Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
February 18, 2010 - 1:00am

ATFP Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish delivered a Fares Lecture Series address at Tufts University on February 10, 2010. The lecture, entitled "Israel, the Palestinians and the One-State Agenda," critiqued one-state rhetoric by some pro-Palestinian voices, mainly on US and UK college campuses, as well as other "fanciful ideas about how to end the conflict that are totally implausible because one or more of the parties would have to agree to them certainly will not." Ibish said that in his recent book on the subject, he had raised many crucial questions that remain totally unaddressed and completely unanswered by one-state advocates and that, "one-state proponents have an obligation to explain how exactly they think they can achieve the extraordinary task of compelling or convincing Israel to effectively dissolve itself. If they cannot answer simple, clear and obvious questions such as these, it will be impossible to consider one-state rhetoric an actual agenda for accomplishing anything, but rather a convenient vehicle for rejecting any and all things Israeli and adopting a position of uncompromising confrontation."

Ibish reiterated his oft-repeated dictum that any suggestion for ending the conflict had to be plausibly consistent with a minimum national requirements of the parties that would have to agree to it, and said that the only known proposal which meets this fundamental criterion is a two-state agreement. He acknowledged the difficulties facing the realization of such an agreement, agreeing with a questioner who characterized his remarks as implying that "the one-state solution is dead on arrival and the two-state solution is barely clinging to life." Ibish said he strongly agreed that this was, indeed, the thrust of his remarks, but also pointed to the state and institution building program of the PA as a reason to consider that some progress towards ending the occupation is actually in play. He said that Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's recent speech at the Herzliya conference in Israel had apparently caused many figures in the Israeli national security establishment to reconsider the very serious possibility and desirability of Palestinian statehood. "This agenda is calling Israel's bluff," Ibish said, "it has forced them to ask themselves, do we really want the Palestinians to create a state, or have we been lying to ourselves and everybody else the whole time?"

Ibish repeatedly stressed that the elements of the occupation that make many people conclude that Palestinian independence is impossible such as settlements, military bases, the separation barrier and other infrastructural and administrative changes imposed on the occupied territories by the Israeli occupation is not the best metric for evaluating the plausibility of a two-state agreement. He said, "the correct measure is not the critical mass of settlements and so forth in the occupied territories, because these were constructed as an act of political will and therefore their continued existence in their current status is dependent also on political will. A better metric is the existence of political will that can be tapped to change these realities as needed to accommodate a viable agreement. As long as majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians want this kind of agreement, and until now they very much do even though they doubt it will happen and doubt the sincerity of the other side, then it's certainly still possible to achieve it, because the necessary political will at least at the level of popular majorities is, in fact, there. In addition, it is a strategic necessity for both parties. Perhaps when majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians do not want this outcome we will have to start seriously looking for alternatives, but as long as they do, walls, settlements and other constructed realities still subject to political will and national, existential necessities cannot be regarded as immovable fait accompli."

Ibish also emphasized that the only realistic alternative to a peace agreement based on ending the occupation is an increasingly violent and increasingly religious conflict that will, eventually, spiral out of anyone's control and place both societies in grave danger. "Israel may end up dealing with forces beyond its control or imagination," Ibish said, "and if the Palestinian national movement becomes defined as an Islamist or Islamic movement, the cause of Palestine is likely to disappear to be replaced by a holy war between Muslims and Jews over sacred spaces and the will of God. Under such circumstances, the most likely scenario is a very gruesome lose-lose reality." Ibish added, "A one-state outcome is a possibility, but only after an extraordinarily shocking amount of violence, mutual exhaustion, depletion and decimation. And, more importantly, a reasonable, decent one-state outcome is not one of the more likely consequences of the horrifying scenario needed to accomplish it. Anyone sanguine about this prospect either doesn't understand what is really involved here, or has lost any kind of moral perspective."

Hussein Ibish answers questions at Tufts University


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