Gush Shalom May 8 2007
The 'Two-States or One State'
public debate between Uri Avnery and Ilan Pappe got enormous attention
already before it took place on the evening of May 8. 2007. The
positions taken by the two "gladiators" were known in advance. It was
Teddy Katz who came up with the idea of inviting them before an
audience, after the two had started polemizing over the internet.
Actually, already for several years this subject is being debated in all
kind of informal gatherings, but Gush Shalom has brought the discussion
to the limelight by renting the big hall of the Kibbutz Movement's House
in Tel-Aviv, and challenging Ilan Pappe to appear together with Uri
Avnery under the modest but firm moderation of Zalman Amit. An enormous
boost to the evening was given by Angela Godfried's initiative, as
manager of ICAHD's Action Advocacy Project, to provide professional
simultaneous translation from Hebrew into English for this debate.
First to speak for a packed hall was Ilan Pappe. What he told us about
ethnic cleansing having taken place in 1948 would have been even more
shocking had we not already become acquainted with these facts - not in
the last place due to the actions of the "new historians", to whom Pappe
himself belongs. The more remarkable thing is what conclusions the
pedagogue/activist Ilan Pappe draws from the crimes which were
perpetrated during the birth of the state of Israel. For Pappe, 1948
isn't closed history about which he can say learned things, without
being able to change anything. His concept is based on reversing the
wrongs of 1948.
For Uri Avnery, the results of 1948 are in the main irreversible, but he
wants to undo the wrongs of 1967 - in a way which would lead to
two-states and a peace agreement, and he is convinced in spite of all
the set-backs that that is where we are heading. Ilan Pappe, however,
sees the ongoing settlements drive as... irreversible, and doesn't
believe anymore in a fair two-state solution.
Living through times where Israel is like a ship loaded with explosives
and without a captain, and surrounded by cliffs, it was actually
refreshing to hear these two display their thoughts - the bold,
uncompromising thinking of Pappe and the very special rationality of Uri
Avnery ("it is not rational to ignore the irrational motives which
affect people's behaviour").
Maybe nobody changed his mind on the subject of the debate, but at least
one went home knowing that the two camps of which Avnery and Pappe are
such outspoken representatives, respect each other enough to continue
together the struggle against the occupation which was mentioned by both
speakers to be point number one on the agenda. And for this struggle,
the evening provided, strange as it may sound, new energy.
Uri Avnery's opening speech
Ilan Pappe - opening words, debate
May 8, 2007
Translation Adam Keller
Zionism was born out of two logical and justified impulses. The first was
the desire to find a safe shore for the Jews of East and Central Europe,
after decades of anti-semitic persecutions - and possibly also a premonition
that there was worse to come. The second impulse was to redefine the Jewish
religion as a national movement, under the influence of "The Spring of the
Peoples" in the mid-Nineteenth Century.
When the leaders of the movement decided, for reasons which cannot be
detailed here, that the only territory where these two impulses can be
fulfilled is Palestine, where nearly a million people already lived - this
movement turned into a colonial project.
This colonial project got its definite form after the First World War.
Despite getting a wide Imperial umbrella - in the form of the British
Mandate - as a colonial project it was not a success story. The settlers
succeeded to take over a bare six percent of the Palestinian homeland, and
to constitute only a third of the country's population.
The tragedy of the indigenous Palestinian population was not only their
being the victims of a colonial movement - but specifically being the victim
of a colonial movement which sought to create a democratic movement. In face
of the clear Palestinian demographic majority, eleven leaders of Zionism did
not hesitate in Mach 1948 to resolve upon ethnic cleansing, as the best
means - considering the failures of Zionist colonialism - to create a
Jewish, ethnically pure, democracy over most of Palestine's territory.
Within less than a year after the historic decision was taken, the ethnic
cleansing was carried out - which nowadays the international community would
not have hesitated to call a crime against humanity. Systematically, from
village to village and from city to city, the Jewish forces passed and
cleansed the country of its indigenous population. They left destruction and
ruin in their wake: more than five hundred ruined villages, and eleven
towns. Half of Palestine's towns and villages were forcibly emptied and half
of the counry�s population (eighty percent of the population of what became
the Jewish state) were uprooted from their homes, fields and livelihoods.
