Last week, Israeli and Palestinian pollsters released their annual temperature check on the two nations’ attitudes towards peace. As usual, narrow majorities of both publics voiced support for a two-state solution, and as usual, this fact grabbed most of the headlines. But a far more interesting finding, one that also represents long-running trends, was largely overlooked: both Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly rejected the so-called “one-state solution.”
Offered several possible outcomes for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just 11 percent of Palestinians chose a one-state solution, which the survey characterized as a “solution by which Palestinians and Jews will be citizens of the same state and enjoy equal rights.” (By contrast, 52.5 percent of Palestinians preferred a two-state solution.) Similarly, just 11.6 percent of Israeli Jews and 16.7 percent of Israeli Arabs supported one-state.
The survey was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and the Tel Aviv University Center for Peace Research with funding from the European Union. The lack of grassroots support for a one-state outcome it uncovered tracks with previous surveys. Back in 2014, for instance, veteran Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki found that 71 percent of Palestinians “oppose the abandonment of the two-state solution and the adoption of the one-state solution.”
This robust rejection of the one-state paradigm should not be surprising. In fact, it is entirely intuitive. Israelis and Palestinians have been engaged in a vicious intergenerational blood feud for generations. Naturally, they do not think that the solution to their miserable and immiserating conflict is to move in together with their arch-nemeses. Rather, they want to hammer out terms of a divorce. Palestinians prefer to have their own Arab and Muslim state which would respect the rights of all religious minorities, as outlined in article 4 of the Constitution of Palestine, while Israelis prefer to have their own Jewish state which also upholds the rights of other faiths, in accordance with Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
This, too, should not surprise. After all, Palestinians and Israelis are acutely aware that the Middle East is currently littered with failed states comprised of warring ethnic and religious groups that could not coexist within the same borders, with ISIS and the Syrian war being only the latest manifestations of this devastating dysfunction. The borders drawn decades ago by Western powers have proven to be utterly inadequate to the aspirations and antagonisms of their populations. For a majority of Israelis and Palestinians, then, the idea that one of the modern Middle East’s most intractable conflicts would be solved with a one-state paradigm that has failed pretty much everywhere else in the region strains credulity.
And yet, this paradigm is exactly what the leaders of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel seek to impose on both populations in Israel/Palestine. Take Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS Movement and a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Israel, Barghouti wrote in 2001, “was Palestine, and there is no reason why it should not be renamed Palestine.” In 2004, he declared, “the two-state solution … was never a moral solution to start with,” a fact that might surprise the majority of Palestinians and Israelis who continue to support it. Speaking in 2013, Barghouti opined (5:53), “Most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” Similarly, Ali Abunimah, leading BDS advocate and editor of the Electronic Intifada, devoted an entire book to promoting the one-state solution over the two-state one, entitled, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Ahmed Moor, editor of After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine, has been even more pointed about the BDS movement’s aims: “BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state.” Linda Sarsour, perhaps the most prominent proponent of BDS on the American political scene, has publicly rejected two states in favor of one.
Thus, we are left with an astonishing state of affairs: the BDS movement claims to represent the Palestinian people, even as it seeks to impose living arrangements on them that most of them reject. Moreover, rather than attempt to persuade the majority of Palestinians and Israelis to accept the one-state paradigm—an entirely legitimate form of political advocacy—the BDS movement seeks to marshal international pressure on Israel to impose this paradigm against the will of both populations.
Now, BDS leaders in America and Europe may come by their one-state support honestly, rather than from a desire to eliminate the world’s only Jewish state. They may truly believe that a single, secular state is the best and most moral arrangement for modern peoples. But then, many others seeking to meddle in the Middle East through the centuries have also come by their principles honestly. In fact, we have a word for those attempts to use international power to impose borders and living arrangements on native populations against their preferences for their own good: imperialism.
And we all know how that turned out.