Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace

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Annotated Bibliography


Below is an annotated list of selected recent publications in English which offer analyses of which models of statehood offer promising paths to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Please send any comments or suggested additions to


Lama Abu-Odeh, “The Case for Binationalism”, (December 2001/January 2002) 26:6 Boston Review


In this special forum entitled “Fitting the Pieces Together”, the lead article by Abu-Odeh argues that serious doubts about the capacity of a two-state model to satisfy Palestinian national aspirations suggest it is time to reconsider the idea of binationalism in a single state. Abu-Odeh argues for a secular, binational, liberal-constitutional state in all of Mandate Palestine. In her view, the absence of a post-colonizer liberal elite in Israel means that any two-state settlement will offer little to Palestinians. A shift to binationalism would mean a shift from an appeal to rights of national self-determination to an appeal to constitutional liberalism based on equal citizenship in the state of Israel. The shift would entail a juridical strategy: a binationalist Palestinian legal posture modeled on the position of Palestinian Israeli citizens, who insist that liberalism trump Zionism.

Abu-Odeh argues that substituting the “ethic of the legal claimant” for the “warrior ethic” of the national struggle is risky but promising. Attaching Palestinian legal claims to Israel promises greater economic alliances and material advantages than development within the boundaries of a nominally independent Palestinian state. A struggle based on equal civic rights is likely to garner greater sympathy in the U.S. than an anti-colonial struggle for national independence. Binationalism offers Palestinians - and Israeli Jews - an expansion of the territorial scope of their national aspirations to include all of Mandate Palestine as shared space.

Abu-Odeh outlines a number of political strategies that need to be pursued to enable Palestinians to make the shift from a struggle based on national independence to one based on civil rights. She concludes the article by sketching out the desirable constitutional parameters of a binational state. She suggests that the state be federal in structure, with the boundaries of the administrative units (or states) corresponding to areas of predominant Jewish or Palestinian settlement. The states would be autonomous within their spheres of jurisdiction, which would include control over culture and education. Freedom of movement throughout the federation would be secured. Inter-jurisdictional transfer of resources would be necessary to ensure equal citizenship.

The forum includes critical responses from Helena Cobban (“Ends and Means”), Leonard Fein (“Joint Responsibilities”), Efraim Karsh (“A Trojan Horse?”), Ian Lustick (“The Cunning of History”), Ebrahim Moosa (“No Easy Solution”), Jerome M. Segal (“A Binational Confederation”), Louis Michael Seidman (“Realistic Liberalism”), Salim Tamari (“The Binationalist Lure”), and a reply to critics by Lama Abu-Odeh.

Adalah, The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, The Democratic Constitution (February 2007)

From the introduction: “On the tenth anniversary of its founding, Adalah is issuing “The Democratic Constitution,” as a constitutional proposal for the state of Israel, based on the concept of a democratic, bilingual, multicultural state. This proposed constitution draws on universal principles and international conventions on human rights, the experiences of nations and the constitutions of various democratic states.

In recent years, Israeli groups have put forward several constitutions for the state of Israel.

However, these proposals are distinguished by their lack of conformity to democratic principles, in particular the right to complete equality of all residents and citizens, and by

their treatment of Arab citizens as if they were strangers in this land, where history, memory and collective rights exist only for Jewish people. It is no coincidence therefore that these proposals have been preoccupied with the question of, “Who is a Jew?” and have neglected the primary constitutional question of, “Who is a citizen?”

Thus, we decided to propose a democratic constitution, which respects the freedoms of the individual and the rights of all groups in equal measure, gives proper weight to the historical injustices committed against Arab citizens of Israel, and deals seriously with the social and economic rights of all. If “The Democratic Constitution” succeeds to underscore the enormous gap between it and the other proposals, and to create an objective public debate and dialogue on the nature of rights and freedoms in this country, then we will have taken an important step forward in the issues of racial equality, freedoms and social justice.”

Adalah’s proposed constitution for the state of Israel recognizes the Arab citizens of Israel as a homeland minority (s.6); provides for a full range of civil, political, social and economic rights (ss.21-60); protects language rights, including the right to use Arabic and Hebrew in the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government and the right to education in either language (s.17); accords rights to each national minority, including the right to educational and cultural institutions (s.18); accords rights to each religious minority to religious institutions (s.18); sets out several models aimed at providing protection to the Arab Israeli minority in the legislative process in the Knesset (s.20); and contains provisions directed at rectifying historical wrongs, including wrongs committed in the allocation of land and property rights and against internally-displaced persons (ss.38-44).

Ali Abunimah, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006)

From the publisher’s website: “It is by now a commonplace that the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian violence is to divide the territory in two. All efforts at resolving the conflict have come down to haggling over who gets what: Will Israel hand over 90 percent of the West Bank or only 60 percent? Will a Palestinian state include any part of Jerusalem?
Clear-eyed, sharply reasoned, and compassionate, One Country proposes a radical alternative: to revive the neglected idea of one state shared by two peoples. Ali Abunimah shows how the two are by now so intertwined—geographically and economically—that separation cannot lead to the security Israelis need or the rights Palestinians must have. Taking on the objections and taboos that stand in the way of a binational solution, he demonstrates that sharing the territory will bring benefits for all.
The absence of other workable options has only led to ever- greater extremism. It is time, Abunimah argues, for Palestinians and Israelis to imagine a different future and a different relationship.”

Abunimah argues that the main attraction of a single-state democracy is that “it allows all the people to live in and enjoy the entire country while preserving their distinctive communities and addressing their particular needs. It offers the potential to deterritorialize the conflict and neutralize demography and ethnicity as a source of power and legitimacy.” (109) The aim of his book is not to offer a detailed constitutional proposal, but he does set out eight principles that should form the basis of a one-state negotiated resolution: respect for all human rights; constitutional recognition of the free and consenting union of two principal national communities; state support of national autonomy with respect to education, language and culture; state guarantees of religious freedom;  equal participation in developing shared public spaces and symbols; state recognition of national communities’ vital relationships to their respective diasporas; state recognition of a special role in ensuring protection of and access to holy places; promotion of social and economic justice, including redress of unjust practices in the past. (110-111)

Drawing on illustrations from federal states such as Belgium, Canada, India and South Africa, Abunimah illustrates how a binational constitutional settlement could enable Jews and Palestinians to have substantial autonomy over their own affairs (116ff), without the Palestinian-Jewish divide remaining the principal fault line in the political system. (114) Drawing on South Africa’s democratic transformation, Abunimah argues that the Palestinian message “must make it clear that the target is not the Israeli people but an unjust system that denies one people their rights, identity, and dignity… the movement should not be framed around Palestinian nationalism, but should call for a democracy that will protect all people and emancipate them from the prison of communal interest and competition.” (157-8).

In Abunimah’s view, Jewish self-determination in Palestine-Israel would best be secured in a binational state featuring territorial federalism, minority rights, collective ethnic-national rights and power-sharing in the central government. (172) In this way, Abunimah argues, a binational state could achieve a safe national home in Palestine-Israel for Jews for the first time since Israel’s founding.  (178)

Uri Avnery and Ilan Pappé, “Two States or One State”, debate sponsored by Gush Shalom, Tel Aviv, May 8, 2007

In this debate, Pappé argues that a just and viable two-state option no longer exists. Dismantling of Israelis settlements in the West Bank is a precondition of a just two-state resolution. In the absence of any indication that such an evacuation is a realistic political possibility, a just and enduring two-state agreement is not possible. Thus, Pappé argues, the time has come to at least explore one-state alternatives: we must “at least try out two ideas and give both a chance, the two-state idea side by side with the one-state idea.”

Avnery responds by arguing that one-state proposals are based on complete illusions about what is politically possible in the foreseeable future. In Avnery’s view, the situation is urgent and demands an approach that can be implemented in a few years, not in a hundred years. The Israeli-Jewish public’s deepest aspiration, he notes, “is to maintain a state with a Jewish majority, a state in which Jews will be masters of their fate. This takes precedence over any other wish and aspiration; it takes precedence even over wanting to have a Greater Israel.” Those who deny this reality, or deny the existence of the state of Israel, argues Avnery, will thereby deny themselves any constructive role in the debate.

A one state model entails “dismantling the State of Israel, destruction of all that was built for five generations. This must be said out loud, without any evasions…. Short of a decisive military defeat on the battlefield, nothing will induce Israelis to give up their state.” Moreover, it is “completely an illusion” to imagine a move from total war to total peace in a single state “after 120 years of conflict, after a fifth generation was born into this conflict on both sides”.

