Should We Wave Farewell to the Two-State Solution

June 2009 was not that long ago and not so long after Benjamin Netanyahu won the Israeli elections and put together the most right-wing coalition government in the country’s history.  June 2009 was a year before the Flotilla disaster and only a couple months after the devastation of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.  It was five months before the beginning and fifteen months before the end of the controversial settlement construction freeze.  It was fourteen months before direct negotiations with the Palestinians began and fourteen months and three weeks before those talks were thrown into diplomatic purgatory.

June 2009 was when Prime Minister Netanyahu conceded, for the first time in his political career, the inevitability of a Palestinian state.  Seventeen months later, it is increasingly possible that such a state is unlikely.

Considering the demands Netanyahu has made in exchange for an extension of the settlement freeze – required by the Palestinians for the continuation of talks – as well as the consequences of such a freeze, this round of talks is on life support.  A recent poll showed that over half of Palestinians would not favor the continuation of talks without an extension of the freeze, meaning it is likely that even US President Obama ill be unlikely to convince the two sides to come back together.

In light of the looming failure, many are preparing themselves for a state of reality in which two independent states are impossible.  Recently, in discussing possible options to the failure of talks, Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath has admitted that the dissolution of the PA is a possible response, thus removing Israel’s only negotiating partner for two states.  Likewise the poll mentioned above revealed that over a third of Palestinians expected such an outcome if the current talks failed.

[tweetmeme] Internationally, those observing the situation are slowly beginning to recognize the sway of the tide towards bi-nationalism.  During his visit to Israel and Palestine – in which he met with Palestinian resistance leaders – British Foreign Minister William Hague warned that the possibility of two-states was slipping away.  “I am very worried that the window of opportunity is closing. There is real urgency to that,” said Hague.

Princeton Professor Richard Falk – who has served on the OHCHR inquiry commission for the Palestinian territories and is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories – has openly come out in favor of a bi-national democratic state in all of mandate Palestine:

My judgment, coinciding with the orientation and the various assertions of the Houston Declaration, is that the genuine search for a just peace at this stage depends on building a strong political and moral consensus in favor of a one-state solution: the state being of secular character, equal to all people living within its borders, comprising the whole of the territory that was constituted by historic Palestine, and bringing human rights and democracy and dignity to both of these embattled peoples.

Even Palestinian-Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi has said that a two-state solution is “impossible,” preferring one democratic or bi-national state instead:

“The reality goes more toward the one state solution,” Zoabi said, “whether a democratic one-state solution, or a binational one-state solution…

“We are struggling for a normal state, which is a state for all of its citizens, [in] which the Palestinians and the Israeli Jews can have full equality. I recognize religious, cultural and national group rights for the Israelis, but inside a democratic and neutral state.”

Perhaps there is still hope that Israel and the Palestinian Authority can work out a solution to this impasse, but – as noted by Tom in a comment on this site – any two state solution is bound to disappoint many (particularly in regards to the right of return).  Seventeen months after Netanyahu historically declared the right of Palestinians to have an independent state, many Palestinians are beginning to give up on such a notion.  With such disinterest in the continuation of talks and the resumption of mass building in illegal settlements, it seems as though we will hear of many more people trading away the two-state solution for a more accurate reading of the realities here.

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4 thoughts on “Should We Wave Farewell to the Two-State Solution

  1. Note for moderators: if it’s ok I’ll comment on this post as well, but if you feel in any way that I’m bombarding YOUR blog with my opinions I can understand if you won’t publish.

    The word “charade” seems to be a very fitting description of the international negotiations – but unlike Falk I think both sides play the game to amuse the American administration, and to some extent themselves
    It’s clear that the Fatah PA has no mandate from the whole of the Palestinian people and any or all of the concessions they might take towards attaining a viable peace will be declared moot and void by Hamas and (I assume) the majority of the Palestinian population that elected Hamas.

    Asking Israel to limit settlement growth to only 2% per year (natural growth) and to make permanent and serious concessions towards the PA (like assigning them a much higher percentage of the C-territories to control and settle on, re-building the disputed parts of the separation wall and activity enforcing the dismantlement of illegal settlements) while also negotiating a unification (VIA a third party) of the Palestinian parties and public acknowledgement of the state of Israel by all of them would be a more realistic approach.

    On to the second part:

    “My judgment, coinciding with the orientation and the various assertions of the Houston Declaration, is that the genuine search for a just peace at this stage depends on building a strong political and moral consensus in favor of a one-state solution: the state being of secular character, equal to all people living within its borders, comprising the whole of the territory that was constituted by historic Palestine, and bringing human rights and democracy and dignity to both of these embattled peoples.”

