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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

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