Avnery warns that “a beautiful utopia can bring about terrible results”. While the vision and motivation behind one-state models may be moral and just, “this is a luxury we cannot afford. When we deal with the fate of so many people, a moral position that is not realistic is immoral. … Because the final result of such a stance is to perpetuate the existing situation.”

Azmi Bishara, "4 May 1999 and Palestinian Statehood: To Declare or 
Not to Declare?
", (1999) 28:2 Journal of Palestine Studies 5-16

Journal abstract: “After examining the legacy of Oslo, particularly the structure of the peace process and the pattern of negotiations that has emerged since the advent of the Likud coalition, the author analyzes the Palestinian option of unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state on 4 May 1999 and the various scenarios that might ensue. Concluding that the declaration would benefit the Israelis, not the Palestinians, he then sketches out possible alternatives that remain for the Palestinians with the ending of the transitional period.”

Meron Benvenisti, Intimate Enemies: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land (Berkeley: University of California, 1995)


From the publisher’s website: “As Israelis and Palestinians negotiate separation and division of their land, Meron Benvenisti, former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, maintains that any expectations for "peaceful partition" are doomed. In his brave and controversial new book, he raises the possibility of a confederation of Israel/Palestine, the only solution that he feels will bring lasting peace.

The seven million people in the territory between Jordan and the Mediterranean are mutually dependent regarding employment, water, land use, ecology, transportation, and all other spheres of human activity. Each side, Benvenisti says, must accept the reality that two national entities are living within one geopolitical entity—their conflict is intercommunal and will not be resolved by population transfers or land partition.

A geographer and historian by training, a man passionately rooted in his homeland, Benvenisti skillfully conveys the perspective of both Israeli and Palestinian communities. He recognizes the great political and ideological resistance to a confederation, but argues that there are Israeli Jews and Palestinians who can envision an undivided land, where attachment to a common homeland is stronger than militant tribalism and segregation in national ghettos. Acknowledging that equal coexistence between Israeli and Palestinian may yet be an impossible dream, he insists that such a dream deserves a place in the current negotiations.”

Meron Benvenisti, “Which Kind of Binational State?”, Ha’aretz, November 20, 2003

Benvenisti argues that it is not a question of whether there will be a binational state, but rather what kind of binational state it will be. The binational label is often applied to “a classic liberal regime of individual rights in a unitary, centralized state, without any regard for ethnic-collective rights”. Such a regime “would indeed spell the end of the Jewish state in the sense of its ethnic dominance and other national privileges.” The chances of fulfilling such a model is “nil”. “But”, Benvenisti argues, “the effort to identify binationalism only with that model is deliberate, meant to prevent any debate about other, more attractive alternatives.”

“One such alternative”, says Benvenisti, “is a system that recognizes collective ethnic-national rights and maintains power sharing on the national-central level, with defined political rights for the minority and sometimes territorial-cantonal divisions. That model, called "consociational democracy" has not succeeded in many places, but lately has been applied successfully to reach agreements in ancient ethnic-national conflicts such as Bosnia, through the Dayton agreement, and Northern Ireland, with the Good Friday agreement. That should be food for thought for the experts who contemptuously wave off the binational option.”

“The option of power sharing and division into federated cantons is closer to the model of the territorial division of two states but it avoids the surgery, so it allows the existence of soft borders, and creates a deliberate blurring that eases dealing with symbolic issues, the status of Jerusalem or the questions of refugees and the settlers. The mutual recognition allows preservation of the national-cultural character on the national level and preservation of the ethnically homogenous regions. Everything depends, of course, on recognition being mutual and symmetric.”

This vision can be contrasted with the existing situation, one of “undeclared binationalism”: “It's a unitary state controlled by one dominant national group, which leaves the other national group disenfranchised and subject to laws "for natives only," which for the purposes of respectability and international law are known as laws of "belligerent occupation." The convenience of this model of binationalism is that it can be applied over a long period of time, meanwhile debating the threat of the "one state" and the advantages of the "two states," without doing a thing. That's the situation nowadays. But the process is apparently inevitable. Israel and the Palestinians are sinking together into the mud of the "one state." The question is no longer whether it will be binational, but which model to choose.”

Meron Benvenisti, “The Binationalism Vogue”, Haaretz, April 30, 2009


Benvenisti argues that increased attention to binational models in discussions of the future of Israel/Palestine is evidence that “a sea change is underway among academics and organizations engaged in progressive thinking.” A generation ago, progressives fought for a two-state model.  The “heart of the establishment” now accepts the two-state model, and centrist political parties have embraced it. Meanwhile, progressive thinkers have moved on to talk of a binational state.

For some, the motivation for discussing binationalism is to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state – those hostile to Israel know that a single state premised on protection of equal national and individual rights is a powerful propaganda tool that enables critics to denounce Israel as an apartheid state. Those who examine various models in a more genuine spirit of mutual acceptance risk “being used as fig leaves to cover up efforts to spread anti-Israel propaganda.” But, Benvenisti argues, “this is always the lot of those who pursue new avenues. We should not rule out participating in such a discussion by denouncing it as illegitimate, because it is taking place in the shadow of the reality that has taken hold in the territories and in the midst of a diplomatic stalemate.”

Benvenisti points to three factors that have heightened interest in binational options: “First, there is a growing realization that the chances of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state no longer exist, aside from an entity along the lines of a Bantustan. Second, the status quo that has emerged, though it appears chaotic, is in practice quite stable and could be characterized as de facto binational. Third, the diplomatic positions of Benjamin Netanyahu's government inevitably lead to a diplomatic deadlock and a deepening of the policy of annexation.”

If the “fictitious option” of two states is taken off the table, “the real dilemmas will finally be revealed” and “the burden of coping with a binational reality will fall on all of us.”

George E. Bisharat, “Maximizing Rights: The One State Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict”, (2008) 8(2) Global Jurist


In this article, Bisharat employs a “rights-based approach” in evaluating a “single state solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. International human rights, Bisharat argues, provide a necessary normative standard for the just resolution of this long-running dispute. A single state, as compared to the two-state solution that has been broadly supported by the international community since 1947, offers superior opportunities to maximize the legitimate rights, interests, and aspirations of the greatest number of Israelis and Palestinians.

Yet Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs each enjoy internationally recognized rights of self-determination and sovereignty. Accordingly, there is no legal means by which a one-state solution could be directly imposed on the parties to the dispute without violating the respective rights of each people. As a matter of law, then, a one-state solution could only come about through the agreement of Palestinians and Israelis and as an exercise of their respective rights to self-determination.

The inability to implement a one-state solution without consent of the parties requires consideration of the means by which such an agreement might be encouraged. There is no indication that states are likely to brook the current international consensus in support of a two-state solution. Thus it is necessary to examine whether international civil society is capable of playing a facilitating role analogous to the role it played in the demise of apartheid in South Africa. A variety of scenarios can be imagined, but in any of them, ultimately, broad Israeli Jewish opposition to a single state solution will have to be overcome. This suggests that a non-violent campaign, or at least one that scrupulously avoids attack on innocent civilians, is the most promising route to achieving a one-state solution. While such a shift appears farfetched at the moment, no other solution to the conflict currently seems imminent. In Bisharat’s view, the moral power of a single state based on equal rights for all residents of Israel/Palestine, has transformative power that should not be underestimated., Palestinian-Israeli Crossfire, “Netanyahu’s Speech on the Peace Process”, June 15, 2009, with commentary by Ghassan Khatib (“A Farcical Position on Statehood”), Yossi Alpher (“Walking Between the Raindrops”), Mustafa Abu Sway (“Thus Spoke Netanyahu”), Yisrael Harel (“Go Dance in the Streets”), Palestinian-Israeli Crossfire, “Obama’s Cairo Speech”, June 8, 2009, with commentary by Yossi Alpher (“A Level US-Arab Playing Field”), Ghassan Khatib (“Waiting Expectantly”), Saul Singer (“Trust is Not Enough”) and Ali Jarbawi (“A Breeze of Change”)., Palestinian-Israeli Crossfire, “A One, Two or Three State Solution”, August 18, 2008, with commentary by Yossi Alpher (“One State Definitely Not An Option”), Ghassan Khatib (“The Only Alternative to Two States is Conflict”), Yisrael Harel (“What Happened to the ‘Vision’ of a Two-State Solution”) and Eyad Sarraj (“Time to Change Strategy”).