    I’d like to reply to this on a personal note:

    Hi, I’m Tom, a secular Jewish man from Israel who would gladly live in a state being of secular character, equal to all people living within its borders. And I have a friend from Ramallah named Muhammad who would gladly live in it as well (We’ll finally be able to establish the Start-up company we dream about together and the connection in our COD: Modern Warfare 2 Co-op sessions will surely be better :-)). I have no problem imagining a Palestinian as the president of Israel while he / she will keep afore mentioned principals and the Security of the State of Israel as a whole. Now “snap back to (the current) reality” as the song goes: Both I and Mohammad are (statistically) alone in this wish… our bubble burst and re-formed many times over the past few years, until it came to a glorious demise in the recent rise to power of Hamas and the resurgence of Israel’s nationalist Right where we realized it was actually still-born from its conception – I can assure you that the dream is now as cold as it was ever: we both understand that We are parts a greater whole that make our nations, which don’t see eye to eye with us regarding this whole Secular democracy stuff – we take comfort that both of our nations are both examples of the proper (mostly – nothing’s perfect) balance between the “Church” and “State”: in the West bank you can see the Sharia courts upholding Islamic civil matters in accordance to the moderate and peaceful interpretation of the Koran, And in regards to Israel I’ll comment on thepromisedlandblog’s recent post denouncing Tablet’s positive review of Tel-Aviv since, among other things, there are no gay marriages in the conservative democracy of Israel – Gays might not be allowed to marry in Israel but it’s the best place to be gay in the whole of the middle east and some major chunks of the NOT western world. When I was single one of my dates stated that the true minority in Tel-Aviv were single straight men and that she needs to make do with whatever sticks when she scrapes the bottom of the barrel (i.e. me :-), but I showed her… she’s now my GF… Muhahahah).

    To sum things up: “WE” (the nations of Palestine and Israel) say NO(!) to the Mega-Liberals such as Falk and many others who are trying to impose on both of our nations a process which is still an imperfect solution in their own nations, even though we personally (just me and my friend) would find it the simplest solution… Thanks, but we have more pressing matters then advocating for a secular democracy to the 90% (or more) of the populace who won’t get it… To me it’s very clear that these attempts seem kind-hearted since I deluded myself for long periods of time, but sometimes they start to border on thought colonialism.

    P.S: If anyone wonders why I wrote about Israel in the third person in my previous replies it’s because it keeps me as emotionally detached and objective as possible. And sorry for all the personal notes which might seem irrelevant – just wanted you to know I’m a human being with a name and face, and sometimes a life 🙂

    1. Tom, I appreciate all the comments and I appreciate the fact that you are, in fact, a real person.

      I agree that the PA has a serious legitimacy issue. It was not elected, but rather seized power. Many Palestinians do not agree with the PA program or the corruption that is apparent throughout the party. Also, for an independent state to be formed, reconciliation is essential.

      The only problem I see is that an increasing number of Palestinians are losing faith in the two-state negotiated solution and turning towards Falk. I agree that nothing should be imposed on either side, but what if Palestinians organically shift that way?

      1. I think that the two-state solution is a more realistic approach in the long run. I see more sense in your depiction of the on-state solution as being a leverage point towards recognition of a Palestinian state by the threatened Israeli Jewish majority (but still feel it might be an uncalculated gamble) than the unrealistic secular democracy fantasy of US liberals.

        One-state solution as a means to pressure Israel into an inevitable long term two-state solution: the recognition to a Palestinian state is just one of many possible outcomes (some very grim).

        One secular democracy: I just don’t see this dream manifesting into realty in the next 10-20 years, but if more Palestinians will shift towards that notion I see it as a positive step (in general). I can sincerely hope for a revival of the notion of a secular Israel would entail.

      2. I certainly don’t think that a secular democracy is possible within 10-20 years. Give it another generation, then maybe. And let me clarify, as I am increasingly moving towards the idea of a one-state solution, the dismantling of the PA would be a move that forcing Israel’s hand both ways. Either way it changes the political scene. And I also agree that it would be a massive gamble that could possibly devolve into bloodshed, but I also think that any movement towards a one-state solution has the same possibility.

        But then again I am a dreaming US liberal – though, living in Palestine, I see a slow turning of the political tide here away from two-states. And in the end, the decision of one state or two really only rests with the Palestinians. Not me or my fellow international dreamers, Obama or even Israel.

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