The Fading of the Two-State Solution

After returning from the Annapolis Conference, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Haaretz (November 28, 2007) that “the State of Israel cannot endure unless a Palestinian state comes into being.” Olmert had made a like pronouncement in December 2003, when he was Deputy Prime Minister to Ariel Sharon. At that time he told Nahum Barnea of Yediot Aharonot: “Israel will soon need to make a strategic recognition . . . We are nearing the point where more and more Palestinians will say: ‘We’re persuaded. We agree with [right-wing politician Avigdor] Lieberman. There isn’t room for two states between the Jordan and the sea. All we want is the right to vote.’ On the day they reach that point,” said Olmert, “we lose everything. . . . I quake to think that leading the fight against us will be liberal Jewish groups that led the fight against apartheid in South Africa.”

On hearing these words, Barnea rubbed his eyes in astonishment. Today, it would appear, the message is no less relevant. In Olmert’s appraisal, if no solution is found to the Palestinian question, Israel will wind up with an apartheid regime; the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories will then demand the right to vote. The democratic West, he knows, will not forever tolerate an ethnocracy that withholds this right from a third or more of its subjects. Such is the Zionist nightmare.

The head understands, but the hands lag behind. Or to vary Abba Eban’s quip: where peace is concerned, Israel has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Apparent exceptions turn out to prove the rule. In the Oslo Accords of 1993, for instance, the Palestinians recognized Israel. But playing its usual zero-sum game, Israel tried to use the Accords as a means to extract concessions. By the end of the 90’s, blockades, settlement expansion, economic manipulation and political intransigence had wiped out Palestinian trust. The result became apparent at Camp David in July 2000: Yasser Arafat knew he did not have a mandate to sign.

Or consider the Sharon-Bush vision of June 2003, articulated in their letters of April 2004. Haunted by the Zionist nightmare, Sharon saw the need for a Palestinian State, but he could not bring himself to allow a real one. The vision announced by Bush amounted to a state without substance. It would be fractured territorially, it would lack military capability, and it would have no control over borders or air space. The economically weak Palestine was to remain dependent on Israel, whose needs it would have to serve. In this way, Israel and the US vitiated the concept of a Palestinian state, encountering no international opposition.

Then came the disengagement from Gaza in August 2005. Israel insisted on unilateralism. “There is no partner,” was Sharon’s mantra, although Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) of Fatah was president. Sharon (and Olmert, his deputy) bypassed him. This turned out to be a major error. If disengagement had come about through negotiations with Abbas, he could have taken at least partial credit for Israel’s withdrawal. In the event, Hamas took it all.

A few months later (January 2006) the Palestinians overwhelmingly elected a Hamas government (although Abbas was still president). The two years since the Hamas landslide have been difficult ones for them. Hamas has refused to accept the West’s conditions that it recognize Israel and accept the Oslo Accords. As a result, the US and Europe have backed a political and economic blockade against it, seeking to destabilize its rule. In June 2007, in Gaza, matters came to a head. Hamas took the Strip in a military coup.

This event has immensely complicated the chances for peace. If Israel were to reach a separate agreement with Abbas in the West Bank, there would still be rockets from Gaza. Also, what guarantees that Hamas won’t take over the West Bank too? The notion of “two states for two peoples” has faded farther away than ever. For example, in building the separation barrier as it did — carving off pieces of the West Bank to protect its settlement blocs — Israel may have been nursing the idea that the barrier would one day mark the border. The Hamas victory has foiled that too: a wall does not stop rockets.

Such were the realities behind the Annapolis Conference. At first it was meant to set forth principles for peace. According to first-hand sources on both sides, these were already formulated in the year 2000 at Camp David and Sharm al-Sheikh. At that time, however, trust between the sides was lacking, and regional conditions were unfavorable. Today an agreement is impeded by the internal Palestinian situation.

