"The One-State Solution" by Virginia Tilley
Book review by Iqbal Jassat
The Electronic Intifada
As Israel's apartheid wall colonizes 30-40 percent more of the 22
percent of Palestine that remains, an increasing number of analysts,
activists, and academics have begun to challenge the two-state
solution designed to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. With Palestinians eventually ending up with only 12-15
percent of their land, made up of disjointed ghettoes over which
they will have no sovereignty- a single, secular polity that would
encompass both Israel and the Occupied Territories is looking
increasingly attractive. The One-State Solution written by Virginia
Tilley, associate professor of Political Science at Hobart and
William Smith Colleges, lucidly demonstrates why the two-state
model "is an idea whose time has passed".
Discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fired by debates
over historic romanticism with Zionism on the one hand, and
occupation, settlements and borders, on the other. However, the most
controversial debate has been sparked by a reluctant acknowledgement
of the failure of Israel as a Jewish state. An increasing number of
incidents of religious coercion by the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish
minority, coupled with anti-Semitic vandalism have called into
question whether Israel is really a safe haven for Jews.
Tony Karon (of Jewish descent), editor of Time.com, once argued that
Israel is the most dangerous place on Earth to be a Jew. Tilley,
however, spurs this argument out of the narrow confines of Jewish-
ethnocism to the wide main-stream of global narratives. In doing so,
she is quick to point out that her book is not intended to be merely
an academic study - but deeply rooted in personal experience of
harsh Israeli measures against the Palestinians.
Tilley's opening chapter lays out the blueprint of her argument of a
unitary state in simple, clear terms. Her assessment that if a
Palestinian "state" is declared in a dismembered enclave, it would
result in continuing instability, is both accurate and foreboding.
This is how she explains it: "The resulting Palestinian statelet
would be blocked off physically from the Israeli economy, its major
cities would be cut off from each other, and its government would be
unable to control the territory's water resources, develop its
agriculture, or manage its trade with neighbouring states". In
addition it would comprise little more than a "sealed vessel of
growing poverty and demoralization". Tilley is emphatic that such a
portent of Palestinian misery, is no accident but a calculated
Apart from the one and two-state discourses, the author also delves
into additional nightmarish alternatives. These reflect subtle
differences in implementation, yet are recognisable as either "hard
transfer" or "soft transfer". In the case of the former, it entails
forced expulsion of the Palestinian population out of the country.
In the latter, known as the Jordan option, the plan is to induce
Palestinians to seek political rights across the Jordan River.
Chapter 2 presents a frightening overview of the ideological
underpinning of Zionism. The author displays a keen insight of the
twin grids - settlement and political - which collectively represent
two of the most powerful Israeli symbols of intransigence. Hence
settlements are not merely a "few clusters of trailers on windswept
hilltops". Many are small cities: Ariel, in the center of the West
Bank, has over 20,000 residents; Ma'ale Adumim, stretching east from
Jerusalem, houses over 25,000 people.
Tilley also shows how the Jewish settlements have paradoxically
become the main impediment to the continuous existence of Israel by
encroaching on the Occupied Territories to such an extent, that any
Palestinian state in those areas would remain unworkable, making a
single-state the only viable solution.
The various layers of "Jewish diaspora politics" and their interplay
with state institutions are also scrutinised. The Jewish Agency, the
World Zionist Organisation, the Israel Lands Authority and the
Jewish National Fund are deeply embedded in the political equation
of the state. Tilley also explain why water is "also the silent
factor driving Israel's full annexation strategy".
Chapter 4 places external actors such as the US and Europe under the
microscope. This critical part of the book is key to understanding
why international involvement has remained unproductive. The author
does well to incorporate a compelling analysis of contemporary "geo-
strategic" interests, which does not preclude the dubious roles of
neo-cons and an array Zionist lobby groups.
Tilley's persuasive arguments also carries an apt warning: "Looking
to the South African experience for guidance or inspiration will
avail little unless policymakers also adopt the principles,
standards and values that guided that struggle: that is, that ethnic
supremacy is illegitimate and cannot generate a just political
system ... ." By incorporating a second comparison with the Northern
Ireland conflict, the author illustrates how prejudice, fear and
suspicion were primary obstacles to a stable peace, since doctrines
of ethnic or racial domination impeded trust.
Virginia Tilley has made a significant contribution to the one-state
argument. Not only does her book expand on a number of vexing
questions, but it also forces the reader to think out of the box and
unearth an insightful solution to this brutal conflict.
Iqbal Jassat is the Chairman of the Media Review Network, an
advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.
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