45 of 54 people found the following review helpful
This is an interesting polemic on the always controversial topic of the relative status of the state of Israel and a Palestinian state. The author is the talented Israeli historian and former journalist Benny Morris, the author of a number of fine books on the state of Israel. The subtitle, "Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict," is misleading as Morris has little to say about escaping from the present morass. Most of this book is a well argued polemic against the "One State" concept of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is the idea, developed by some American and European intellectuals, and some Palestinian advocates, that the present impasse could be resolved by the formation of a secular, democratic state incorporating the present state of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. The model is clearly the type of pluralistic state seen in some of the more diverse states of the US, provinces of Canada, or some parts of Europe.
Morris opens with a brief exposition of the One State idea and history of its recent support in America, Europe, and among some Palestinians. The meat of the book follows with a history of how both Jews-Zionists-Israelis and Palestinians thought about statehood from the 1930s to the present. Like much of Morris work, this is a well written piece of exposition. The gist of Morris' conclusions is that from the late 30s to the present, the Jews-Israelis were/are willing to accept some form of partition and a two state solution and that the Palestinian's, despite multiple defeats and social catastrophe, were/are not. Morris argues that the Palestinians are not only unwilling to accept a two state solution but essentially unwilling to tolerate substantial numbers of Jews in Palestine. Morris sees Palestinian claims for a plural, democractic state as largely window dressing and that window dressing is being abetted by a group of credulous westerners. Morris points to prior Palestinian behavior from the rejection of the proposed (1937) Peel commission partition and rejection of the proposed (1948) UN partition to Arafat's rejection of the Barak-Clinton overtures to the behavior of contemporary Palestinian leaders. Morris bases his conclusion on the relative historical immaturity of Palestinian society (a theme in some of his prior work), the catastrophic effects of the Nakba, and the inimical effects of Islam, which he sees as fundamentally anti-semitic and undemocratic. One needn't share his feelings about Islam to recognize that the popularity of a highly nationalistic and politicized form of Islam, among both Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, and the rise of Hamas specifically, undermines the possibility of a plural, secular, and democratic single state. Morris acknowledges frankly that Israeli society would not accept a single state.
Morris' argument is developed well but he is not entirely consistent. He acknowledges but tends to slide over the recent behavior of the settlement movements, rightist dominated Israeli governments, and their desire to dominate all of Palestine west of the Jordan. He points correctly to Palestinian intransigence on the topic of the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees and their descendents but never discusses the analogous "right of return" in Israeli law for Jews. Morris is very concerned about the demographic effects of high Palestinian (and Israeli Arab) birth rates but never mentions that the biggest demographic change of the last generation was the immigration of approximately 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union. He provides a close analysis of official Palestinian statements but makes much of the unofficial opinions of Israeli politicians.
Having quite successfully attacked the One State concept, Morris turns briefly to the Two State concept. Morris is no more enthusiastic about this idea. He states briefly that Gaza and the West Bank are probably too small to be economically viable and expresses concern that such a mini-state will be irredentist and a chronic threat to Israel. The background here, which he discusses only briefly, is that the unsuccessful withdrawal from Gaza discredited both the ideas that relinquishing autonomy to the Palestinians would lead to poltical progress towards a Two State solution and that the Israelis could retreat behind a security barrier with impunity. Morris' preferred solution, which he admits is not practical, would a larger Jordan incorporating Gaza and the West Bank. Essentially, he wishes to transfer the burden of policing the Palestinians to the Jordanian Army. Even if the Palestinians and the Jordanians were willing to accept this solution, there would be a good chance that it would lead to the type of Palestinian dominated irredentist state that he fears.
The only choice left in Morris' analysis is a continuation of the present morass. And this is precisely where Morris fails to address the arguments of the most intelligent One State advocates. In the present stalemate, Israel exercises some degree of authority over Gaza and the West Bank. Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank already form a de facto single state but one in which the rights of inhabitants vary greatly. This is a very difficult position for a democracy like Israel.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2009
I offer a recommendation of this volume in "fear and trembling", certain that there are those who will detest this book and anyone who chooses to commend it on the Amazon website, or anyplace else for that matter. Nevertheless, I think it appropriate to highlight the virtues of Benny Morris' "One State, Two States", representing, as it does, a significant contribution to ongoing dialogue around the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Such a commendation need not presume that Morris' book represents the "last word" on the subject, nor need it pretend that the book is "bias-free". It is clear, almost from the first sentence, that Benny Morris writes as an Israeli; his perspective is shaped both by his essential sympathy with the Israeli "narrative" and by his affirmation of Israel's right not only to exist but to exist as a Jewish state. In this reader's judgment, however, those sympathies and loyalties do not prevent Morris from offering critical assessments of Israeli government actions in those instances in which he sees those actions as wrong-headed, nor does it prevent Morris from recognizing some of the particular challenges (and they are sobering challenges, indeed) that would face the Palestinian people were they to attempt to build a functioning state on the two small parcels of land currently available to them: the West Bank and Gaza.