This crime was retroactively approved by the International Community and
remained a legitimized means in the hands of the Jewish state, then as well
as now, to ensure the existence of a Jewish democracy on the country's soil.
The achievement and maintenance of a demographic majority became a sacred
goal, and it became also the basis for the two-state solution to the
conflict. The International Community, as well as the Israeli peace camp,
sought to limit the territory where ethnic cleansing and the Jewish purity
would prevail. The Zionist minotaur demanded - and by force, gained - a full
eighty percent of Palestine. But that was not enough: when the historic
opportunity arrived to satisfy not only demographic hunger but also
territorial greediness, it in 1967 swallowed the whole of Palestine's land.
However, even when the whole country was swallowed, official Israel
attempted to preserve also the idea of Zionist democracy. That is how such
formulas were born as "Territory in exchange for Peace" and "Two States for
Two Peoples". These were not recipes for peace or justice to the two
peoples, but attempts to limit an expansionist movement which sought to gain
more territory without the Arab population living on it.
There are those who, from 1967 until the present, believe that it is
possible to satisfy this hunger to settle and create settlements, to
dispossess and rule and stay democratic via the creation of a Palestinian
state in twenty percent of the territory. For a short historical moment, in
the first years of the occupation, it might have been possible. But already
in the 1970s, the situation became more complicated and there were created
facts on the ground of Jewish settlement which did not make the desired
A decade later, in the 1980s, the two state mantra has also passed a
metamorphosis in face of the changing reality. The Zionist peace camp sought
to increase the number of supporters of the idea of limitation and
assimilate the settlement facts created on the ground, and therefore it
knowingly shrunk the territory of the -state- intended for the Palestinians.
The more that the territory shrunk, the connection increasingly disappeared
between the Two State formula and the idea of a fair, full and viable
solution to the conflict. In the present century, the more that the Two
States solution became a common currency and the number of its adherents
increased - and the list eventually included Ariel Sharon, Binyamin
Netanyahu, George W. Bush and others - the limitation became occupation.
When the entire International Community adopted the Two State Solution, the
occupation apparatus reaped a double benefit from the new reality.
On the one hand, under the umbrella of a "peace process" settlement was
increased and deepened, tyranny and oppression were intensified - without an
international criticism or sanctions. On the other hand, the creation of
"facts on the ground" further decreased the territory which was supposedly
excluded from the Zionist minotaur's hunger. Under the idea of the Two
States as a diplomatic international formula, it was generally agreed that
the Zionist hunger for as much as half of the West Bank might be satisfied.
Later, with the support of the entire Israeli peace camp, the Two State
formula led to an inevitable, international support for the imprisoning of
the entire Gaza Strip in a modern concentration camp.
The exclusive status given to the Two States formula, inside and outside the
country, on the one hand made it possible for the official Israel to
transform one form of occupation into another form in order to silence
potential criticism of its war crimes - and on the other hand, it made it
possible for the Israeli occupation apparatus to create facts on the ground
which made the idea of the Palestinian state into a pipedream.
Look at it from whatever angle you choose. If justice be the basis for
dividing the country, there can be no formula more cynical than the Two
State formula: to the occupier and dispossessor, eighty percent; to the
occupied, twenty percent in the best and probably utopian case, and more
likely a ten percent which are divided and scattered. Moreover: the return
of the refugees, where will it be, where will it be implemented? In the name
of justice, the refugees have a right to decide if they could return, and
they have the right to participate in defining the future of the entire
country, not just of twenty percent.
On the other hand, if pragmatism and real politic are your guiding
principles, and all you seek is to satisfy the hunger of the Zionist state
for territory and demographic superiority, then let's transfer Wadi Ara to
the West Bank, and Hebron to Israel, and trust in the regional and global
balance of forces and grant the Palestinians no more than a tiny piece of
land, hermetically closed with fences, walls and barriers.
