Friday, February 17, 2017

One State Two States, Trump States Fantasy State

by Michael Dorf

Suppose you were a professional mediator and two parties came to you to help them resolve a dispute. As Professor Colb explained after completing her training as a mediator, you would quite properly resist the temptation to impose a solution on them. The goal of mediation is to enable the parties to have an honest conversation in which they choose a resolution that suits them. That is fundamentally what distinguishes mediation on the one hand from litigation and arbitration on the other.

Thus, someone with no prior knowledge of the Israel/Palestine conflict or of Donald Trump's profound ignorance about nearly every subject relevant to the duties of the presidency might think that his pronouncement in the company of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was simply an expression of neutrality by an honest broker.

Also sprach Trumpathustra:
I'm looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians -- if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best.
Much of the press coverage of this statement has focused on how it amounts to a break with bipartisan U.S. government policy for roughly the last three decades, in which the U.S. has urged Israel to make territorial concessions to a Palestinian state in exchange for peace. But is that fair? After all, Trump did not say that he opposes a two-state solution. He merely said that he would accept either a two-state or a one-state solution if either is mutually acceptable to Israelis and Palestinians. What's wrong with that?

Plenty, as it turns out. There are both Israelis and Palestinians who favor a one-state solution, but they mean very different things by one state. And the distance between the respective one-state visions is much greater than the distance between the respective two-state visions.

Right-wing Israelis who favor a one-state solution have in mind that Israel should annex East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and perhaps Gaza. The one state would be Israel. Palestinians would presumably be permitted to continue to live more or less where they do, but to maintain Israel's status as a Jewish state (a core commitment of not only right-wing but most moderate Israelis as well), Palestinians would not be given full democratic rights. Given the demographics, they could not be, because they would outnumber Israeli Jews. Exactly what political status Palestinians would have in a single Israeli state in modern-day Israel plus the occupied territories is not clear. Perhaps they would have the right to vote in local elections and for certain governing bodies with a degree of autonomy. But they would be at best second-class citizens. The highly controversial term "apartheid state," which most Israelis regard as unfair when applied to present-day Israel, would be accurate as applied to a one-state solution in which the one state is greater Israel.

Meanwhile, some Palestinians who favor a single state imagine a single state that is essentially judenrein. Today, people who hold this view tend to be Islamists, but since the advent of modern Zionism in the late 19th century, there have also been many secular Palestinians (and other Arabs and non-Arab Muslims) who opposed any substantial Jewish presence in the lands now denoted Israel and the occupied territories. However, since the emergence of Hamas as more radical than Fatah and also as Islamist, the notion of a single greater Palestine has been more closely associated with the Islamist factions. While many of the Islamists would want Jews expelled from the resulting greater Palestinian state (or worse), there is in classical Islam a milder alternative. In a moderate Islamist Palestine, Jews would not necessarily be the victims of expulsion or genocide, but instead could live with dhimmi status--as Jews and other non-Muslims traditionally did in Islamic lands for much of Muslim history. Such second-class status with attendant partial autonomy would more or less mirror the lot of Palestinians in the Israeli far right's version of a one-state solution.

Needless to say, neither of the foregoing possibilities--Palestinians as second-class citizens in or exiled from a single greater Israel or Jews murdered, exiled, or second-class citizens in a single greater Palestine--is remotely acceptable to any of the people who would be, at best, relegated to the subordinate status.

That leaves a couple of possibilities. One is a single secular multi-ethnic liberal state. This approach is favored by some liberal Palestinians and far-left Israelis. But it is completely unacceptable to the vast majority of Israelis, including many moderates, who fear (not without reason) that the moderate Palestinians who favor peaceful coexistence in a multi-ethnic secular liberal state would be outvoted or overthrown by violent means, so that this option would devolve into the greater Palestinian state in which the best Jews could hope for is dhimmi status.

