A One-State Thought Experiment

Adam Kirsch reviews What Is a Palestinian State Worth? by Sari Nusseibeh:

At the beginning of his book, he suggests that the Palestinians give up their demands for sovereignty and instead agree to become second-class Israeli citizensthat is, citizens without the right to vote or run for office. “Thus the state would be Jewish, but the country would be fully binational, all the Arabs within it having their well-being tended to and sustained. … In any case, such a scenario would provide [the Palestinians] with a far better life than they have had in more than forty years under occupation.”

It seems to me that Nusseibeh, who was one of the earliest proponents of a two-state solution, is not seriously endorsing this idea. He is fully aware that it would not be feasible or desirable, from either side’s perspective. It is, rather, a thought-experiment, designed to challenge the assumptions of both Jews and Arabs. For the Palestinians, it is a challenge to “think deeply about what states are for”that is, to examine whether they want the trappings of statehood or a better, more secure life. For Jews, it is a challenge to contemplate whether such a two-tiered system, with its echoes of South African apartheid, is consistent with Israel’s principlesand whether such a system might not already be in place in the Occupied Territories.