Yes, there are Palestinians in Nazareth and Ramalla who are willing to
settle for even that, and they deserve to have their voice heard. But this
is not enough, we must not silence the voices of the Palestinian majority in
the refugee camps, in the diasporas and exiles, among the internal refugees
and in the Occupied Territories, who want to be part of the future of the
country which was once theirs. There will be no reconciliation, nor will
there be justice here, if these Palestinians will not participate in
defining the sovereignty, identity and future of the entire country.
Reconciliation will be extended by including recognition of the right of the
Jews who settled here by force to have a similar share in defining the
Let's give the refugees their share and respect their aspirations to be
partners with us in one state. Let's check the practicability of this idea
and of the road to it - because for sixty years already we have checked the
Two State idea and the result is clear: continuation of exile, occupation,
discrimination and dispossession.
It is wrong to propose democratic constitutions for west Beit Safafa, for
Bak'ah Al-Garbiya and for eastern Arabeh - while at the same time shrugging
off all responsibility for east Beit Safafa, for Bak'ah Al-Sharkiya and for
western Arabeh, and saying: - They will be there, behind the Wall,
oppressed, with no access to land, rights or resources. As Jewish and
Palestinian citizens in this state we have relations of blood, of common
fate and common disaster which cannot be 'partitioned'. Such a division is
neither moral nor practical.
Our political elites are incompetent at best and corrupt at worst, in all
that relates to the conflict in this country. Those who accompany them in
the neighboring countries and the wider world are as bad. When these elites
masquerade as civil society and float the Geneva bubble, the situation only
becomes worse and the prospects of peace move further away. Let us propose
an alternative dialogue including the old and new settlers - even those who
arrived yesterday - the expelled - of all generations - and the people who
were left behind. Let us ask which political structure suits us - one which
would involve and include the principles of justice, reconciliation and
coexistence. Let us offer them at least one more model except the one which
failed. In Bil'in we have struggled shoulder to shoulder against the
occupation - we can also live together. Whom would we rather have as our
neighbor, the Mattityahu Mizrah settlers or the Na'alin villagers?
And in order for this dialogue to start and grow, let us admit that despite
our important efforts, we here with our own forces cannot stop
ever-escalating occupation. Because occupation proceeds from the same
ideological infrastructure on which the 1948 ethnic cleansing was erected,
because of which the army massacred the inhaibitants of Kufr Quassem,
because of which the lands of the Galilee, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
were confiscated, and in whose name there take place every day detentions
and killings without trial. The most murderous manifestation of this
ideology is now in the Territories. It should and must be stopped soonest.
For that, no expedient which has not yet been tried should be rejected. The
appeal of Palestinian civil society for imposing boycotts and sanctions
should be heeded. The sincerity should be recognized of the moral pressure
exerted by associations of journalists, academics and physicians over the
world who seek to sever contacts with official Israel and its
representatives, as long as the crimes continue. Let us give this
non-violent way a chance to end the occupation. From here and from there, we
will call together for the castigation of a government and a state which
continues to perpetrate such crimes; Jews and non-Jews, we will be immune
from the stain of anti-semitism, unjustly cast at us. From every possible
point of view - Socialist, Liberal, Jewish or Buddhist - a decent person
cannot but call for the boycotting of a regime and a government which for
forty years already are mistreating a civilian population only because it is
Arab. And decent Jewish persons must let their voices resound more loudly
than those of others calling for action and effort.
Whether or not the South African experience is the source and inspiration
for the One State solution and for a justified and moral international
boycott, it is unacceptable that this way and this vision remain without a
thorough examination, only due to a continued adherence to a failing formula
which had long since become a recipe for disaster.
[based on Ilan Pappe's notes for his opening speech]
One State: Solution or Utopia12/05/07
THIS IS not a duel to the death of gladiators in a Roman arena.*
Ilan Pappe and I are partners in the battle against the occupation. I
respect his courage. We stand side by side in a joint struggle, but we
advocate two sharply opposing goals.
