Two states for two languages

Arabic state, Hebrew state -
Discard the false visions of a binational state:

M. Abbas with B. Netanyahu (photo: AP)
The time has come to speak to the point. Both the Jews and the Arabs aren’t going anywhere. And in the absence of partition, the conflict will not be solved.

Salman Masalha ||
Two states for two languages

The time has come to speak to the point. The Jews and the Arabs aren’t going anywhere. You don’t have to be a genius to realize that the present situation is intolerable both morally and politically. Anyone who claims that the conflict in Israel is a national one must have enough honesty and intellectual courage to present his own vision of a national solution.

There are some people, both on the hallucinatory right and the equally hallucinatory left, who are thinking about not dividing the country. But in the absence of partition the conflict will not be solved. We won’t reach a situation of “one person, one vote,” but rather a continuation of the occupation and splashing around in the mud puddles of the Jewish and Muslim religions. So we have to put aside the false visions of life in a binational state. Since the absolute majority in each of the Jewish and Palestinian communities wants to live a national life in its country, there is no avoiding a division of the land into two nation-states, with all that entails.

An end to the conflict requires good will among both nations. Such good will demands that both sides internalize, fully recognize and agree on the basic principle: Both nations have a strong connection to this land. Clearly anyone who rejects this fundamental principle is not seeking a genuine solution to the conflict.

It must be emphasized that dividing the land is a diplomatic division into two nation-states: A Hebrew-Israeli one and an Arabic-Palestinian one. The division will be based on the Green Line, not because of any sanctity attached to it, but because it’s the line that enjoys broad international backing. In addition, in order to ensure that the agreement between the two nations will in fact end the conflict, the principle of separation of religion and state must be anchored in a Basic Law in the parliaments of both countries. Such a law is designed to bypass the complications related to the religious, ethnic and national definitions of the citizens of the two countries.

When the State of Israel itself is unable to define who and what is a Jew, it cannot make demands to be recognized as a Jewish state. Even more so when one fifth of its citizens are Arabs living in their country and their homeland. Therefore, if there is insistence on recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” it is equally important to insist on it being a “Jewish state and the country and homeland of the Arabs who are citizens of the state.”

It’s clear that the “linguistic majority” in every country is what determines its cultural identity. At the same time, it wouldn’t hurt the majority to learn and know the language of the minority, the language of the next-door neighbor. That’s why in both states the language of the neighboring state should receive official status. Determining the status of the neighbors’ language is required for the education of the coming generations. Because the citizens of both countries are like tenants in a shared house. They are tenants of a shared homeland.

Like any properly administered country, and in accordance with the rules of international law, it should be emphasized that the nationality in both states is no more than a diplomatic-civic nationality. A Jew who chooses to remain under Palestinian sovereignty will be considered a Palestinian for all intents and purposes, like any other Palestinian citizen. The same is true of all citizens under Israel sovereignty. The suggested separation between civic nationality and religious-ethnic nationality is designed to bypass a prohibitively tall obstacle – the demand to define the states based on the ethnic-religious majority of its citizens.

A state, as such, has no religion. The citizens of the state can believe in one religion or another, or not believe in any religion at all. In the final analysis, it is the dominant language that determines the identity of the place. Therefore, what will bring an end to the conflict once and for all is the recognition of Palestine as an Arabic – not a Muslim – state, and of Israel as a Hebrew – not a Jewish – state, and a redeemer shall come to Israel and Ishmael.

Published: Opinions-Haaretz, Mar. 19, 2014

For Hebrew, press here

  • Iran’s Messianic War

    The Islamic revolution, which brought the ayatollahs to power in Iran, awakened messianic demons from their sleep. The rulers dreamed of a greater Iran and acted to export the revolution beyond their borders.

    The decay in the Arab world

    With great sadness, it can be said that in the absence of a sane civil alternative, the Arab world will continue along this path.

    Read more

  • The Massacre of Arab Nationalism

    It must be admitted that the siege imposed on Gaza ever since Hamas took power there isn’t just an Israeli siege. It’s also an Arab one – because a single Egyptian decision would be enough to break the siege on Gaza’s border with Egypt.

    A Feeble Middle East

    The West learned on its own flesh that this region conducts itself by other codes. Iran has continued to entrench its standing by means of its religious ideology. The toppling of Saddam Hussein shattered the illusion of the existence of a unifying “Iraqi identity” .

    Read more

  • Neither Arab nor Spring

    The vicissitudes that have, for some reason, been collectively dubbed the "Arab Spring" are neither Arab nor Spring. One can say that they are actually living proof of the identity crisis and reverberating bankruptcy of Arab nationalism.

    Read more

  • Welcome Back to History

    Islam, like other imperialist ideologies, still needs enemies to flourish. Enemies have served Islam in the past as fuel for its wagons. Without enemies Islam declines and stagnates...

    Read more

  • The pit and the pendulum

    In those days, we did not drink four goblets of wine, because everything that gladdens the human heart is not a part of our custom.

    Read more

  • Solomon’s Mosque

    Religion, every religion, is the No. 1 enemy of nationalism. But under conditions of tension, such as tribal warfare, these polar opposites combine into a toxic soup that consumes all common sense.

    Read more

  • Never-ending tragedy

    The Israeli right, in all its forms, wants exclusively Jewish control over all of the Land of Israel. To the Palestinians who live in this space, it promises residency – temporary, of course, on condition that they keep their heads down, accept their designated status and behave accordingly.

    Read more
  • Hamas in the service of Israel

    Hamas rule isn’t the enemy of the Israeli right. Au contraire, it’s the loyal servant of all the right-wing governments. Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War, all Israeli governments have devoted all their time and energy to fighting the Palestinian national movement


מיון החומרים


Selected Topics

  • Martin Niemöller

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the Socialist
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Read More

  • Salman Masalha

    Beyond my door which faces west
    Lives a woman who'll never rest.

    She likes to tease my nomad soul
    With words she keeps for gloomy fall.
  • Balkrishna Sama

    He who loves flowers, has a tender heart.
    he who cannot pluck their blooms,
    has a heart that's noble.

    Read more