The death of the two-state solution has been exaggerated

According to James’s Joyce’s character Leopold Blum, reading your own obituary gives you a new lease of life. Proponents of the two-state solution should perhaps then be grateful to those declaring it dead. As I argue in a new paper for the Foreign Policy Centre, the two-state solution is not dead, and in fact remains both attainable and indispensable.

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Dr Toby Greene is director of research at BICOM

According to James’s Joyce’s character Leopold Blum, reading your own obituary gives you a new lease of life. Proponents of the two-state solution should perhaps then be grateful to those declaring it dead.

As I argue in a new paper for the Foreign Policy Centre, the two-state solution is not dead, and in fact remains both attainable and indispensable.

Mehdi Hasan is among the latest to have read its last rites. (He already declared it dead in the Guardian three and a half years ago but apparently not everyone – John Kerry, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas – got the memo.)

His evidence this time is that some Israeli settlers said so.

Really? If you want to know whether the two-state solution is dead you don’t take the word of those opposed to it. As Mandy Rice-Davies so memorably put it during the Profumo affair: “They would say that, wouldn’t they”.

But haven’t the settlements killed the two-state solution? If you ask Shaul Arieli – former head of Israel’s peace negotiations administration, leading advocate for Peace Now, and leading expert on the situation on the ground – the answer is no.

As Arieli showed in a recent paper for BICOM, settlements and outposts do not cover 42 per cent of the West Bank, as is sometimes claimed. The built up area covers less than 2 per cent. Beyond the major settlement blocks – the bulk of which Israel is likely to keep in a land swap deal – they cover 0.4 per cent.

But ‘There is no peace; there is no process’, cry a hearty chorus of two-state doomsayers. Well if it’s peace talks you want, cheer up. Talk to people who are in a position to know and you will hear there is a decent chance final status talks will be restarting in the coming months.

And who will be representing the Israeli side. Hardline settlers Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett? Actually it will be justice minister and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni – the Israeli who more than any other in the last few years has made the case that a two-state solution is an imperative for Israel.

Now the fact that peace talks may soon be back does not mean a deal will be reached. We should all be hoping it will be. But even if this effort fails, as I argue in my FPC paper, there is still no alternative to the two-state solution – if a solution means ending bloodshed, affording dignity, universal human and political rights, and economic and social opportunities to all peoples involved.

The ‘one-state solution’ is in fact an oxymoron. A single state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean will mean an Arab majority state in the long run, and the dismantlement of the State of Israel. It is no wonder that increasing numbers of Palestinian intellectuals and their supporters like the sound of that, but it’s not exactly a solution that Israeli Jews will accept.

Those on the Israeli right trumpeting the death of the two-state solution – who are ideologically opposed to territorial compromise – make various claims about how Israel can annex the West Bank, remain democratic and not lose its Jewish character. But their various attempts to square this circle are not convincing, which is why a majority of Israelis continue to prefer the two-state option.

In fact, prematurely declaring the two-state solution dead means ignoring the preferences of most Israelis and Palestinians. Surveys consistently show that by considerable margins, both sides favour the two-state model over any alternative.

Though scepticism abounds about the chances for an agreement, the fact that both peoples, who don’t agree on much, can agree on the two-state model, is pretty remarkable. It ought to be a source of hope and opportunity.

Creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, therefore, remains the only arrangement that can conceivably reconcile the core interests of Palestinian and Jewish national movements. If a comprehensive peace deal proves elusive now, observers in the West should cut out the talk of ‘windows closing’ and focus on how to keep the window ajar for future generations.

This would mean seeking ways to advance a two-state reality on the ground, even in the absence of a full agreement.

But we should not be writing off the chances of an agreement before the parties themselves, the ones who are actually engaged in the conflict, have had another shot at resolving it.

It’s all too easy to declare imperiously, from two thousand miles away – with a flick of the wrist – the two-state solution dead, thereby condemning millions of Israelis and Palestinians to a future of unending conflict. Many of us those living with this issue are not giving up that easily.

One Response to “The death of the two-state solution has been exaggerated”

  1. JanCosgrove1945

    Yes they would say so. The question now is, if there isn’t a 2 state solution anymore, what IS there? The indefinite illegal occupation and settlement-at-will by Israel and no-state for the Palestinians? I suspect the latter will not rest content with that. Or a single Jewish State by annexation (and expulsion?) where Arabs are 2nd class citizens? No ta, they’ll say. A 2 state solution is the ONLY game on offer, both to Israel and the Palestinians – can we please call them ‘Palestine’ in recognition of that. Sensible countries will say to Israel, come up with the 2 state solution, it’s in YOUR hands after all when all is said and done – or we’ll recognise Palestine anyway. Israel needs to accept that land is not theirs no matter what the religios proclaim as divine will. The law of man, not of one sect’s convenient view of what their god says, please. He’s not there to call re testimony, only his henchmen.

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