39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Well Argued But Not Entirely Coherent,
This review is from: One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict (Hardcover)
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 18, 2011 1:39:06 PM PST
Benjamin B. Bedell says:
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 18, 2011 4:04:32 PM PST
R. Albin says:
I don't disagree but unfortunately apartheid is increasingly a term of abuse rather than a description. Its easier to get people to listen if you avoid it.
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