Meron Benvenisti, in his new book Halom Hatzabar Halavan (The Sabra’s White Dream), acknowledges that the “two-states dream has vanished into thin air.” But he also uses this fact to challenge the Greater Israel adherents: On the contrary, he says, now let’s see how you cope with the bi-national state you have concocted. However, in the times we now live in, when the old colonialist structure imposed on the Middle East is crumbling, we can answer this question more easily than ever before.
Never, in any place, has a nation returned to its ancient homeland after an absence of thousands of years and in response, aroused within the local population a nationalistic consciousness of its own, leading to bloody confrontations spanning almost 150 years. But why has the “Palestinian problem” become such a thorny issue? Because of the partition of the country. In the beginning, at the San Remo Convention (1920), the superpowers promised both the eastern and western territories of Eretz Israel [both banks of the Jordan River] to the Jewish people as a “national homeland,” and the League of Nations did not recognize any other nationality in this space in the Palestine mandate document given to the British in1922. The local Arabs were called “clans” or “communities,” and promised religious and civil rights — but not national ones.
Later on came the partition: three-quarters of the Jewish national home was subtracted to serve as the national home for the Arabs of Eretz Israel. A new “Palestinian” national entity was founded. But things did not turn out as planned. Instead, a new “Jordanian” political entity sprang up, while the new "Palestinian nation” continued to demand the west of the Jordan River as well, the quarter that remained to the Jewish nation. As a result, the United Nations proposed an additional, impossible partition in 1947, and from then on, Jewish and Arab blood has flowed. And so long as they do not have the original territory at their disposal — both banks of the Jordan River on which to establish “two states for two nations” — the bloodshed will continue.
Until recently, this concept was viewed as illusory. But today, the three countries of the region that were formed by imperialism — Iraq, Syria and Lebanon — are breaking down into their elements, and cracks have even appeared in Jordan. Thus, the “two states for two nations” idea no longer seems so groundless. Palestinians constitute the overwhelming majority of the Jordanian kingdom, and their self-determination will lead to the absurd situation in which the Arabs call for two countries for the one Palestinian nation — one east of the Jordan River, and one west of it.
This is erroneous: Eastern Jordan is the national home of all the Palestinians, and west of the Jordan River is the national home of the Jews, which will include autonomy for Arabs living in Areas A and B. These Arabs will enjoy local control of their affairs under Israel’s overall sovereignty, as well as citizenship in Palestine on the other side of the river. Here they will vote in an autonomous local apparatus, and while in Amman, for their national frameworks.
The Green Line and Oslo borders are not holy. Those living in the sphere of Israeli sovereignty — Umm el-Fahem, for example — would be included within the autonomous region. Meanwhile those in the Area C — about 50 thousand Arab residents living in the Jordan Valley, Judean Desert and other areas with Jewish settlements — would be free to choose Israeli citizenship. This is analogous to the situation of the Jerusalem Arabs, who are free to choose Israeli citizenship. In any case, the fear of the Jewish state becoming a bi-national entity is groundless. The Arabs of the Autonomy will not vote for the Knesset.
In an ideal situation, an Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic agreement would preserve the basic rights of Palestine’s nationals, citizens of the Autonomy. In any case, the Arabs of Judea and Samaria would not lose out under this arrangement — they would benefit from both worlds. Thus this idyllic dream of two states for two nations on both sides of the Jordan River is more realistic than the nightmare of two states within the lilliputian boundaries of western Eretz Israel, plus another Palestinian state in the east. This dream does not have to materialize immediately because even under the status quo, the Arabs of Judea and Samaria enjoy extensive autonomy: their own parliament, a government, armed forces, a flag, anthem, diplomatic representatives and self- government in all spheres of life. Simultaneously, Israel takes care of their needs in the domains of security and of the Zionist settlement project. There is no need to rush; there is time to allow the process to ripen. In contrast to the fears of the Left, time is working in our favor.