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All this might serve as background to the main point I want to make: which is that whatever the outcome of the present conflict it won't be, to quote Biden again: 'two peoples living side by side with equal measures of freedom, opportunity and dignity,'  certainly not in the presently envisaged boundaries - West Bank and Gaza. That is too much for the Jews and not enough for the Palestinians. It is also extremely unlikely that anything resembling Barak's 'Palestinian demilitarised viable state' will emerge. In the course of the history of the Israeli state something rather remarkable has happened - the evolution of Orthodox Judaism from an initial hostility to Zionism (seen as a movement wanting to pull Jews away from faithfulness to the traditional Jewish law and way of life), through a period of using secular Zionism to promote its own essentially religious interests, then coming into full alignment with secular Zionism, then becoming the most extreme wing of the Zionist movement. Orthodox Jews (taking that as a broad term and disregarding the various different factions within it) now constitute some 30% of the Jewish population of Israel. Shortly before the events of October 7th we were witnessing a major confrontation between religious Jews and secular Jews - both of them Zionist, both oblivious to the interests of the Palestinians - over the question of the Supreme Court. The religious Jews - leaving out of account the Satmar and Neturei Kartei anti-Zionist tendencies - are absolutely committed to keeping Judaea-Samaria, aka the West Bank as an integral part of the Jewish state. A jewish 'one state solution - from the river to the sea.' Precisely the outcome the secular Jewish supporters of Oslo hoped to avoid. Failing a very thoroughgoing ethnic cleansing (still the most desired result but apparently impossible given the refusal of the rest of the Arab world to co-operate) the Israeli government would have to take some responsibility for the day to day management of the Palestinians, granting them some form of citizenship.

Following the 'One state' programme outlined by the current Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich, this would be very much a second class form of citizenship, without the right to vote for the Knesset, and would be entirely dependent on an acceptance - de facto if not de jure - of the Jewish state. Nonetheless Smotrich promises those Palestinians who renounce Palestinian nationhood 'life with the maximum of democratic rights: life, liberty and property, a life of freedom of religion and expression … it will also contain the right to vote for the system that governs their everyday lives. The self-government of the Arabs of Judaea and Samaria will be divided into six municipal governmental regions wherein representatives will be elected in democratic elections: Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus and Jenin' (one assumes that these municipal governments would have no authority over Jewish inhabitants in the region, though this isn't stated). … Free of terror and a security threat [sic, presumably 'no longer a security threat'], the residents of the regional municipal administrations will enjoy freedom of movement and the right of entry - for work and for humanitarian reasons - into Israeli settlements in Judaea and Samaria and the state of Israel to the benefit of all [note that he is still drawing a distinction between the 'State of Israel' and the Arab administrations, and he is not giving the Arabs the right to do anything other than work for the Jews in their settlements and in the State of Israel - certainly not a right to live with them. The ghost of apartheid is still very much present] … It will be possible to concede granting full citizenship as a third option, including voting for the Knesset, in accordance with the number of Arab residents who wish to do so and alongside the declaration of complete loyalty to the Jewish state by serving in the armed forces, much like Israel's Druze citizens who have tied their fate to the State of Israel as a Jewish state and maintain a partnership of courage with it.'

The 'hair in the soup' of all that - or at least one of them - is Smotrich's conviction that it will be impossible so long as the Palestinians retain any hope of retaining their own state, their own existence as a nation. They must first be reduced to despair, and that is the purpose of the settler movement. Smotrich is himself a settler and though he insists that his plan is 'not a religious manifesto but a realistic, geopolitical, strategic document', he also declares his belief 'in the Torah which foretold the exile and promised redemption. I believe in the words of the prophets who witnessed the destruction and no less in the renewed building that has taken shape before our eyes.' (2)

(2) Of course the destruction witnessed by the prophets was the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians, their exile was the one they themselves experienced in Babylon, and I imagine most mainstream Christian interpreters would see the return as referring to the events described in Ezra and Nehemiah and the building of the second Temple.

There is, then, a little bit of carrot for the Palestinians in Smotrich's plan. Unlike the secular Labour Party project it gives some sort of status to West Bank Palestinians within the Israeli polity. A very limited status. But what is most noticeable is that the stick comes first. And since Smotrich is one of the most militant members of Netanyahu's very militant government the stick is very large and very brutal. He admits that in the first instance it would result in an increase of what he calls 'terrorism'. But one might have thought that after more than seventy years of applying ever more brutal sticks to the Palestinians the Jews would have noticed that it was having the opposite to the desired effect. Smotrich argues that the Palestinians are not a nation, they are an assemblage of smaller Arab communities each with its own distinct traditional culture ('Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus and Jenin' - nothing of course in pre-1967 Israel). The argument is almost amusing when we think of the different cultures that have been welded together, with many of the faultlines still quite visible, to create the Israeli Jewish nation. Nations are often formed in adversity. It could be said that the Jews were formed into a nation by Adolf Hitler and by the same token the Palestinians have been formed into a nation by the Jews. 

Maybe I've given Smotrich's 'one state solution' more attention than it deserves. But it is a proposal apparently based on the real disposition of power - at least as it was before the present assault on Gaza when it seems the Jewish state may have overreached itself with consequences that are still unknown. The 'one state solution' proposed on the Palestinian side - for example Ghada Karmi's recent 'One state, the only democratic future for Palestine-Israel' or Ali Abunimah's 'One country, a bold proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian impasse' (2007) and his 2014 book 'Battle for justice in Palestine, the case for a single democratic state in Palestine - are based on 'justice'; on the argument that a single democratic state with equal rights for all its citizens is the best possible outcome. Both argue that the two state solution, with the Palestinians crammed into the West Bank and Gaza and no right of return for refugees expelled in 1948 and 1967 is profoundly unjust. For this reason I think the demand for a separate Palestinian state, which has simply served as cover for the denial of Palestinian rights, should be dropped and replaced with the demand for a single democratic state with equal rights for all its citizens. It is the best - the most equitable - outcome that can be envisaged. If it is said that it is an impossible demand, well, the demand for a two state solution - the demand for a separate Palestinian state - has also proved to be impossible and is in any case a demand for an unstable and inequitable outcome. And one of the virtues of the single democratic state is that a case can be made that it is in the best interests of the Jews. To quote Ali Abunimah (well known as a major advocate of the BDS movement, and founder of the Electronic Intifada): 'What if an Israeli Jew who wanted to live in Hebron, or a Palestinian who wanted to move to Tel Aviv or Jaffa, was simply able to do so? For Israeli Jews, the key goals of Zionism would be realised. If not a monopoly on power, they would have a permanent, protected and vibrant national presence in all of Israel-Palestine, as partners and equals, not as occupiers.'