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September 16, 2013 9:40 am

One-State Delusion

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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Office of The New York Times, in New York City. Photo: WikiCommons.

Office of The New York Times, in New York City. Photo: WikiCommons.

“Two-State Illusion” was an especially catchy title for the lead Opinion column in the Sunday The New York Times Review section (September 15). It was about time, I thought, after years of reading endless Times columns and editorials about the urgency of just that outcome, with Israel and Palestine living amicably side-by-side in wonderland. But “the idea of a state for Palestinians and one for Israelis,” wrote University of Pennsylvania political scientist Ian Lustick, “is a fantasy that blinds us and impedes progress.”

Lustick shed no tears for the demise of every Middle East diplomat’s favorite dream. He properly lacerated the “true believers” – Secretary of State Kerry is named. But Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, the Israeli sponsors of the lamentable Oslo failure whose twentieth anniversary just passed, escaped mention. He aptly warned that “obsessive focus on preserving the theoretical possibility of a two-state solution is as irrational as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic rather than steering clear of icebergs.” Why, then, does everyone – Palestinians, Israelis and Americans – pretend to believe in the chimera of a two-state solution, and why are its prospects virtually nil?

It all seemed too good to be true and, pages and paragraphs later, it was. The hint of familiar animus came with the first reference to Jewish settlements, the persistently unwelcome (in the Times) indication that Zionism really does mean, as it has always meant, settling in the Land of Israel. But rather than providing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, settlements in Lustick’s conventional wisdom, undermine Israel’s claim to be the Jewish and democratic state that Zionist founders envisioned.

The imagined consequence of continued Israeli intransigence – it is always Israel that is unyielding – borders on the absurd: “ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, terror, Jewish and Arab emigration and rising tides of international condemnation of Israel.” Like South African leaders twenty-five years ago (no disguised analogy there), Israelis will come to see that “fresh thinking” is necessary.

Where will such thinking lead? Hold your breath. In Lustickland, Palestinians, post-Zionists, non-Jewish immigrants to Israel and “global village Israeli entrepreneurs” in Tel Aviv will unite. Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Muslims might also “find common cause.” Israelis from Arab countries could think of themselves as Arabs. Outnumbering Jews, downtrodden Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel will turn to democracy, not Islam, to secure their state built on the ashes of Israel. And presumably (although Lustick does not say so), the Messiah will arrive in time for the celebration. “Peacemaking and democratic state building,” Lustick writes, require “blood and magic.” Mostly, it seems, magic, with Lustick waving his fantasy wand and declaring an end to “the stifling reign of an outdated idea”: the two-state solution.

Before Lustick laments its apparent demise, he might consider its resurrection in far less absurd form. Imagine the existing Palestinian state, known as the Kingdom of Jordan, which occupies two-thirds of the territory designated by the League of Nations as Palestine after World War I. It already has a Palestinian population majority. Palestinian cities and villages that are within the West Bank territory ruled by Jordan between 1948-67 could be reunited with their people in eastern Palestine, across the Jordan River. Israeli settlements would remain within Israeli borders. No doubt, given the congeniality that Lustick anticipates across national, ethnic and religious lines, a joint Israeli-Palestinian police force could easily preserve peace between two the states. But just to make sure, the Israel Defense Forces would stand by.

For someone like Professor Lustick, who claims to prefer “the world as it is,” a Palestinian state in Jordan and portions of its West Bank and a Jewish state in the Land of Israel would seem to meet his reality test quite nicely. That, to be sure, is not quite what he has in mind. But his call for “one mixed state” that erases Israel as a Jewish state is fantasy in the guise of realism. That may, however, help to explain why “the Two-State Illusion” found a welcome home in The New York Times.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of the forthcoming Jewish State/Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy.

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  • E benAbuya

    What I’ve come to appreciate about the NYT is their use of reliable sources. When, as they reliably do, want yet another delusional Israel bashing editorial they turn to the reliable Prof. Cheerful whom they can count on for such gems as
    “Israel may no longer exist as the Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders.” and “The disappearance of Israel as a Zionist project, through war, cultural exhaustion or demographic momentum, is at least as plausible as . . .(insert your fantasy here.)”
    “Cultural exhaustion”? compared with what? Nasserism, Baathism, Islamism? Arafatian Kleptocracy?
    For a thorough fisking see:

  • Richard Roistacher

    Rather than do a global analysis of this piece, I looked at two phrases. The first is Lustick’s talking about “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.” This is a catch phrase in the propaganda war against Israel and informs other Israel haters that he is one of them.And, sure enough, the Google search string “Lustick BDS” yields a page of references showing him to be a member in good standing of the BDS movement.
    The other phrase is the one referring to “Jewish-only roads” in the West Bank. This is a lie. The roads are open to all cars with Israeli plates, cars that may carry Arabs, Jews, Druze, or whoever lives in Israel. As a specialist in the area, Prof. Lustick cannot but know it is a lie, but it is a great way to do a drive-by hit on Israel. (The devil is in the details.)