WHAT IS the disagreement about?
We have no disagreement about the past. We agree that Zionism, which has
made its mark on history and created the State of Israel, also brought a
historic injustice upon the Palestinian people. The occupation is an
abominable situation, and it must be ended. No debate about that.
Perhaps we also have no disagreement about the distant future. About what
should happen in a hundred years. We shall touch upon that later in the
But we have a sharp disagreement about the foreseeable future - the solution
for the bleeding conflict during the next 20, 30, 50 years.
This is not a theoretical debate. We cannot say, as the Hebrew expression
goes, "May every man live with his own faith", and may peace reign in the
peace movement. Between these two alternatives there can be no compromise -
we have to decide, we have to choose, because they dictate quite different
strategies and different tactics - not tomorrow, but today, here and now.
The difference is fateful.
For example: Should we concentrate our efforts on the struggle for public
opinion in Israel, or should we give up on the struggle here and concentrate
on the struggle abroad?
I AM an Israeli. I stand with both feet on the ground of Israeli reality. I
want to change this reality radically. But I want the State of Israel to
Anyone who opposes the existence of Israel as a state that expresses our
Israeli identity deprives himself of any possibility to act here. All his
activities in Israel are doomed to failure.
A person can despair and say: There's nothing to be done. Everything is
lost. We have passed the "point of no return". The situation is
"irreversible". We have nothing more to do in this country.
Everyone can despair for a moment. Perhaps each of us has despaired at one
time or other. But one should not turn despair into an ideology. Despair
destroys the ability to act.
I say: There is no reason at all for despair. Nothing is lost. Nothing in
life is "irreversible", except life itself. There is no such thing as a
"point of no return".
I am 83 years old. In my lifetime, I have seen the advent of the Nazis and
their downfall. I have seen the Soviet Union at its zenith and watched its
collapse. A day before the fall of the Berlin wall, no German believed that
he would witness that moment in his lifetime. The smartest experts did not
foresee it. Because in history, there are subterranean streams that nobody
perceives in real time. That's why the theoretical analyses are so rarely
Nothing is lost until the fighters raise their hands and say that all is
lost. Raising hands is no solution. Neither is it moral.
In our situation, a person who despairs has three alternatives: (a)
emigration, (b) inner emigration, which means to stay at home and do
nothing, or (c) escape to the world of ideal solutions for the days of the
The third alternative is the most dangerous at the moment, because the
situation is critical, especially for the Palestinians. There is no time for
a solution in 100 years. We need an urgent solution, a solution that can be
realized within a few years.
It has been said that Avnery is old, he sticks to old solutions, he is
unable to absorb a new idea. And I wonder: a new idea?
The idea of One Joint State was old when I was a boy. It flourished in the
30s of the last century. But it went bankrupt. The idea of the Two State
solution grew in the soil of the new reality.
If I may be permitted to make a personal remark: I am not a historian. I was
alive when it happened. I am an eye witness, an ear witness, a feeling
witness. As a soldier in the 1948 war, as the editor of a news magazine for
40 years, as a Knesset member for 10 years, as an activist of Gush Shalom -
I have seen the events from different angles. My hand is on the public
THERE ARE three questions concerning the One State idea: (1) Is it at all
possible? (2) If it is possible - is it good? (3) Will it bring a just
AS TO the first question, my absolutely unequivocal answer is: No, it is not
Anyone connected with the Israeli-Jewish public knows that its innermost
desire is the existence of a state with a Jewish majority. A state where the
Jews are masters of their fate. That desire trumps all other aims, even the
desire for a state in All of Eretz-Israel.
One can talk about One State from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River,
a bi-national or non-national state - in practice what it means is the
dismantling of the State of Israel. The negation of all the nation-building
that has been carried out by five generations. That must be said clearly,
without mumbling and equivocation, and that's what the public - the Jewish,
and certainly the Palestinian - quite rightly thinks it is. What we are
talking about is the dismantling of the State of Israel.
