Return of single state option for Israel, Palestine

Updated 14 December 2012

Return of single state option for Israel, Palestine

There are those who would argue that the two-state solution was dead long before the recent announcement of new settlements in the E1 area of East Jerusalem last month. But — should it go ahead — Tel Aviv’s controversial plans will be seen as a final nail in the coffin for a long-flawed and ever-distant prospect of a division of Israel and Palestine.
But in his response to the Palestine’s United Nations General Assembly success at the end of November, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be playing a dangerous game. By building in E1 — considered a red line not only for the Palestinian Authority but for its EU allies — and in doing so destroying the prospect of a two-state solution, Netanyahu could be pushing Israel toward an even less desirable position for Tel Aviv; the single, federal, multiethnic, Israeli-Palestinian state.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu is in effect aiming a cattle gun at the two-state solution,” said Hugh Lovatt, Israel/Palestine project coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It has become increasingly clear that the two-state solution is on life support — if not already dead.”
The E1 settlement — which could include 3,000 homes — will effectively create an Israeli settlement block stretching from East Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumin, in the heart of the West Bank, further bisecting any future Palestinian state and cutting it off from its prospective capital. As this drift toward a one-state outcome makes a two-state solution implausible, Lovatt said, Palestinians and Israelis from both sides of the political spectrum have begun exploring what a binational state would mean in practice.
The options for a single state has been dominated in recent years by the extreme right in Israel and the left amongst both Israelis and Palestinians, sides of the conflict that make extremely strange bedfellows. On the right, some Israeli settler groups see a single state option in the form of Greater Israel, with Palestinians granted individual — although not collective or national — rights and Israel remaining a Jewish state. On the left, both Israelis and Palestinians have proposed a utopian federal state, under which both groups have equal political rights and citizenship.
“In some ways, we are already seeing the emergence of a de facto one-state reality through Israel’s creeping annexation of Jerusalem and the West Bank,” explained Lovatt. “Due to the current weight of Palestinian demographics, if such Israeli policies remain unchanged and the realization of a Palestinian state becomes impossible, a binational outcome will inevitably risk one of two mutually exclusive possibilities as Jews become a minority amongst an Arab majority population.
“Israel risks either becoming a Jewish ethnocracy based on a form of apartheid, or losing its Jewish essence in a fully democratic state.”
It is this factor, said Barak Seener, associate research fellow at RUSI, which makes the one-state solution so unpopular among Israeli centrists. Zionism always required an Israeli state to not only be democratic, but to be Jewish. It is ironic, then, that Netanyahu’s latest moves may actually push the debate toward an even stickier scenario. “Preventing Palestinian demographic contiguity from the northern and southern parts of the West Bank; plays into the hands of a one-state solution that undermines Israel’s Jewish identity,” Seener said.
There is also scant historial record for multiethnic states created in contested lands — particularly those with a history of violent conflict. Bosnia Herzegovina has faced political and economic stagnation since it was formed in the Dayton peace agreement. Kashmir, Cyprus and Kosovo also offer scarcely better examples. The only fully stabilizing settlement to the dilemma of coexistence, demonstrated by the longstanding civil war in Sri Lanka, appears to be the victory of a single party and the subjugation of the other.
Despite this, Ricardo Fabiani, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, points out that the one-state solution is actually relatively popular among Palestinians, giving them the freedom to exercise their rights either as citizens of Israel or of a federal Israeli-Palestinian state. If nothing else, it would give them the opportunity to push for greater representation from within the tent, rather than sectioned off behind the walls and fences of the West Bank and Gaza.
“Many Palestinians think that they would be better off exposing Israel’s apartheid policies within the framework of a single state, where they could force them to recognize their rights by means of nonviolence — not unlike South Africa, for example,” Fabiani said. “Moreover, many Palestinians are fed up with both Fatah and Hamas and think that a Palestinian state divided in two small territories divided by Israel would never be able to survive.”

Fears of violence surround Muqtada Al-Sadr’s rise to kingmaker

Iraqis work on a poster of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr at a printing shop in Sadr City, east of the Baghdad on May 23, 2018.(AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)
Updated 22 min 27 sec ago

Fears of violence surround Muqtada Al-Sadr’s rise to kingmaker

  • Many are still haunted by the brutality and extortion meted out by the cleric’s Mehdi Army
  • In 2008, after the Mehdi Army took control of many Shiite cities and Shiites were increasingly the target of killings and extortion, Al-Sadr denied that he had anything to do with the illegal activities of his fighters and decided to freeze the Mehdi Army

BAGHDAD: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the radical cleric now playing the role of kingmaker in Iraq, recently accused rivals of seeking to prevent him from forming a government and suggested his life was in danger.

