Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Friday, September 21, 2012

Israel's leading columnist declares that a two-state solution impossible

Last month, Nahum Barnea, Israel's leading columnist for the most-circulated newspaper Yediot Aharanot, announced that the settlers had won by making the Israeli de facto annexation of the West Bank irreversible. He is only the latest in a series of Palestinian and Israeli figures who have recently come to this conclusion. First, Sari Nusseibeh, who was one of the top organizers of the first Intifada in the late 1980s and a philosophy professor, announced this conclusion in a 2011 book entitled What is a Palestinian State Worth? Then taking his cue from this, Ha'Aretz blogger Carlos Stenger, a psychoanalyst by profession, concurred in Nusseibeh's judgement.  This is to be expected from a liberal like Strenger, but Barnea has a reputation as a centrist and a solid journalist who has received a number of journalism awards. Just google him.

Their argument is that the settlement grid has advanced so much and that Israel and the settlements are so intertwined that separation will be impossible. Israeli-American academic Ami Pehazur has a book out this month, The Triumph of Israel's Radical Right, in which he argues that the Radical Right is now mainstream and a two-state settlement is no longer possible. I agree with their conclusion but come at it from a different angle. The Al-Aksa Intifada in October 2000 was the tipping point in making the two main Center-Left parties of the Oslo era of the 1990s unviable as a governing coalition. Since 1992 these two parties have lost over three-fourths of their Knesset representation. This made champions of the two-state solution pin their hopes on the Kadima Party, created in November 2005 by Ariel Sharon. The party led a Center-Left coalition from 2006 to 2009, which failed to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians and was involved in two wars. The party is now in the process of contracting significantly. The Likud has finally replaced Mapai/Labor as the dominant party.

From 1974 to 2003 Israel lacked a single dominant party but had two parties, Likud and Labor, that formed the coalition governments either together or separately. Only twice was Labor able to form a government during this period without the Likud--in 1992 and in 1999. In 1999 Ehud Barak formed a wide coalition that included the religious parties and that collapsed as soon as he entered into serious negotiations with the Palestinians on a final settlement at Camp David. It actually collapsed before he left for Camp David. Likud is devoted to the de facto annexation of the West Bank and will not let it be returned in a peace settlement. The only country that could compel this is the United States.

The United States will not compel Israel to return the West Bank because it is a valuable ally and Likud thinking now dominates the Republican Party. This has been the situation since the election of George W. Bush as president in 2000. Both Reagan and George H.W. Bush stood up to Israel when it was necessary. But Christian Zionists now own this issue in the GOP. 

The upshot of both arguments is that pressure for a one-state solution that is democratic rather than apartheid will grow. The Israeli Right supports an apartheid solution. This is probably several decades away from being realized but will become increasingly problematic for the United States over time.

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