Most people seeking a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict have clung to the hope of some form of a two-state solution, where each group has its own viable independent state. But Robert Wright writes in The Atlantic that it is rapidly disappearing as a realistic option.
Krieger’s critique focuses on this quote from my piece: “There are just too many settlements, interconnected by too many roads that restrict the movement of too many Palestinians, for a two-state deal to result in anything Palestinians could proudly call a ‘state.'”
Krieger agrees with me that a two-state solution would require uprooting the vast majority of the West Bank’s settlements–but, he notes, this doesn’t mean uprooting the vast majority of settlers. Since most of the settlers live in big settlement blocks fairly close to the 1967 “green line,” Israel could keep just 2 or 3 or 4 percent of the West Bank (and give Palestine compensatory chunks of Israel proper), and thus leave around 75 percent of the settlers where they are.
OK, fine. But, according to Krieger’s numbers, this would still involve uprooting 125,000 settlers! If anyone considers this a readily doable project, I recommend going to Hebron, where fewer than one percent of those 125,000 live, and asking the settlers whether they’d go peacefully. Compounding their assured intransigence is that the Israeli army, which would be doing the extracting, is itself increasingly populated by intensely religious settlement supporters, some of whom say they won’t carry out settler-eviction orders.
But that’s why it’s crucial that those of us who live at a safe remove from the conflict, and can in theory summon detachment, should try hard to see the situation clearly, succumbing neither to paralyzing fear nor cozy illusions. And the most common cozy illusion is that, though the time may not be right for a two-state solution now, we can always do the deal a year or two or three down the road.
The truth is that a two-state solution is almost completely dead, and it gets closer to death every day. If there’s any hope at all of reviving it, that will involve, among other things, somehow delivering a shock to the Israeli system. Peter Beinart has an idea for how to do that. Does Zvika Kriegert? Do any of the other well-intentioned liberal Zionists who keep affirming their allegiance to a two-state solution as if that ritual incantation was somehow helping things?
This week saw the dreary repetition of a familiar scenario. The Israeli government evicted one settler group with great fanfare from a single house in Hebron while at the same time it authorized construction of 800 new settler houses and announced plans “to seek the necessary permits to retroactively legalize three other West Bank settler outposts that went up without authorization.”
The well-known Israeli commentator Gideon Levy uses this story to go even further than Wright and declare that the two-state option is already dead, except for symbolic futile gestures against settler encroachment.
If the apartheid neighborhood in Hebron could not stir Israelis from their moral fog – and any decent person who visits there is shocked to the depths of their being – and if life goes on undisturbed, with no moral questions, even as this horror occurs in our own backyard, then what difference does another stolen house make? Let it go, let other houses go; the chance for a solution is long past.
The battle for Hebron has been decided. All that remains is to ask what will replace the solution that was put to death. There will not be two states. Even a child knows the alternative: one state. There is no third option. Israel’s most radical left won. For years it said one state, even as we played with ourselves at two states. Now everyone says two states, in unison, only because they know that train has left the station, and the great train robbery was pulled off.
From now we need only take care with our definitions: The extreme left is whoever endeavors toward a single state – the plundering settlers, the establishment that embraces them and the majority of Israelis, who do not lift a finger to stop them.
Stephen M. Walt says that Israel’s policies of occupation and settlement have also pretty much shut the door on the two state option, that it is time to realize that Israeli leaders have no intention of giving up the West Bank, and that we should stop allowing American politicians to prattle on mindlessly about a two state solution (which he refers to as 2SS) and instead ask then some pointed hard questions.
So Netanyahu’s aim is clear: keeping control of the West Bank forever. And the reference to “doing everything according to the law” is revealing, because “law” here means the law of the occupation, which is the same law that has allowed a half a million Israelis to move onto the territories conquered in 1967 over the past forty years.
And if you haven’t given up in despair already, please revisit this piece of mine from 2009. I asked it then and I ask it today: Once the two-state solution is really and truly buried, then what position is the U.S. government going to take? For that matter, what position will the hardliners at AIPAC or the ADL defend, and what will so-called progressives at groups like J Street favor? Ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians to ensure a Jewish majority? Binational democracy and equal rights for all residents of a single state? Or permanent apartheid, with the Palestinians confined to self-governing enclaves under de facto Israeli control? Those are the only other options to the 2SS and every AIPAC rep, Christian Zionist, and supposedly “pro-Israel” Congressperson ought to be asked repeatedly which of these three options they now endorse. Ditto State Department and White House spokespeople, and anyone who aspires to be president, including the current incumbent.
And if they try to say that they are still in favor of 2SS, someone should ask why they still believe it is possible, and what they concrete steps they intend to do to make it happen. And while we are at it, someone might also ask them why they believe U.S. taxpayers should continue to subsidize settlement construction. And make no mistake: Because money is fungible, that is exactly what our aid package does.
But of course, such questions will not be asked of the candidates. The charade of the ‘peace process’ that seeks a ‘two-state solution’ will continue while the settlers keep expanding their reach under this rhetorical cover and the Palestinians continue to be consigned to live under a permanent state of occupation.