Caroline Glick’s one-state solution for Israel-Palestine asks all the wrong questions

Caroline Glick offers a novel take on the single-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but her uncritical assumptions mean her proposal would most likely fail.

A member of the Israeli security forces on patrol in the West Bank last month. Abbas Momani / AFP Photo / March 2014
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It will strike many as counter­intuitive that in The Israeli Solution, Caroline Glick argues from a Zionist perspective that Israel and the larger of the two Palestinian territories should become one state. After all, this is almost the very solution advocated by Palestinian and other anti-Zionists who believe that, by force of demo­graphy alone, such a state would cease to boast a significant Jewish majority and instead emerge as a binational Jewish-Arab country.

Yet Glick, a senior editor and columnist at The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s right-leaning English-language daily newspaper, and the director of the Israel Security Project at the far-right David Horowitz Freedom Center in the US, disagrees with that assessment. She maintains that even if Israel were to absorb the West Bank (but not the Gaza Strip) and grant its Palestinian inhabitants Israeli citizenship, the country would retain a significant Jewish majority (66 per cent instead of the current 75 per cent) and wouldn’t need to alter its raison d’être.

“The basic difference between the Israeli one-state plan and the pro-Palestinian one-state solution, as represented by its supporters, is that the Israeli one-state plan is based on fact and the pro-Palestinian one-state solution is pure propaganda. What the real demographic data show is that even if all the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria [the Biblical term for the West Bank] are granted Israeli citizenship, Jews would still remain a two-thirds majority of the citizens of Israel.”

Glick bases this demographic claim on West Bank population figures arrived at in 2005 by the American-Israel Demographic Research Group, which posited that the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics had inflated the number of Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza in an earlier census and had also projected unrealistic population growth. Like those before her who have taken issue with Palestinian census figures, Glick may well be right. However, it is strange that she should omit mention of highly regarded Israeli demographers and geographers (such as Sergio DellaPergola and Arnon Soffer) who are in substantial agreement with the Palestinians' findings.

At any rate, Glick’s proposal is intriguing. Here is a fervent Zionist calling on Israel to permanently incorporate the Palestinian-majority West Bank into its territory in order for the Jewish state to have both defensible borders and no hostile forces on the other side. Yet she also urges Israel to offer citizenship to West Bank Palestinians, which is anathema to most Israelis across the political spectrum. In the resulting scenario, Glick forecasts, “Israelis will have the same rights in Judea and Samaria, including access to state lands and the ability to purchase land, as they have in the rest of Israel. By the same token, Palestinians will have the same legal and civil rights as the rest of the residents and citizens of Israel.” The author may represent a growing trend; she cites a contentious 2013 poll showing that “59 per cent of Israeli Jews believe that Israel should apply its law to all or parts of Judea and Samaria”. (The poll does not reveal whether respondents would support granting Israeli citizenship to the region’s Palestinians.)

Yet The Israeli Solution is fraught with problems. To begin with, more than one third of the book consists of malicious, defamatory attacks on the Palestinians. This is hardly a good strategy for winning them over, but then again Glick seems more concerned with convincing Americans that the two-state solution they keep pushing for can only lead to war and terrorism, something she attempts to do chiefly by arguing that the Palestinians are inveterate anti-Semites and terrorists not to be trusted with a state of their own in the West Bank. Even when the author registers a solid point, as with her observation that Palestinian nationalism arose in direct response to the Zionist enterprise, she takes it to the extreme: “Western leaders refuse to recognise the true nature of the Palestinian people. Ever since [Haj Amin] Husseini invented the Palestinian people in the early 1920s, they have consistently defined themselves around the negative ethos of Israel’s destruction and anti-Semitism.”

