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Only the Naive or the Malicious Would Urge a Binational Israel
by Yossi Klein Halevi

[This article by Yossi Klein Halevi appeared in the Los Angeles Times on October 10, 2003. Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor to the New Republic and an associate fellow at the Shalem Center, a think tank in Jerusalem. The article could be viewed originally at the following link.]


JERUSALEM -- Think Yugoslavia, only worse. That's what proponents of a binational, Arab-Jewish state are really offering in their utopian vision of the Middle East. The notion that Palestinians and Jews, who can't even negotiate a two-state solution, could coexist in one happy state is so ludicrous that only the naive or the malicious would fall for it. But despite this, the idea -- which periodically surfaced in the 20th century -- is again growing fashionable.

The naive have included Jewish intellectuals like Martin Buber, who before Israel was created in 1948 tried to avert war by promoting a binational solution. But the Arab leadership quickly made it clear that its goal was expulsion of the Holy Land's Jews, not coexistence, and the idea was quietly dropped.

The malicious include Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who claims to support a two-state solution but who has never really abandoned his vision of a Greater Palestine absorbing a dismembered Israel. Even during the Oslo process, he continued to assure Palestinians that acceptance of Israel was merely tactical and temporary. And don't be fooled: The "democratic" binational state that Arafat hopes for wouldn't really offer equality between Arabs and Jews, but Arab domination of a defenseless Jewish minority.

Not surprisingly, there are few Jewish takers.

Still, with the current bloody stalemate and failure to negotiate a two-state solution, some observers have turned again to the binational option. But binationalism would not lead to coexistence. Rather, the birthrate of the Arab residents would exceed that of the Jews, and sooner rather than later the Jewish inhabitants would find themselves a discreet minority group subsumed in a hostile nation. "Binational state" is a code word for eliminating Jewish sovereignty.

Israel has already offered the Palestinians a state, only to be answered with three years of suicide bombings. As one Israeli participant in the failed July 2000 Camp David negotiations put it, what was rejected then wasn't the legitimacy of a Palestinian state but of a Jewish state. By insisting on the right of Palestinian refugees to return not to an independent Palestine but to Israel proper, the Palestinian leaders made transparent their goal of an eventual one-state solution, eliminating the Jewish state by eliminating its Jewish majority.

The refusal by Palestinian leaders to accept Israel in any borders is the real reason for the ongoing conflict. Western proponents of a one-state solution only justify and reinforce Arab intransigence and territorial greed. Those advocates of Israel's demise should ask themselves why Jewish nationhood, alone among all forms of nationhood, is so problematic and distasteful. Is Israeli democracy, however flawed, a greater moral blight to humanity than the more perfect autocracies that surround it?

Not that a binational state isn't a lovely dream. But if we're already dreaming, then let's imagine a world without states. I would be happy to live in such a world. And that's about as realistic a hope as imagining that Arafat will create a binational democratic state in Palestine.

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