Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Palestine, Marxists and the “One-State Solution”

Trump suggested that he may abandon plans for a “two-state solution.” For decades, US foreign police has aimed to create a Palestinian state. But even before Trump’s remarks, this solution was dead. How do Marxists propose to bring peace to the Middle East?

Nathaniel Flakin

February 16, 2017
Facebook Twitter Share

On Wednesday, Donald Trump held a press conference at the White House together with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump was “looking at two-state and one-state” formulations. The previous three US presidents had all called for the formation of a Palestinian state. Yet over almost three decades, it became clear that this plan was not going anywhere.

On December 28 of last year, then US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech in Washington declaring that the “two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy.” This plan had been favored not only by the US, but also by most other imperialist powers for decades. Commentators around the world interpreted Kerry’s remarks to mean this idea is now “a fantasy” or simply “dead”.

A historical idea

There is increasing discussion about alternatives. When Trump and Netanyahu talk about “one state”, they mean Israeli formally annexing the Palestinian territories, leaving the Palestinians with no rights. But “one state” historically has a very different meaning. It refers to the idea of a single, democratic state in historical Palestine in which all people – regardless of ethnicity of religion – can live with equal rights. A few decades ago, the idea of a “one-state solution” like this was self-evident, not only for the PLO but also for radical leftists in Israel and around the world. It was only in the 1990s that the “two-state solution” began to gain traction as an alternative.

What is the result of the campaign for two states, i.e. for an independent Palestinian state next to Israel? More than 20 years after the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians have been forced into even deeper misery, while Israeli society has shifted steadily to the right. An end to the occupation of the West Bank, which has been going on for almost 50 years, is nowhere in sight. Quite the opposite: Due to the expansion of Israeli settlements, even the most enthusiastic advocates of the “two-state solution” (namely: diplomats of imperialist states) can’t indicate where a Palestinian state would be founded.

Against this backdrop, the “one-state solution” is regaining popularity. One well-known supporter of this idea is the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, who was interviewed in the first issue of Left Voice. The former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has gone on record saying that the greatest threat to the state of Israel would be if the Palestinians were to shift away from the demand for their own state towards a “South African-style struggle for equal voting rights”. “One person, one vote” – the founding principle of bourgeois democracy – would mean “the state of Israel is finished”, in Olmert’s words.

This one state already exists. Millions of Palestinians already live under the rule of the Israeli authorities. Should they not enjoy basic democratic rights? Right-wingers call this simple democratic demand “antisemitic”. That is a disgrace. Was MAPAM, the second-largest party in the first Knesset elections in 1948, antisemitic? The Israeli socialist organization Matzpen, who protested against the war in 1967? The General Jewish Worker Bund? And also the Israeli radical left today? All these forces, in different ways, have advocated for a single state for all people in the region.

Marxist critique

But as Marxists, we are critical of this “one-state solution” – we criticize it from the left. We always support democratic demands. But at the same time we ask: What subject can win these demands in struggle?

For Ilan Pappé, the “one-state solution” is more or less a bourgeois reform project. He says that Israelis and Palestinians must continue dialogue with each other more and then it will all work out. . Pappé ignores the fact that the respective elites have arranged themselves perfectly with the brutal conditions – permanent war, occupation and hatred. Not only the ruling class of Israel but also the Palestinian leadership is dependent on the conflict. The corrupt, right-wing governments on either side of the “Green Line” could not survive for 30 seconds without the war.

Profound political changes, such as Pappé proposes, require a political subject. For Marxists, this subject can only be the working class, an expropriated and therefore “universal class” (Marx) which can united all the oppressed in the struggle against capitalism. In the specific context of Israel this means: The Israeli and Palestinian bourgeoisie must be overthrown to establish democratic conditions. In order to create a state with equal rights for all, the proletariat of all countries in the region must constitute itself as an independent political force.