The Israeli Solution also provides a mendacious reading of history. Highlights include: asserting that the commitment by the British Mandate for Palestine (1920-1948) to establish “a national home for the Jewish people” meant granting “sovereign rights” to Jews over Palestine; omitting that Zionist militias began expelling Palestinians months before Arab military forces invaded following the proclamation of the State of Israel in May 1948; claiming that these invading military forces comprised “five Arab armies” instead of small detachments thereof; describing the Arab countries as the aggressors in the Six-Day War of 1967, whereas Israel initiated hostilities with a surprise attack on Egypt; and calling Israel’s resulting occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip “benign military rule”. In fact, Glick refuses to term Israel’s rule over these areas occupation, due to what she considers Jewish historical and Israeli legal rights to the lands in question. Consequently, she maintains that, were Israel to incorporate the West Bank into its territory, this would not constitute annexation.

Yet the most serious flaw here is what Glick doesn’t do: pay sufficient attention – let alone attribute importance – to what Palestinians themselves think of becoming part of Israel. Now, it’s understandable that she’d oppose the Palestinian right of return, which has its basis in UN General Security Council Resolution 194 (and which she considers “invented”). There are three reasons for this: most diaspora Palestinians are not refugees but their offspring or descendants; the Arab countries hosting these Palestinians deserve no reward for discriminating against them; and a massive influx of diaspora Palestinians to Israel, together with the latter’s annexation of the West Bank, would deprive the country of its Jewish majority.

What causes alarm is Glick’s cavalier attitude to Palestinians closer to home. The desires of the inhabitants of Gaza (which she doesn’t want Israel to annex, preferring it to remain Palestinian-governed or become part of Egypt) and the West Bank (which she does want Israel to annex) hardly concern her. Instead, she contents herself with the argument that her proposed solution will serve Israeli and American political and security interests, as well as the desires of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

True, Glick acknowledges that most Palestinian West Bankers – like Palestinian East Jerusalemites and Syrian Golan Heights residents before them – might refuse Israeli citizenship. Yet she doesn’t care; they’d receive residency permits and that would be the end of it. Not only that, but even if most or all of the Palestinians in the West Bank did apply for Israeli citizenship, not everyone would get it, for “past or current membership in terrorist organisations, and past or current incitement to violence against Israel, should disqualify an individual from acquiring citizenship”.

It’s also true that Glick argues – as an afterthought – that Israeli citizenship would prove a boon to those upon whom it is conferred, because the Palestinian leadership has made a mess of the areas it rules in the West Bank. But she fails to note that the Palestinians operate under Israeli-imposed adverse conditions – including occupation. Instead, she points to what she considers the highly enviable situation of Palestinians who are already Israeli citizens, claiming that “[s]ince 1949 Israel’s Arab citizens have enjoyed the full rights and privileges of citizenship, contingent on security concerns”. In fact, Palestinian citizens of Israel lived under martial law from 1949 until 1966, and, despite admittedly enjoying civil and political rights since, have continued to suffer discrimination.

Ultimately, Glick’s approach to the whole notion of one state recalls that of Palestinians whose endorsement of the same idea stems from the perceived benefits it would provide their people, with precious little attention paid to what Israelis favour. If Palestinian supporters of one state view it as terminating Zionism (thanks to resulting demographic changes), while their Israeli counterparts consider it Zionism’s fulfilment (thanks to enhanced security without major demographic changes), this state, if established, would become an arena for its own disparate advocates to collide. It probably wouldn’t last.

The sole positive outcome of such a state’s eventual break-up (which could happen through civil war) is that it would shatter the dreams of Palestinian and Israeli maximalists alike, most of whom would subsequently throw their weight behind the two-state solution, thereby ensuring that it becomes the near-consensus choice.

Paradoxically, then, the one-state option, if attempted, might in fact lead to the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – but not in the way its advocates envisage. To be sure, should it result in equality between Jews and Arabs in an enlarged Israel, this would signify success (though, if Glick has her way, the issues of Gaza and the Palestinian diaspora would still require resolution). But should the unitary state collapse, as would likely happen, it would once-and-for-all consecrate the two-state scenario as both the proper and popular solution.

Rayyan Al Shawaf is a writer and book critic based in Beirut.