Reality on the ground -

  1. Much of Israel is developed with cities and infrastructure. That is not going anywhere.

  2. West Bank has Israeli and Palestinian settlements so inextricably tangled that you cannot realistically divide that land. Again a lot of these settlements have been developed with infrastructure.


  1. Is the idea of two separate nations based on ethnic and religious concepts feasible?

  2. Is there any workable two-state solution possible at all because of the unequal strength of both parties?

  3. What are some arguments against a secular democratic country? (The constitution could protect the rights of the minorities)

  4. Why do both sides not want the nation to be secular?


In theory there could be a secular, multi-ethnic, multi-religious state.

In practice that is all but impossible.

  • After the Holocaust, many Jews vowed to live in their own state defended by their own army. I find that desire understandable.
  • Two millenia ago, the Jews were scattered by the Romans from their ancient homelands. People who lived there since consider the land theirs. Also an understandable sentiment.
  • Population dynamics between Israelis and Palestinians and within both groups make a secular, democratic state difficult to maintain. Strong factions in both groups do not want a secular state, with or without the other side.
  • We are talking about a small area and limited water for the total population. Any unified state would have to look at property rights. How far back should restitution claims go? Is a 100-year-old claim more or less valid than a 2,100-year-old claim?

Compare the history of Ireland. Catholics and Protestants, Irish and English are much closer to each other than Israelis and Palestinians, yet the peace process has been incredibly rocky.

(For the record, I consider an Israel in the post-WWII borders, as a secular, mostly Jewish state, the least bad option. Keeping the occupied territories means they have to deal with the population there in some way, and there are no good ways to do that.)

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    One issue with that is that (particularly with the new nation-state law) it is not a particularly secular state. And it's a bit hard to see how one can maintain a Jewish majority in a secular state without ethnic or religious restrictions on immigration or even birth rates that I would hope people would view with suspicion. – Obie 2.0 Feb 1 '20 at 10:15
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    @Obie2.0, In "not a particularly secular" Israel abortion is both legal and is performed in public hospitals. In "not a particularly secular" Israel gay couples are allowed to adopt. Israel is not less secular then Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi ........ – Sharon Ben Asher Feb 1 '20 at 12:36
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    @Sharon - Religion = no marriage equality/abortion is a fairly US-centric view. The US also doesn't have laws defining it as a Christian nation, give Christian religious courts authority over all divorces of Christians, or exclude evangelical Christians from particular civic duties. That said, the US is much more religious than most European-derived countries, so perhaps it is not the best example. – Obie 2.0 Feb 1 '20 at 13:32
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    Oh! And it might be worth mentioning the small detail that same-sex marriage is still not legal in Israel, because none of the religions recognized by the government as having the authority to issue marriage licenses accept it. – Obie 2.0 Feb 1 '20 at 13:46
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    1) to say Judaism (as religion) "is not really into attracting converts" is a mild statement. Judaism makes an (almost) active effort to deter converts. One has to make a great effort to convert to Judaism. 2) there are both secular Jews and Arabs. the PLO is a secular movement (unlike Hamas). 3) to paint the Israeli-Palestinian as religious based is a gross misrepresentation. while there are religious facets, it is mostly a land dispute and a clash of civilizations/cultures – Sharon Ben Asher Feb 3 '20 at 8:37

You have to understand what Zionism is about. It is about creating and maintaining a Jewish state. According to Zionism, that requires Jews to be the dominant ethnic group. Most Israeli Jews are Zionists and reject the idea of a binational state because Jewish dominance over it cannot be ensured.

The sentiment is well described in this essay by Daniel Gordis, a Jewish Israeli rabbi and scholar, written shortly after Obama became President of the United States:

If the United States could remove race as a barrier to its highest office, ought not Israel do the same with ethnicity? Could Israel ever elect an Israeli Arab as Prime Minister?

Like blacks in the US, Israel's Arabs obviously deserve a fairer share of this society's bounty than they have received. Per capita expenditures on infrastructure and education for Palestinian Israelis (as they prefer to be called) are too low, and bias against Israel's Arab citizens can still be felt in far too many facets of Israeli society. There is much work to be done.

But the work to be done should not blind us to Israel's very purpose. And Israel's purpose is fundamentally different from that of the United States. If, in a century, shifting demographics led Congress to become predominantly African-American, or Asian, or Hispanic, that change would simply be further indication of the flourishing of America's vision, a sign that the scourge of racism had receded even further. It would be testament to the realization of America's purpose, not its demise. Not so, however, in Israel. For while Israel must absolutely strive to make race a non-issue (even among Jews, as with Ethiopians, for example) and to accord Israeli Arabs a significantly greater piece of the pie, we ought to be honest: If Israel one day were to have a Knesset in which a majority of the members were Arab, Israel will have failed in its purpose.