The other kind of single-state solution would be some form of federalism. The record of federalism as a solution to ethnic conflict is mixed. Belgium and Canada, though hardly without their problems, are relative success stories. Some failures--such as Czechoslovakia--at least failed peacefully, thus ending up as a way station en route to partition. But in none of these places were the differences as great as between Israelis and Palestinians. Yugoslavia looms as the more likely analogy and even Yugoslavia probably had better ex ante prospects for peace than does a federated Israel/Palestine, given the relative peace that had existed for decades (albeit under the strict rule of Tito).

Are there really no other paths to peace? Yesterday the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, walked back Trump's comments, casting them as simply a signal that the US wants to help Israelis and Palestinians go about "thinking out of the box." This might be a fair account of what Trump thought he was saying. After all, Trump fancies himself a master deal maker.

However, in this as in so many other matters, Trump's self-conception is a fantasy. There is no evidence that Trump is a genius or even especially good at spotting opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation where others don't see them. His skill as a deal maker, such as it is, consists in taking advantage of the good faith of the counter-parties to his deals, frequently by failing to fulfill his contractual obligations and then using his holdup power as leverage to induce the counter-parties to take substantially less than full value. Whatever the dubious merit of that path to personal wealth, it will not yield a breakthrough in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

There exists the conceptual possibility that there is some creative deal to be made between Israelis and Palestinians that has heretofore been overlooked. But such a hitherto ignored option would have to be so complex that if there were the will on both sides to strike a deal, the two-state solution would almost surely be the easier one to agree upon.

Accordingly, when President Trump says that he is open to a one-state solution, he does not put any new possibilities on the table. Instead, he diminishes the already dim prospects for peace by undercutting the approach that is, if not likely to succeed, the least unlikely to succeed: the two-state solution.


Shag from Brookline said...

This post brings to mind the Framers of our Constitution and how they addressed the issues involving Native American Tribes somewhat as sovereign nations within America. The Israel/Palestinian situation of course is significantly different as international overtones were involve. But in a sense there may be similarities, at least in the minds of some on either side. But since the work of the Framers over 200 years ago, how has this worked in America for Native American Tribes?

Back in 1954 when I was admitted to the MA Bar and in the active days of my practice since, arbitration was not a procedure that worked that well. As I headed into semi-retirement just before the turn of the century, mediation started to make inroads and has grown as an alternative to the legal system and the unsuccessful efforts of arbitration to provide justice. Whether in the long run mediation succeeds, I have my doubts as it may become more and more bureaucratic than I think it is.

But I have greater doubts about how mediation could work in international disputes, especially in the Israeli/Palestinian situation since other nations have interests on how the situation is resolved. Would such other nations have seats at the mediation table? Might the UN have a seat on behalf of all of its members?

Trump has no experience in the art of such a deal as he proposes. The dispute has continued for decades and the UN which created the situation has been unable to resolve it to date. Assuming a deal that both parties like at the time can be made, how will one or the other, or both, or other interested nations, like it as the deal is implemented over time? Consider the history since the UN action in 1948, including America's role.

I credit Mike for his post and took forward to meaningful comments on what is an international matter.

Joe said...

It's hard to see a good solution at this point.

What continues to be a particular thumb in the eye are settlements. The emotional and religious connotations here make it a particularly hard issue, even with the relatively small number (still a sizable amount) involved. Again, it's so late in the day, it's hard to see what to do there that is realistically possible.

But, any sign of good faith to me would include stopping settlements and using financial and other means to remove [dangerous word!] those already there.

tjchiang said...

Very helpful, since I had the "honest broker" reaction.

Shag from Brookline said...

Today's "Tjrough the Decades" feature of the Decades network features President Richard Nixon's 1972 trip to China. It included former President Nixon's 1974 trip to China, which had negative connotations as China was flexing at the Soviets and Nixon was trying to rehab his reputation after Watergate. I mention this because some have made the observation that Trump is an admirer of Nixon, and not just for both hating the press. Trump might want to take a crack at "mediating" an Israeli/Palestinian peace accord, whether 2 state or 1 1 state, whatever the parties "like." Frankly, Trump has not been convincing about the business deals he claims to have made, some of which he has not honored. Let's say President Trump might broker such a deal. The parties' knowledge of Trump's business history on deals might serve as precedents to try to change the deal later on. While it was a surprise that Nixon went to China in 1972, it was not a surprise that he returned in 1974 after the shame of resignation; he may have expected a fortune cookie message about how great he was. I don't think Trump will have a chance at serving as mediator, even if Israel wanted him to so serve.