What would “democracy” even mean if the crass social differences between Israelis and Palestinians – and the even crasser differences within these two groups – were to persist? Then we would have a system like today’s South Africa, where the liberation from Apartheid has helped a few black politicians to gain unimaginable wealth, while the masses remain in dire poverty. In Palestine, the construction of a democratic society for all – including the Palestinian refugees – is impossible without heavy encroachment on the right to private property.

Council Republic

Only on a socialist basis can a “one-state solution” become reality. People with bourgeois ideas will object that the hatred amongst people in the region is too widespread for them to ever live together in peace. However, local activists continuously report how reactionary prejudices disappear surprisingly quickly in the course of joint struggles.

Only a workers’ council republic in historic Palestine will bring real equality and lasting peace. But such an attempt cannot be confined to a small country. It will be successful only within the framework of a socialist federation of the Middle East. This is a program of permanent revolution for Palestine. The struggle for national liberation can only be completed by expropriating the bourgeoisie. The struggle for socialism can only be completed by expanding the revolution across national borders.

This text is based partly on an article in German on Klasse Gegen Klasse from April 27, 2015.

Facebook Twitter Share

Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French, and in Spanish. He has also written an anticapitalist guide book called Revolutionary Berlin. He is on the autism spectrum.


Middle East-Africa

Israel Begins Horrific Ground Invasion of Rafah, Reminding Everyone that Ethnic Cleansing was Always the Point

On Tuesday, Israel began its ground assault on Rafah, where over 1.5 million Gazans are sheltering after being displaced from their homes. The United States is continuing to enable Israel’s violence. The movement for Palestine still has the power to resist.

Sou Mi

May 8, 2024

U.S. Imperialism Is Pushing Tensions in the Middle East to a Boiling Point

U.S. Imperialism's support for Israel is driving the tensions behind Iran's attack and the escalations in the Middle East. It is all the more urgent for the working class to unite with the movement for Palestine against imperialism and chart a way out of the crisis in the region.

Samuel Karlin

April 15, 2024
Destruction in Gaza following Israeli invasion.

From Cease-Fire to Liberation

With over 30,000 dead and much of Gaza turned into rubble, a ceasefire is insufficient, even more so if it does not include an immediate and permanent withdrawal of all Israeli troops and an end to the siege on Gaza.

James Dennis Hoff

March 6, 2024

The United States Is Trapped in the Middle East

As a result of Israel’s offensive on Gaza, the United States is again becoming deeply entrenched in the Middle East. This is a humiliating blow to President Biden, who promised to reassert U.S. imperialism by moving away from direct involvement in the region.

Samuel Karlin

February 22, 2024


Why Won’t PSC-CUNY Stand with Palestine Now?

While other higher education unions are going on strike in defense of their workers and against the genocide in Gaza, the bureaucratic leadership of PSC-CUNY just crushed a resolution calling on the university to divest from Israel and to drop the charges against Palestinian activists arrested on April 30. 

James Dennis Hoff

May 24, 2024

Attack on Pro-Palestinian Protestors at UMich Latest Example of Democrats Defending Israel’s Genocide in Gaza

Capitalist apologists from the Democratic Party have chosen their business partners in Israel’s far-right government over Palestinian lives. In Ann Arbor, those same so-called “progressive” Democrats decided to bring felony charges against protestors earlier this week, encouraging harsh police violence against the University of Michigan encampment.

Ryan McCarty

May 24, 2024
Activists in Detroit speaking at a press conference condemning repression of the pro-Palestine movement on May 20, 2024.

Detroit Activists Hold Press Conference to Condemn Repression of Pro-Palestine Protesters

Detroit Will Breathe organized a press conference to discuss the police violence and repression against pro-Palestine protesters. The movement must stand in solidarity and unite to combat the increase of repression.

Kyle Thibodeau

May 23, 2024
A sign for the University of California at Santa Cruz with a line of UAW signs in front of it

Dispatch from Day One of the UC Santa Cruz Picket Line for Palestine

Left Voice member and City University of New York worker Olivia traveled to Santa Cruz for UAW 4811’s historic strike to talk to workers. This is her dispatch from the first day of the strike.

Olivia Wood

May 22, 2024