The one-fifth compromise: How Israel should deal with the Palestinians

by Yaniv Reich on November 16, 2009

As is widely recognized, the recent crisis in Israeli and US/Palestinian relations stems directly from Israeli intransigence over settlements. (Digression: Is it really that hard to stop colonizing the future Palestinian state? )

Understandably fed up with meaningless negotiations with Israel while their land is continuously stolen, the Palestinians have begun talking about unilateral declaration of statehood, which they hope would be recognized by the UN Security Council. There are good reasons to doubt this is viable (e.g. will the US really go along with this?), but it has been absolutely fascinating to watch the hysterical Israeli reactions.

First, there was silence. It took a good two days before the Netanyahu government and mainstream opinion-makers decided how to respond. Then, Shimon Peres basically begged Abbas not to quit:

“We both signed the Oslo Accord, and I am turning to you now as a friend: Don’t give up!” Peres said. “I know you have worked for your people for 50 years, work that was accompanied by much disappointment and frustration. But I know my people, and I know the Israeli government, and I am telling you that Israel wants true peace.”

Peres says this as if transferring 350,000 settlers into the West Bank since the Oslo Accord has been the deepest expression of the Israeli desire for peace: the “facts on the ground” of peace and mutual recognition.

The next phase has been fear, as witnessed in Netanyahu’s begging of the Obama administration for the knee-jerk Security Council veto the US has always wielded for Israel, trying to lock in a specific US position on unilateral independence. After a week of uncertainty, the Israelis seem to have gotten their way on this (predictably) as the US just announced they “are convinced that has to be achieved through negotiations between two parties”.

The next and most recent phase is characterized by direct threats, most notably by annexing land:

  1. PM Netanyahu: “Any unilateral action will undo the framework of past accords and lead to unilateral actions from Israel.”
  2. Defense Minister Barak: “”Experience proves that agreed upon borders are preferable to a unilateral move. Anyone who makes a unilateral move is running the risk of losing vital components, as well as other risks.”
  3. Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beitenu): “It is pure chutzpah of them … This is a hostile announcement that is meant to deteriorate any chances that are left for talks. If they make good on this threat, we must immediately, with no hesitation, annex all of Area C,” referring to the area in Judea and Samaria that remains, according to the Oslo Agreements, under full Israeli military and administrative control.
  4. Agriculture Minister Shalom (Labor): “We must all be concerned by this threat, which can lead to chaos that will never end.”
  5. Prof. Yechezkel Dror (Member of Winograd Commission): “Israel … It must work to persuade the world that such a declaration is illegal and an impediment to peace.” He agreed with Minister Landau that if the PA makes good on its threat, Israel must respond by annexing territories.
  6. Interior Minister Yishai (Shas): “There is no need to be concerned over the declaration of a Palestinian state because there is an Israeli option for a response.”
  7. Environment Minister Erdan: Israel should withhold tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

And so on and so forth.

The panic in Israeli attitudes is a powerful statement of the weakness of Israel’s position. Sure, they could legally annex the West Bank, which they have accomplished de facto already. They could also withhold the PA’s tax money, which they also do periodically in order to coerce the PA to adopt whatever new position Israel is trying to force on them.

All these reactions confirm, of course, the essential point that Israel is irrevocably damaging any prospects for peace in the two-state framework. In fact, Israel has already undermined so dramatically the possibility of an independent state that they are now terrified of that state actually being created, because it would mean that half a million Israeli citizens are not within Israel’s borders. Oops.

The situation has gone far enough that some very conservative elements of Israeli society are calling for one state. Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post writes: “Israel should strike out on a new course and work toward the integration of Judea and Samaria, including its Palestinian population, into Israeli society.” Information minister Edelstein elaborated that a binational state need not be a threat to an ethnically exclusive Israel because it doesn’t necessarily imply full voting rights for Palestinians: “It’s a threat that was always waved but there a thousand and one intermediate paths and examples from all over the world that stray from the principle of ‘one man—one vote.”

Minister Edelstein, may I suggest the solution of “three-fifths of a human” as enshrined in the original US constitution to deal with the slave populations?

Well, three-fifths might not be the appropriate ratio, what with Palestinian population growth and the demographic threat and so on. What if those Palestinians bred so fast that by 2100 there were 70% more Palestinians than Jews in the one state (and could therefore be the majority vote even with their 3/5 voting status)?

Given this serious issue, I propose establishing one state in all of historical Palestine and setting Palestinian voting rights at 1/5 of a full Jewish vote. This constitutional formula should ensure a Jewish voting majority voting until at least 2200.

All of these reactions and arguments just strengthen the attractiveness of the one-state idea.

With this in mind, I say let the Palestinians declare a state. Then let a freaked-out Israel beholden to settlers annex the West Bank.

And let the struggle for equal one-fifth rights truly begin!

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