Time to move on from the two state solution

2015 may have spelled the end to the two-state solution; it’s time to look at the alternatives.

Netanyahu and Abbas (photo credit: JPOST STAFF,REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Abbas
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF,REUTERS)
The year 2015 was the year when the notion of a two-state solution really took a beating and may finally even have been laid to rest.
In March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, electioneering for a fourth term, said there would be no Palestinian state under his watch, only to zigzag under international pressure once back in power.
On a visit to the White House in November, Netanyahu said he remained committed to a “vision of peace of two states for two peoples, with a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.” But at home, and abroad, there are few who would bet on a peace deal while Netanyahu is in power.
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Prior to Netanyahu’s meeting with Barack Obama, the US president’s senior Middle East adviser Rob Malley showed just how deep pessimism runs when he said, “The president has reached the conclusion that, barring a major shift, the parties are not going to be in the position to negotiate a final status agreement.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, too, declares his unreserved support for two states for two peoples, while steadfastly working toward unilateral measures and whipping up a frenzy of hatred that has culminated in the wave of terrorism that has claimed more than two dozen Israeli lives in the past three months.
No wonder that the Israeli and Palestinian public alike are losing faith in the two-state paradigm. In September, Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki found that 51 percent of Palestinians oppose the two-state solution, beating out the 48% that still support it.
On the Israeli side, an Israel Democracy Institute Peace Index poll from October found that among Israeli Jews, while there is still relatively strong support for negotiations with the Palestinians, 46% believed the two-state solution was dead, although 50% still disagreed with that statement. With the uptick in violence, surely the gap will have narrowed, or perhaps the scales will have been tipped by the time the next poll comes out.
Disbelief and despair aren’t the only factors working against a two-state solution.
The number of settlers in the West Bank outside the consensus settlement blocs is approaching a critical mass that will be impossible to dislodge.
Meanwhile, events in the wider region, such as the rise of Islamic State, have further amplified the dangers perceived by the Israeli public and politicians inherent in a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Support for Islamic State among Palestinians is reportedly soaring, yet in any event, under present circumstances, Hamas would run away with an election.
Even without an election, it could well stage a challenge for power by violent means if Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank. The history of previous Israeli withdrawals does not bode well and the threat of rocket fire would be ever present.
The idea of “managing the conflict” – unless that means a cost/risk calculation with sporadic casualties or worse, together with sustainable economic damage – is also not an option, as the events of recent months have shown, bursting a bubble of a decade of relative quiet on the terrorism front. Regardless of whether the current wave dies down, it is only a matter of time before things blow out of control as a radicalized post-Oslo generation loses hope both in internal Palestinian politics and the belief in a settlement with Israel.
The “no solution” option will continue to erode Israel’s standing in the world and lead to pressure for what can only be a disastrous one-state solution.
On the domestic front, the rotten weeds are spreading out of control and have grown into a pack of right-wing anarchists who desire to topple the democratic Jewish state in favor of a religious kingdom. The year ended on a nadir with the so-called “blood wedding,” when Jewish extremists, drunk on an elixir of power, danced to an ungodly pseudo-punk beat waving guns and knives in the air.
One of the wedding guests stooped to stabbing a photograph of the deceased Palestinian toddler Ali Dawabsha, who, along with his parents, was killed by a firebomb thrown into their home, apparently by zealots.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has taken every opportunity to warn that the only alternative to a two-state solution is a binational state and that the violence of recent months is only a prelude to what would happen in that event. But is pressure on Israel through veiled threats and half-hearted pressure from factions within the European Union really the answer? Will this lead the sides closer to peace? Will it lead Israel to withdraw from the West Bank or create a better future for Palestinians?
With no two-state solution viable for the foreseeable future, why does the international community insist on paying lip service to the idea and flogging a dead horse? US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, commenting on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, said the talks had focused on steps to reduce tensions and violence and “maintaining the viability of the two-state solution for the future.”
But that is nowhere near enough. It is time for an end to vapid talk of a currently unrealizable solution and for the international community to adopt and actively push for an interim solution, as well as to explore alternatives to the two-state solution, such as a greater Gaza and/ or a Jordanian- Palestinian federation.
Immediate measures need to be taken to create prosperity on the ground for Palestinians by creating jobs – not by labeling settlement goods, which can only lead to the loss of Palestinian jobs. Money should be put directly into economic projects, not into the pockets of the corrupt cronies of the Palestinian Authority.
Israel needs to take measures to reduce contact with the Palestinian population to a minimum and to leave viable options open for the future. The Palestinian leadership must finally take seriously their obligation to stop incitement and violence and to search for a better future for their own people.
If the two-state solution is dead, it’s time to do something about it. To repeat an overused maxim: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.