The elusive path to a one-state solution

The Re-Emergence of the Single State Solution in Palestine/Israel by Cherine Hussein (Routledge, 2015)

The death of the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine has been a long time coming.

Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff recently wrote in The Times of Israel that the settler movement had “won.”

“No Palestinian state will exist here beside the State of Israel,” he said. He argued that Israel was beginning “its inexorable slide toward eventually becoming a Muslim state.” Issacharoff feared this outcome because he believed “separation” was the only way for Israel to survive as a Jewish-majority entity.

The unspoken reality, however, has always been that a two-state arrangement, if it ever came to fruition, would disproportionately discriminate against Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel. Moreover, a true democracy doesn’t divide itself along ethnic or religious lines unless it wants to resemble apartheid South Africa or the Jim Crow south in the United States.

In today’s Jewish state and even more so in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli violence against Palestinians isn’t an aberration but a deliberate policy of control.

And nobody truly believes that hundreds of thousands of Israeli colonists will be moved from their places of residence without causing a Jewish civil war in Israel.

Imagination needed

These realities require more imaginative thinking towards a viable outcome for an oppressed Palestinian population.

This book by Cherine Hussein, deputy director and research fellow at the Council for British Research in the Levant’s Kenyon Institute in East Jerusalem, aims to correct the myriad of misconceptions about the one-state solution. She frames her argument around the celebratory mood after the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993 and posits a more realistic alternative.

“Since then, the two-state solution has continued to both dominate, and frustrate, the official search for peace,” she explains. “In parallel to this however, a more obscured struggle of resistance — centered upon the single state idea as a more liberating pathway towards justice — has re-emerged against the hegemony of Zionism and separation, and the shrinking territorial space for a viable two-state solution in the contested land.”

For Hussein, this struggle is personal. She writes that being an Egyptian “played a big role in establishing an easy rapport based upon a natural solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

She wants to know “whether or not the single state solution simply represented the resurfacing of an idea within the corridors of academia; to illuminate the kind of phenomenon the single state idea could be in the process of becoming; and to inform the understandings of political and social transformation deployed within it.”

Hussein aims to illuminate questions relevant to the scholarly field of International Relations, but her project also aims to be forward-looking, and to “explore the possibility of a single-state movement seriously.”


Over the course of the book, it becomes clear that Hussein had only limited access to Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories. It’s an unfortunate gap, despite the author blaming “geographical accessibility and limited sources of information.”

Modern communication technology surely renders these excuses redundant. After all, decades of futile negotiations between a complicit Palestinian Authority and Israel has led to growing support within Palestine for a single state. We need to hear these voices.

Hussein offers a pithy history of how the one-state option entered the public consciousness, highlighting a number of articles in American literary publications and surely more importantly “the extent to which ‘the facts on the ground’ created by Israel were irreversible, and how profoundly this reality had transformed the search for workable solutions and viable futures.”

Importantly, she stresses that “the broad ideological orientations of single-state intellectuals are located within the realm of the secular” despite the majority of Palestinians being either proud Christians or Muslims. The challenge of including, say, Hamas in a one-state imagination, a group wanting an Islamic entity, is acknowledged.

How to mainstream the one-state solution, to generate widespread support among Palestinians in the diaspora and in Palestine itself is a key question without any set answers. Hussein writes that ”while it is Palestinian-Israelis [Palestinian citizens of Israel] who are acknowledged to be the central energy behind the re-emergence of the single-state idea, Diaspora Palestinians are its fastest growing force.”

Deepening Israeli racism, occupation and intransigence are arguably the best weapons one-state advocates have and there’s every indication Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will continue delivering on that front.


The surging boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is intricately linked to this shift in political alignment. Hussein correctly concludes that ”while the BDS movement may not take an open stand on political solutions … its practices of resistance remain interlinked with the tactics of the single-state conception of the world.”

However, the short-term impediments to the one-state movement and Palestinian political elites joining forces are clear: “no official Palestinian body or faction has openly supported the single-state solution as the desired Palestinian solution as of this writing. As such, single-state intellectuals are obstructed by this obstacle in openly calling for a single-state solution within diverse theaters of international civil society.”

Hussein is presumably referring to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, two leading political bodies with a desultory record of adherence to human rights.

This book would have been greatly enhanced by Hussein spending far more time on the ground in Palestine rather than overly relying on (often) years-old sources and writings. This is an academic text and sometimes feels burdened with impenetrable language. The aim is clearly a scholarly readership.

The urgency in Palestine for solutions has never been clearer. The author has written a summary of the key events in modern Palestine and why the one-state solution is a just outcome to the conflict.