We want to change many things in this state, its historical narrative, its
accepted definition as a "Jewish and democratic" state. We want to put an
end to the occupation outside and the discrimination inside. We want to
create a new basis for the relationship between the state and its
Arab-Palestinian citizens. But it is impossible to ignore the basic ethos of
the huge majority of the state's citizens.
99.99% of the Jewish public do not want to dismantle the state. And that's
There is an illusion that this can be changed through pressure from outside.
Will outside pressure compel this people to give up the state?
I propose to you a simple test: think for a moment about your neighbors at
home, at work or at the university. Would any one of them give up the state
because somebody abroad wants them to? Because of pressure from Europe? Even
pressure from the White House? No, nothing but a crushing military defeat on
the battlefield will compel the Israelis to give up their state. And if that
happens, our debate will become irrelevant anyhow.
The majority of the Palestinian people, too, want a state of their own. It
is needed to satisfy their most basic aspirations, to restore their national
pride, to heal their trauma. Even the chiefs of Hamas, with whom we have
talked, want it. Anyone who thinks otherwise is laboring under an illusion.
There are Palestinians who talk about One State, but for most of those, it
is just a code-word for the dismantling of the State of Israel. They, too,
know that it is utopian.
There are also some Palestinians who delude themselves into thinking that if
they talk about One State, it will frighten the Israelis so much that they
will agree to the establishment of the Palestinian state next to Israel. But
the result of this Machiavellian thinking is quite the opposite: it
frightens the Israelis and pushes them into the arms of the Right. It
arouses the fearful dog of ethnic cleansing, which is sleeping in the
corner. That dog must not be forgotten for a moment.
ALL OVER the world, the tendency is going the other way: not the creation of
new multi-national states, but on the contrary, the breaking up of states
into national components. In Scotland, this week, victory was achieved by a
party that wants to split from England. The French-speaking minority in
Canada is always wavering on the brink of secession. Kosovo is about to gain
independence from Serbia. The Soviet Union has broken up into its component
parts, Chechnya wants to separate from Russia, Yugoslavia has broken apart,
Cyprus has broken apart, the Basques want independence, Corsicans want
independence, in Sri Lanka a civil war is raging, the same as in the Sudan.
In Indonesia, the stitches are coming loose in a dozen different places.
Belgium has endless problems.
In the entire world there is no example of two different nations deciding of
their own free will to live together in one state. There is no example -
except Switzerland - of a bi-national or multi-national state really
functioning. (And the example of Switzerland, which has grown for centuries
in a unique process, is the proverbial exception that proves the rule.)
To hope that after 120 years of conflict, into which a fifth generation has
already been born, there could be a transition from total war to total peace
in a joint state, giving up all aspiration to independence - that is a
HOW IS this idea to be realized? The advocates of the One State never go
into this in detail.
It is supposed, so it seems, to come about something like this: the
Palestinians will give up their Struggle for Liberation and their aspiration
for a national state of their own. They will announce that they want to live
in a joint state with the Israelis. After the establishment of this state,
they will have to fight for their civil rights. People of goodwill around
the world will support their struggle, as they once did in South Africa.
They will impose a boycott. They will isolate the state. Millions of
refugees will come back to the country. Thus the wheel will turn back and
the Palestinian majority will attain power.
How much time will that take? Two generations? Three generations? Four
Does anyone imagine how such a state will function in practice? The
inhabitant of Bil'in will pay the same taxes as the inhabitant of Kfar-Sava?
The inhabitants of Jenin will enact a constitution together with the
inhabitants of Netanya? The inhabitants of Hebron and the settlers will
serve in the same army and the same police force, shoulder to shoulder, and
will be subject to the same laws? Is that realistic?
Some say: but that situation already exists. Israel is already governing one
state from the sea to the river. One has only to change the regime. But
nothing of the sort exists. What does exist are an occupying state and an
It is far, far easier to dismantle settlements than to compel six million
Jewish Israelis to dismantle the state.