David Ricardo said...

There are two possible outcomes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. One as Mr. Dorf has amply described is an Israeli takeover of all of the West Bank, leaving non-Jewish residents as second class citizens and creating an unending war that may recede at times but never cease killing Jews.

The second outcome is a deal in which the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Iranians and the rest of the Middle East recognize Israel’s right to exist and declare a total and complete end to hostilities in return for Israel creating an independent Palestinian state. This second option is supported by a large number of Jews, including myself not just because it is the right solution but because it is the only solution. No one has come forth with any other proposal which would end the conflict.

However reality is that Israel has opted for the first alternative. With the tacit support of the current administration Israel will expand its settlements until a two state solution is impossible. At that time it will have taken over the West Bank by stealth and a greater Israel with a second class of citizenry will be a reality. At that point in time a second War Against the Jews will be regional and world wide and unceasing. Desperation is a function of hopelessness.

Jews will die because of this, and history written in future centuries will blame politics, ignorance and an Israeli populace unable to see what is right and do what is right.

Shag from Brookline said...

I attended a book signing in Boston over a year ago and purchased Padraig O'Malley's The Teo-Stete Delusion - Israel and Palestine - A tale of Two Narratives." O'Malley gave a tallk and answered question. He had spent time in the Middle East to address this issue. (O'Malley had some successes in Northern Ireland and South Africa in assisting to resolve long disputes.) The "Delusion" came about as he spent time reviewing the history, talking with a lot of people, reviewing documents. He had starte his process to bring about a peaceful resolution including via a Teo-State solution. But he felt it was a lost cause.

I have only scanned the book because of my eyesight issues. Since that book signing the situation has worsened.

As to David's first outcome, it should be added that Palestinians would also continue to die. David's second outcome is basically the US position for a couple of decades. While that outcome may be difficult to achieve, let's assume that it were in place under President Trump early in his presidency. If President Trump were to then continue his travel ban policy and views towards Islam, that outcome might unravel, resulting in a great number of deaths, Jews, Palestinians and others.

There are many at fault for the current situation, not only Israelis and Palestinians but many others. I think back to that Rodney King moment: "Can't we all just get along?" With the recent continuing civil war in Syria, it gets harder and harder. We have to hope that President Trump doesn't make a bad situation worse.

David Ricardo said...

The two state solution, the logical solution, the only solution that well generate security, prosperity and peace for the residents of Israel and the West Bank residents is a lost cause. The politics of hate, the politics of nationalism, the politics that places political power above lives is triumphant. And its death can be blamed on many others as Shag states. American conservatives, the Saudi's, the Iranians, the Europeans and the Russians have all played a substantial role in the demise of peace.

Israeli acceptance of a Palestinian nation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Israeli security and safety. Palestinian and Arab acceptance of Israel's existence as a nation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Palestinian security and safety. Together they are necessary and sufficient conditions. But the Palestinians and their allies are more to blame than Israel. Were they to publicly state and defend the idea of recognizing and guarnteeing the legitimacy and security of the nation of Israel in return for Israel recognizing a sovereign Palestinian state the public pressure would be great enough to cause Israel to concede that point. But that, as we have all seen is not going to happen and Jews and Arabs will die.

We are all sad to learn that Shag is having vision problems. We all want it to get better; we don't want a Dorf on Law without his commentary.

Shag from Brookline said...

David, my eyesight problem (I lost the sight in one eye, what had been the better one, due to age related wet macular degeneration) is most significant with reading hard copy unltess the font is large. I do use a magnifying glass but it is distortive. However, on my desktop I use the magnifying feature, which does not cause distortion. I download via pdfs to the desktop and then magnify, reading long article over time to avoid a stiff neck. I get quite a bit of reading accomplished via the Internet. As for law review articles that I can access on my desktop, the annoyance is the methods for checking footnotes, which i used to do avidly, now selectively. I miss reading newspapers and books in hard copy. But the Internet provides as much info as I can absorb at my age. I am quite careful because of my eyesight limitations but I do get by very well. I used to have difficulties with Dorf on Law because the script is so wide, making magnification less convention. But I click on comment, and then the post with its narrower script and then enlarge, making it convenient although some links on the post may not be available that way.

