By Joel Bainerman
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
While the One State Solution (OSS) to solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is typically rejected outright as being a demographic threat to Israel- this approach could very well be the only viable path to solving the conflict.
The typical assumption is that if Israel annexed the approximately 1.5 million West Bank Arabs and granted them full Israeli citizenship- within a generation there would be more Arabs than Jews in Israel and thus Israel would lose its Jewish majority in the Knesset.
This conclusion is simplistic. In addition, Israel is not a Jewish state- it is a secular, democratic state with an overwhelming Jewish population. As Israeli Arabs have enjoyed the benefits of Israeli citizenship- so too can the 1.5 million West Bank Arabs.
This group of Palestinians could enjoy all the benefits of full Israeli citizenship- and yet still express their political will via a local, West Bank parliamentary legislature with elected representatives responsible for various aspects of West Bank society. Eventually, after consecutive years of political stability and economic prosperity- institutions of political autonomy would evolve.
Why the OSS is Good for the Palestinians
The first benefit the Palestinians will enjoy from an OSS is that they will no longer be under military rule. The moment the Israeli government grants them full Israeli citizenship- the state of military occupation effectively ends. The ‘security fence’ and all military checkpoints can be dismantled. The entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea will be one geographical, political entity with no need for internal security fences or borders of any type. One state, one economy, two peoples.
Most importantly, the West Bankers would be able to pursue their full economic rights in the Israeli national economy. That means a right to work in any job- anywhere in Israel- and the right to own assets and property in Israel. In addition- as full Israeli citizens, they would have the right to bring civil legal action against the Israeli government for what they may claim was the theft of their land or other property.
As full citizens of the state of Israel the West Bankers would also receive a complete upgrade of their social, economic, educational, industrial, health and public infrastructure- at a cost that will be borne by the Israeli taxpayer. As part of the plan, Israel would take it upon itself to build permanent housing for the approximately 175,000 Palestinian refugees who currently reside in refugee camps in the West Bank.
Upon receiving Israeli citizenship the West Bankers would go from being a stateless people under military occupation- to citizens of a country that has the strongest and most dynamic economy in the region. Their living standards will rise as fast as the Israeli Arabs did in the 60s and 70s.
Why the OSS is Good for Israel
The OSS is an excellent option for Israel.
Once the military rule is disbanded- Israel could no longer be criticized for depriving the Palestinians of their rights. If these new Israeli citizens do engage in anti-Israel activities they will be charged with treason and tried by Israel’s civilian judicial system- just like any Israeli citizen who engages in actions harmful against the state.
The entire network of military prisons can be converted to civilian prisons administered by the Israeli Prison Authority. Over time, Palestinian policeman whose allegiance is to the State of Israel, would take over the responsibility of safeguarding the public order in the West Bank- along with their counterparts in the Israeli police.
As one political entity, there would be no reason to dismantle Jewish settlements at an estimated cost of tens of billions of dollars. In the eyes of the law- the West Bankers would enjoy the same rights as the Jewish residents of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. No longer would the Arabs who live near the settlements view them as their enemy but as their neighbors and fellow citizens.
The West Bankers are more valuable to Israel’s long term interest productive workers and active consumers in the national economy- rather than remaining poor under Israeli military occupation. Israel’s national economy would grow by more than 2 million consumers and workers in addition to the future economic growth that would come from the new wealth and higher living standards that the West Bankers will experience. As the West Bank economy is already nearly completely integrated into the Israeli economy, by enriching the Palestinians- the Israeli economy will reap huge economic gains. Just like the Israeli economy reaped enormous benefits after 1967 as did the West Bank economy- it will this time as well. Just as the 1.5 million Russians who came to Israel in the early 1990s created a much bigger domestic market- so too will the additional of 1.5 million new paying consumers.
The OSS is Win-Win for Both Sides
The fact is that neither side has an alternative other than to turn to embrace each other. Separating the two peoples behind borders, fences and checkpoints is not a long-term solution for Israel- and certainly has no upside for the West Bank Arabs. Israel has a responsibility to its citizens to search for ways to rid itself of the harmful effects of the military occupation over the West Bankers. That solution must include a path that leads to living standards and a more prosperous future for the West Bankers.
While the OSS solution does not include an “independent Palestinian state” as things stand today- it is unlikely that such a political entity would ever arise- and even if it did- it would be unstable and poor. The options before the West Bankers are higher living standards and regional stability with a confederation with Israel- and the right to rule over their own affairs- or- essentially, more of the same. The choice for the Palestinians is between military occupation, political instability and economic stagnation- or a future of double digit growth rates.
The “One State Solution” will create one political state and one national economy for both peoples.
Joel Bainerman has been writing on Middle East affairs since 1982. His published archive can be viewed on his web site at www.joelbainerman.com He can be reached at [email protected].