In the US, a black man becoming president was considered a success for racial equality. But in Israel, an Arab assuming the prime minister's office is a terrifying prospect.

For an outsider, a binational state might seem like a good solution. That is because multi-national states, or state-like constructs, are everywhere. For example, the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States all encompass many different nations. But they all include complicated power sharing arrangements and they aren't always frictionless (e.g Brexit).

At the core of the issue is the so called demographic threat. The possibility that higher Arab birth rates means that Jews become a minority in Israel. In such a situation the state would have to choose; either institutionalized Apartheid or risk losing its "Jewishness" through democratic elections.

That's the issue John Kerry referred to when he said Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both. He meant that if Israel doesn't withdraw from the Occupied Palestinian territories it would eventually have to choose between being Jewish or being Democratic.

Most Palestinians also reject the idea of a binational state but for other reasons. I don't know what those reasons are. There is nothing equivalent to Zionism among Palestinians and there is no demographic threat they worry about (settlements are a threat to the territorial integrity but not the demography). My guess is that proposals of binational states are seen as capitulations -- the Palestinian nation is subsumed into the Jewish Israeli one.

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    This answer could be improved by addressing the reason why Israel is where it is. One might speculate there would have been less conflict if the state had been founded in Montana, Madagascar, or East Asia. The reason Israel is where it is is clearly religious. Unfortunately, that also increases the risk of conflict. – gerrit Feb 2 '20 at 14:13
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    @gerrit I don't see how addressing a far-fetched counterfactual narrative in which Israel was situated in Montana is relevant. The question seems to be about the real world situation. – Colin Feb 2 '20 at 20:14
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    The demographic threat url is a really, really, low info, high emotion one. I read about 3 paragraphs and had yet to see a single number before stopping. If you are trying to make a point about birthrates, find something that synopsizes the data, not a long diatribe. What seems to be case is that a) the birthrates are not that far apart and b) there is so much more Jewish population than Palestinian right now that even a high catch-up rate leaves plenty of time before it becomes a problem. Not to say that the argument isn't being milked by the Israeli right anyway. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Feb 2 '20 at 20:26
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    You may need to review what a nation is, then, @RonJohn. At minimum, there is a definite and explicit line between the Indian tribes and the rest of the people in the USA, amongst whom there are even more boundaries (though most not so clear-cut or applied in law). – Nij Feb 3 '20 at 5:39
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    You haven't checked on what a nation is, I see. It's not at all the same as a nation-state (carrying the same passport is irrelevant, as is living within the same physically bordered region). @RonJohn – Nij Feb 3 '20 at 8:53

I suspect that polling in the Palestinian territories is somewhat iffy to conduct, but what there is shows that there's little support for a (democratic) one-state solution among either of the populations involved.

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As what the solutions should be, opinions differ based on political & religious affiliations to some extent, but the "one democratic state" idea polls equally poorly among all subgroups.

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By "apartheid" the poll means "one state solution in which one side or the other is denied equal rights".

As an (interesting) aside, the same organization that conducted this poll (PCPSR) had its Palestinian offices ransacked by a mob in 2003 when in published its finding that "only ten percent of Palestinian refugees would choose to live in Israel, over other forms of compensation, if they were offered the “right of return.”".

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    Better to look at an average of polls, I think. Other polls, including by PCPSR, have found much higher Palestinian support for the 1SS, around 30%. Support for 1SS is generally thought to be a bit higher among Palestinians than Israelis. jpost.com/Middle-East/Palestinians-increasingly-back-1-state – Colin Feb 2 '20 at 19:20
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    @Colin: your poll/article is from 2010, so it seems rather dated to me. – Fizz Feb 2 '20 at 19:25
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    The fundamentals haven't changed since 2010. But my point is just: base your opinion on a single poll at your own peril. – Colin Feb 2 '20 at 19:32
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    This is a good answer, because it shows the data behind the practical impossibility. (Even if it might be improved by including more polls.) A one-state solution is obviously possible in theory, and it's been proposed by many people over time, but it doesn't have much support from the relevant populations. (Actually, polls showing that it has never had much support, or showing when it stopped having much support, would also be helpful, if that data is available. Even to see whether it is falling or growing, if it is a pipe dream or something that might be possible one day, would be useful.) – Toby Bartels Feb 2 '20 at 21:16
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    The poll that found that only 10% of Palestinian refugees would exercise their right of return was quite controversial. – Björn Lindqvist Feb 2 '20 at 22:27