NO, THE ONE STATE will not come into being. But let's ask ourselves - if it
did come into being, would that be a good thing?
My answer is: absolutely not.
Let's examine this state, not as an imaginary creature, the epitome of
perfection, but as it would be in reality.
In this state, the Israelis will be
dominant. They have a complete superiority in practically all spheres -
quality of life, military power, technological capabilities. The average per
annum income of an Israeli is 25 times (25 times!) higher than that of an
average Palestinian - $ 20,000 as against $ 800. The Israelis will see to it
that the Palestinians will be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water
for a long, long time.
It will be an occupation by other means. A disguised occupation. It will not
end the conflict, but open another phase.
WILL THIS solution bring a just peace? Hardly.
This state will be a battlefield. Each side will try to take over as much
land as possible and bring in as many persons as possible. The Jews will
fight by all means to prevent the Arabs from becoming the majority and
coming to power. In practice, this will be an apartheid state. If the Arabs
become the majority and try to assume power, there will be a struggle that
may become a civil war. A new edition of 1948.
Even an advocate of the One State solution must admit that the struggle will
go on for several generations. Much blood may flow, and the results are far
The idea is utopian. To realize it, one has to change the people, perhaps
the two peoples. One has to create a new human being. That's what the
Communists tried to do at the start of the Soviet Union. That's what the
founders of the kibbutz tried to do. Unfortunately, the human being has not
Utopianism can bring about terrible consequences. The vision of "the wolf
shall dwell with the lamb" requires the provision of a new lamb every day.
There are some who cite the model of South Africa. A beautiful and
encouraging example. Unfortunately, there is hardly any similarity between
the problem there and the problem here.
In South Africa, there were no two nations , each with a tradition, a
language and a religion that go back for more than a thousand years. Neither
the whites not the blacks wanted a separate state of their own, nor did they
ever live in two separate states. The one state had already existed for a
long time, and the struggle was over power in this one state.
The bosses of South Africa were racists, who admired the Nazis and were
incarcerated during World War II because of that. It was easy to boycott
their state in all fields of activity. Israel, on the other hand, is
accepted by the world as the State of the Holocaust Survivors, and apart
from small groups, nobody will boycott it. It is enough for the Israelis to
point out that the first step on the way to Auschwitz was the Nazi slogan
"Kauft nicht bei Juden" - Don't buy from Jews.
Furthermore, a world-wide boycott will arouse in the hearts of many Jews all
over the world the deepest fears of Anti-Semitism, and will push them into
the arms of the extreme Right.
A quite different thing is a focused boycott against specific elements of
the occupation. We were the pioneers of this approach, when, more than ten
years ago, we started a boycott of the products of the settlements and
pulled the European Union along with us.
By the way, experts on South Africa tell me that the effects of the boycott
are much overrated. The boycott was not the main factor that brought the
apartheid regime down, but the international situation. The United States
supported the regime as a bastion in the fight against Communism. Once the
Soviet Union had collapsed, the Americans just dropped South Africa.
The relationship between the US and Israel is immeasurably more profound and
complex. It has deep ideological layers - a similar national narrative, the
Christian Evangelist theology, and more.
THE TWO STATE solution is the only practical solution in the realm of
It is ridiculous to assert that it has been defeated. The very opposite is
true. In the most important sphere, the collective consciousness, it is
winning all out.
On the morrow of the 1948 war, when we raised this flag for the first time
in Israel, we were a tiny band. We could be counted on the fingers of two
hands. Everybody denied that a Palestinian people even existed. In the late
60s I tramped around Washington DC and spoke with officials at the White
House, the Department of State, the National Security Council and the US
delegation to the UN - nobody there was prepared to entertain this idea.
Now there is a world-wide consensus that this is the only solution. The
United States, Russia, Europe, Israeli public opinion, Palestinian public
opinion, the Arab League. One has to realize the full meaning of this: the
entire Arab world now supports this solution. This is extremely important
for the future.