No discussion of principles or prior understandings can occur as long as the Territories are divided between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. An Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, it is feared, will lead to a Hamas takeover there too. For this reason, Israel has clung to the Road Map as a life preserver. It obligates the PA to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure as a precondition for Israel’s withdrawal. This implies the renewal of Fatah control over Gaza. Israel is not about to begin a civil war with its settlers as long as it lacks a secure and stable partner on the other side.

And so we come full circle: given the might of the Israeli Occupation, the power of Hamas, and Fatah’s lack of credibility, what chance has the Fatah leadership — no matter how moderate it may be—to govern its people and wage peace?

The most significant new factor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the enormous decline in the status of the PA after Fatah lost Gaza to Hamas. It is an axiom among all the mainstream Israeli parties that the State no longer has an interest in direct occupation. Yet the facts on the ground keep Israel from handing the reins to Abbas.

Theoretically, the daily rocket attacks from Gaza might stop if Israel were to reconquer the Strip. Yet such a step could hurtle the region into a tailspin, undermine what remains of Abbas’s rule in the West Bank, and force Israel to reconquer the cities there too. The notorious Civil Administration would then return, and Israel would have full, direct responsibility for the feeding, education and employment of 4 million Palestinians. Added to the 1.4 million Arabs living as citizens within its borders, the number of Arabs under Israel’s rule would then almost equal the number of Jews (5.7 million).

The nominal PA rule over the cities of the West Bank, along with the Hamas domination of Gaza, enables Israel to maintain an indirect occupation while avoiding responsibility. But if Israel were to retake Gaza and then (following a PA collapse) the West Bank, that would bring on the Zionist nightmare.

We may regard Annapolis, then, as a desperate attempt to strengthen Abbas, prevent the PA’s collapse and save the Jewish State. At the subsequent Paris Conference, the developed nations pledged $7.5 billion toward the building of Palestine. The West has recognized that this latest effort may be the last chance for a two-state solution.

What exactly is the nature of the Jewish state that is thus endangered? It has become clear in recent years that Israel’s drive to separate the two peoples is not meant as penance for its crimes of forty years. The desire for separation results rather from the evaporation of the Zionist ethos. This ethos once embraced all Jewish citizens of the state, but it has shriveled to embrace the successful alone. From a nation for all its Jews, Israel has become a nation for all its rich. The classes that have lost strength in recent years, such as workers who could not make the transition to high-tech, or those displaced by foreign labor, or single mothers, have become a burden on the state (that is, on the rich), just as the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are a burden. Israel seeks a model for separating from the Palestinians, while it employs a neoliberal model to separate from its own poor. Recently, for instance, the Olmert government faced the longest and most militant teachers’ strike in the country’s history.

Criticism of the government is concentrated on two levels. The first is political, focusing on its inability to bring the peace that alone can secure the continuation of the Jewish State. The second level is that of class conflict. The same Jewish State, which once symbolized job security and a homeland for most of its citizens, is breaking up before their eyes. It has detached itself from the workers and the poor. In a nation that lacks both physical and economic security, we cannot expect solidarity.

On the analysis given here, Israel is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Perhaps it still has time to save the two-state solution — and itself — by doing what it should have done long ago: through bilateral agreement, it should have dismantled the settlements and withdrawn to the lines of 1967. But the likelihood of such a conversion is now near zero, because a new element has entered the picture: Hamas, which might do in the West Bank what it has done in Gaza.

Israel is also damned, on the other hand, if it does not withdraw to the lines of 1967, for it will then have to face the ever stronger forces pushing for a single democratic state. The time has come for hard decisions: either help build an independent Palestine or face a one-state solution.

Yacov Ben Efrat is the editor of Challenge, a bi-monthly leftist magazine focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within a global context, where this article first appeared. Published in Tel Aviv by Arabs and Jews, Challenge features political analysis, investigative reporting, interviews, eye-witness reports, gender studies, arts, and more. Please visit the Challenge website and support their important work. Read other articles by Yacov, or visit Yacov's website.

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. sk said on January 18th, 2008 at 12:23pm #

    It’s interesting how the only negative reviews of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse at amazon.com come from reflexive “supporters of Israel”.

