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So what is the present situation?

In a recent interview on BBC radio (October 2023, in the wake of the Hamas breakout from Gaza on 7th October), Ehud Barak, the Israeli Prime Minister who is supposed to have offered the best deal Israel ever offered to the Palestinians, spelled out, in rather awkward grammar, what he regards as the ideal two state solution:

'I will never lose eye contact with the ultimate objective which is to separate ourselves from the Palestinians and having Israel which have probably 80% of the settlers holding strategic assets on several [sic] percent of the West Bank side by side with the Palestinian demilitarised viable state.'

In this 'ultimate objective' the Palestinians are given a 'viable state' of their own without the means of self defence, with the Israeli settlers occupying all the positions of strategic importance, including the border with Jordan.

That is not a state.

The first requirement of a state is the ability to defend its citizens. A state is not a state if it does not have its own army under full control of its sovereign government.

So what would a real 'two state solution' look like?

The Palestinians would have full control over Gaza and the West Bank, full access to the rest of the Arab world and the right to develop a military force capable of defending themselves against the neighbouring Israeli state.

Even after the current slaughter taking place in Gaza it is generally assumed that, if the Palestinians in the whole area from the river to the sea do not already outnumber the Jews, they soon will. This is of course not counting those living in refugee camps outside Israel. This population, with its free military capacity and its free relations with the rest of the Arab/Muslim world would be living in some 20% of the total area, beside a state which they knew was built on the spoliation of their land and expulsion of their people back in 1948. Does anyone seriously think such a state of affairs would be viable? That it would not simply serve as a springboard for a later, more equally matched, war?

The 'two state solution' was from the first based on the fiction that what happened in 1948 was 'legitimate'. It was only the land seizure of 1967 that needed to be rectified, only the West Bank that is 'occupied.' It might have been possible for some naïve souls to believe at the time that that was a viable solution to the problem but the Israeli government could never, in any of its manifestations, be accused of naïvety. They never had any intention of implementing it. From the start they set about colonising the parts of the West Bank that were under their control. Discreetly at first but the discretion didn't last very long. It was the steady advance of the colonisation project that provoked the second intifada and the rise of Hamas. It is now so solidly, so arrogantly implanted that talk of the 'two state solution' is now nothing but an empty cliché, a good example of what is called 'virtue signalling', an insult to the intelligence.

So what are the alternatives? If we define a state as an area under the control of a single government with a monopoly of effective force there is of course only one state in the area from the river to the sea. It is because there is only one state that the word 'apartheid' can be used to describe it - pre-1967 Israel isn't an apartheid state. It is an even worse version of pre-1967 Northern Ireland, a political entity in which there are two peoples living together, the majority people keeping the minority people in a state of subjection. 

So what will become of this single state?

There are three possible outcomes:

1) The continuation of the status quo up to the point where the Israeli government succeeds in its ultimate aim - a single Jewish state with a hugely reduced Palestinian population, maybe with some tiny bantustans still allowed to live in its midst under constant surveillance. That is the most likely outcome, but it is impossible to imagine that such a state would ever be able to live at peace with its neighbours.

2) The radical overthrow of the Israeli state accompanied by mass slaughter of the Jews. That is the implication of the demand for a 'Free Palestine', assuming that we agree that the Palestinians couldn't be satisfied with a 'Free Palestine' confined to the West Bank without control of its border with Jordan and with no means of defending itself. This outcome is improbable but not impossible. It would require a regional - if not a world - war.

3) A single binational state in which everyone living in the area would have equal rights - a 'state for all its citizens' - perhaps analogous to what happened in South Africa. There are a variety of constitutional forms it could take to try to protect the rights of the different peoples. The Jews would very soon be a minority but they would still (like the white South Africans) possess many of the levers of economic and military power. This option is of course highly improbable. It presents many difficulties. But it is the only option anyone with a conscience not fully committed to total victory for one side or the other can support.