Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Requiem for a Two-State Solution

Carlo Strenger believes a two-state solution is no longer a viable option in the Arab-Israeli conflict:
"Nousseibeh suggested (in a recent book that) the Palestinians relinquish their struggle for statehood. He even asked them to accept that, for a long time, they would not have full political rights, and that they should settle for civic and human rights to make life as bearable as possible. His deeply pessimistic conclusion was that, given the realities, the human cost of continuing the struggle for a Palestinian state was too high...

"From a historical perspective, the two state solution’s demise was, maybe, inevitable. Except for six years, the Likud has been in power for the last thirty-five years, and the Likud never relinquished its dream of the greater land of Israel. When Rabin won elections for Prime Minister in 1992, both he and Peres felt that this was a last chance; they believed that what they would not achieve in Rabin’s term would not be achieved at all.

"Rabin had to govern, with a minority of the Knesset supporting him, and Israel’s right never felt that he had a mandate for the Oslo process. Netanyahu spoke at demonstrations where crowds held posters depicting Rabin as a Nazi. He was later recorded taking pride in having killed off the Oslo process.

"Now he can take partial credit for having killed the two state solution. The other half goes to the Palestinians: As Mahmoud Abbas said more than a year ago, the Palestinian’s greatest mistake was the second Intifada. Indeed, together with Hamas’ win of the elections in 2006 and the shelling of southern Israel, the Intifada’s horrible violence has made Israelis averse to taking further risks for peace."

I am not the one to say whether Strenger is right. I would still like to believe it could work, but do not see a realistic chance of it happening under Netanyahu's leadership. Whether two states remain possible depends on the combination of facts on the ground and the political will to alter them. I cannot judge the former, and perhaps given the latter, it might be better to say that it has entered a persistent vegetative state from which no recovery is foreseeable.

How one apportions blame depends largely on what you think happened in the diplomacy under Ehud Barak in 2000. I'm not even going to attempt to untangle that mass of conflicting assertions. Strenger is right that the Second Intifada strangled the Israeli peace camp, but that in turn flowed from a belief in Israeli perfidy during negotiations. The uprising's most violent aspects were also the terrorist attacks on civilians inside Israel, and in the history of the conflict's violence, one should not forget that Hamas only turned to those tactics and made them a key part of its struggle after Baruch Goldstein committed the Hebron massacre in 1994, a massacre which stemmed directly from the inclinations toward ethnic cleansing on the part of many in the settler movement which the Israeli state tries to control, but also supports with defense and infrastructure. What Hamas did, in other words, was escalate dirty warfare in the region, not introduce it.

Strenger also addresses the future:
"Our long-term task is to develop new models of dealing with the emerging reality. I wish I could say something clear and constructive, but for the time being I can’t. I have not yet seen realistic models other than the two state solution.

"The one state solution, at this point, is an empty concept, so is that of an Israeli-Palestinian confederation. For neither case can I imagine how the parliament of the greater Israel-Palestine would function, or how equality of all citizens with respect to security could be achieved: I agree with Sari Nousseibeh that Jewish history from the Pogroms through the Holocaust, from the 1948 war to that of 1973, is too traumatic for Israelis to relinquish control of security for a long time to come...

"I am afraid that Israel will lose many friends in the gradual process of finalizing its sovereignty over the West Bank. Netanyahu and Lieberman have already aggravated many politicians and supporters of Israel, ranging from Hillary Clinton to Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. And they have deepened the alienation many Jews in the Diaspora feel towards the current government’s policies that they cannot accept."

I actually think that what will happen is that, within 10-20 years, Israel will impose Netanyahu's vision of disconnected cantons with nominal sovereignty under Israeli domination. The path toward any one-state solution depends on demographics and, perhaps, the fate of the Hashemite monarchy in Jordan.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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