Why did this happen? After all, it is not that we are so gifted as to win
over the whole world. No, it is the inner logic of this solution that
conquered the globe. True, some of the new adherents of this solution only
pay lip service to it. Perhaps they use it to divert attention from their
real aims. People like Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert act as if they support
this idea, while in reality their intention is to keep the occupation
forever. But this shows that even they realize that they cannot go on
opposing the Two State solution openly. When the whole world recognizes that
this is the only practical solution - it will, in the end, be realized.
THE PARAMETERS are well known, and they, too, now enjoy world-wide
1. A Palestinian state will come into being next to Israel.
2. The border between them will be based on the Green Line, perhaps with an
agreed-upon and equal swap of territories.
3. Jerusalem will be the capital of the two states.
4. There will be an agreed-upon solution of the refugee problem. In
practice, this means that an agreed number will return to Israel, and the
rest will be rehabilitated in the State of Palestine or in their present
places of domicile, with the payment of generous compensation that will turn
them into welcome guests. When there is an agreed plan that tells every
refugee family what their choices are, it must be submitted to the refugees
wherever they are. They must be partners in the final decision.
5. There will be an economic partnership, in which the Palestinian
government will be able to defend Palestinian interests, unlike the present
situation. The very existence of two states will mitigate, at least to some
extent, the huge difference of power between the two sides.
6. In the more distant future - a Middle Eastern union, on the model of the
EU, that may also include Turkey and Iran.
The obstacles are well known, and they are big. They cannot be circumvented
by patent medicine. They must be faced and overcome. Here, in Israel, we
must weaken the fears and anxieties, and point out the benefits and profit
that we will gain from the creation of a Palestinian state at our side.
We must bring about a change of consciousness. But we have already come a
long way, from the days when the entire public denied the very existence of
the Palestinian people, rejected the idea of a Palestinian state, rejected
the partition of Jerusalem, rejected any dialogue with the PLO, rejected an
agreement with Arafat. In all these areas our stand trickled down and has
been accepted in various degrees.
It is clear that this is still far from what is necessary. But that is the
direction things are moving - and there are hundreds of opinion polls to
REAL OBSTACLES to the Two State solution can be overcome. They are small
compared to the obstacles on the way to One State. I would say: the ratio is
1:1000. It is like a boxer who fails to win against a lightweight opponent,
and therefore chooses to confront a heavyweight. Or an athlete who fails in
the 100 meter sprint and therefore enters the marathon. Or somebody who
despairs of climbing Mont Blanc and therefore decides to climb Mount
No doubt, the One State idea gives its adherents moral satisfaction.
Somebody told me: OK, it is not realistic, but it is moral, and that is the
place where I want to be. I say: that is a luxury we cannot afford. When the
fate of so many human beings is in the balance, a moral stand that is not
realistic is immoral. I repeat: a moral stand that is not realistic is
There are those that despair because the peace forces have not succeeded in
putting an end to the occupation. We have remained a small minority. The
government and the media ignore us. True. But we, too, bear a part of the
responsibility for that. We have not been thinking enough, we have not
identified the reasons for the failures. When was the last time a thorough
discussion of the strategies and tactics of the fight for peace took place?
We have not succeeded in connecting with the Oriental Jewish community. We
have remained strangers to the Russian immigrants. We don't even have a real
partnership with the Arab-Palestinian community inside Israel. We have not
found the way to touch the hearts of the general public. We have not
succeeded in creating a unified and efficient political force that would be
able to exert an influence on the Knesset and the government. We must
IT IS not enough to point out that the One State solution cannot be
realized. This "solution" is also very dangerous.
1. It diverts the efforts into a mistaken direction. We see this already
happening. It both results from despair and produces despair. It causes
people to desert the battlefield in Israel and creates the illusion that the
real battlefield is abroad. That is escapism.
2. It causes the loss of irreplaceable time. Tens of years, in which
terrible things can happen to the Palestinians, and also to us. Anyone who
is afraid of ethnic cleansing (and rightly so) must be conscious of this
danger and this urgency.
