Palestinian self-determination – is the solution one state or two?

Marching against Israeli state terror in London, May 2021 (Photo: Mary Finch)

The ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements and other Jewish-only infrastructure in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has been destroying Palestinian hopes of having their own state. The area that was designated to the Palestinians by the 1993 Oslo ‘peace’ deal has been reduced and atomised, and none of the mainstream Palestinian political parties has a strategy to prevent this process.

So it is not surprising that the idea of one secular or bi-national state has become more considered and debated.

Of course, no socialist would oppose the idea of peaceful co-existence for Israeli Jews and Palestinians in one state, with equal rights and opportunities for all and no discrimination, as the author and academic Ilan Pappé proposed recently in an interview in the German newspaper Neues Deutschland.

However, the key question is how that could be arrived at, given the present existence of capitalism and the current consciousness and views on both sides of the divide.

The Palestinians living under occupation don’t want to live in one state with their present oppressor Israeli ruling class. Following the decades of discrimination, repression and bloodshed, they have no confidence that they wouldn’t be discriminated against – and they want self-determination in their own state.

In a March 2021 Palestinian survey, while 55% saw a two-state solution as ‘no longer practical or feasible’, only 33% supported abandoning it in favour of a one-state solution. And many in that 33% do not see how a one-state situation could be arrived at. They are only too aware that Israel has one of the strongest military apparatuses in the world and a ruling class that has its base of support in the Jewish population.

In addition, working-class and middle-class Israeli Jews are living in a state that was claimed to have been set up to protect their interests following terrible pogroms against Jews in eastern Europe and then the horrific Holocaust.

Before Israel was created in 1948, Marxists had warned – including Leon Trotsky – that an Israeli state in the Middle East would not be a safe-haven for Jews, but would instead be caught up in a bloody conflict. Now, 70 years after the formation of Israel, that prognosis remains tragically true. But most Israelis were born in that state, have nowhere else to go, and have their own national consciousness.

Add to this a ‘siege mentality’ due to being surrounded by Arab countries and not being far from the present Iranian regime, it’s clear that the national consciousness and feeling of vulnerability among Israeli Jews is strong.

They, like the Palestinians, also fear being discriminated against in a one-state scenario. As Socialist Party political secretary Peter Taaffe wrote in his article, ‘Socialism and national rights’ (reprinted in the June Socialism Today), “if you try and impose one state on them now, it will be rejected”.

No capitalist solution

Pappé commented in his Neues Deutschland interview: “The two-state solution, even ideally, offers no way out of colonisation or oppression”. That is true on a capitalist basis. Decaying and rotten capitalism can only offer inequality along with poverty for a large layer of the population on both sides of the divide – substantially worse for the Palestinians, but poverty is also rife among Israeli Jews.

A capitalist ‘solution’ that would mean trying to share out the poverty and misery at the bottom of society is no solution and holds no attraction for either side.

The proposition of two socialist states, on the other hand, raises the prospect of people’s needs being met, as well as their present national aspirations.

On a socialist basis, with elected representatives of working-class people in the negotiating positions, who would have no interest in profit-making, territorial influence and wealth-based prestige, agreement could be reached on all the issues that today are intractable under capitalism. These include the sharing of Jerusalem, water resources, guarantees for the rights of minorities, the right of return, and the borders.

At any stage, it could be agreed to dispense with a border, and that would inevitably be an eventual outcome under socialism – in a socialist world without borders – but the timing of it must be democratically decided by the people involved on both sides.

The road to this massively transformed scenario will entail the building of workers’ parties with socialist programmes, setting both Jewish and Palestinian workers on a path towards breaking from pro-capitalist political representatives, and moving to challenge and remove capitalism altogether.

Security for the Jewish population will not be achieved by military means, nor will it be achieved by looking to any of the many brands of Israeli pro-capitalist politicians for another capitalist solution.

The only path towards living in peace and security and out of the rounds of bloodshed lies in the working class on both sides of the divide organising themselves, independent of capitalist interests, and playing a leading role in showing a way forward.

Building a socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel will become part of a process of workers’ movements being built across the Middle East and turning to the same objective – the removal of capitalism. That will be the only basis for a future that can satisfy the needs and aspirations of all the peoples of the region.

Israel: A new coalition heading for the rocks

If the political situation in Israel wasn’t so dire, then the ousting of right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a disparate coalition, headed up by Netanyahu’s former wing-man Naftali Bennett, would be farcical. It’s like replacing Lucifer with Satan!

Under the eight-party coalition deal, Bennett will serve the first two years of a four-year term as PM, and then hand over the reins to a ‘secular’ right-winger, Yair Lapid.

While Netanyahu is a rotten, hard-right nationalist – who thought the prosecution of the recent eleven-day war on Gaza would preserve his premiership and protect him against corruption charges – millionaire ex-tech boss Bennett is even further to the right. He champions the settler movement for a ‘greater Israel’ in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Anti-trade union

Bennett not only rejects a Palestinian state, but he is also reactionary domestically. He’s against regulation in the private sector and opposes trade unions, telling the Guardian in 2013 he wanted to “break the stranglehold the big unions have on the Israeli economy”.

However, the coalition has only a wafer-thin parliamentary majority and combines seemingly incompatible Israeli right-wing MPs through to some with a social-democratic background; and also Mansour Abbas, leader of the Arab Islamist Raam party.

Any renewed hostilities between the Israeli state and Hamas in Gaza will splinter the coalition. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is busily scheming to split away coalition right-wingers to his camp, having laughably accused the coalition of being “left-wing” and “dangerous”.

Neither ‘Lucifer’ nor ‘Satan’ can address the ‘elephant in the room’, ie the Israeli/Palestinian national question, or the pressing social and economic problems facing both Jewish and Arab workers within Israel.

Only the building of socialist movements in the Palestinian-occupied territories and in Israel, fighting against capitalism, can provide a way out for the long-suffering masses.

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June 2021