  • Isaac Waterman

    My letter to the New York Post sent today:
    I’m a Holocaust survivor and the article you published in your Sunday paper by Prof. Ian Lustick shows your disdain of the Jewish State. The Jewish owners of the New York Post, who are allowing these kind of articles are either blind or not aware what is being published in their own paper.
    Prof. Ian Lustick is a very disturbed man, not understanding the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A one state solution is like self murder for the Jewish population. If you agree with that, then I pity you too.

    The Palestinians had their opportunity to make their part of the land as prosperous as Israel, but they chose war instead of building a country. With the millions of dollars they received from all over the world they would have been in the same situation as Israel is now. Their laziness, hatred and leaders, who stole their money, kept them in the miserable situation they still are.
    If they keep on choosing the wrong leaders they never will become a prosperous state. A one state solution would mean a new Holocaust in the Middle East.

    • shoshana

      a one state solution is the negation of the sionist dream amd its realisation as the State of Israel. A state that is jewish and democratic.
      A one state would become within 1-2 generations a state with a muslem majority and then being dominated by muslem laws….Thank you!do you really need it?

    • Mike

      The article was in the New York TIMES – not the Post!!

  • Elliot J. Stamler

    Lustick is wrong but Auerbach has no alternative solution either. The Jordanians were glad to be rid of the West Bank and they’ll never take it back as part of their sovereign nation. Why? Because the royal Hashemite dynasty is NOT Palestinian and a majority of Palestinians are lukewarm to hostile to the dynasty and always have been. Abdullah II is fretful about the millions of existing Palestinian subjects-how can anyone think he will ever accept a few million more from the territories? His father, Hussein, survived several assassination attempts by Palestinians; his great-grandfather Abdullah I, was murdered by a Palestinians. Mr. Auerbach’s solution is a pipedream as is Prof. Lustick’s. I am dubious too a two-state solution will work but I don’t unduly worry about it because I have long felt it won’t come about at any time in the forseeable future as long as the Arabs refuse to accept Israel as the Jewish state and demand every single inch where the settlements are-not to mention East Jerusalem. Tragically that is the way it is.

  • Efram Paul

    To think, once upon a time I revered the Times. I think it should consider changing its name to anti-Semitism R Us, and anything which interferes with terrorism should be all the news printed to cause fits.

  • Reuven

    Yes, unfortunately, I read Lustick’s absurd article yesterday, without buying the anti-Semitic rag that it was published in (I’ve been boycotting it for years, because of it’s vicious Israel-bashing). Lustick was clearly calling for the annhilation of Israel, and that is what The Times seeks.

    • PAK

      Don’t boycott the NY Times fight back when appropriate with facts and figures. Boycotting/silence only allows the Israel bashers to win the PR battle.

  • albert rosenblatt

    What is the Jordanians do not want part of the West Bank? This has been their position for decades. To impose the West Bank or parts of it on Jordan — is also not a solution.

    We are left with Israel proper — and either a full-fledged state in the West Bank and Gaza — or a micro-state in part of the West Bank. The Israeli leadership currently prefers the latter. The problem with the micro-state is that it will not come near to fulfilling Palestinian aspirations — so we are left with a simmering conflict disguised as a peace treaty.


      “The problem with the micro-state is that it will not come near to fulfilling Palestinian aspirations — so we are left with a simmering conflict disguised as a peace treaty.”


  • Michael Segal

    Lustick’s article assumes that if there are problems with the two-state vision, the only alternative is to return to what Yasser Arafat advocated in the 1970s, a “secular democratic state”. A much more insightful analysis would have noted that much of the region is currently in flux, and one can now imagine that the Sunni portion of Syria might break off and unite with Jordan, and perhaps even with the Sunni areas of Iraq. This might have implications for whether Palestinian Arabs would want a separate state or be a part of that emerging entity.

    Also, the New York Times has now returned to calling Tel Aviv the capital of Israel. In a story printed on 16 September one line is “The persistent security vacuum in the Sinai Desert near the Israeli border has been a growing worry for officials in Cairo, Tel Aviv and Washington, all concerned that the region is turning into a terrorist haven.” (

    The NYT might try to weasel out of this by noting that Israel’s defense department is in Tel Aviv, but the US Department of Defense is in Arlington Virginia.