    In that other racial settler state of the Mediterranean, French Algeria, liberals like ‘Camus “opposed extremism and violence on both sides” and “favored a multicultural Algeria.”‘, yet their ‘”multicultural” vision presupposed French rule over Algeria. “I believe in justice,” Camus said, “but I shall defend my mother above justice.” This meant seeking solutions well short of majority rule and self-determination for Algerian Muslims, including bizarre schemes evocative of later Afrikaner designs to retain power in South Africa.’

    One wonders how the world will regard the increasingly batty schemes Zionist true believers will have to devise to keep their ethnocracy intact.

  2. greybeard said on January 18th, 2008 at 9:36pm #

    The two-state solution has been dead for several years, but the corpse has been kept, like Lenin’s body, well preserved. Abbas is being groomed to be the Arab enforcer of Israeli Apartheid, but has little or no credibility with his own people. Israel has created–with its matrix of control–a single state, not yet apartheid in law but more violently and brutally apartheid in fact than any seen in South Africa. Very few Israelis recognize it yet, for it is a brutal realization– greed for land and domination has created the worst of all situations, requiring the dismantling of the “Jews-privileged” state.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 18th, 2008 at 11:54pm #

    There are some egregious errors herein, eg that Hamas took over Gaza in a military coup, when the truth is that the Palestinian Quisling Dahlan, armed to the teeth by his Yankee and Israeli masters attempted to seize control, but was crushed like the cockroach he is, and fled, leaving his goons to their fate. The other big Quisling Abbas, is only kept in power by Israeli military might, and the Gazans are being slaughtered and starved for their impudence in not bowing down to their racial superiors. Yacov speaks of the ‘seperation barrier’, a nasty euphemism for a series of gigantic concrete concentration camp walls, designed to move inexorably forward over the years, to slowly throttle the Palestinians like ‘drugged cockroaches in a bottle’ to quote one Israeli worthy, Eitan, I think. However,Yacov’s analysis of neo-liberal, Market Fundamentalist class hatred, aimed at Israelis by their own ruling, parasitic elite, is interesting indeed. As so often, hyper-chauvinism is chosen by Rightist oligarchies to disguise their contempt for their own people. I might be sucking your blood, but, hey, we both hate the ‘niggers’ don’t we? This is one possible way out of this wretched impasse, if exceedingly difficult to imagine coming to fruition. Perhaps those Israelis missing out on the gravy train, as Israel exploits African diamonds, becomes a centre for the global sex trade and develops world leading high tech industries thanks to lavish US subsidies, will eventually put aside racist solidarity and recognise that they and the Palestinians are victims of the same fascist exploiters. The obvious alternatives-indefinite imprisonment for the Palestinians in shrinking concentration camps, or mass expulsion amidst rivers of blood, or the Doomsday scenario of general war, possibly including nuclear weapons, in the Middle East, are all too horrific to contemplate. They would signal the final and absolute moral and ethical death of Israel, and possibly its physical liquidation. It is imperative that somehow the neo-fascist and racist monsters driving Israel’s relentlessly intransigent barbarity towards the Palestinians, and their armies of groveling apologists, be somehow overthrown. Perhaps the only hope lies within Israel and amongst Jews themselves. After all, they never listen to anyone else, not the Red Cross, the UN or Amnesty International.

  4. sk said on January 19th, 2008 at 9:32am #

    Reposting the following in fragments, as original post didn’t shown up after even 24 hours (one wishes dv editors would either take their “moderation” duties more seriously, as this has happened to me several times, or allow posts to show up unmoderated immediately if the workload is more than they can deal with in a timely manner).

    It’s interesting how the only negative reviews of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse at amazon.com come from reflexive “supporters of Israel”.

  5. sk said on January 19th, 2008 at 9:32am #

    In that other racial settler state of the Mediterranean, French Algeria, liberals like ‘Camus “opposed extremism and violence on both sides” and

  6. sk said on January 19th, 2008 at 9:33am #

    “favored a multicultural Algeria.”‘, yet their ‘”multicultural” vision presupposed French rule over Algeria. “I believe in justice,” Camus said, “but I shall defend my mother above justice.” This meant seeking solutions well short of majority rule and self-determination for Algerian Muslims, including bizarre schemes evocative of later Afrikaner designs to retain power in South Africa.’

