By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Chapter 16 of the memoir, Once Upon a Country, by the distinguished Palestinian public intellectual, spokesman, activist, philosopher and current president of Al Quds University Sari Nusseibeh is called, “Annex Us!” It tells how he rattled Israelis and confused Palestinians by proposing that Israel annex the West Bank and Gaza.
He writes: “What would happen, I asked myself, if one fine day Palestinians simply turned their political aspirations inside out? Instead of seeking independence in a new state, why not seek equal rights within Israel?” His intention was obviously to show that, despite the rhetoric and myth making on both sides, the so-called two-state solution is no less beneficial to Israelis than it is the only hope for Palestinians.
His views created a stir on both sides when he first made them known years ago. When asked on Israeli television how he would cope, for example, with Israel’s current flag, state emblem and national anthem, he replied that a united state would remain a democracy and if the Knesset voted to change them, they’d have to be changed.
And when asked if he’d expect Palestinians to serve in the IDF his reply had a not unexpected sharp edge: “To be allowed to wander around like the soldiers I see, slinging an Uzi over my shoulder? Any day!”
Perhaps partly as a result, politicians in Israel came to speak more about the “demographic danger” of a one-state solution. As there’re more Arabs in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza than there are Jews in Israel, only the two-state solution could safeguard a Jewish state. That’s perhaps also behind the then prime minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw from Gaza. (The fact that it didn’t work out as intended is another story.)
A two-state solution seems to have remained the view of the majority of the Knesset members across party lines. That’s why recently a ministerial committee for legislation rejected a proposal to annex the West Bank.
It was made by Miri Regev whom we used to know as the IDF spokeswoman but who has since become a rather extremist Likud Member of Knesset. Her argument was that such a decision would serve as a warning to the Palestinians not to declare a state unilaterally. However, in view of her radical right-wing views on all matters, she may have had much more in mind. Her parliamentary colleagues were mercifully well aware of the danger such a decision would pose for Israel and nixed it.
That was, of course, also the point Nusseibeh wished to make with his tongue-in-cheek proposal illustrated by the replies he gave in that TV interview.
Though hawks on both sides fantasize about a one-state solution that would expel the others, realists know that only two states can secure the future for Jews and for Palestinians. Some of them may wish to delay the inevitable decision as long as possible in order to perpetuate their myth of hegemony over the other, or because the status quo serves their short-term interests but, other than fanatics on the fringe, all know that their future depends on a Jewish and a Palestinian state living side by side.
The time for the status quo may be running out. Books like Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land and Sari Nusseibeh’s Once Upon a Country remind readers of the urgency of the two-state solution and the danger posed by those in power who oppose it or seek to delay it in the hope that things will stay as they are.