The panel discussion "Arguments for Both the One and Two State Solutions" took place at the 59th annual conference in November, 2005.
James Bennett, Amjad Atallah, Virginia Tilley, Aaron David Miller, Ehud Eiran,
James Bennett described different groups who advocate a one-state solution. Rejectionists he says are idealists who desire a single state between Jordan and the sea. Within this group are Palestinians and Israelis who desire an ethnic or religious state and others who support a secular democratic state. Tactitions desire one state in order to compel Israel to consider a two-state solution. And realists Bennett says look at a map of the area and, seeing the complex settlement grid, decide that a two-state solution is not possible.
Amjad Atallah compared Palestine to the Algeria of the 1950-60s. Algeria was once considered part of metropolitan France but the rejection of Algerian attempts to obtain rights within France led to the idea of separation. Palestine is following the same decolonization trend as Algeria but it is not following the trend towards globalization and human rights. He also pointed to Bosnia, which faced similar challenges in its attempt to sustain a multi-ethnic pluralistic democracy instead of dividing the country into cantons of different religious groups. Many other countries, including Macedonia and Sri Lanka, have experienced or are experiencing similar challenges.
Palestinians have accepted the idea of partition over integration Atallah says because they believe it is a historic compromise they need to make for peace. During the Oslo period, Palestinians believed that a two-state solution meant a close relationship with Israel and an integrated economy without Israeli occupation, since a walled-off state would not be economically viable. Ultimately, the decision of partition or integration is a choice that Palestinians must make.
Virginia Tilley said current settlements must be withdrawn in order for a two-state resolution to be successful. But, she said this is not possible for several reasons. First, the Israeli government wants to keep the settlements in place, particularly the four large sections of settlement blocks, which would divide any future Palestinian state. Second, the settlement withdrawal would cost between $10-15 billion in civilian compensation costs alone, not to mention public and private spending. This makes the withdrawal economically impossible. Third, neither Palestinians nor Israelis want to leave the land, which has huge historical significance for both peoples. Their unwillingness to abandon their homeland would make withdrawal unlikely.
Since Israel is unlikely to abandon its West Bank settlements and since there can be no viable Palestinian state unless they do so, Tilley concluded, a one-state solution is the only realistic alternative. The next step is to decide what model of one-state government is to follow. The state could follow an apartheid model separated into ethnic groups or it could follow a secular democratic state model, which would provide for a Jewish and a Palestinian national home. Tilley suggested Israelis and Palestinians should use South Africa as a model. South Africa negotiated its problems with apartheid not through elite-driven talks, but through discussions on all levels of society to bring about massive changes in perspectives.
A two-state solution is a bad outcome, but it is better than the alternatives, according to Aaron David Miller. A one-state solution is not possible at this time or in the future. There are two major problems that a one-state government would face. One is the proximity problem, which is the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israelis and Palestinians living together in one state would not inspire peace but would breed contempt. The other problem is preserving group identity and tribal nationalism. The challenge is to reconcile these two realities, but a solution must come quickly.
Ehud Eiran, who favored a two-state solution, said there are two core issues. The first is that there are two political entities and the second is the feasibility of a one-state solution. Nations often group themselves by ethnicity and religion and sometimes the solution to problems between ethnic and religious groups is separation. Some examples of these types of separation are the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Czech Republic. Eiran suggested that a withdrawal of settlements is possible and the amount of economic compensation will be a political payoff.
Keiry Carroll is a Senior Criminology/Criminal Justice and Italian double major at the University of Maryland.