  7. sk said on January 19th, 2008 at 9:33am #

    One wonders how the world will regard the increasingly batty rationalizations and schemese Zionist true believers will have to devise to keep their ethnocracy intact.

  8. Deadbeat said on January 19th, 2008 at 4:39pm #

    I might be sucking your blood, but, hey, we both hate the ‘niggers’ don’t we?

    An apt description of politics in the U.S.

  9. Espresso said on January 19th, 2008 at 9:02pm #

    I’m starting to believe that a one-state solution is the only solution. Israel has truly dug itself into a situation that will NEVER allow a two-state solution. It’s cut and diced the West Bank up in such a way that it could NEVER be a contiguous state. It’s apartheid wall steals miles upon miles of Palestinian land. It doesn’t want to vacate East Jerusalem which is occupied territory.

    Greed has sort of gotten the best of Israel. Given an inch, they took a yard; given a yard, they took a mile. As such they have pretty much predetermined that a one-state solution is the only possibility.

    And so a true democracy of all people and all religions they will have to cope with. Poor them! Perhaps they will lose their Jewish majority and have to stomach Palestinian leaders. Poor them!

  10. jaime said on January 19th, 2008 at 9:28pm #

    Here’s another possible scenario.

    The Hamas in Gaza will continue to attack Israel with rockets and mortars – for a time.

    The Israelis ratchet up pinpoint assassinations and continue to kill upwards of 30 Hamas soldiers per week. All Borders shut indefinitely, the folks in Gaza learn to live without gasoline and electricity and cook the food that they grow, plus whatever supplies manage to come in through underground tunnels over animal dung fires.

    In 2009, the West Bank Palestinians under Abbas or his successors finally iron out a deal with both Israel and the UN, and settle on borders, including Jerusalam. Israel keeps the major settlement blocks, and all other Jewish settlers on the Palestinian side of the line become Palestinian citizens, with dual Israeli status.

    Huge amounts of foreign investment and returning ex-patriots enter the new Palestine, and it becomes a banking haven much like Hong Cong and the Caiman Islands. Co-ventures in historical/religious tourism, and many kinds of industry abound between the Jewish and Palestinian states. The occupation is over, the roads are for everybody, and over time, the separation wall is dismantled.

    Gaza continues to wallow in violent and backward misery well into the next century, especially after the next Iranian revolution, which displaces the religious autocracy with a secular democracy, and accords women equal rights with men.

  11. Espresso said on January 20th, 2008 at 10:28am #

    So Israel would keep their major illegal settlement blocks and all other Jews on the Palestinian side get dual citizenship? Only a true Zionist biggot could have considered that plausible.

    Why not just give ALL Jews and Arabs dual citizenship and allow all the people equal access to all of Palestine/Israel? Of course the Palestinians who had their homes stolen or bulldozed would have to be compensated, but why not reciprocate and allow the Arabs that same dual citizenship that you’d appropriate to Jews who illegally settled Palestinian land?

  12. jaime said on January 20th, 2008 at 1:24pm #

    Because a one state solution concept is’t workable when the Hamas will settle for nothing less than killing all the Jews.

    It’s what we Zionist Power Configuration types call “an unreasonable expectation.”

    It’s O.K., we don’t expect you to be able to plan that far ahead.

  13. greybeard said on January 20th, 2008 at 6:01pm #

    Looking at Hamas and seeing Nazis is a delusion. Hamas has been well described in the current volume of Link, the monthly production of Americans for Middle East Understanding. What is truly an “unreasonable expectation” is acceptance of ethnic cleansing and slow genocide. Dismantling the state is necessary. Then, as in the United States, perhaps equal citizenship for all will become the rule (though, admittedly, it is still only the goal even in the States!).