Aging provides its problems requiring adjustments. I listen to what my body says, though I often don' like what it says,just as I listen to what The Donald says and mostly don't like what he says. And when I have lunch out with friends I don't need glasses to handle my drinking glass.

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Lloyd said...

I'm not a Trump supporter but I feel like there's a lot of hypocrisy going on here. The "two-state solution" endorsed by previous U.S. administrations strikes me as being wishful thinking at best. Sure, they may have voiced some criticism when Israel clearly overreached and violated its international obligations, but they never formally withdrew their support (until last December perhaps, when the U.S. didn't veto a U.N. resolution against Israel; but that protest was meant to be both late and ineffective).

In my opinion, Trump is just being less hypocritical than its predecessors, by saying, in substance: "O.K., I'm favorable to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but I obviously can't and won't impose it against the will of both parties, because doing so would involve tremendous financial, military and political costs. So, whether there's one state or two, let them just sort it out themselves."

Now I'm very open to the idea that hypocrisy may have its benefits, and that some level of dissimulation and insincerity may even be required of a great president. But suggesting that his position is a dramatic shift from the traditional U.S. foreign policy seems unfair.

Joe said...

Ah another fan of footnotes. Unlike Justice Breyer.

Michael Dorf reads his Verdict columns, unlike anyone over there.

Shag provides a good perspective of things, including providing the long term view with historical insights.

As to the subject, I'm listening to Selma Blair read Anne Frank's diary. (I am somewhat a fan of the actress and found out about it). She does a good job. Perhaps, will find an audio book from a Palestinian view now. Rula Jebreal doesn't seem to be in the library though the movie is (Miral).

Anyway, I appreciate the various perspectives. Speaking of Palestinian points of view and films, I would also recommend "Lemon Tree."

Shag from Brookline said...

Lloyd's comment inspired me to do a little Googling on Trump's views over the years on Israeli/Palestinian issues. I quickly realized the time I would have to spend. But I did come across this article in The Hill by Hady Amr "For Israeli-Palestinian peace,Trump needs a new roommate agreement" available at:

While the article does not detail The Donald's history on this issue, he does mention his art of the deal approach. Amr, a former State Dep. official in the Obama Administration, segues to TV's "The Big Bang Theory" and Sheldon's roommate agreement with Leonard that Sheldon frequently calls for updating. While the article is written in a humorous vein, there are some serious aspects. Trump in his businesses has restructured agreement to better suit his purposes. He campaigned on renegotiating trade deals. He now talks of possibly brokering a deal, 2-state or 1-state, whatever they like. (I discussed this a tad in an earlier comment.) But are the direct - and indirect - parties willing to take this course? The article was published before Bibi 'Yahu's arrival this week.

To expand upon Amr's "The Big Bang theory," if the direct and indirect parties cannot make a deal, should we be concerned with a possible second big bang?

Knowing what I know about The Donald, I disagree with Lloyd's Trump being less hypocritical than his predecessors. Trump is unpredictable. Consider how Trump reacted at his 77 minute presser with the young Orthodox Jewish reporter's simple question on anti-semitism. Trump is also inconsistent. Was Trump thinking of Bannon or his son-in-law when he silenced the reporter?

Shag from Brookline said...

I've been catching up on Internet re-runs of The Dail Show and just finished watching the 2/15/17 episode that includes clips from the Trump/Bibi 'Yahu presser spelling out the theme of Mike's post. It's worth a view, this Trump's "The Art of the Schlemiel."

David Ricardo said...

For someone who is not Jewish Shag sure does use a lot of Yiddish. The Brookline influence? And while I don't always agree with what he says he does appear to be a real Mensch so I think we should all let it go.