And so one commends this small volume as one particularly well-written "testimony": a well-researched historian's testimony concerning the genesis of the Israel/Palestine conflict, at the same time a thoughtful citizen's not entirely despairing testimony concerning possible roads into the future: roads that just might initiate a process by which this tragic conflict may one day be resolved.
46 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2009
When Yitzhak Rabin shook Yasser Arafat's hand at the White House ceremony that marked the signing of the Oslo Accords that were peddled to the world as signalling the end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and, by extension, the beginning of the end of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict, Rabin's wife Leah spoke about how happy she was the the two sides were "overcoming their misunderstandings" in order to supposedly make peace. The problem was that there was no "misunderstanding". The Arabs themselves are quite clear and lucid in their views about Israel and Zionism. The problem was on the Israeli side. Here, Leah Rabin was expressing the illusions that "dovish" Israelis along with well-meaning people throughout the world have held for decades....that if only Israel would be willing to give up the territories capture in 1967, specifically Judea/Samaria and Gaza, then the Arab world would be willing to end the state of hostility with the Jewish State. However, these deluded people eventually convinced themselves that this illusion was reality because they failed to listen to what the Arabs themselves were saying. The Arabs, in both their internal propaganda, as well as that directed to the outside world, have made it clear that they will not accept ANY Jewish state of ANY size, and that the problem is NOT 1967 (Israel's conquest of Judea/Samaria and Gaza), but really 1947 (The UN Partition Plan to create both a Jewish state and a Palestinian one) in addition to 1917 (the Balfour Declaration where Britain agreed to support the creation of a National Home for the Jewish People in Palestine) and finally in 1897, when Theodore Herzl created the political arm of Zionism, the World Zionist Organization). Why did the Israeli "doves" fall into this delusion? Several reasons, among them a feeling that "you can't really believe what Arabs say, what they really think is the same as what I think...I am 'reasonable' and want peace, so, deep down, they want the same think in spite of their incendiary rhetoric) or possibly a psychological state of denial in which they refuse to accept the fact that there isn't going to be peace for the foreseeable future.
Benny Morris outlines in this fine book attempts by Jews, starting with the beginnings of the British Mandate in Palestine to reach some sort of accomodation with the Arabs, perhaps if not by partitioning the country into two separate states, then a single state that would have a power-sharing system between the Jews and Arabs, similar to that in Lebanon (we see how well that worked out!). With only a few exceptions, no Arabs were willing to seriously discuss such plans (and those exceptions had no real standing in the Arab community). The Arabs leadership, both "moderate" (the Nashashibis) and the "extremists" (the Husseinis, under the Mufti) was not willing to consider ANY power sharing with the Jews, they insisted on a unitary state under Muslim/Arab majority rule.
It was on this basis that the Palestinians turned down their first chance to receive a state which was offered to them by the 1947 UN Partition Resolution. The Jews were willing, reluctantly, to accept a partition. The Arabs attempted to strangle the Jewish state at birth and failed, leading to the Palestinian Refuges "problem" that is plaguing the world to this day. Morris then outlines how the Arab world, particularly Arafat's FATAH-Palestine Liberation Organization, modified their rhetoric over the years in statements to the outside world, when it was realized in the 1960's that saying they were "Going to throw the Jews into sea" didn't sell well in the West. Thus, their propaganda then shifted toward having a "secular democratic Palestine" for both Jews and Arabs, although their internal propaganda never reflected this. They even drew up a Palestinian National Covenant which never mentioned a "secular democratic" Palestine, but rather one that would use Muslim Sharia law as its basis for its legal system.
Finally, with the Oslo Accords, it seemed to many that the PLO and FATAH had finally reconciled themselves to partition (the "2-state solution). But as Arafat made clear in a speech in Johannesburg right after the signing ceremony, he never intended to honor the agreement and he would never recognize and make peace with Israel, no matter what was writtin in the Oslo Accords. Morris points out that when Arafat was offered a state again by Ehud Barak in 2000 and 2001, he turned it down flat (the refusal was called "acceptance with reservations" but their letter indicating the "reservations" showed they really didn't accept any of the terms.
He was hailed by Palestinian public opinion for his refusal.
Morris then shows how the Islamic movement HAMAS even more explicitly rejects any compromise with Israel (other than the possibility of temporary lulls in the violence). He quotes the extremely antisemitic clauses in the HAMAS charter which shows that it is hatred of Jews and "not just Zionism" which is their core belief (this public expression of hatred of Jews goes back to the very beginning of Jewish immigration to Palestine and is not merely a product of "the occupation" or "the refugee problem"). HAMAS outright won an election to get control of the Palestinian Authority which shows that these extreme, uncompromising views are agreeable to the Palestinian public at large.
Thus, Morris comes to the conclusion that it seem virtually impossible to see how any contractual peace based on partition can be achieved. Most Israelis, even those who supported the Oslo Agreements have now come around to this point. If Obama's Administration thinks it can impose such a partition, it is sadly mistaken, and it would only cause an increase in extremism. Morris has performed a major service by showing the root causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict (together with his book "1948") come from the Arab/Muslim inability to grant any legitimacy to Jewish historical and religious claims to the Land of Israel (or "Palestine" as the Arabs call it.) This is deeply rooted in their culture and, more importantly, in their religion whose influence has been strong during the whole duration of the conflict, and which is only growing strong at the present time.
