" (by which he means a state where most Palestinians are denied the vote.) Israel will not willingly allow the first option, the world will not allow the second, and therefore the third option becomes inevitable - at least in the short run. (And indeed we are almost in this this position, de-facto, today.)
  3. But apartheid isn't viable in the long run - because it is unacceptable to the West, and Israel cannot survive without Western aid and trade. In particular Israel needs U.S. aid and support to counter Arab pressures and threats if it goes down the apartheid road.
  4. U.S. support will erode in the long run and in the face of an apartheid Israel, because:
    • Support of Israel is not in the U.S. national interest. (That the U.S. supports Israel today - against its one best interests - is only a result of the power of the Israel Lobby)
    • Support of an apartheid regime is even less in the U.S. national interest
    • The Israel lobby will weaken over time
  5. The Israel lobby will weaken over time because, the great mass of American Jews (who he calls the Great Ambivalent Middle) will side with "The Righteous Jews" and not the "New Afrikaaners." (See more on this below.)
  6. Without active American support Israel will be forced to grant voting rights to the Palestinians - just as South Africa did. The result is the one state solution.
The most controversial parts of Mearsheimer's argument, in my opinion, are his contentions re American Jews (will American Jews inevitably choose justice over ethnic solidarity?), the Israel Lobby (is the lobby really the only reason America supports Israel and will its demise necessarily cause a sea change in American Mid East policy?) and that Israel can be moved into a bi-national democracy just as South Africa was (Fatah is not the ANC, and perhaps more to the point, where is the Israeli de Klerk?)

It is a thought provoking piece, despite its sometimes self righteous tone, and even if you don't agree with every word, its worth the read (or the viewing.) But for those of you who won't do that, let me end by quoting directly from the end of Mearsheimer's talk:

American Jews who care deeply about Israel can be divided into three broad categories. The first two are what I call "righteous Jews" and the "new Afrikaners," which are clearly definable groups that think about Israel and where it is headed in fundamentally different ways. The third and largest group is comprised of those Jews who care a lot about Israel, but do not have clear-cut views on how to think about Greater Israel and apartheid. Let us call this group the "great ambivalent middle."

Righteous Jews have a powerful attachment to core liberal values. They believe that individual rights matter greatly and that they are universal, which means they apply equally to Jews and Palestinians. They could never support an apartheid Israel. ...

On the other side we have the new Afrikaners, who will support Israel even if it is an apartheid state. These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. ...

The key to determining whether the lobby can protect apartheid Israel over the long run is whether the great ambivalent middle sides with the new Afrikaners or the righteous Jews. The new Afrikaners have to win that fight decisively for Greater Israel to survive as a racist state.

There is no question that the present balance of power favors the new Afrikaners. When push comes to shove on issues relating to Israel, the hardliners invariably get most of those American Jews who care a lot about Israel to side with them. The righteous Jews, on the other hand, hold considerably less sway with the great ambivalent middle, at least at this point in time. This situation is due in good part to the fact that most American Jews -- especially the elders in the community -- have little understanding of how far down the apartheid road Israel has travelled and where it is ultimately headed. ...

This situation, however, is unsustainable over time. Once it is widely recognized that the two-state solution is dead and Greater Israel is a reality, the righteous Jews will have two choices: support apartheid or work to help create a democratic bi-national state. I believe that almost all of them will opt for the latter option, in large part because of their deep-seated commitment to liberal values, which renders any apartheid state abhorrent to them. Of course, the new Afrikaners will fiercely defend apartheid Israel, because their commitment to Israel is so unconditional that it overrides any commitment they might have to liberal values.

The critical question, however, is: what will happen to those Jews who comprise the great ambivalent middle once it is clear to them that Israel is a full-fledged apartheid state and that facts on the ground have made a two-state solution impossible? Will they side with the new Afrikaners and defend apartheid Israel, or will they ally with the righteous Jews and call for making Greater Israel a true democracy? Or will they sit silently on the sidelines?

I believe that most of the Jews in the great ambivalent middle will not defend apartheid Israel ... And once that happens, the lobby will be unable to provide cover for Israel's racist policies toward the Palestinians in the way it has in the past.

... the new Afrikaners will defend Israel on the grounds that it is not an apartheid state, and that security concerns explain why Israel has to discriminate against and oppress the Palestinians. But again, we are rapidly reaching the point where it will be hard to miss the fact that Greater Israel is becoming a full-fledged apartheid state and that those who claim otherwise are either delusional or disingenuous. ...

Furthermore, survey data shows that younger American Jews feel less attachment to Israel than their elders. This is surely due to the fact that the younger generations were born after the Holocaust and after anti-Semitism had largely been eliminated from American life. ...

There is another reason why American Jews are likely to feel less connected to Israel in the years ahead. Important changes are taking place in the demographic makeup of Israel ... Secular Jews dominated Israeli life at its founding and they still do, but their influence has been waning and is likely to decline much more in the decades ahead. ... In fact, in the 2008 mayoral election in Jerusalem, an ultra-orthodox candidate boasted, "In another 15 years there will not be a secular mayor in any city in Israel." ... about one half of Israeli school children in first grade this year are either Palestinian or ultra-orthodox. Given the high birthrates of the ultra-orthodox and the Palestinians, their percentage of the first-graders -- and ultimately the population at large -- will grow steadily with time.

... There is another dynamic at play: large numbers of Israelis have left the country to live abroad and most of them are not expected to return home. Several recent estimates suggest that between 750,000 and one million Israelis reside in other countries, and most of them are secular. On top of that, public opinion surveys indicate that many Israelis would like to move to another country. This situation is likely to get worse over time, because many secular Jews will not want to live in an apartheid state whose politics and daily life are increasingly shaped by the ultra-orthodox.

All of this is to say that Israel's secular Jewish identity... is ... eroding... That important development will make it more difficult in the years ahead for secular American Jews -- who make up the bulk of the Jewish community ... to identify closely with Israel and be willing to defend it when it becomes a full-blown apartheid state. ...

... without that protection, Israel is doomed, because public opinion in the West will turn decisively against Israel, as it turns itself into a full-fledged apartheid state.

Thus, I believe that Greater Israel will eventually become a democratic bi-national state, and the Palestinians will dominate its politics, because they will outnumber the Jews in the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

What is truly remarkable about this situation is that the Israel lobby is effectively helping Israel commit national suicide.
Israel, after all, is turning itself into an apartheid state, which, as Ehud Olmert has pointed out, is not sustainable in the modern era. What makes this situation even more astonishing is that there is an alternative outcome which would be relatively easy to achieve and is clearly in Israel's best interests: the two-state solution. It is hard to understand why Israel and its American supporters are not working overtime to create a viable Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories and why instead they are moving full-speed ahead to build Greater Israel, which will be an apartheid state. It makes no sense from either a moral or a strategic perspective. Indeed, it is an exceptionally foolish policy.


Blogger Eric said...

If you want the American Afrikaner view from a Reform rabbi with a following try

11:07 am  

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