Maximizing Rights: The One State Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Palestinian-American law professor and commentator George Bisharat.
Palestinian-American law professor and commentator George Bisharat.

In April George Bisharat wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle titled Changing the Rules of War giving a legal perspective on Israeli conduct in Gaza.  He stated that “what is less appreciated is how Israel is … brutalizing international law, in ways that may long outlast the demolition of Gaza.”  I’m sure if you read it in April, you’d remember it, and if you haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it more highly.

Maximizing Rights is a previous work of his, published 2008 in the Berkley journal Global Jurist.  In it he states that it’s time to face the painful truth: the two-state solution has failed.  He argues for a new paradigm, with a rights-based approach, that favours a one-state solution as it provides “the widest array of rights to the greatest number of Palestinians and Israelis.”  Simply put: the one-state solution is the most just solution and is most likely to bring lasting peace.

The article can be downloaded for free on the journals website. I’ve included the abstract below.

This article employs a `rights-based approach’ in evaluating a `single state solution’ to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. International human rights provide a necessary normative standard for the just resolution of this long-running dispute. A single state, as compared to the two-state solution that has been broadly supported by the international community since 1947, offers superior opportunities to maximize the legitimate rights, interests, and aspirations of the greatest number of Israelis and Palestinians. Yet Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs each enjoy internationally recognized rights of self-determination and sovereignty. Accordingly, there is no legal means by which a one-state solution could be directly imposed on the parties to the dispute without violating the respective rights of each people. As a matter of law, then, a one-state solution could only come about through the agreement of Palestinians and Israelis and as an exercise of their respective rights to self-determination. The inability to implement a one-state solution without consent of the parties requires consideration of the means by which such an agreement might be encouraged. There is no indication that states are likely to brook the current international consensus in support of a two-state solution. Thus it is necessary to examine whether international civil society is capable of playing a facilitating role analogous to the role it played in the demise of apartheid in South Africa. A variety of scenarios can be imagined, but in any of them, ultimately, broad Israeli Jewish opposition to a single state solution will have to be overcome. This suggests that a non-violent campaign, or at least one that scrupulously avoids attack on innocent civilians, is the most promising route to achieving a one-state solution. While such a shift appears farfetched at the moment, no other solution to the conflict currently seems imminent. The moral power of a single state, based on equal rights for all residents of Israel/Palestine, has transformative power that should not be underestimated.

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