Wallerstein: ‘Last Call for Two States’

Curiously, Zmag does not allow comments on its website, so I’m commenting here on Immanuel Wallerstein’s posting of Nov. 11, “Last Call for a Two State Solution.”

I knew Wallerstein a little in Montreal when I was a student of sociology at McGill University (Wallerstein was a star on the McGill sociology faculty in the early 1970s). It’s interesting how he thinks he’s an expert on this when he’s not, but I guess it’s his Jewishness seeping through. He comes off as being a relative moderate on the issue (unusual for Zmag) but expresses this moderation harshly.

He has no idea that a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine has long had majority support, both in the Knesset and in the population of Israel. Meretz Members of Knesset tell us that it has the support today of about 70 out of 120 MKs. But Wallerstein is correct that this support will not last forever. As he points out, there are openings for such a solution on the Arab side, with Palestinian President Abbas and the Saudi/Arab League peace plan.

Here’s a little more of what Prof. Wallerstein doesn’t know: David Ben-Gurion never advocated “one state” (over two) but was surely in favor of a partition of Palestine with Jordan, and would have accepted a Palestinian state in 1948 if the Arabs had not violently rejected the UN partition plan. Wallerstein puts Ben-Gurion into the same category as Ariel Sharon; and he gives no credence to Sharon’s late-life conversion to his (admittedly anemic) conception of two states.

Like so many self-styled experts, Wallerstein refers to the liberal vision of Judah Magnes and Martin Buber for a binational state, but ignores its advocacy by Zionism’s second largest political movement prior to the state’s founding— Hashomer Hatzair (a predecessor of Mapam and Meretz today). The principle of “Land for Peace” has had majority support in Israel for decades, and most dramatically when Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister in 1992 to 1995. Even Bibi Netanyahu would never have been elected in 1996 (very narrowly over Shimon Peres as a result of a wave of Palestinian terrorism) if he had not departed from the traditional Likud opposition to this formula (of Land for Peace).

Ralph Seliger
This post was written by
A veteran editor, freelance writer and blogger, I edited the print magazine, "Israel Horizons," from 2003 until 2011. And I've been an active supporter of the Zionist peace camp since 1982. The print and online platforms where I've been published include: The Forward, Tikkun, The Daily Beast, In These Times, Jewish Week, New Jersey Jewish News, Jewish Currents, Huffington Post, Dissent.

3 Comments on "Wallerstein: ‘Last Call for Two States’"

  • Tom Mitchell says

    Ralph,
    For years I have heard peaceniks proclaim that there is a majority for a two-state solution among both Israelis and Palestinians. But what counts for negotiating peace is not a majority for a theoretical abstract position but a majority that accepts the maximum that the other side is prepared to concede in the process of negotiations. It is telling that you mention both Netanyahu and Sharon. Sharon advocated a Palestinian state that entailed only about 40-45% of the W. Bank. Netanyahu was not able to execute the Wye Plantation accords after Netanyahu signed up to them. A likely agreement would involve the PLO giving up any right of return of Palestinian refugees for Israel agreeing to a return to the 1967 borders including a return of the Temple Mount to Arab control. How many on each side agree to such a solution? When there is a majority on both sides for such a solution or any similar solution that both sides would agree to then peace will be possible.

  • Tom Mitchell makes a fair point, but I disagree with some of his details: Sharon may have moved in the end closer to the dimensions of a Palestinian state that Olmert is said to consider today– 90+ percent (up to 100 percent, when counting a territorial exchange).
    And the Arabs already have a large measure of control (although not sovereignty) over the Temple Mount.

  • Ken says

    Ben-Gurion, and the other of Israel’s founding fathers, including Golda Meir, said they were willing to accept an Israel no larger than a picnic blanket; they were also opposed to the tripartite division at the beginning, they did not want to witness the creation of Jordan. It was their intention from the beginning to ignore the agreement, much as they ignored the White Paper; the Arab states realized that Israel was going to be expansionist, which is why they attacked the state.

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