Alan Dowty, Israel/Palestine 2nd ed. (Polity Press, 2008)

From the publisher’s website: “What explains the peculiar intensity and evident intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Of all the "hot spots" in the world today, the apparently endless clash between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East seems unique in its longevity and resistance to resolution. Is this conflict really different from other ethnic and nationalist confrontations, and if so, in what way?

In this fully revised and updated second edition of his highly respected introductory text, Alan Dowty demystifies the conflict by putting it in broad historical perspective, identifying its roots, and tracing its evolution up to the current impasse. His account offers a clear analytic framework for understanding transformations over time, and in doing so, punctures the myths of an "age-old" conflict with an unbridgeable gap between the two sides.

Rather than simply reciting historical detail, this book presents a clear overview that serves as a road map through the thicket of conflicting claims. This expanded edition also includes a new chapter on the so-called 'fourth stage' of the conflict.

In this account the opposed perspectives of the two sides are presented in full, leaving readers to make their own evaluations of the issues. The book thus expresses fairly and objectively the concerns, hopes, fears, and passions of both sides, making it clear why this conflict is waged with such vehemence -- and why, for all that, there are some grounds for optimism.”

From Alan Dowty’s “Latest News – April 2009” on the publisher’s website: “Oslo is not totally dead. Clearly the Oslo process is moribund for now, and what remains of its vital organs are on critical life support. But it is premature to pronounce eulogies over its corpse. Oslo produced the first mutual recognition between established Israeli and Palestine leadership. Oslo introduced the first Palestinian self-governance on Palestinian soil. Oslo enabled the second peace treaty between Israel and an Arab neighbor, Jordan, stabilizing the longest international border in the conflict. Oslo led to Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, even if it did not completely stabilize that border. Oslo created ongoing Israel-Palestinian interaction on official and unofficial levels that has continued through all the ups and downs. Oslo shaped a majority on both sides for a two-state solution. And even in its ultimate failure, Oslo engendered the first serious direct negotiations over the basic issues of the conflict.

None of this has been reversed, nor is likely to be. Oslo deserves better than to be treated as the worst four-letter word in Middle East diplomacy.

…despite all that has transpired in recent years, a majority of both Palestinians and Israelis continue to support negotiation and a two-state solution in principle. A poll of Israelis in August, 2008, showed 71 percent in support of a two-state solution, and when asked to choose between a one-state or a two-state solution, support for two states rose to 79 percent. In January of this year, following the war in Gaza, 55 percent of Palestinians favored a two-state solution (18 percent supported a binational state and only 12 percent called for a unitary Islamic or Palestinian state).

…Israel's turn to the right does not mean the end of the two-state solution as the dominant model for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Likud's platform neither endorses nor rules out a two-state solution, but simply condemns any further unilateral withdrawals on the model of Lebanon in 2000 or Gaza in 2005. Yisrael Beitenu, the other major right-wing party, actually does not oppose establishment of a Palestinian state, and is ready not only to surrender Arab population centers on the West Bank and Gaza, but even to cede Arab-inhabited areas of Israel itself. In fact, in the recent election only two small parties, with seven seats between them, presented platforms of uncompromising opposition to any Palestinian state.”

Daniel Elazar, Two Peoples… One Land: Federal Solutions for Israel, The Palestinians, and Jordan (London and Latham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1991)


From the cover: “How can peoples who are fated to live together create a life that will enable them to preserve their respective national and cultural integrities?

Professor Daniel J. Elazar, a world-renowned authority on federalism and the Jewish political tradition, argues that now is the time to find a way to share the land – known to Jews as Eretz Yisrael and to Arabs as Falastin – through some form of federal solution that will secure for each party a polity of its own, but in such a way that all share in the governance of the land’s common goods.

Some sixty countries in the world today have already applied federal solutions to accommodate diverse ethnic groups. In this timely volume, the author outlines eleven possible federal options which combine self-rule and shared rule to reach a solution based upon mutual consent among equals within which all will find their place without foregoing their separate characters and cultures.”

Writing from “an unabashedly Israeli position” (12), Elazar argues that federalism is the only way to end the conflict (viii). He sketches a range of federal, confederal or combined federal-confederal models, including a “bi-state federation” composed of Israel and a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank (103), and a “cantonal federation” composed of six to twelve cantons, each with a Jewish or Arab majority, united under a common general government. (107). Elazar argues that there are many problems with such federal proposals, including a failure to satisfy the national aspirations of both Jews and Palestinians or meet Israelis’ security needs: “Israeli Jews are not about to give up their state and Palestinian Arabs insist that they want something more than a piece of a federation.” (105).

Elazar’s favoured model is “a Palestinian – Jordanian federation in new boundaries that will reflect Israel’s security needs, overlaid by a confederation with Israel.” (183) On this model, Israel’s boundaries would be expanded to include those segments of the West Bank and Gaza needed for security purposes or intensively settled by Jews so as to be appropriately part of the Jewish state, and Israel would enter into a European Union-like confederal relationship with a Jordanian-Palestinian Federation. (184) In Elazar’s view, “such a federation-confederation combination could give all the parties involved not only the peace they seek but their other demands as well. The Palestinians would get their state, albeit as a federal state rather than a separately independent one, and also a guaranteed share in the common governance of the Arab state. Jordan would continue to have a standing west of the river. Israel would get secure borders, recognition by its Arab neighbours, and a continuing relationship with those parts of the historic land of Israel not within its full political jurisdiction.” (185)

Elazar reiterated his support for this model in Federal/Confederal Solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian Conflict: Concepts and Feasiblity (1998). A full archive of Daniel Elazar’s writing on federalism can be found at the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Leila Farsakh, “Time for a bi-national state”, Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2007

Leila Farsakh, Palestinian Labor Migration to Israel: Labor, Land and Occupation (Routledge, 2005)

From the publisher’s website: “Leila Farsakh provides the first comprehensive analysis of the rise and fall of Palestinian labour flows to Israel. Highlighting the interdependence between Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land and the use of Palestinian labour, she shows how migration has been the result of evolving dynamics of Israeli occupation and the reality of Palestinian labour force growth. This study analyzes the pattern of Palestinian labour supply, the role of Israel’s territorial and economic policies in the Occupied Territories in releasing Palestinian labour from the land, and the nature of Israeli demand for Palestinian workers, especially in the construction sector where the majority of commuting labourers are concentrated. New light is shed on the growth of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which are being built by Palestinian workers.

Palestinian Labour Migration to Israel is original in its analysis of the contrasting forces of separation and the integration between Israel and the Palestinian territories, showing that the changing patterns in labour flows reflect a process of redefinition of the 1967 borders. It will be of valuable interest to economists and development specialists as well as to scholars, policy makers and all those concerned with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Chaim Gans, A Just Zionism: On the Morality of the Jewish State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)


From the publisher’s website: “The legitimacy of the Zionist project--establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine--has been questioned since its inception. In recent years, the voices challenging the legitimacy of the State of Israel have become even louder. Chaim Gans examines these doubts and presents an in-depth, evenhanded philosophical analysis of the justice of Zionism.

Today, alongside a violent Middle East where many refuse to accept Israel's existence, there are two academically respectable arguments for the injustice of Zionism. One claim is that the very return of the Jews to Palestine was unjust. The second argument is that Zionism is an exclusivist ethnocultural nationalism out of step with current visions of multicultural nationhood. While many therefore claim that Zionism is in principle an unjust political philosophy, Gans seeks out a more nuanced ground to explain why Zionism, despite its manifest flaws, could in principle be just. Its flaws stem from the current situation, where exigencies have distorted its implementation, and from historical forces that have ended up favoring an extreme form of Jewish hegemony. For Gans, the justice of Zionism and of Israel are not black-and-white propositions. Rather, they are projects in need of repair, which can be achieved by reconceptualizing the Jews' relationship with the Palestinian population and by adhering to a significantly more limited version of Jewish hegemony.

Ultimately, A Just Zionism offers a concrete, historically and geographically rooted investigation of the limits of contemporary nationalism in one of the world's most fraught cases.”

Gans argues that “the first stage of the solution of the conflict ought to be the establishment of two states in the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea”, a “position held by most Israelis and, in fact, by the majority of those who have given the conflict serious thought”. (79) Asking Jews to surrender control of Israel is unrealistic: “In view of the absence of trust between Jews and Palestinians in matters of existential importance for the Jews, and given the fact that Jews are a minority in the region, the Jews have good reason to believe that the Arabs in general and the Palestinians specifically would ultimately not respect the Jewish people’s interests in their survival as a distinct society. As long as the conflict remains unresolved and as long as there are no relationships of trust between the parties, the Jews must rely on their own strength. In other words, they must continue to live within the framework of a state within which they enjoy hegemony and in which they have military power.” (79)

Gans defends the justice of a limited form of Jewish hegemony in Israel, one that “would apply only to military power and the maintenance of a demographic majority and should be maintained in these areas only until a relationship of trust develops between the parties.” (80) In the concluding chapters of the book, Gans discusses how issues such as the division of territory, the right of return and immigration could be resolved in a manner that could lay the foundation for a just two-state solution.