The one major weakness of the book occurs at the very end. As the title of the book indicates, Morris feels obligated to provide a "solution" to the conflict. After convincingly showing that the "one state solution" can't work because the Jews are mostly Westernized, democratic and technologically oriented, the Arab societies are largely corrupt, inefficient, repressive (particularly to minorities) and autocratic, and the "two state solution" can't work because Israelis concessions are withdrawals that would be required to implement it would simply encourage the most radical elements in the Arab/Muslim world and would leave Israel open to armed attack, as happened with the Oslo Agreements and the destruction of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip, Morris seems to end up in a state of despair. It is important to remember that Morris, although he is definitely as Zionist, is most definitely NOT a "Right-winger" in Israeli terms in that he strongly opposed the settling of Jews in Judea/Samaria and Gaza, even to the point where he went to jail for refusing to do army reserve service there. This leaves him with hoping that somehow, Jordan and the Palestinians will come to some agreement which will amalgamate the two into a single state or strong confederation. He says that Jordan's large empty spaces would allow the Arabs to leave overpopulated Gaza and move there. The only problem was that this was tried once, during the period from 1948-1967 and it didn't work. The Palestinians resented Hashemite rule from Jordan then and today it is even less likely to work because the Palestinians have been exposed to Israeli ideas (as much as they say they reject them as "Western" and "Jewish") and they would want to dominate that state. In addition the idea of moving Gaza Arabs to Jordan is unrealistic because Gazans are despised by both the Palestinians of Judea/Samaria and Jordan (they speak Arabic with a distinctive Egyptian accent and stand out in a crowd). Thus, I differ with Morris as to the possibility of this "Jordanian option" as being a solution.
This does not mean that the situation is hopeless. Israel grew and thrived long before there was any (abortive) peace process. The people of Israel just have to realize what the true situation is, and stand firm on the principle of security for Israel's citizens in addition to the Jewish People's rights to live anywhere in Eretz Israel (The Land of Israel) and that the outside world must understand the true nature of the conflict.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2014
Gosh, it's been a while since I read Benny Morris's One State, Two States so I don't exactly have the appropriate perspective to comment on it, but I'll try anyway. Basically, Morris argues that there is no real solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict short of having the Palestinians be absorbed into Jordan. Morris seems especially angry in the book, by the way, that Palestinians have rejected peace proposals every time they've been on the table. Those who are sympathetic with the Palestinian position have argued that every proposal that the Palestinians have received has been crummy and would not truly grant the Palestinians a complete, contiguous nation-state. I'm no expert about this, but this seems to be the nature of the debate.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2011
Benny Morris is most likely the best authority on Israeli palestinian history among current day scholars. He offers a great balance in his report, and does it with great skill.
If you are looking for a comprehensive expose on the topic, and want to hear the truthful facts, This is the book for you. I have noticed that many other scholars take a very obvious side in their writing, to the extent of ignoring facts that they themselfs present. (Stay away from Rashid Halidi, he does exactly that).
The only downside- Dr. Morris is not an easy read, it takes focus to catch all that he throws at the reader, but it's definetly worthwhile.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2010
This book presents a very detailed assessment of the development and variety of concepts proposed since the late 19th Century regarding a resolution for the Israeli-Arab conflict between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The Author is very meticulous in presenting all possible versions of both sides and it is somewhat demanding on the part of the reader to pursue this book.
on October 24, 2014
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2015
Morris does a good job of documenting and re-hashing the origins of the conflict. He makes a well-supported argument that the Palestinians do not want and have never wanted a two-state solution and that the only solution they will accept is the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian state. However, at the end of the day, he is at a loss to offer a meaningful solution.
11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2009
Let's hope that the heavily documented book One State, Two States by Benny Morris, will put, once and for all, an end to the un-human idea to corral Jews and Arabs into a confined space between Mediterranean sea and Jordan river. The initiative of "one state for two peoples" solution proposed several years ago by British historian Tony Judd and picked up by some Palestinian activists and Israeli lefties surprised many by the sheer impracticality of it and cruelty toward both peoples.
The much more logical one-state solution is to re-unite Palestinians and Jordan into one country as it existed before the Six Days War of 1967. Kingdom of Jordan is 60% Palestinian. The ethnic and cultural differences between the Arabs from the West Bank (Palestinians) and East Bank (Jordanians) are non-existent, save the tribal tensions between them. But such tensions are common to the entire Arab world and should not prevent coalescing of Arabs with Arabs. The "greater" Jordan would be a much less Chimera-state than Iraq or Lebanon.
The idea of Palestino-Jordanian state was briefly discussed in the last few pages of the book. Let us hope that Benny Morris, or other sober minded historian will continue to develop the only reasonable solution for the Arab-Palestinian problem.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2014
I had to leave a rating to comment, but I thought it was unfair to give it 1 star and lower it's ratings. this book is one of a series of books purchased for my daughter. She needed them for college. I have no idea how well she did or didn't like these books. So do what you will with the info.