Within hours, hundreds of his young supporters had gathered in front of his house in Najaf last week baying for blood. 

Videos circulated showing the men and their families carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers and threatening to “burn” everything if “anyone hit Al-Sadr or robbed” him of his right to form the next administration. 

“If you try to touch Mr. Muqtada, you will not be left with anything, even the baby: We will kill him in his bed,” one of the men said. “We will shake the earth under your feet.”

The success of Al-Sadr’s Sairoon alliance in elections this month has raised fears that the cleric’s millions of obsessive followers, known as Sadrists, may spark violence if the government-forming process runs into trouble. For many Iraqis, the memories of the atrocities of Al-Sadr’s militia, the Mehdi Army, in the years after Saddam Hussein’s downfall, are all too fresh. 

Most Sadrists are regarded as fanatics, badly educated, usually unemployed and from some of Iraq’s poorest areas. They see Muqtada Al-Sadr as a saint for whom they must sacrifice their lives. They also believe his ideas should not be contradicted or discussed, and his opponents deserve death or severe injury.

“All signs indicate that the situation is getting worse,” Mustafa, a Shiite human rights activist, told Arab News while monitoring the reactions of Al-Sadr’s followers on social media. 

“I will wait a little, if they (Sadrists) form the government I will leave the country. I am ready to clean the bathrooms in any country to get away from them.

“They will hunt us one by one and will not stop until they terminate us.”

Sadrists were originally followers of Muqtada’s father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Al-Sadr, who was killed in 1999 after defying Saddam Hussein.

After the 2003 US-led invasion toppled the dictator, Muqtada Al-Sadr formed his armed wing, the Mehdi Army “to fight the occupiers and their allies,” including translators, journalists and activists. 

The poor and unemployed young Sadrists represented the backbone of the Mehdi Army.

After numerous battles against US troops and Iraqi security forces, the Mehdi Army became deeply involved in the sectarian war that tore Iraq apart between 2006 and 2008.

The role played by Sadrists in curbing mass killings carried out by radical Sunni militant groups against Shiites in that period strengthened their sense of superiority over the rest of the Shiite factions. The government’s inability to stand up to them prompted thousands of Sadrists to turn on fellow Shiites, targeting them in robberies or extorting their money. 

In 2008, after the Mehdi Army took control of many Shiite cities, including a large part of Baghdad, and Shiites were increasingly the target of killings and extortion, Al-Sadr denied that he had anything to do with the illegal activities of his fighters and decided to freeze the Mehdi Army.

At the same time, the Iraqi government, in cooperation with US troops, launched a military campaign to hunt down Al-Sadr’s fighters across the country. 

Since then, the cleric has sought to play a role in reshaping the political process and correcting the mistakes made by the Shiite political forces in recent years. He reinvented himself as the chief “sponsor of reform.”

The Sairoon alliance, formed and sponsored by Al-Sadr, won the highest number of votes in the May 12 parliamentary election, with 54 MPs. 

His Shiite rival, the pro-Iranian list of Al-Fattah, came second with 47 seats. 

Immediately after the official results were announced, Al-Sadr introduced himself as a power broker, and proceeded to negotiate with all the winning blocs except the State of Law Alliance of Nuri Al-Maliki, the divisive former prime minister.

He plans to form the biggest parliamentary bloc which has the exclusive right to form the government. 

The fears among Iraqi people and political parties over Al-Sadr’s new prominence intensified when he said he wanted to form a “patriarchal government” under his supervision. 

The comments triggered widespread discussion and criticism among Iraqis who have recalled the period between 2006 and 2008 when Al- Sadr’s followers imposed their vision on others by force.

“Whoever monitors Sadr’s statements knows that the patriarchal government according to Sadr means forming a government subject to Sadr’s will and authority as he is the father who gave birth to this government,” a professor of political science at the University of Baghdad told Arab News.

“People are scared. It does not matter if Al-Sadr will succeed in forming the government or not, a wave of violence in the process of formation may erupt at any moment.

“Will cafes and shops put pictures of Al-Sadr in their facades to show their loyalty and avoid the oppression of his followers as it was 2006? Are we going to see the Mehdi Army control the Shiite street?”

The tweet last week that sparked protesters to gather at his home was the first of several by Al-Sadr, hinting that he may be targeted. 

“Our victory has upset many people,” he said, before asking people to read Al-Fatihah, a Qur’anic verse indicating he may be killed at any moment and asking followers to pray for him.

“We are moving on to make reform and we will not compromise,” he said.