Daniel Gavron, The Other Side of Despair: Jews and Arabs in the Promised Land (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003)

From the publisher’s website: “This compelling book takes the reader behind the headlines of the confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, examining its human dimension and setting it in a balanced historical context. In the last decade of the millennium, the century-long conflict came within a hair's breadth of a solution through the Oslo Accords, only to explode in violence, hatred, and mutual recrimination, following the failed summit at Camp David in the summer of 2000.

In his search for understanding, Daniel Gavron talks to Israelis and Palestinians of all backgrounds and shades of opinion. Politicians and economists, entrepreneurs and writers, psychologists and teachers, men and women, veterans and youngsters, fervent militants and pragmatic realists all speak in these pages. We hear the Palestinian fighter and the Israeli soldier, the Jewish settler and the Arab Israeli, the negotiators from the opposite sides of the table, the bereaved parents.

These Israeli and Palestinian voices reflect the excruciating agony of both societies, conveying a searing reality that, although seemingly hopeless, emphasizes the basic humanity of both peoples. In a startling final section, the author proposes a daring old-new idea to lead the region out of its tragic morass.”

Irene L. Gendzier, “Palestine and Israel: The Binational Idea” (1975) 4(2) Journal of Palestine Studies 12-35

In this article, Gendzier reviews individual and institutional support, on the part of Zionists and Arabs, for a binational solution in Palestine in the years leading up to 1948, and the obstacles binationalist proponents faced in gathering support for their preferred option. “For binationalism to have succeeded”, she writes, “would have required nothing less than the transformation of both Jewish and Palestinian Arab communities.” (32) She argues that early support for binationalism remains relevant to contemporary debates: “[t]o those brought up on the axiom that Arab-Jewish cooperation is impossible, it is useful to recall the efforts of early Zionists who rejected this outlook. Yet one must also recognize the roots of their failure and the price that has been paid for it.” (33) “The survival of both peoples, and not one at the expense of the other, must be the paramount principle.” (34)

Galia Golan, Israel and Palestine: Peace Plans from Oslo to Disengagement (Markus Wiener: Princeton, 2007)

From the publisher’s website: “Delivering a readable and remarkably evenhanded account, Golan, an Israeli activist and professor of government, dissects each of the major Israeli and Palestinian peace attempts, from Oslo in 1993 to the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza, and evaluates the current prospects for peace. Her conclusion is refreshingly, if ambitiously, optimistic: despite the violence and intransigence of both sides, she argues that Israelis and Palestinians are substantially closer to peace now than when the talks began.”

Yosef Gorny, From Binational Society to Jewish State: Federal Concepts in Zionist Political Thought, 1992-1990, and the Jewish People (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2006)


From the publisher’s website: “The central issue in this book is the federal ideas in the Zionist political thought during seventy years, from the early 1920s to the late 1990s. These ideas and plans had a double meaning and purpose: to find a suitable political bi-national structure for the Jews and Arabs in Palestine, which will enable both of them to fulfill their national goals, and to enable the Jewish people in the world to make Palestine their homeland by free immigration.

The Zionist federative ideas were carried by different and even rival political parties and leaders, ranging from right-wing nationalists to Social-Democrats and liberal humanists. But despite this diversity all of them were based on the liberal and democratic political tradition in Europe before World War I. These ideas were renewed in the State of Israel at the end of the last century.”


Mahdi Abdul Hadi ed., Palestinian-Israeli Impasse: Exploring Alternative Solutions to the Palestine-Israel Conflict (Jerusalem: Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, 2005)

From the introduction: “…PASSIA embarked on this project with the in­tention to promote serious dialogue and discussion about the various options facing the two communities over the course of the next few years, and to ex­amine whether, or to which degree, the two-state con­sensus is “dead,” what lies ahead if the status quo would last for another ten years, and what alternative proposals could or should be con­sidered. The project combined research (position pa­pers) and dialogue sessions (roundtables in which the papers were presented and dis­cussed) with an array of Palestinian scholars, intellectuals, members of government and of various political factions, NGO activists, and profes­sionals as well as Israeli academics and activists.

The papers included in this volume look at the reasons the two-state solution has failed to succeed until the present day and con­sider what prospects for future success or failure it still has, thereby looking at the issue from various angles (historical, conceptual and religious aspects; implications for the refu­gee question, Jerusalem, the settlement issue and the future geography of Pales­tine/Israel).

The various proposed approaches to solve the Palestinian-Israeli impasse explored in this volume were provoked by a number of concrete questions, such as whether there is still a possibility for a (short-term or permanent) two-state solution; how the two-state solution should be reevaluated, given that all recent breakthroughs in the reconciliation process of inter-communal or ethnic disputes (Northern Ireland, South Africa, Bosnia) have been based on federal, consociational, and autonomy arrange­ments, and not on partition; and what kind of practicable models could be envisioned for the Palestinian-Israeli case.”

Jeff Halper, An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel (London: Pluto Press, 2008)

From the publisher’s website: “In this book, the Israeli anthropologist and activist Jeff Halper throws a harsh light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the point of view of a critical insider. While the Zionist founders of Israel created a vibrant society, culture and economy, they did so at a high price: Israel could not maintain its exclusive Jewish character without imposing on the country's Palestinian population policies of ethnic cleansing, occupation and discrimination, expressed most graphically in its ongoing demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes, both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories. An Israeli in Palestine records Halper's journey 'beyond the membrane' that shields his people from the harsh realities of Palestinian life to his 'discovery' that he was actually living in another country: Palestine. Without dismissing the legitimacy of his own country, he realises that Israel is defined by its oppressive relationship to the Palestinians. Pleading for a view of Israel as a real, living country which must by necessity evolve and change, Halper asks whether the idea of an ethnically pure 'Jewish State' is still viable. More to the point, he offers ways in which Israel can redeem itself through a cultural Zionism upon which regional peace and reconciliation are attainable.”

In Halper’s view, one state models are non-starters from the point of view of realpolitik. They also compromise the principle of self-determination and, given existing economic disparities, they could render Palestinians a permanent underclass. In the foreseeable future, therefore, any viable solution must involve a Palestinian state, even if a single state later evolves by mutual consent.  (225)

Halper defends a confederational approach as the most just and sustainable. He begins by recognizing that any effective solution to the conflict requires a regional perspective that cannot be resolved within the narrow confines of Israel and Palestine: “the refugee issue, security, water, economic development, democratization – all these are regional in scope.” (226) The first stage should be the establishment of a Palestinian state. The second stage should be to establish a regional confederation composed of Israel, Palestine and Jordan initially, with Syria and Lebanon joining within a short time thereafter. (227) The Palestinian state would not be viable unless it comes with a guarantee of a regional confederation. (226) Like the EU, citizens of the confederated states would have the capacity to live and work anywhere in the confederation. Such a resolution will be intensely resisted by Israel, argues Halper, since it has no desire to integrate into the Middle East. (229) Nevertheless, Halper contends that his confederal proposal is a way out of an untenable situation, one that is far more achievable than a single state.

Jamil Hilal ed., Where Now For Palestine? The Demise of the Two-State Solution (New York: Zed Books, 2007)

From the publisher’s website: “This collection critically revisits the concept of the ‘two-state solution’ and maps the effects of local and global political changes on both Palestinian people and politics. The authors discuss the changing face of Fateh, Israeli perceptions of Palestine, and the influence of the Palestinian diaspora. The book also analyzes the environmental destruction of Gaza and the West bank, the economic viability of a Palestinian state and the impact of US foreign policy in the region. This authoritative and up-to-date guide to the impasse facing the region is required reading for anyone wishing to understand a conflict entrenched at the heart of global politics.”