Israel can not accept a bi-national or a single democratic country including Palestinians for the following pragmatic reasons

A .Demography

  1. Currently Palestinians population is estimated to be 13 million, among which 5 million estimated to be refugees.
  2. current Israel population is 8.7 million with 21% among them Arab Israelis (Palestinians who were giving the nationality in 1948) which makes Jewish population at an estimation of 6.8 million.
  3. Palestinians growing rates 2.4% while the Jewish growing rates are 1.9% annually(including migrants to Israel). this is why Israel insist of no return of refugees in any case even if a Palestinian state is proclaimed!!!
  4. Zionism as a project in decline, Jewish are not threatened in the world as it happens in the era before WWI and WWII and most Jewish are liberal and do not agree on Israel policies.
  5. The influx of new Jewish settlers from around the world is not growing as Israel wishes, actually Israel stopped publishing the statistics. more are migrating out of Israel.(especially young western highly educated personals) while most of the incoming are old people wishing to have their last day in the Jewish state. Israel was used as a stepping stone by Jewish communities coming from eastern Europe and Africa in the path to migrate to the west.

B . Geography

1.Palestinians want to go back to their towns ,villages,farms and houses which they were driven off by force/Massacres as refugees, while Israel seized it as Booty of war and gave it to immigrants settlers to Israel.

so basically the only democracy in the middle east insist that to be able to practice democracy , you have to be a Jewish and Israeli

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    It is not the case that Jews are not threatened in the world. Currently, even in countries like the United States, anti-Semitic hate crimes are one of the largest categories, and surveys of anti-Semitic attitudes consistently find high levels in most regions. With such an environment, it would be plausible for some government to decide to blame Jews for their problems, much as happened before. – Obie 2.0 Feb 1 '20 at 13:50
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    And even around Israel, groups such as Hamas make anti-Semitism, not just opposition to the occupation, part of their ideology. Right now they don't have much ability to exercise their beliefs in that regard, but that could change. – Obie 2.0 Feb 1 '20 at 13:57
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    @Obie2.0 Post doesn't state that Jews are not threatened, post says they are not threatened to degree they were before and during WW II. – gerrit Feb 2 '20 at 14:14
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    Your point 5 contains several incorrect and dubious claims. Please cite any sources that you feel corroborate them. – Colin Feb 2 '20 at 19:23
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    @gerrit - Perhaps you came late enough to have missed the comments under the post wherein the post author argued that Israel manufactures anti-Semitism for its own purposes. – Obie 2.0 Feb 3 '20 at 7:11

A country that can be a republic - with a constitution - so that the rights of minorities are protected - and there can be a country with multiple religions and ethnicities?

That's what Israel already is. Israel is a parliamentary republic with a constitution which protects human rights. It has a significant Arab minority (21%) who have equal rights. It has universal suffrage and Arab representation in parliament.

Does Palestine need to be a mini-state? Can't its people claim allegiance to a new secular democratic country founded on the land where they seek to live?

The declared goal of the Hamas, which is currently governing Gaza, is to kill every Jew and reclaim all of the region for Palestinians.

One important Palestinian demand in the peace process is the so-called Palestinian right of return. This is a demand not just for those that left Israel before 1967 to return, but includes all 5 million descendants as well, which would result in a Jewish minority in Israel and the likely persecution of this minority as seen in other Arab states.

Combined with the goals of the current Palestinian leadership, this would lead to the expulsion of Jews from the region similar to the Jewish exodus from Arab countries, many of which are essentially Judenrein.

Apart from the humanitarian crisis resulting from the expulsion or killing of the 6 million Jews in the region, this would also remove the needed Jewish safe haven from persecution in other regions.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation about whether or not Israel offers equal rights to the Arab minority living in Israel has been moved to chat. – Philipp Feb 3 '20 at 9:22

Does Israel have to be a Jewish state?

Yes, Absolutely, Unequivocally, Undeniably Yes.

Israel was founded for the almost exclusive purpose of serving as safe haven for Jews sufferring discrimination, racism and outright persecution. While the state of Israel was established following WWII and the Holocaust, The idea and movement of Zionism was formulated By Theodore Herzel in the late 19th cent as response to the Dreyfus Affair

Since its establishment, Israel has served its purpose well. Starting with the mass immigration of Jews from Arab countries in the 50s, followed by the immigration of Jews from former USSR in the beginning of the 90s, up to Operation Solomon to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel which concluded as recently as 2013. Jews continue to flee persecution and immigrate to Isreael on a daily basis.

The crucial role of Israel in the endurance and survivial of the Jewish people is evident today in the world-wide recent rise of Antisemitism. The spread of the phenomena to places that were considered "safe" such the USA show just how much unique and irreplaceable Israel is.