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 21st, 2008 at 4:36am #

    One never ceases to marvel at the Judeofascist capacity for impudent untruthfulness. Jaime’s ‘pinpoint assassinations’ are a lie, in reality the cowardly murder by a military superpower, utilising all the weaponry of an advanced, military-fascist state, against a few resistance fighters armed with AK47s. Often enough civilians are killed, but, hey buddy, that’s just ‘collateral damage’. Besides, in Begin’s immortal usage, they’re only ‘two-legged animals. There is a good deal of projection in the Judeofascist labeling of the Palestinian resistance as ‘terrorwists’, coming from one of the world’s premier terrorist organisations. And not a little transference appears to have occurred from the Nazis to the most virulent of Zionist racists. The same racial supremacism, the same indifference to the suffering of the racial untermenschen and the same strutting arrogance. It’s just that the Zionists’ Stalingrad is still not yet in sight, but, unless they mend their ways, it’s inevitable arrival is as certain as night following day.

  15. jaime said on January 21st, 2008 at 9:55am #

    Hey Mulga, email me at moc.0ohaynull@locetnaj

    The Zionist Power Configuration inc. will HAPPILY arrange for complimentary transportation for you to join your soul mates in Gaza.

    This week. (pack a lunch)

    Why punch a keyboard at all hours when you have a shot at becoming a genuine bad-ass , throat slitting martyr?

    Just one little problem that our last Ozzie Jihadist ran into.

    You see he’s gay. Like me.

    And if you get your silly ass blown off launching rockets at day care centers or whatever, one of your big rewards when you go to Hamas heaven is 72 virgins to play with.
    Problem is that they’re all girls.

    I suppose the last fellow could have made do and turned them around, but it put him off the idea of killing Jews completely. Other than that I thought he was a real hero.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 21st, 2008 at 4:18pm #

    Well jaime, I’ve known lots of ‘shirt-lifters’, worked with them a good deal, and almost universally liked and admired them. I have been aware, ‘though of a certain type of Rightwing gay, represented every here and there in the local hatemongering media apparatus. Amongst these creatures, Islamophobia is particularly acute, and one cannot but believe that the homophobia of Islamic bigots contributes to this feeling. I completely agree that Islamic homophobia is wrong, vicious and cruel. However, I see the racist cruelty of the US, Israel and their Western lackeys, and the barbarity inflicted by these Crusaders on the basically defenseless people of Iraq and Gaza,as a greater priority, the greatest of many evils. You see jaime, you suffer, in my opinion, as do most ideological fanatics, from too simple a world-view. Due no doubt to intellectual and moral insufficiency, your world is purely Manichean. Everything is either wholly good, eg Israel and the Jews, or wholly wicked eg the despicable ‘rag-heads’. It’s not so simple, jaime. Some Jews, like every other group in history, are evil, racist shits, and some others are saints. The people currently running the entire criminal enterprise and moral obscenity that is the Israeli state apparatus, for example, are shits. So too, no doubt, are many jihadis, but there the malfeasance is more understandable and forgivable as they are by far the lesser evil, confronting, as they are, a military behemoth, cruel, racist and vicious, motivated by a Messianic vision of an Eretz Yisrael ‘from the Nile to the Euphrates’, and one, if the constant demands that Israel be recognised as ‘the state of the Jews’ either operating as a malign apartheid regime or thoroughly cleansed of all non-Jews.

  17. sk said on January 21st, 2008 at 11:41pm #

    btw, the two American authors responsible for introducing gay and lesbian sexuality to more Americans than anyone else, both strongly supported Palestianian rights and criticized Zionist racism: Gore Vidal, who was smeared as a loathsome “anti-Semite” for stating the obvious about Neocons more than twenty years ago (long before most others of a sane persuasion realized the latter’s reality), and Patricia Highsmith–Hitchock filmed her very first novel, and whose pathbreaking (and million selling) The Price of Salt is still celebrated–who wrote letters to editors when the assassin and bomber, Menachem Begin–called a “fascist” by Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt among others–managed to get himself elected Prime Minister of Israel.