Tamar Hermann, “The Bi-national Idea in Israel/Palestine: Past and Present” (2005) 11(3) Nations and Nationalism 381-401

Journal’s abstract: “This article reviews four different advocacies of bi-nationalism: the 'old school' and the 'new school' of Jewish bi-nationalism, contemporary Palestinian bi-nationalism, and bi-nationalist advocacy that comes from outside observers. Advocacies of bi-nationalism, argues Hermann, have had common features that reduce their chances of becoming a mainstream option: (a) in all cases bi-nationalism is not the most desirable option; (b) they all gained momentum on both sides in periods of instability – due to transformations in the power relations between them or when the conflict reaches a point where the violence seems to become unbearable; (c) all these bi-nationalisms present a rather uneasy mixture of moralistic arguments and pragmatic ones; (d) in all cases the people who embrace the bi-national model are intellectuals. This gives their recommendations a touch of ‘ivory tower’ over-rationalisation, further reducing their public appeal.”

Ephraim Inbar, “The Rise and Demise of the Two-State Solution”, (2009) 53:2 Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs

Inbar argues that a stable and peaceful outcome in accordance with the two states paradigm is unlikely to emerge in the near future for two reasons: first, the failure of the two national movements, Zionist and Palestinian, to move closer to a historic compromise, and second, the existence of “failed states” in the West Bank and Gaza. Inbar discusses a number of options: building a viable state in the Palestinian territories (which he considers unlikely), moving towards a binational unitary state (which he also rejects as unrealistic), letting Gaza gravitate towards Egypt and the West Bank towards Jordanian rule (which he characterizes as “a realistic attempt to deal with the consequences of unrealizable political dreams”), and, finally, simply managing the conflict until the future reveals better alternatives.

Ephraim Inbar and Ian Lustick, “Israel’s Future: The Time Factor”, (2008) 23:1 Israel Studies Forum 3-11

In this debate between Professor Inbar and Professor Lustick, Inbar argues that Israel is in a strong position in economic, military and security terms. “Time”, he says, “is on Israel’s side. Israel has become stronger, while its enemies – with the exception of Iran – have become weaker.” These trends, he argues, are likely to continue. Lustick counters by arguing that “Israel’s position in the Middle East is fundamentally precarious.” In the “ominous new era” in which we are living, “extremists on each side are prevailing”, producing “styles of thinking that avoid even contemplating a future in which Israel is an integral part of the region.” Lustick argues that time is running out on the possibility of a generous two-state solution producing a lasting peace.

Tony Judt, “Israel: The Alternative”, (October 23, 2003) 50:16 New York Review of Books

In this oft-quoted article, Judt argues that “the two-state solution… is probably already doomed”. As a result, “the time has come to think the unthinkable.” In his view, “the true alternative facing the Middle East in coming years will be between an ethnically cleansed Greater Israel and a single, integrated, binational state of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians.” Judt acknowledges that the obstacles to the emergence of a binational state are formidable. “The very idea”, he writes, “is an unpromising mix of realism and utopia, hardly an auspicious place to begin. But the alternatives are far, far worse.” Followed by an exchange (volume 50:19, December 3, 2003) featuring responses from Omar Bartov, Amos Elon, Abraham H. Foxman and Michael Walzer, and a reply from Tony Judt.

Ghada Karmi, Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine (London: Pluto Press, 2007)

From the publisher’s website: “Two rabbis, visiting Palestine in 1897, observed that the land was like a bride, "beautiful, but married to another man". By which they meant that, if a place was to be found for Israel in Palestine, where would the people of Palestine go? This is a dilemma that Israel has never been able to resolve. No conflict today is more dangerous than that between Israel and the Palestinians. The implications it has for regional and global security cannot be overstated. The peace process as we know it is dead and no solution is in sight. Nor, as this book argues, will that change until everyone involved in finding a solution accepts the real causes of conflict, and its consequences on the ground. Leading writer Ghada Karmi explains in fascinating detail the difficulties Israel's existence created for the Arab world and why the search for a solution has been so elusive. Ultimately, she argues that the conflict will end only once the needs of both Arabs and Israelis are accommodated equally. Her startling conclusions overturn conventional thinking - but they are hard to refute.” Kharmi argues that a two-state resolution is out of reach and that [t]he reunification of Palestine´s shattered remains in a unitary state for all its inhabitants, old and new, is the only realistic, humane and durable route out of the morass. It is also the only way for the Israeli Jewish community (as opposed to the Israeli state) to survive in the Middle East."

Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006)

From the publisher’s website: “In The Iron Cage, Professor Khalidi, hones in on Palestinian politics and history. Khalidi draws on a wealth of experience and scholarship to elucidate the current conflict, using history to provide a clear-eyed view of the situation today.  The story of the Palestinian search to establish a state begins in the era of British control over Palestine and stretches between the two world wars, when colonial control of the region became increasingly unpopular and power began to shift toward the United States. In this crucial period, and in the years immediately following World War II, Palestinian leaders were unable to achieve the long-cherished goal of establishing an independent state-a critical failure that throws a bright light on the efforts of the Palestinians to create a state in the many decades since 1948. By frankly discussing the reasons behind this failure, Khalidi offers a much-needed perspective for anyone concerned about peace in the Middle East.”

Menachem Klein, A Possible Peace Between Israel and Palestine: An Insider’s Account of the Geneva Initiative (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007)

From the publisher’s website: “In 2003, after two years of negotiations, a group of prominent Israelis and Palestinians signed a model peace treaty. The document, popularly called the Geneva Initiative, contained detailed provisions resolving all outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinian people, including drawing a border between Israel and Palestine, dividing Jerusalem, and determining the status of the Palestinian refugees.

The negotiators presented this citizens' initiative to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and urged them to accept it. One of the Israeli negotiators was Menachem Klein, a political scientist who has written extensively about the Jerusalem issue in the context of peace negotiations. Although the Geneva Initiative was not endorsed by the governments of either side, it became a fundamental term of reference for solving the Middle East conflict. In this firsthand account, Klein explains how and why these groups were able to achieve agreement. He directly addresses the formation of the Israeli and Palestinian teams, how they managed their negotiations, and their communications with both governments. He also discusses the role of third-party facilitators and the strategy behind marketing the Geneva Initiative to the public.

A scholar and participant in the Geneva negotiations, Klein is able to provide both an inside perspective and an impartial analysis of the diplomatic efforts behind this historic compromise. He compares the negotiations to previous Israeli-Palestinian talks both formal and informal and the resolution of conflicts in South Africa and Algeria. Klein hopes that by treating the event as a case study we can learn a tremendous amount about the needs and approaches of both parties and the necessary shape peace must take between them.”

Gideon Levy, “How to talk to a right winger”, Ha’aretz, May 28, 2009

Levy argues that representatives of Likud and the other parties of the Israeli right have no viable alternative to a two-state model. In Levy’s view, the Israeli political right favours a one-state model premised on Jewish domination or displacement of Palestinians, but rather than state this openly, their public political pronouncements “blur and repress reality”.

Anthony Lowenstein, “Why Aren’t Jews Outraged by Israeli Occupation?”, Ha’aretz, June 21, 2009


Lowenstein argues that “the age of Barack Obama has unleashed a global wave of Jewish unease over Israel's future and the Diaspora's relationship to the self-described Jewish state. It's a debate that is long overdue.” Citing Professor Gerald Steinberg’s attack on this conference for allegedly fueling “vicious warfare and mass terror”, among other examples, Lowenstein suggests that “the decades-old ability of Zionist groups to manage the public narrative of Israeli victimhood is breaking down. Damning critics has therefore become a key method of control.” But such tactics may no longer work: “alternative Jewish voices are rising who are less concerned with being accused of ‘self-hatred’ or treachery. They see it as their duty to damn what is wrong and not simply support Israeli government policies. A thinking, more enlightened Judaism is emerging, a necessity in the face of apartheid realities. The cause is human rights, not Zionist exclusion.”

Obama’s recent speech, says Lowenstein, reflected this new Jewish consciousness. “Defining a humane Judaism in the 21st century means condemning the brutal military occupation in the West Bank and resisting the ongoing siege of Gaza.” In Loewenstein’s view, “mainstream Zionism wants to completely shield Jews from the uncomfortable facts of the Israeli occupation and Palestinian self-determination…
But facts have an uncomfortable way of seeping back into view.”