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    "Yes, Absolutely, Unequivocally, Undeniably Yes." your answer doesn't give any objective reasons for that – Rsf Feb 3 '20 at 12:35
  • the objective reason is 2000 years of history of the Jewish people – Sharon Ben Asher Feb 3 '20 at 13:59
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    That's a little terrifying. I mean, if I mean, if I substituted in the name of any other ethnic group in this post I would see it as a call for ethnic cleansing, and I'm not at all sure why I would think differently because it references Israel. I'm all for the end of antisemitism, and I understand the desire for a sovereign state as a safe harbor, which is not unique to Jews: think Kurds, Armenians, and yes, Palestinians. But at what cost? – Ted Wrigley Feb 3 '20 at 14:00
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    the cost is not specified. there is no reason for an a priori assumption that it includes "ethnic cleansing" – Sharon Ben Asher Feb 3 '20 at 14:04

What you are missing here is that your "solution" was tried, prior to 1948. Many if not most of the Zionists who originally settled in Palestine wanted such a state, and even most of those who would have preferred a purely Jewish state did not think it was practical. It was the Arab world which did not want to have a large Jewish population in that area.

Ironically, it was the Arab inhabitants who unintentionally created the majority Jewish state, by deciding to leave so the Arab League armies would have a free hand. Of course they expected those armies to win, so that they could return, but they didn't.

In fact, Israel IS a secular, democratic country (even if it's less than perfectly so), where the rights of minorities are protected, probably to a greater extent than in many of the surrounding countries.

The problem with a one-state "solution" is that it doesn't solve anything. A significant fraction of the Palestinian population would still hate the Jews. If they were a minority in the new country, they would still be using various terrorist tactics against the majority, just as they do today. If they were a majority, they would use armies & police to the same end, as they tried in 1948. and several times since.

  • To be accurate it was tried under foreign occupation. Also not all (possible not even most) of the Arab inhabitants left willingly, read "birth of the Palestinian refugee problem, 1947-1949" by Benny Morris – Rsf Feb 3 '20 at 12:38

A bi-national, single-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a wonderful ideal, but there are a number of gritty, pragmatic issues that make that ideal utopian and unrealistic.

First, Israel was conceived and founded (depending on how one views Judaism) to be either an ethnocracy or a theocracy. Israel is meant to be a homeland for the Jewish people, where Jews have political sovereignty to defend themselves politically and militarily against all attacks. Ethnocracies and theocracies can adopt democratic forms and institutions easily enough, but they cannot adopt fully Liberal democratic forms and institutions, because Liberal democratic institutions will not allow any particular ethnic or religious group to maintain political and social hegemony indefinitely. The best that could be achieved is something akin to the ancient Greek city-state, where democratic principles reigned within the class of citizens, but much of the resident population was expressly prohibited from participating. It's almost impossible to imagine a political system that fairly accommodates a large population of non-Jews while maintaining the ideal of Jewish sovereignty.

Second, there is a tremendous amount of bad blood between Jews and Palestinians. The state of Israel was formed by acts of terrorism and war, and acts of terrorism and war have been ongoing from both sides since its inception. The glib use of fait accompli in the first two bullet points of the question glosses over the fact that the nationalist movement in Israel has been pushing its way into the occupied territories quasi-illegally in order to establish a foothold: breaking up, intimidating, and harassing Palestinian communities. Israeli settlements in the West Bank have the same standing and purpose as the Russian annexation of the Crimea or the Chinese creation of military bases on contested South Sea atolls; a push into the region and a dare to the rest of the world to contest the right to it at gunpoint. Fait accompli is an entirely amoral position, and something Palestinians and Arabs in general are likely to view as hostile, aggressive, and illegitimate.

Third, both Palestinians and Israelis claim the territory as a birth-right: the former by generations of residency, the latter by historical references. Birthright claims are rarely negotiable or subject to compromise, as each side will see the other's claim as entirely illegitimate.

Last — and this on the long historical view — the Holy Land has been a region of religious conflict for centuries. Even though Israel is a Jewish state, it is impossible not to understand the creation of Israel as the culmination of the Crusades: Western, Christian nations recapturing the Holy Land and bringing it under their control. The Ottoman empire and the Knights Templar may be long gone, but the religious sentiments that drove them are still alive and well. In that sense, this problem goes beyond a mere Jewish/Palestinian conflict, with these two ethnic groups caught as proxies in a long-term global conflict between Christianity and Islam. The proxy war cannot come to a resolution until the larger conflict does, and I see little hope of that happening in the near future.

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