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Bi-National Realities
National Mythologies:
The Death of the Two-States Solution

Ilan Pappe

Policy Paper No. 71, from the book,
Israel and a Palestinian State: Zero Sum Game?, 2001


This article examines the options for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the post-Oslo reality. It assumes that the chances for such a state to survive and indeed come into a meaningful being should be examined on two different levels.

One is that of balance of power. There is little hope for genuine Palestinian sovereignty and control over a future state. The balance of power in which the Israelis are the stronger party, is a sacrosanct precondition both to the Labor and Likud parties; hence its maintenance is a precondition for any settlement agreed upon by either the Right or the Left in Israel. This article describes what constitutes for the Israeli Jewish "Center", the maximum boundaries and level of independence of a future Palestinian state. It concludes that these concessions do not amount to a political entity that can be defined as a state in any reasonable and acceptable meaning.

The second level on which the likelihood of a state is examined is that of collective cohesiveness as a precondition for the establishment of two viable political entities, such as states, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. The article claims that the obfuscation of collective identities both in the Israeli and Palestinian cases is going to be highly increased in the very near future.

Neither the Jews nor the Palestinians in Israel satisfy, in the post-Oslo reality, any reasonable definition of a collective. There is no territorial integrity of either society in the new reality and the enormity of the task of making it into two coherent territorial entities, could very well tear both societies apart.

A collective identity can be defined by citizenship as well. On the Palestinian side, even in a most generous Israeli consent, say under a Labor government, the Palestinian citizenry would include only a third of the Palestinians in the world, with an Israeli veto of the other two thirds from becoming Palestinian citizens (either because they would be regarded as Israeli citizens or refugees who are citizens of other countries).

One can argue that a collective identity based on citizenship in Israel is less vague. But in fact it is vague enough to challenge the integrity of the state. The potential Israeli citizenship granted to every Jew in the world on one hand, and the discriminations inflicted upon about one million Palestinian citizens in Israel, renders collective identity at best unclear and at worst non-existent.

In the Palestinian case, the present political structure is far from representing, in any thinkable respect, the collective national identity of Palestinians. The challenging peripheries groups of the Palestinians enjoy a disintegrative power since Oslo failed to attend to the problems of about half of the Palestinian community in the world.

In Israel, as Jewish nationalism is defined by an affiliation to the Jewish religion: secularism, sectarianism, confessionalism and the presence of non-Jewish communities, all render any agreed definition of "Israelism" impossible.

To sum up, if we choose to look at post-Oslo through sociological prisms, there seems at work strong disintegrative trends in both societies. Oslo, not the agreement, but as a reality, by preserving the occupation, accentuates the inadequacy of the political structure. The conventional means for holding a society together seem to be futile in the face of these trends. This is a model for the disintegration of two nation-states -- one already there and one in the making. It can be arrested either by loosing the political structure -- quite a utopian scenario given the present balance of power, or by tightening up the structure, i.e., by making it more dictatorial. A dictatorship on both sides is a feasible option for as long as dictatorships last in an area such as the Middle East. The democratic structure, even its particular Israeli variety (be it a herrenvolk democracy or an ethnic one) is unfit to carry the burden of the post-Oslo, new style occupation and the multifarious fabric of the society living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

For the complete article, click here.