Ian Lustick, “Abandoning the Iron Wall: Israel and ‘The Middle Eastern Muck’”, (2008) 15:3 Middle East Policy 30-56

The main argument developed by Lustick in this article is that “Israel and Jewish Israelis are deep into the process of abandoning any image of the state or of themselves as part of the Middle East. Instead of hoping to transform Arab/Muslim attitudes toward the Jewish state by a pedagogy of force followed by diplomacy (the Iron Wall strategy), or of transforming the cultural content of the region via modernization cum Westernization, Israelis are seeking isolation or escape.” (50)

Israel is the last surviving state within the category of European fragments that did not annihilate or otherwise render irrelevant aboriginal populations; having effectively abandoned the Iron Wall strategy, Israel lives in this category without an alternative plan. In the long run, Lustick argues, “the question for Israel is not whether it can escape from the Middle East; it is whether it can escape from a category of its own creation.” (51)

Whether a two-state solution is possible depends on whether Israelis still believe that it could lead to a comprehensively stable and peaceful end to the Arab-Israeli dispute. Israelis will not pursue a settlement with the Palestinians “if they come to believe that the rest of the Middle East hates Israel more than they care for Palestinians”. (52) Israelis face a stark choice: “engagement with the real Middle East and the demands it makes upon Israel for justice, democracy and territory, or escape from it.” (52)

Ian Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993)

In this book, Lustick argues that a two-state model is desirable and inevitable. In his view, processes of state expansion are reversible, as they have been in Ireland and Algeria - what matters are “facts in people’s minds”, not “facts on the ground”.

From the publisher’s website: “In a major study that moves between path-breaking theorizing and analysis that is relevant to today’s headlines, the author examines the process by which states expand and contract. . . . He develops a useful model of state expansion and contraction, focusing on how the issue of incorporating outlying territories is dealt with in the political arena. . . . While written before the recent Israeli-PLO agreement, this book has been made more, not less, timely by events that could only be guessed at when the author was writing this stimulating, often difficult, but ultimately very rewarding study.”--Foreign Affairs

"Ian Lustick ... has written a valuable study concerning the changing relationship of Britain to Ireland (1834-1922); France to Algeria (1936-62) and Israel to the West Bank/Gaza (since 1967). This richly detailed and thoroughly documented book can be read on a number of different levels and therefore has much to offer to a wide variety of audiences."--Robert Bookmiller, Visiting assistant professor, Millersville University, Middle East Policy.”

MADA, Haifa Declaration (May 2007)

From the text: “Our vision for the future relations between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews in this country is to create a democratic state founded on equality between the two national groups. This solution would guarantee the rights of the two groups in a just and equitable manner. This would require a change in the constitutional structure and a change in the definition of the State of Israel from a Jewish state to a democratic state established on national and civil equality between the two national groups, and enshrining the principles of banning discrimination and of equality between all of its citizens and residents. In practice, this means annulling all laws that discriminate directly or indirectly on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, or religion – first and foremost the laws of immigration and citizenship – and enacting laws rooted in the principles of justice and equality. It also means the application of equality between the Arabic and Hebrew languages as two official languages of equal status in the country; ensuring the principle of multiculturalism for all groups; securing the effective participation of the Palestinian minority in government and in decision making; guaranteeing the Palestinian citizens in Israel the right of veto in all matters that concern their status and rights; guaranteeing their right to cultural autonomy, which includes the rights to develop policies for and to administer their own cultural and educational affairs; and distributing resources in accordance with the principles of distributive and corrective justice. It is these principles that can guarantee our right to self-determination as a homeland minority.”

Saree Makdisi, Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (New York and London: Norton, 2008)

From the publisher’s website: “Palestine Inside Out is not about suicide bombers. For ordinary Palestinians, everyday activities such as tending one's fields, visiting a relative or going to hospital require negotiating permits and passes, curfews and closures, "sterile roads" and "seam zones"—bureaucratic hurdles ultimately as deadly as outright military incursion.

Not since Edward Said has there been such an articulate Arab voice on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In devastating detail, Saree Makdisi reveals how the "peace process" institutionalised Palestinians' loss of control over their lives. Through eye-opening statistics and day-by-day reports, we learn how Palestinians have seen their hopes for freedom and statehood culminate in the creation of "territories" comparable to open-air prisons.

Makdisi describes how, despite this, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be brought to a peaceful and just resolution.”

Patrick Martin, “Has the Two-State Ship Sailed?”, The Globe and Mail, 8 June 2009

Martin offers a review of current positions on which models of statehood offer the most promising paths to peace. He describes how some right-wing Israeli politicians, like many Palestinians, believe that a two-state resolution of the conflict is no longer feasible. As Martin recounts, “When Uri Elitzur, a former chief of staff for Mr. Netanyahu, took the podium at that recent right-wing conference, he shocked the group by saying that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the creation of a single state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, a state that would include the Palestinians as citizens.” Some Israeli extremists advocate the forcible transfer of Palestinians to achieve Jewish demographic hegemony in all of Eretz Israel. Hamas, for its part, dreams of creating a single Islamist state in all of Mandate Palestine. In contrast to the fading two state vision, and the wild one state dreams of fundamentalists on both sides, a third option, put forward by the likes of Meron Benvenisti, would “fashion a single state structured in such a way as to allow two distinct peoples to coexist. A ‘consociational democracy’ (as in Bosnia and Northern Ireland) involving power-sharing and the division of the territory into federated cantons would allow for “soft borders” and a “blurring” when dealing with symbolic issues such as Jerusalem”. Others believe that the Palestinians could develop a viable state by developing linkages with Jordan and Egypt, perhaps eventually entering into a confederation with Israel and those states. Finally, a number of commentators, like Efraim Inbar, believe no solution is feasible; the focus should be on managing an enduring status quo. If that is the case, and we continue to see growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, then, Martin concludes, “Israel and the semi-occupied Palestinian territories will begin to look like a single state even if it wasn’t intended. It’s just that it will be one state for two peoples, but with two different classes of rights.

Joseph Massad, "The Binational State and the Reunification of the 
Palestinian People", in (2002) 4:3 Global Dialogue

Joseph Massad, The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians (Routledge: London/New York, 2006)


From the publisher’s website: “In this erudite and groundbreaking series of essays, renowned author Joseph Massad asks and answers key questions, such as: What has been the main achievement of the Zionist movement? What accounts for the failure of the Palestinian National Movement to win its struggle against Israel? What do anti-Semitism, colonialism and racism have to do with the Palestinian/Israeli 'conflict'?

Joseph Massad offers a radical departure from mainstream analysis in order to expose the causes for the persistence of the 'Palestinian Question'. He proposes that it is not in de-linking the Palestinian Question from the Jewish Question that a resolution can be found, but by linking them as one and the same question. All other proposed solutions, the author argues, are bound to fail.

Deeply researched and documented, this book analyzes the failure of the 'peace process' and proposes that a solution to the Palestinian Question will not be found unless settler-colonialism, racism, and anti-Semitism are abandoned as the ideological framework for a resolution. Individual essays further explore the struggle over Jewish identity in Israel and the struggle among Palestinians over what constitutes the Palestinian Question today.”


Benny Morris, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel / Palestine Conflict (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009)

From the publisher’s website: “The book scrutinizes the history of the goals of the Palestinian national movement and the Zionist movement, then considers the various one- and two-state proposals made by different streams within the two movements. It also looks at the willingness or unwillingness of each movement to find an accommodation based on compromise. Morris assesses the viability and practicality of proposed solutions in the light of complicated and acrimonious realities. Throughout his groundbreaking career, Morris has reshaped understanding of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Here, once again, he arrives at a new way of thinking about the discord, injecting a ray of hope in a region where it is most sorely needed.”

In this, his latest book, Professor Morris, one of the Israeli “new historians” who came to prominence in the late 1980s, engages directly with the one state vs. two state debates. He discusses what he calls the “newborn one-statism” among certain Palestinian and Western intellectuals, the history of one-state and two-state models, and concludes that in current circumstances neither approach offers a realistic path to a peaceful resolution.

