The 2023 Israel-Hamas War that started on 7 October 2023 has again drawn to the world’s attention to the Arab-Israeli issue. There have been at least 17 major conflicts, including the Israel Independence War of 1948, creating millions of refugees, massive destruction, and loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
In 1993, the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) agreed on a plan to implement a two-state solution as part of the Oslo Accords, leading to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). What is patently clear is that this two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue is not working. This feature argues that business-as-usual is not an option and the only permanent and sustainable solution is that of a single unitary state.
In the heart of the Holy Land, this contentious debate has persevered for decades, centred around finding a sustainable and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A growing number of voices are now advocating for an alternative: a one-state solution, bringing both nations under the umbrella of a single, united entity. Let the Botswana Gazette be credited with the name of this new state – The Holy Land of Israel and Palestine. Let us consider more carefully why only a unitary state will work.
The two-state solution has struggled to address the issue of inequality and justice. The occupied Palestinian territories experience restrictions on movement, access to resources, and economic opportunities due to Israeli control and settlements (Human Rights Watch, 2021). A one-state solution offers the opportunity to create a society with equal rights for all, addressing existing disparities and promoting social justice. The two-state solution has struggled to mitigate the persistent issue of inequality and social injustice within the region. A unified state could provide a framework for a more egalitarian society, offering equal rights and opportunities to all citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion. This aligns with fundamental principles of justice and fairness.
Despite multiple attempts at the two-state solution, peace negotiations have often stalled or failed, including the breakdown of the Camp David summit in 2000 and subsequent efforts (BBC, 2013). A one-state solution could provide a new framework for achieving peace and reconciliation by overcoming the historical failures of the two-state approach. A one-state solution offers an alternative, potentially fostering a sense of shared identity and purpose, transcending historical grievances and paving the way for a harmonious coexistence. Despite the presence of a two-state framework, there have been recurrent conflicts and security concerns, highlighting the limitations of the current approach (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021). A single-state solution could allow for a more integrated approach to security, potentially enhancing overall stability in the region.
The fragmentation of the Palestinian territories under the two-state solution inhibits economic development and investment opportunities (World Bank, 2020). A unified state would streamline economic development efforts and attract investment, benefiting both Israelis and Palestinians. By pooling resources and talent, a unified state can stimulate economic development, attract investment, and enhance opportunities for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Israel has a significantly higher per capita GDP compared to the occupied Economic disparities
Palestinian territories. The per capita GDP in Israel is among the highest in the Middle East, while the Palestinian territories have lower per capita GDP (World Bank, 2021). A one-state solution could help in leveraging the economic strength of Israel to uplift the overall economic status of the unified state, potentially improving per capita GDP and reducing economic disparities.
The two-state solution maintains a separation of cultural and religious identities, perpetuating a sense of division and otherness between Israelis and Palestinians (HuffPost, 2015). A one-state solution could encourage integration and collaboration, fostering a sense of unity among diverse cultural and religious groups. A unified state could encourage integration and collaboration, fostering a sense of unity and understanding among diverse cultural and religious groups, enriching the fabric of society.
Addressing demographic imbalances is crucial for any lasting solution. A one-state solution could ensure fair representation for both Israeli and Palestinian populations, thus mitigating demographic challenges and fostering a more inclusive political system.
Palestinians in the occupied territories face challenges in accessing healthcare due to restrictions on movement, inadequate healthcare infrastructure, and political instability. This results in health disparities between Israelis and Palestinians (Lancet, 2018). A unified state could create a more equitable healthcare system, addressing the disparities and ensuring better healthcare access and outcomes for all residents. Health disparities and economic inequalities persist between Israelis and Palestinians.
As of March 2023, Israel’s population stands at approximately 9.73 million. Jews make up the majority at 73.5% (about 7.145 million individuals). The Arab community, spanning various religions excluding Judaism, accounts for 21% (around 2.048 million). An additional 5.5% (roughly 534,000 individuals) are classified as “others.” The collective population in the Palestinian territories amounted to 4,543,126 people in 2017. Thereof, 2,155,743 Arabs live in the West Bank, 1,795,183 Arabs live in the Gaza Strip, and 391,000 Jews live in the West Bank. Israel has a higher population density compared to the West Bank and Gaza Strip (World Bank, 2021).
The Gaza enclave – also known as the Gaza Strip, consists of just 345 square km with a population of 2.1 million. This would be almost like the entire population of Botswana crammed into Greater Gaborone. A one-state solution could help in addressing demographic imbalances and ensuring fair representation and political power for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnicity or religious background.
Israel has faced criticism for its settlement activities and non-compliance with UN resolutions, including UN Security Council Resolution 2334 of 2016 (United Nations, 2016). A one-state solution could lead to a more cohesive adherence to international law, potentially addressing concerns regarding UN resolutions. Critics argue that Israel has not fully adhered to UN resolutions, particularly regarding settlement activities where 400,000 Israelis illegally now reside. Amnesty International (2022) reported that without doubt Israel is practicing apartheid. The evidence of disposition of properties, discrimination and various human right violations, such as access to water, power, the Internet, health facilities and even food, support the assertion. The current Gaza war and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Gazans shows that the enclave is a ghetto similar in many ways to that of Warsaw in World War 2 in which the German army sealed off a part of the Polish capital containing almost half a million people from 1940 to 1945, denying basic human rights to those who lived there – most of whom were Polish Jewry, ancestors of Israeli leaders who are meting out a similar siege strategy to Palestinian Arabs.
The evidence suggests that the two-state solution has faced numerous challenges, including issues related to inequality, stalled peace negotiations, economic fragmentation, and security concerns. A unified state can potentially work towards levelling the playing field, enhancing equal opportunities, and creating a more inclusive and equitable society for all its citizens.
In conclusion, while the one-state solution presents its own set of challenges, it offers a fresh perspective and an opportunity to address the existing drawbacks of the two-state approach.
There is a personal interest by the author in Israel that has compelled this feature as can been seen in the image of the burial site of his parents at Hayarden Cemetery, Tel Aviv. Let us all hope that through a single unitary state, they and millions of other Jews and Palestinian Arabs can finally rest in peace.
Through inclusivity, shared resources, and collaboration, The Holy Land of Israel and Palestine could potentially pave the way to a peaceful and prosperous future, embodying unity and coexistence in this historically significant region.