Israel-Palestine: The delusion of a two-state solution – Sharif Nashashibi/Al Jazeera English
It is duplicitous enough for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to convince audiences outside his own country from time to time that he supports the creation of a Palestinian state. Worse still is that he portrays his efforts in this regard as being constantly thwarted by the Palestinians themselves.
In other words, Netanyahu would have us believe that he is a greater proponent of such a state than those who have been denied it by almost half a century of Israeli military occupation and colonisation.
He reiterated this fallacy on March 22, while addressing the annual conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Washington’s most influential pro-Israel lobby group.
He said he was willing to resume talks on a two-state solution “immediately … anytime, anywhere”, if only his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas was willing to do the same.
This just one day after the Israeli government issued notices to seize nearly 120 hectares of land from Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank, and days after it declared more than 2,300 dunums of land in Jericho as “state lands”, which are then usually granted to Jewish settlers.
Never mind that in the same speech, Netanyahu urged the United States to oppose any UN resolution calling for the creation of a Palestinian state. It seems no one else apart from him – not the international community or even the Palestinians – is allowed to seek such a state.
And no one else is allowed to define its parameters. Israel’s ever-expanding settlement enterprise, which controls around half of the West Bank – including its water aquifers and most fertile land – and has made a Swiss cheese out of the Palestinian territory – must be largely maintained.
Preconditions and obligations
Israel must keep illegally annexed East Jerusalem – whose boundaries have been expanded to comprise some 10 percent of the West Bank – as well as the Jordan Valley, which comprises about another 30 percent.
Whatever is left for a Palestinian state must be “demilitarised” – in other words remain defenceless – and recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
This demand was not made of Egypt or Jordan, and would further imperil Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who comprise more than 20 percent of the population and are already treated as second-class.
If all these criteria – and others – are met, then Netanyahu is all ears, because he knows that the end result would not be a state in any sense of the word. That the Palestinians would not – and could not – accept such a “state” is precisely why he can claim to support its creation, because he knows it will never come to that.
Do not call them preconditions, though – he does not like them, and apparently only the Palestinians have them.
In reality, while Israel’s entail flouting international law, that of the Palestinians – a halt to settlement expansion – is simply adherence to it.
As Saeb Erekat, the former chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority (PA), told Al Jazeera: “That is an obligation, not a precondition.”
When objective observers point out the obvious, that Israel cannot claim to be committed to peace with the Palestinians while colonising their land, they are subjected to the full fury of Israeli officials.
When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did so in January, he was accused of “encouraging terror”.
On the rare occasion when Israel’s own allies do the same – most recently US Vice President Joe Biden on March 20 – they can safely be ignored, because Israel knows these words will never translate to pressure.
Remember how quickly the US President Barack Obama caved when Netanyahu rejected a halt to settlement expansion before talks with the Palestinians? He knew that Obama would not twist his arm.
And why listen to Biden now, when the US election season means presidential candidates are falling over themselves to appease the powerful pro-Israel lobby?
Even when the demise of the two-state solution is brought up, it is almost always portrayed as a possibility that could still be avoided, rather than something that has already happened.
This is convenient for those invested in the “peace process” because they can avoid having to admit they have failed, and having to acknowledge the one-state reality.
Point of no return
Those who continue to portray a two-state solution as a possibility are – inadvertently or otherwise – providing Israel with cover to continue wiping Palestine off the map, because the point of no return seems to forever be on the horizon, and as long as that is the case, Israel can avoid blame for passing the point of no return.
In reality, we passed it long ago. There was national upheaval in Israel about evacuating several thousand settlers from the Gaza Strip. This renders impossible the prospect of evacuating several hundred thousand from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, even if there was the political will to do so, which there has never been.
There is nothing radical about highlighting this. Netanyahu himself made clear in his last election campaign that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch – it is this pledge to his electorate that should be taken seriously, not his faux declarations to international audiences about seeking peace.
His government comprises individuals and parties that openly reject a Palestinian state. People are not listening. They do not want to listen. Delusion is always simpler, more comforting. It suits them, and it suits Israeli officials.
There needs to be a paradigm shift in the way people view the conflict and ways to solve it. That involves acknowledging that Israel has created a one-state reality, and finding ways to make that state equitable rather than a vehicle for the apartheid system that exists today.
This is actually easier than with two states, because issues of separation – borders, settlements, East Jerusalem, resources – no longer become the insurmountable obstacles they currently are.
Nevertheless, the debate over the desirability of one state for both peoples is moot given that the two-state solution is no longer feasible.
The only choice to be faced is whether to continue turning a blind eye to the facts on the ground.
Sharif Nashashibi is an award-winning journalist and analyst on Arab affairs.