I just finished watching a live transmission of the Knesset vote on the referendum law. The law, which passed at a majority of 65 to 33, conditions any Israeli withdrawal from any of its territory – into which Israel, alone in the world, includes the Golan Heights East Jerusalem – on passing a nation-wide referendum. To overrule the law, the Knesset would need a privileged majority of 80 out of 120 parliamentarians. Considering current and foreseeable trends in the public mood, overwhelming support for withdrawing from East Jerusalem – including the Old City, Gilo, Ramot Eshkol, and others – is highly unlikely.
This means that even if we ever get to an agreement on the key issue of a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and the status of the city’s Palestinian residents, the referendum will kill it. The only alternative are if the government makes a new legislation and kills referendum law first, which seems highly improbable. The future Palestinian state, if it ever comes to pass, will be without its main symbol and historic capital.
The two state solution was in dire straits ever since it was born; the huge settlement expansion under Israel’s most leftist governments, especially the Rabin-Peres one, made it all but impossible to achieve on the ground. Whatever was left of its political future was further cast into question by the Olmert and Netanyahu documents, demanding the new Palestinian state has no control of airspace or non-Israeli borders, and other attributes of a sovereign state. The referendum bill put nail-before-last in the two-state process. The last nail will come when the Palestinian Authority implodes, whether for lack of credibility, or for a conscious change of tactic in favour of demanding vote and collective rights within the overarching Israeli government.
For the record, all of the Labor ministers, led by Ehud Barak, walked out of the chamber, not voting at all. Much of Kadima were absent, except Livni and a handful of MKs, who voted against. Labor once again chose the illusion of power over whatever they were once meant to stand for politically; some Labor ministers said they would vote against the law, but naturally didn’t threaten to resign, so Barak pulled out the lot of them. Livni, in all probability, feared an open revolt in her badly fractured party. Netanyahu voted in favor – I’m surprised you asked.
In all honesty, the two state solution appears to be long past its due – what’s worse, considering the leadership Israel has to implement it, it seems likely to become an instrument of oppression, rather than liberation, for all involved. If this path appears so unpromising, alternatives must be considered and discussed openly. I can only join Danny Rubinstein, Ali Abunimah, Yehuda Shenhav, Noam Sheizaf, Reuven Rivlin and a growing number of other voices calling to begin earnestly examining ways of achieving self determination, security, and collective rights for Israeli Jews and for Palestinians in a one-state framework.