May 23, 2008 Volume 22, Number 05
What if the two-state solution doesn't work?
By Bill Janzen | Special to ChristianWeek
It has long been argued that the best hope for peace in the Middle East lies in a "two-state" solution. This would require Israel to withdraw to the borders it had before the 1967 war, leaving it with 78 per cent of "mandate Palestine,"--the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea which the League of Nations once gave to Britain as a mandate. The Palestinians would then receive assistance to build a state on the remaining 22 per cent, meaning the West Bank and Gaza.
This vision is supported by key UN resolutions and it has been at the core of many peace initiatives. As envisioned, there would be generous international support for the small Palestinian state, a "compromise" resolution for the Palestinian refugees, social and economic relations among all the countries of the region and public education programs to promote understanding and respect for one another.
But events have not been moving in this direction. Israel has continued to seize Palestinian land for the construction of settlements, for roads leading to those settlements, for the barrier wall that winds deep into the West Bank and for security zones that cut off sizeable parts of the Jordan valley. The Palestinians' 22 per cent has been cut back drastically. And even on that which remains, Palestinians' access to water is greatly restricted while hundreds of Israeli check points curb their freedom of movement-to hospitals, schools, markets and jobs.
Analysts have begun to say that even if a Palestinian state were proclaimed and allowed to exist, it would be so circumscribed as to mean little. It is also pointed out that this trend reflects the view of those Zionist leaders who, for the last hundred years, have insisted that all of the land "from the river to the Sea" belongs to Jewish people, and that there is little room for Palestinians.
Can this work? Can Israel maintain indefinite control over a large and growing population while treating it so inequitably? And can it be justified morally? These questions are leading some analysts to the idea of a single state structured on a binational basis with equal rights for all who live under it. Some say that Israel is already a binational state since it has control over two nations; what remains is the granting of equal rights to all the people.
The one-state idea is not new. In the 1920s and 30s, when the area was under British control, Palestinian leaders, among them a number of Christians, pleaded for an independent state that would have firm guarantees for the rights of minorities, especially the Jewish minorities then settling on the land. Leaders of some Jewish communities in the Arab world also supported it.
But implementing the one-state idea now would be different. It would probably mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. What would this mean for the security of the Jewish people? No one should be indifferent to their situation.
But before rejecting the idea, it should be asked whether the current direction will always guarantee their security and whether the exclusion of the Palestinian people can go on indefinitely.
Perhaps we should reflect on the call in Jeremiah 29 "to seek the well-being of the city where I have sent you into exile." Being in exile means not being in control. Though difficult, it is from such situations that Jewish communities have made great contributions to societies where they have lived, including those in the Arab world.
Maybe this stance is instructive also for how the Church should see its "location," its calling, and the work of God in the world.
Bill Janzen is the director of the Ottawa office of Mennonite Central Committee Canada.