Insightful analysis is vital in an age of cheap and predictable opinions, and Hussein reviews the record comprehensively. It would have been helpful for the author to provide more concrete thoughts on how more Palestinians (and Israelis, for that matter) would embrace a truly democratic, one-state solution, but perhaps that’s a task for another book.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and Guardian columnist. He is author of, most recently, Disaster Capitalism.




I have always heard of 2 alternative in regard of Israel and Palestine, namely: 2 states solution and 1 state solution.
I believe that a third alternative more acceptable by Jews and Palestine is available.
This alternative should be a one federal nation of 2 states: Israel and Palestine.
the 2 individual states should have a individual state government and both states should be part of a federal parliament and a federal government.
This new entity should be practically a carbon copy of the United States of America.
Palestinians and people of Israel would be happy to have a Jew state and a Palestinian state while all citizen would be free to travel and reside within the bi-federal nation boarders.
Nobody so far have ever thought about this third solution that finally would end the stalling situation of today, the occupation and the violence from both side.
The ONU, USA, and World governments should start to think, approve and promote this new idea.


Antony Loewenstein is being either disingenuous or -- more likely -- duplicitous in his essay “The Elusive Path to a One-State Solution.” Claiming (or even inferring) that a two-state solution is possible in present-day Palestine ignores the fact that the Israeli government has pursued a single-state (Jewish-only) policy of colonizing Palestine since the founder of present-day Israel -- Theodor Herzl -- published his founding document, THE JEWISH STATE, in 1896.

Simply because diplomats from the Jewish colonial state of Israel have “discussed” the possibility of negotiating a two-state solution with Palestinians does not mean this Jewish colonial state would ever surrender any part of the West Bank or Jerusalem to Palestinians (much less a legal entity defined as a Palestinian State). We must distinguish words from actions. The words of Israeli officials carry no weight whatsoever. Actions -- not words -- cut ice.

Zionist ideology, and the actions of the so-called Israeli state, have been suffused -- we must be willing to concede, however awkward and inconvenient this may be for Americans -- with a militant ethnic and religious nationalism, a craving to colonize all of Palestine (including the fertile Golan Heights), and an ethnocentric (or racist) mentality from its inception.

The colonization of Palestine has been only superficially disguised as Western “civilizing” venture from its founding document to the present. Like all Western colonial ventures of the 19th and 20th century, the Jewish colonial state of Israel has always regarded the colonized people of Palestine with utter contempt.

In his futuristic novel, THE OLD-NEW LAND (1902), Theodor Herzl transforms Palestine into a modern, social democratic state in which the indigenous peoples have equal rights with the Jewish immigrants. That is true. But that is a work of fiction. In his founding political pamphlet, THE JEWISH STATE (1896), by contrast, Herzl specifically characterized the Middle East and Asia of his day as a wellspring of “barbarism” (29) and suggested that the best form of governing the Jewish nation's Promised Land will be a combination of "democratic monarchism" and "aristocratic republicanism" in order to preserve "a true balance of power." "Nations are . . . not fit for unlimited democracy at present," he wrote, "and will become less and less fitted for it in the future" (70).

“Our people” (the Jews) who colonize Palestine, Herzl suggested, will "accept the new constitution it offers them. Should any opposition manifest itself," he contended, "the Society [of Jews]" will suppress it" (71).

Herzl made his strategy for the colonization of Palestine quite explicit in the concluding chapter of this political pamphlet where he suggests that the first colonists must be primarily from the Jewish underclass: "It is precisely the poorest whom we need at first" because "only the desperate make good conquerors" (79).

According to Herzl’s carefully-crafted political pamphlet: “Universal brotherhood is not even a beautiful dream” (79). In point of fact, he alleges, the Enlightenment concept of “universal brotherhood” -- as splendid as it may sound in theory -- has turned out to be wholly impractical (or utopian) in practice. The father of modern political Zionism derides the French philosophes’ concept of “universal brotherhood,” arguing that “antagonism [as opposed to cooperation or collaboration] is essential to man’s greatest efforts” (78).


This is a dead horse you are beating into the ground Ali. But i still, and always will, advocate for One Person-One Vote-One Nation from water to water based on secular egalitarianism with equal rights for everyone...


I have not read Cherine Hussein's book. It is probably engaging and interesting. Not much has been published on the subject, and the fault lies with educated Palestinian who have no vision or interest besides sharing tables in cafés with lapsing Zionists.

First, this reviewer is too keen on advancing his own ideas and passing his own judgments on the author: she "rightly" says this and "rightly" says that. He presents no argument she might have presented in her book. In a typically Twitter/Facebook "activist" mindset, on the contrary, he faults her for not including popular opinions in a book that is clearly not designed as a survey. Such inclusion would have been fine in another publication, but we don't need another index of popular sentiment about a complex issue like what kind of state Palestinian (the original inhabitants), first of all, shall have.

