The Dubious Lure of Binationalism


AS PALESTINIANS EDGE TOWARD a territorial settlement that is less than satisfactory in terms of their minimal requirements for statehood, the idea of a binational state for Israelis and Palestinians begins to acquire a certain attractiveness. A public opinion poll published at the end of 1999 suggested that close to 20 percent of the respondents from the West Bank and Gaza and about 15 percent of the Jewish respondents from Israel (17 percent of the Israeli Arab respondents) favored a binational solution if the attempts at establishing two states fail (Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, December 1999).
    But the debate on binationalism begs for elucidation. While at the conceptual level the issue raises interesting possibilities for examining new dimensions in the nature of extraterritorial nationalism and ethnicity, at the level of practical politics the concept could be counterproductive and escapist.


Salim Tamari is director of IPS's Jerusalem affiliate, the Institute for Jerusalem studies, and an associate professor of sociology at Birzeit University.