Morris concedes that “there is an unavoidable logic to the one-state solution”, because Israel/Palestine “is indeed ‘one country.’” (176) The division of the country “makes little sense in terms of a variety of resources and services”; it’s division into two states is “a practical nightmare and well nigh unthinkable”. (177) However, Morris urges, “the prospect of fashioning one state for the two peoples that inhabit the country is even more illogical and unrealistic”. (178) The depth of the fears and hatred on both sides of the conflict “make a shared binational state, in which each community inevitably would seek to dominate the other, if only to prevent the other’s domination of itself, inconceivable.” (179) Moreover the growing political power of Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox and Russian Jews in Israel, each prone to expansionist and racist thinking, makes binationalism even more of a “nonstarter” in Israeli debates. While the dominant values in Israeli society remain secular and democratic, Palestinian society is increasingly embracing authoritarian and religious values. “The mindset and basic values of Israeli Jewish society and Palestinian Muslim society are so different and mutually exclusive as to render a vision of binational statehood tenable only in the most disconnected and unrealistic of minds.” (187)

The prospects for a two-state solution, Morris argues, are also bleak. (193) A Palestinian state on 21% of the land of Mandatory Palestine, as proposed by Barak and Clinton in 2000, would not be economically viable and would leave all Arabs with a deep sense of injustice. (195) The Israeli settlements in the West Bank add a further layer of obstruction to any possibility of partitioning the land into two viable states. (194) Yet, in Morris’ view, “the two-state idea… remains the only sound moral and political basis for a solution offering a modicum of justice and, hence, a chance for peace, for both peoples.” (196)

One way to rescue the idea of two viable states, Morris argues, is to revive the idea of a negotiated solution involving Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan, one that might include a confederal arrangement (198) While the prospect of “Palestinians and Arabs, after 120 years of warfare, convivially sharing power even in a confederal framework is probably unacceptable to most Jewish Israelis and most Palestinian Arabs at this point in their histories” (199), Morris suggests that a union of Jordan and the Palestinian territories in one state is an idea worth revisiting. Indeed, Morris concludes by suggesting that reconsidering Jordan’s divorce from the West Bank, and opening the door to Israeli-PNA-Jordanian negotiations geared to reaching a two-state settlement, is “the only logical – and possible – way forward.” (201)

John Quigley, “The Palestine Declaration to the International Criminal Court: The Statehood Issue”, (2009) Rutgers Law Record

Ilan Peleg, Democratizing the Hegemonic State: Political Transformation in the Age of Identity (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

From the publisher’s website: “This book explores alternative ways of solving political conflicts between ethnic groups in deeply divided societies. Through a detailed analysis of 14 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East, Peleg creates a framework that will allow humanity to move toward solutions to some of the bloodiest conflicts in history. Long-lasting solutions cannot be found by merely granting individuals equal rights, but by recognizing the rights of distinct groups. This book examines the most important political and ethical issue of the contemporary world: the future of deeply divided societies dominated by ethnic politics.”

Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle (London: Pluto Press, 2004)

From the publisher’s website: “here is no more compelling and dramatic unfolding story, with more profound international ramifications, than the conflict in the Middle East. Sharing the Land of Canaan is a critical examination of the core issues of the conflict that dares to put forward a radical but logical solution: that a shared state is the best way to achieve justice and peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, a human rights activist based at Yale University [now at Bethlehem University], offers an overview of the issues at stake, and outlines his vision for a lasting peace based on upholding the principles of human rights for all. Tackling taboo subjects, myths and obstacles, he argues convincingly that apartheid in the form of a two-state solution is no longer a feasible way to achieve enduring peace. At this critical time, when the 'road map' to peace looks more uncertain than ever, this book provides a refreshing counterpoint to the failed strategies of the past. It is a direct and accessible account of the history - and mythology - of the fabled 'Land of Canaan', which lays out hopeful ideas for the future of this truly multiethnic and multicultural region.”

Dan Rabinowitz and Khawla Abu-Baker, Coffins On Our Shoulders: The Experience of the Palestinian Citizens of Israel (University of California Press, 2005)

From the publisher’s website: “This highly original historical and political analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict combines the unique perspectives of two prominent segments of the Middle Eastern puzzle: Israeli Jews and the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Written jointly by an Israeli anthropologist and a Palestinian family therapist born weeks apart to two families from Haifa, Coffins on Our Shoulders merges the personal and the political as it explores the various stages of the conflict, from the 1920s to the present. The authors weave vivid accounts and vignettes of family history into a sophisticated multidisciplinary analysis of the political drama that continues to unfold in the Middle East. Offering an authoritative inquiry into the traumatic events of October 2000, when thirteen Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli police during political demonstrations, the book culminates in a radical and thought-provoking blueprint for reform that few in Israel, in the Arab world, and in the West can afford to ignore.”

Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East (Viking/Penguin, 2009)

From the publisher’s website: “Why has the United States consistently failed to achieve its strategic goals in the Middle East? According to Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, two of America's leading experts on the region, it is because we have been laboring under false assumptions, or mythologies, about the nature and motivation of Middle East countries and their leaders. In Myths, Illusions, and Peace, the authors debunk these damaging fallacies, held by both the right and the left, and present a concise and far-reaching set of principles that will help America set an effective course of action in the region.

Among the myths that the authors show to be false and even dangerous is the idea that Israeli-Palestinian peace is the key to solving all the Middle East's problems; that regime change is a prerequisite for peace and democracy; and that Iran's leadership is immune from diplomatic and economic pressure.

These and other historic misunderstandings have generated years' worth of failed policies and crippled America's ability to make productive decisions in this volatile part of the world, a region that will hold the key to our security in the twenty-first century. Ross and Makovsky offer a critical rethinking of American perceptions at a time of great import and change.”

Amnon Rubinstein & Alexander Yakobson, Israel and the Family of Nations: The Jewish Nation-State and Human Rights (Routledge, 2008) (translation of book originally published in Hebrew, Tel Aviv: Schocken, 2003).


Yakobson and Rubinstein examine Zionism and Israeli experience in light of other states’ experiences and in particular the experience of newly established states that have undergone constitutional changes and wrestled with issues of minorities. Citing various European constitutions and laws, the authors explore the concept of a Jewish state and its various meanings in the light of international law and human rights norms applied to other democratic societies.

They argue that international norms and realities do not require modern, liberal democracies to be culturally "neutral" and nationally “colourless” entities. They offer a vigorous defence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and argue that, in an international perspective, there is nothing exceptional about Israel’s ethnonational character.

While it is not the main purpose of their argument to discuss alternative state models, the authors contend that a two-state model is “the most equitable solution”. (41) They offer strong criticisms of binational proposals. In their view, “it is perfectly clear that a country with an Arab-Muslim majority (as such a ‘bi-national’ state is bound to be, sooner rather than later), located in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, cannot be anything but an Arab-Muslim state in all respects, regardless of any formal definitions… It is somewhat ironic that such a solution is being advocated in the name of equality.” (10-11) There is no reason, Yakobson and Rubinstein argue, “to assume that the Israeli Jews and the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are today more willing and able to co-exist within a single state than in 1947, when the international community opted for partition.” (150) As a result, they conclude that “no real bi-national option exists now.” (47) Israel must remain an expression of the Jewish majority’s right to national independence and to national survival: “for the Jewish people in Israel there is nowhere else – no other country.” (199)

In Yakobson and Rubinstein’s view, Israel must continue to pursue a two-state settlement. They argue that “the establishment of a Palestinian-Arab state is a question of time only.” (155-6) However, Gaza and a series of separate Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank “cannot in any way be seen as constituting reasonable implementation of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and dignified existence. This is indeed a situation where there is a lack of basic equality between the country’s two peoples in terms of their national rights.” The best way to respond to this unequal situation, they contend, “is to support the establishment of a viable Arab-Palestinian state which will recognize Israel and live with it in peace, without seeking to undermine its national character.” (156)

Jonathan Spyer, “Forward to the Past: The Fall and Rise of the One-State Solution’”, (2008) 12:3 Middle East Review of International Affairs 102-111

Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, argues that deeply embedded in Palestinian nationalism is the notion that Israeli Jewish identity is analogous to that of communities born of European colonialism, which are not seen as having legitimate claims to self-determination. No reconsideration of this characterization took place during the period of the peace process of the 1990s. Hence, he argues that the short period of acceptance of a “two-states” model was a departure by Palestinian nationalists from their traditional stance, and the current resurgence of interest in “one-state” options more in keeping with the deep view of the conflict held by Palestinians.

Gary Sussman, “The Challenge to the Two-State Solution”, in Joel Beinin and Rebecca L. Stein eds., The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006)

Sussman discusses the reasons for increasing challenges to the “long-standing conventional wisdom” that the two-state solution is the only way to end the conflict. The continued expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation fence are the most important facts fuelling doubts about the viability of a two-state solution. Many prominent two-state supporters believe that the combination of demographic trends and settlement expansion means that time is running out on a two-state solution. Sussman quotes Ehud Olmert’s warning in 2003 that more and more Palestinians are coming to see their struggle as a South African struggle for equal citizenship in Israel [a warning Olmert repeated many times, for example in 2007 and 2008].