He simply preaches. And he makes a point that I found particularly irritating: That there are "facts" on the ground and that, embracing the logic of every Zionist and every Zionist supporter, these facts are "irreversible."

Nothing is irreversible. The question is how these Jewish-only settlements will be "reversed," and it will not be on the Zionist movement's terms. This will never happen. Palestine will sooner become uninhabitable for everyone than any settler or Israel deciding on foreign settlements in the illegally Occupied Territories. Successive governments in Israel have guaranteed this on their own.

So much for the "Jewish" settlements, which are anything but Jewish in any pre-WWII sense, and are an abomination to humanity, which neverthless watches in silence. These settlements spell the terminal phase of Zionism, historically the ancestor of the Nazi race-worshipping movement that brought the world to the brink and cost 65 million lives. The Western collapsed twice in the 20th century: World Wars I and II. Zionism is the last nineteenth-century ideology on the way to extinction, the way of Communism, Nazis, Fascists and every monstrosity emenating from a constantly collapsing Western world.

As the "mother of all settlements," Apartheid, Jewish-only Israel shares the same fate as its hatchlings. It refuses to recognize international borders and therefore has lost its own borders. By trying to swallow all of Palestine it will have nothing.

To put it mildly, borderless Israel is destined for the junkyard of history, whether it executes its own dismantlement peacefully for the sake of world peace, or the world community will do it for Israel. or for that matter, whether there is a one-state or fifteen state solution. This is a failed race colony that simply has no future in the region, no matter which way intellectuals--Palestinians, lapsed Zionists or Israelis--paint their lovely future together. It has already caused the destruction of several countriesm, especiially Syria, which has been on its hit list for several decades.

The hard truth is that it is the one-state solution, too, is a non-starter as long as the Zionist boot is stamping out lives and a millennial culture to which Jews have no recorded historical connection as a state, as historians even inside Israel itself are starting to realize to their horror. There is not even a genetic connection.

Zionists can worship their "race" all they like. But their particular race myth is based on the lie concerning a Chosen People and about Palestine belonging to a mythical Jewish entity. This myth is the world's biggest hoax.

Ironically, this hoax was the invention of self-worshipping Western intellectuals, starting from the 18th century, who have been infaturated with the Old Testament and its fictional "Jews." A narrative that runs like something a child suffering from severe narcisim would come up with.

Let the Jews and non-Jews live normally without tribal gods dictating any promises, land leases or false claims on other people. That is all prehistory, and Zionist is no longer part of present history.


In theory I'd prefer one state solution.
But what would it mean for the Palestinians?
It could mean decades of oppression, lack of education, poverty, expellation, slavery.
Isn't that price too high?

One can look at political and ideological tendencies in between the political leaders. But one should not forget the society they are based on.
"the settler movement had “won.” Because the settlers sit supported by official forces in occupied Palestine and nobody in Israel dares any restrictions against them because they fear (and I totally agree) a civil war in Israel?
The settler movement is a racist, fascist movement. And as a German, born from a refugee who had fled the nazis, I can tell you a lot about social dynamic of fascism. Politicians reckon fascists could be useful and become their mean to enforce some of their own aims. They think they can control them. But that's illusion that neglects just the social dynamics. Fascism is comfortable because one must not think, just follow. One is free of responsibility, because all do the same so it cannot be wrong. And one has the nice feeling of being woven into a big familar society that protects from every harm in life. Comfortable and attractive. If politicians use such a movement as their mean, they take away the hampering borders of human responsibility and democratic morals and open the gate to flood society with fascism. At first the simple, non-intellectual citizens; but they are everywhere the most (intellectuals like to forget that). And this has happend in Israel.
One has to face this to ask for the best solution. Is there any hope for the now living Palestinians not to be crushed from Israeli fascists and have a poor life in homelands which are nothing else than concentration camps, de facto becoming built already also in West Bank?

We will not have that in two states. Two states within the borders of 1967.
And the settlers? Well, they can stay - if they want. They will be a small minority in Palestine. Would they like that? At first they surely will try. And that even would be a win situation also for Israel: at least for a short moment they will get rid of their most radical fascist. The chance to move back to a civilized state.

Could this work?
Never without international help. Illusion to think Palestine police could control fascist Israeli settlers without Israel's at once intervention. I even don't speak about soldiers, military. I speak about police.
So such a solution totally depends on the willingess of UN members to engage with international police.
They should carefully think it over. Because Middle East conflicts, who's mother is the Palestinian conflict, can easily ablaze also Europe.