by Sarah Ozacky-Lazar
02 September 2010

JERUSALEM – Every few years, the idea of establishing one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea rises and falls like a phoenix; a dream of a state where both Palestinians and Israelis live in peace with no borders, no barriers, cultural autonomy and equal citizenship for all.

In the 1940’s this idea was endorsed by leftist Jewish circles; in the 1980’s the PLO called for the establishment of a secular democratic state on the entire land, in the 1990’s it was championed by Palestinian intellectuals who had given up on the two-state solution and most recently this same idea has been articulated with some nuances by people on the right of the Israeli political map like former Defence Minister Moshe Arens.

The stagnated “peace process” and despair over the prolonged conflict challenge us all to think of other creative solutions. It is easy to dismiss off-hand the likelihood that after a hundred years of brutal and bloody conflict the two peoples could live together and collaborate within the same political structure. Palestinian longing for independence and sovereignty is understandable as is the desire by Jews to preserve self-determination as a nation in the framework of the state of Israel. But – even if they reach an agreement on partition and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank – this would not be the end of the conflict. Severe problems like the settlements, Gaza, equal rights for the Palestinian citizens in the Jewish state would still remain to be solved. So despite its low feasibility at present, one should explore in depth the idea of the one state in all its aspects. Even if the one state solution is not realised soon, important elements of this idea could be incorporated into any future agreement on two states, particularly those which address the abovementioned problems.

One such element that can best be addressed within a joint framework is the critical issue of environment and water. Environment and sustainability are becoming central in the global discourse on the fate of humanity. It’s time we looked more seriously at our land in this regard. The fact that water sources in the country are drying up poses a big threat to all its residents, regardless of nationality, religion, age or gender.

Environmental dangers threaten both peoples equally. The mutual effect of contamination and other cross-border hazards demands close coordination and joint management between all responsible bodies. Effective utilisation of natural resources, their fair and equal allocation and the development of alternative sources of energy, food, and drink, are all vital and urgent needs that can be addressed professionally and efficiently only within a joint framework, which would be either one state or in its absence at the very least, a shared framework set up between the two sides engaged in excellently coordinated and mutually beneficial relations.

One of the major advantages of dealing with the environment first is that it forces the parties to ignore political boundaries and put aside historical disagreements. An additional advantage is the necessity for long-term planning as opposed to the kind of ad-hoc achievements demanded by politicians. As a result, environmental issues create bridges and links between opposing sides, serve as a way to build trust, while depoliticising the conflict and decreasing its intensity.

I would like to argue here that those who believe in the one state solution should explore the possibility of using the environment as a platform to promote such a plan. The urgent need for preserving the environment across the country and developing water sources could yield an unpredictable by-product – the realisation and recognition that the framework of one state, is a necessity for sustaining this land, saving its limited resources and securing the future of its inhabitants in the long term. But in the short term, and even before any political agreement is reached, it is urgently necessary to set up a joint body that will oversee the environmental situation and work on immediate solutions to cope with the dilemmas and challenges it poses.


* Dr. Sarah Ozacky-Lazar is the head of the Forum on Environment and Regional Sustainability at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. This article represents her personal opinion only. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 02 September 2010,