In Sussman’s vieew, talk of one-state options has not yet overcome the powerful currents that favor separation and the two-state solution. But the longer the diplomatic stalemate and settlement expansion proceed unabated, the more disillusioned Israelis and Palestinians will become with the land-sharing formula. “It is worth recalling”, says Sussman, “that the two-state idea itself is not deep-rooted, only becoming salient for Palestinians and Israelis after 1988 and only becoming the conventional wisdom in the 1990s. Could the two-state solution be judged unattainable before another ten years pass?” Sussman argues that, if a binational state is created, it will be “because separation is discredited and impossible. As Israeli journalist Aluf Benn perceptively notes… ‘talk has shifted to the left, the reality to the right, and the gap between them has only grown wider.’ The two-state outcome is far from being the inevitable solution to the conflict, and it may well plunge into that crack between discourse and reality.”

Salim Tamari, “The Dubious Lure of Binationalism”, (2000) 117 Journal of Palestine Studies

Tamari argues in this paper that, while at the conceptual level bi-nationalism raises interesting possibilities for examining new di­mensions of extraterritorial nationalism and ethnicity, at the level of practical poli­tics the concept can be counterproductive and escapist. He thus pro­poses a continued struggle for Palestinian independence. He illustrates the drawbacks of the two-state solution and the rea­sons for its erosion, going on to argue for the structural dependency of Israel and Palestine. However, he claims that the advocates for a bi-national solution have been too simplistic and unrealistic in their approaches, holding their po­sitions without assessing the repercus­sions of a regime created from two antagonistic national groups with established infrastructures and unbalanced power differentials. Fur­ther, those advocates are very mar­ginalized and cannot mobilize a constituency around them, the Palestini­ans and Israelis themselves. A bi-national solution, he contends, would demand that the Palestinians give up their right to independence without guarantees that Israeli hostility towards them would cease.

Virgina Tilley, The One-State Solution: A Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli Palestinian Deadlock (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005)

In this book, Tilley describes the extent to which Israeli settlements have encroached on the occupied territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. After summarizing the physical, demographic, financial, and political dimensions of Israel's West Bank settlement grid, she argues that the settlements are irreversible and undercut the viability of a future Palestinian state. Tilley elucidates why the West Bank settlement grid is unlikely to be withdrawn — or its expansion reversed — by reviewing the role of the key political actors: the Israeli government, the United States, the Arab states, and the European Union. She reviews historical and contemporary support for binational and federal models of statehood, and argues in favour of a solution based on equal citizenship, multiethnic national identity and secure minority rights. Finally, Tilley focuses on the daunting obstacles to a one-state solution—including major revision of the Zionist dream but also Palestinian and other regional resistance—and offers some ideas about how those obstacles might be addressed. In her view, “[n]othing truly alien to the Zionist project… resides in a revived Jewish program to share the land with indigenous Palestinian people and craft a just society in a shared society.” (232)


Graham Usher, "Bantustanisation or bi-nationalism? An interview with
Azmi Bishara," (1995) 37:2 Race & Class 43-49

Stephen M. Walt, “The Treason of the Hawks”, Foreign Policy, April 28, 2009

In Every War Must End, his classic study of war termination, Fred Iklé coined the term "treason of the hawks" to describe those tragic situations where hardliners stubbornly refuse to make peace and thereby lead their countries to disaster. Walt argues Prime Minister Netanyahu’s opposition to the creation of a viable Palestinian state brings Iklé’s insights to mind. In Walt’s view, one shared by former Prime Minister Olmert, “time has nearly run out for the two-state solution” and failure to achieve it is “by far the most serious threat facing Israel.” 

Alternatives to the two-state model include a binational state based on civic equality throughout Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. This model faces “compelling objections”: “It would mean abandoning the Zionist vision of a Jewish state, which makes it anathema to almost all Israeli Jews, who want to live in a Jewish state. The practical obstacles to this outcome are equally daunting, and binational states do not have an encouraging track record.”

A second model would be to create a single Jewish state over all of the territory of Israel/Palestine, which, in the face of demographic trends, would require either extensive ethnic cleansing or some form of apartheid.

In light of the alternatives, Walt concludes that “[a] two-state solution is not an ideal outcome; it is merely the best available alternative.” Any negotiated solution must protect Israel’s legitimate security needs. Pursuit of a two-state model remains the best course for preserving “Israel's future instead of putting it in jeopardy.”

Oren Yiftachel, Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006)


From the publisher’s website: “For Oren Yiftachel, [professor of geography and urban studies at Ben Gurion University] the notion of ethnocracy suggests a political regime that facilitates expansion and control by a dominant ethnicity in contested lands. It is neither democratic nor authoritarian, with rights and capabilities depending primarily on ethnic origin and geographic location. In Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine, he presents a new critical theory and comparative framework to account for the political geography of ethnocratic societies.

According to Yiftachel, the primary manifestation of ethnocracy in Israel/Palestine has been a concerted strategy by the state of "Judaization." Yiftachel's book argues that ethnic relations—both between Jews and Palestinians, and among ethno-classes within each nation—have been shaped by the diverse aspects of the Judaization project and by resistance to that dynamic. Special place is devoted to the analysis of ethnically mixed cities and to the impact of Jewish immigration and settlement on collective identities.

Tracing the dynamics of territorial and ethnic conflicts between Jews and Palestinians, Yiftachel examines the consequences of settlement, land, development, and planning policies. He assesses Israel's recent partial liberalization and the emergence of what he deems a ‘creeping apartheid’ whereby increasingly impregnable ethnic, geographic, and economic barriers develop between groups vying for recognition, power, and resources. The book ends with an exploration of future scenarios, including the introduction of new agendas, such as binationalism and multiculturalism.”

In the concluding chapter of the book, “Epilogue: A Demos for Israel/Palestine: Toward Gradual Binationalism”, Yiftachel considers different models of statehood, assesses their prospects as viable paths to peace, and concludes that a scenario he calls “gradual binationalism” is the most promising model.

In the short term, Yiftachel notes that “repressive consolidation is the most likely scenario.” (278) A two-state model based on two ethnic states poses a number of risks, including “the persistence of anti-Jewish and anti-Arab policies and rhetoric and lead to a precarious and conflict-riddled type of Israeli-Palestinian co-existence.” (280) One-state models, in which Israel or Palestinians control most of historic Palestine, as advocated by Likud and Hamas respectively, do not promise a legitimate demos (an inclusive body of empowered citizens) or stable regime. (281-2) While binational and multicultural state models promise to create a legitimate demos, they can only be established by mutual agreement. The sweeping Jewish opposition to binational models renders them “highly unlikely” at this point. (282) Proponents of binationalism tend to neglect psychological realities: the “Jewish psyche is still driven by the memory of genocide, dislocation and fear, and … communal security and self-determination of the Jewish nation is a goal that will not be relinquished by the vast majority of Jews.” (284)

We are left then, Yiftachel argues, with “gradual binationalism” as the most promising path to peace. This model “envisages a graduate resolution of the conflict, beginning with a two-state like arrangement, but simultaneously moving to create binational frameworks to manage the joint and small Israeli-Palestinian territory.” (282) This framework would be based on recognition of the legitimacy of a Jewish Hebrew nation in the Middle East. (286) This would be a necessary step in addressing Jews’ existential fears, located in a tragic history and fuelled by the persisting rejection of Israel and Jewish nationalism in parts of the Middle East.

The phased binationalism model is a distant, utopian model. It will probably require deep transformation in a multitude of societal spheres, including education, mass culture, land policies, the impact of militarist and religious elements on politics, and patterns of economic and resource distribution. (286) Nevertheless, the most promising path forward, Yiftachel contends, remains “in imagining, planning and implementing the vision of phased binationalism, wherein two demoses are initially created along with parallel, joint Israel-Palestinian institutions and frameworks that would progress toward establishing a thin confederation over the entire land.” (287) For further discussion, see Oren Yiftachel, “Neither Two States Nor One: The Disengagement and ‘Creeping Apartheid’ in Israel/Palestine”, (2005) 8:3 The Arab World Geographer 125-9.

Iris Marion Young, “Self-determination as Non-domination” (2005) 5(2) Ethnicities 139-159

The late Professor Young makes the case for an alternative understanding of self-determination as a key to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She argues that understanding self-determination as relational autonomy or non-domination, as opposed to the more accepted understanding of self-determination as non-interference, will help design a federal model of statehood for Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Many discussions of federalism assume that autonomous units are large, homogeneously occupied, contiguous territories. Suspending this assumption opens ways of conceiving federal relations as more local, plural, and horizontal. Young suggests that this model of self-determination as non-domination and the patchwork federalism it sometimes implies may enable a vision of Israeli Jews and Palestinians dwelling peacefully together in a bi-national federation.


Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council