A breakthrough for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock
by Virginia Q Tilley
University of Michigan Press, July 2005
ISBN 0-472-11513-8

As Israel grapples with crisis after crisis - an endemic in proportion to its military might - it has inevitably slided to seeking refuge from the threats inherent in these.

This downward spiral has led to intense debates; on the one hand over historic romanticism with Zionism and on the other, more recent issues such as Occupation, Settlements and Borders.

Perhaps none have evoked such passion as the new emerging debate sparked by a reluctant acknowledgement of the failure of Israel as a Jewish State to provide security for Jews. This, according to the New York based editor of, Tony Karon, strikes at Zionism's basic premise: "The world was a dangerous place to be Jewish; our safety required a state of our own".

Karon's contention that Israel is the most dangerous place on earth to be a Jew and its survival dependent on the fact that Jews in the US are not only safe, but enjoy sufficient influence to make "favouring Israel an article of faith for American politicians of all stripes", is a reflection of the vulnerability of a settler-colonial state.

Since most if not all of these debates relate to the future of Israel as a Jewish state, it is appropriate that a serious scholarly study titled "The One-State Solution" has timeously made its appearance. 

Written by Virginia Q Tilley, an Associate-Professor of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, "The One-State Solution" holds the promise of spurring this discourse out of the narrow confines of Jewish-ethnocism to the wide main-stream of global narratives.

Despite retaining an objective academic examination of the way Jewish settlements have paradoxically become the main impediment to the continuous existence of Israel by encroaching on the Occupied Territories to the such an extent, that any Palestinian state in those areas would remain unworkable, Tilley is quick to point out that her book is not intended to be an academic study. 

She traces her interest in this subject to the mid-80s when she spent two years in the Old City of Jerusalem on a study-abroad programme from Antioch College. Here, having encountered the visible results of decades of harsh Israeli measures against the Palestinians, Tilley, undoubtedly would have been challenged to confront the so-called iron-clad policies of Zionism. 

Chapter One, "Facing Facts" is a bold manifestation of this. Here, in 19 pages incorporating two maps, she lays out in crispy clear arguments her conviction  why a one-state solution is the only practical route to follow. In doing so, she depicts the alternates as too ghastly to contemplate. Tilley's assessment that if a Palestinian "state" is declared in a dismembered enclave, it would result in continuing instability, is both accurate and foreboding.

Why? "The resulting Palestinian statelet would be blocked off physically from the Israeli economy, its major cities would be cut off from each other, and its government would be unable to control the territory's water resources, develop its agriculture, or manage its trade with neighbouring states". 

In addition it would comprise little more than a "sealed vessel of growing poverty and demoralisation". Tilley is emphatic that such a portent of Palestinian misery, is no accident; it is a calculated Israeli strategy! 

Apart from the one and two-state discourses, the author explains that  additional alternatives - in keeping with Sharon's life-long ambitions - are equally "nightmarish". They reflect subtle differences in implementation, yet are recognisable as either "hard transfer" or "soft transfer". In the case of the former, it entails forced expulsion of the Palestinian population out of the country. In the latter, known as the Jordan option, the plan is to induce Palestinians to seek political rights across the Jordan River.

Chapter 2 presents a frightening overview of the ideological underpinning of Zionism. The author displays a keen insight of the twin grids - settlement and political - which collectively represent two of the most powerful Israeli symbols of intransigence. Hence settlements are not merely "a few clusters of trailers on windswept hilltops". Many are small cities: Ariel, in the center of the West Bank, has about twenty thousand residents; Ma'ale Adumim, stretching east from Jerusalem, has over twenty-five thousand.

The next chapter examines how creating "facts on the ground" have impacted on the grid's physical as well as political weight. Also scrutinised are the various layers of "Jewish diaspora politics" and their interplay with state institutions. The Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organisation, the Israel Lands Authority and the Jewish National Fund are deeply embedded in the political equation of the state.

It also explores the politics of water and how this precious resource has made West Bank aquifers indispensable to Israel. In Tilley's assessment, to sustain the Jewish state's overuse of water, Palestinian use is severely limited. Hence, water is "also the silent factor driving Israel's full annexation strategy".

Chapter 4 places external actors such as the US and Europe under the microscope. This critical part of the book is elementary to understanding why international involvement has remained unproductive. The author does well to incorporate a compelling analysis of contemporary "geo-strategic" interests, which does not preclude the dubious roles of neo-cons and an array Zionist lobby groups.

The next chapter examines comparisons with the anti-apartheid struggle as indeed the parallels in socio-ethnic structures. Tilley's persuasive arguments also carries an apt warning: "Looking to the South African experience for guidance or inspiration will avail little unless policymakers also adopt the principles, standards and values that guided that struggle: that is, that ethnic supremacy is illegitimate and cannot generate a just political system........" 

Also by incorporating a second comparison with the Northern Island conflict, the author illustrates how prejudice, fear and suspicion were primary obstacles to a stable peace. This being so because doctrines of ethnic or racial domination impeded trust.

Finally Tilley concludes by suggesting that the two-state option evaporated years ago. "Today, no ideology, no planning, no new 'peace process' and certainly not the snaking apartheid Wall can make sense of carving this small land into two states".

Virginia Q Tilley has made a profound contribution to the one-state narrative.

Not only does her book expand on a number of vexing questions, it also makes a compelling case for the restoration of justice for Palestine.       

Iqbal Jassat
Chairman: Media Review Network - South Africa