3. It divides the peace camp and deepens the gap between it and the public.
It strengthens the Right, because it frightens the sane public and causes it
to lose sight of a sensible solution.
4. It pulls the rug from under the feet of those who fight against the
occupation. If the whole country between the sea and the Jordan is to become
one state anyhow, then the settlers can put their settlements anywhere they
5. It strengthenes the argument that there is "no solution" to the conflict.
If the Two State solution is wrong, and if the One State solution is not
realizable, then the Right is correct in claiming that there is no solution
at all - an argument that justifies every evil, from the eternal occupation
to ethnic cleansing. No solution means an endless occupation.
Let us be clear: there will be no end to the occupation as long as there is
no peace agreement.
AS FOR the distant future, perhaps we shall meet at unexpected places.
When we reach the station that is called peace between two states, everyone
will be free to choose what his next station should be.
Somebody will want to strive for the amalgamation of the two states into
one? Go ahead. Somebody will think that the Two State solution is good for
ever? Why not. Somebody will think, like me, that the two states will move
gradually, with mutual consent all along the way, towards a confederation or
(At our very first meeting in 1982, Yasser Arafat spoke with me about a
Benelux solution, like the one that existed for some time between Belgium,
the Netherlands and Luxemburg) - Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and perhaps even
Lebanon. He continued to talk about this until the end.)
Experience proves that the classic national state is here to stay formally,
everyone under his own flag, while in practice many of its functions are
being transferred to super-national structures, like the European Union.
(By the way, when the idea of uniting Europe was first aired, many people
wanted to create the United States of Europe, on the American model. Charles
de Gaulle warned against ignoring national feelings. He called for a "Europe
des patries", a Europe based on national states. Fortunately, his view
prevailed, and now life does the rest.)
Something like this, I assume, will in the end happen here, too. But for
now, we must treat the immediate problem. We have before us an injured
person, bleeding profusely. The bleeding has to be stopped and the wound has
to be healed before we can treat the roots of the disease.
SUMMING UP, this is my opinion:
The situation is terrible (as always), but we are progressing nevertheless.
True, on the surface the situation is depressing and shocking: the
settlements are getting bigger, the wall is getting longer, the occupation
is causing untold injustices every day.
Perhaps it is the advantage of age: today, at the age of 83, I am able to
look at things in the perspective of a much longer time span.
Because under the surface, things are moving in the opposite direction. All
the polls prove that the decisive majority of the Israeli public is resigned
to the existence of the Palestinian people and is resigned to the necessity
of a Palestinian state. The government recognized the PLO yesterday and will
recognize Hamas tomorrow. The majority has more or less accepted that
Jerusalem must become the capital of the two states. In ever widening
circles, there is the beginning of a recognition of the narrative of the
There is a world-wide consensus on the Two State solution, which has been
reached by way of elimination: in reality, there is no other. But in order
to be realized, support must come from the inside, from the Israeli public.
This support we must create. That is our job.
And a word of warning: we must beware of utopias. A utopia looks like a
light at the end of the tunnel. It warms the heart. But it is a deceptive
light that can induce us to enter a branch of the tunnel from which there is
We have never heard answers to the two decisive questions about the One
State solution: how will it come about and how will it function in practice?
But without clear answers to these questions, this is not a plan but a
vision, at best.
True, 120 years of conflict have created in our people a huge accumulation
of hate, prejudice, suppressed guilt feelings, stereotypes, fear (most
importantly, fear) and absolute mistrust of the Arabs. These we must fight,
to convince the public that peace is worthwhile and good for the future of
Israel. Together with a change in the international situation and a
partnership with the Palestinian people, our chances of achieving peace are
I, anyhow, have decided to stay alive until this happens.
[*] Translated text of Avnery's opening remarks
during the public debate in Tel-Aviv between Uri Avnery and Ilan Pappe
organized by Gush Shalom - on May 8, 2000. This is based on Avnery's own
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