    For anyone interested in the dynamics of using a liberal cause to bludgeon the “Wretched of the Earth”, here’s a more recent take on “Queer” As A Tool Of Colonial Oppression: The Case Of Israel/Palestine by Blair Kuntz.

  18. jaime said on January 22nd, 2008 at 10:07am #

    http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/21222/format/html/edition_id/433/displaystory.html
    For gay Palestinians, Israel offers a chance at survival

    by dan baron
    jta

    tel aviv | Belying its name, Electricity Park is shrouded in darkness, an ideal spot for curb-crawlers keen to avoid attention as they prowl for male prostitutes at night.

    The anonymity these streets offer serves as a refuge for the young men who ply their trade in this dismal corner of Tel Aviv. Many of them have far more to fear than the police or the occasional abusive client.

    Tricked out in drag or the tight, modish attire of Western urban youth, dozens of gay Palestinian runaways eke out a dangerous living on Israel�s streets.

    For these gay men, life in the seedy parts of central Israel is far better than the virtual death sentences they fled in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Sani � not his real name � grew up outside Gaza City, in a refugee camp whose clan networks and congestion made privacy practically impossible. He said he realized he was gay at age 16.

    Sani�s secret was safe from his father, a local sheik, but eventually it leaked out to the Palestinian Authority police.

    �They brought me in, held me for hours. During one round of questioning, they made me strip and sit on a Coke bottle. It hurt. And all the time I was more worried my family would learn why.�

    Torture by Palestinian Authority security services or vigilante attacks by relatives is a fate suffered by countless gay men in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where sodomy carries a jail term of three to 10 years.

    Those who survive torture and attacks either fade into meek self-abnegation or, like Sani, break away. But it�s an unlikely scenario, given the efforts Israel has made to tighten its borders over the last three years to keep out terrorists.

    Sani�s freedom came at a price: He had to report other Palestinian gays to the police. But as soon as he got out of the Gaza lock-up, Sani got out of Gaza for good, posing as a day laborer to escape to the safety of Israel proper, where he joined an estimated 300 fellow gay runaways.

    Now 22, Sani is always on the move, lodging with friends or rich clients he meets at Tel Aviv�s bathhouses. If he is short on cash, he knows he can resort to street-walking in Electricity Park.

    Sani phones home every few months to assure his mother that he is all right � on condition that she doesn�t tell his father and brothers about the conversations.

    �She says they consider me dead, and it�s better that way,� he said. �I have nightmares about them coming to kill me.�

    According to Shaul Gonen of Agudah, Israel�s homosexual rights association, at least three Palestinian runaways have been abducted by vengeful kinsmen, never to be heard from again.

    �Being gay in the Palestinian Authority is, quite simply, deadly,� Gonen said.

    Israel�s preoccupation with security also means that the runaways run the risk of being summarily deported if caught.

    �The first danger to them is from family and community, as well as authorities� in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas, Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International said. �Going to Israel is a one-way ticket, and once there their biggest problem is possibly being sent back.�

    Israel signed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees covenant of 1951, guaranteeing asylum for anyone persecuted on the basis of sexual orientation. The country�s Interior Ministry said any gay Palestinian can apply to remain in Israel indefinitely if persecution is proven, but the ministry gave no figures on how many such applications have been filed.

    Another option is to seek haven abroad.

    In Israel, covertness is a way of life for Palestinian runaways. The really lucky ones adopt a new identity altogether.

    A 30-year-old runaway from a village near Jenin works in a Tel Aviv restaurant using an identification card loaned to him by an Israeli Arab friend. He lives with his Jewish partner in a quiet Tel Aviv suburb. �With any luck, I�ll go unnoticed until there is peace,� he said.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 22nd, 2008 at 9:01pm #

    Thank-you sk. Blair Kuntz’s piece puts jaime’s loathsome hypocrisy beautifully in context. Another new low in cynical hypocrisy, hatemongering and overall detesytabilty jaime. Keep up the good work!