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The two-state solution is dead. Let’s move on

It’s time for both Israelis and Palestinians to recognize that we’ve reached a stalemate: nobody is leaving, and the status quo just isn’t pragmatic.

By Talal Jabari

A Palestinian youth rides a bicycle adorned with Palestinian flags past the Israeli separation wall near Jerusalem. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

A Palestinian youth rides a bicycle adorned with Palestinian flags past the Israeli separation wall near Jerusalem. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Whenever I think of the predicament of the Palestinian people, the voice of Juliet in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” inevitably comes to mind: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

After all, what is left of Palestine besides the memories and the name, and the former is quickly disappearing as the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel looms around the corner. To put it realistically, nobody under the age of about 73 remembers life in historic Palestine, and no Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip under 55 know what it’s like to not live under military occupation. Despite all that, almost all of the nearly 13 million Palestinians living around the world still call it Palestine.

When you come to think of it, the majority of those Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip don’t even know what life was like before the Oslo Accords. They’ve only experienced the status quo. That is scary for a number of reasons — besides the fact that it makes me feel old.

Yet Palestinians still refer to this land as Palestine. When they cross the border from Jordan and they’re met by Israeli soldiers who decide whether or not they enter the country and how, they call it Palestine. When they use Israeli shekels to purchase Israeli products set by market prices governed by the Israeli economy and its regulators, they call it Palestine. When the Israeli army enters Palestinian cities and towns, when Israeli police stop Palestinian cars and fine Palestinian drivers, when the Palestinian police cover their lights and change out of their uniforms so they can travel between Palestinian towns — they still call it Palestine.

When they talk about going back, knowing they most likely won’t be going back, when they fight, when they die, when their homes are destroyed, when settlements take more and more of their family’s land — they still call it Palestine.

So does it matter what it is called?

For over 70 years, Palestinians have been fighting for their existence, for their land, to avenge the killings of loved ones, to improve the quality of their lives, to end the occupation. Palestinians have been fighting for their freedom for over 70 years.

And what do we have to show for it? An abysmal refugee situation that persists, or rather one that continuously reinvents itself. Hundreds of thousands of others have been sentenced to life in an open-air prison, Gaza, where their daily caloric intake is calculated and regulated by the warden, while that very same warden takes it upon himself to destroy parts of the prison on a regular basis. Hundreds of thousands of others still live as second-class Israeli citizens. Millions more live under two different systems, including one in which democracy has been permanently suspended out of fear that the ruling tyrants will be defeated by the equally horrible alternative.

Worst of all, we have young men and women who are desperate, angry, afraid, essentially committing suicide one by one with the far-fetched hope that they’ll take someone down with them. I’m not sure they really think they’re going to liberate Palestine; everyone else knows they don’t stand a chance.

Meanwhile, settlements expand and the U.S. State Department still warns of the impending death of the two-state solution. My friends, the two-state solution is dead, buried, and it has decomposed almost to the extent of being unidentifiable. The ship has sailed, the horse has bolted. Do we really need to keep coming up with more clichéd idioms?

It’s time for Israelis and Palestinians to recognize that we’ve reached a stalemate: nobody is leaving and the status quo just isn’t pragmatic.

It’s not about the legality of the status quo, it’s not about turning the clock back a century or two, or a millennium or two; it’s about the here and now. It’s about recognizing that we’ve reached a stalemate and that people just want to get on with their lives — people on both sides of the divide. Quite frankly, and although this might make me very unpopular — not because people don’t agree with it but because you’re not supposed to discuss it publicly — but I’d rather live as a proud Palestinian who happens to be a citizen of Israel than continue the sham that we’re living in now under the Palestinian Authority.

I’d rather fight for equal rights in the courtroom and the ballot box, for a balanced immigration policy where Palestinians can apply and have a chance to live in their ancestral homeland which is now called Israel, but which we will continue to call Palestine in our hearts and in our minds. It’s time to demilitarize, it’s time to disband the police state, it’s time to bring down the wall.

It’s time for us to stop giving Israel the excuse that we’re fighting it when the overwhelming majority stopped fighting years ago. As the situation stands today, we’re only giving the Israeli government an excuse to continue and even worsen its collective punishment. I sincerely appreciate the dozens of countries voting to recognize Palestine, but now it’s time to move on.

Talal Jabari is a Palestinian award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from East Jerusalem. He tweets from @TalalJabari.

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    1. Carmen

      “I’d rather fight for equal rights in the courtroom and the ballot boxes, for a balanced immigration policy where Palestinians can apply and have a chance to live in their ancestral homeland which is now called Israel, but which we will continue in our hearts and in our minds call Palestine. It’s time to demilitarize, is time to disband the police state, it’s time to bring down the wall.”

      Damn straight. Thank you for your post and I hope to read more from you and see the day that wall comes tumbling down.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Weiss

      Although I agree with your bleak assessment of the current condition of Palestine, giving Israel full authority to annex the WB will not slow their inhumane version of Jim Crow Apartheid.
      On the contrary, it will only sanction it further.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tommy Goldberg

        Suppose we achieve a fair two-state solution tomorrow. The day after, we’ll STILL have over a million Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are discriminated against in myriads of ways. When you consider that Israel proper’s Palestinian population is higher percentage-wise than America’s black population ever was, you’ll know that the unequal treatment of Israel’s populations with the Green Line is just as unsustainable as Jim Crow was in America.

        So why spend decades more chasing an ever-elusive two-state solution, when it’s not going to address the root problem?

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      A great statement, Talal Jabari. A landmark statement. Thank you.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bus189

      This is all rather pragmatic from the Palestinian point of view except for the fact that annexing the West Bank and Gaza and granting all residents there citizenship would create a country that would soon have an Arab majority and be called Palestine rather than Israel. As such it would be rather unpragmatic for Israeli Jews to accept it because it would mean that their country would cease to exist, or more likely there would be a major civil war at the end of which they would either cease to exist or win and be forced into some rather unsavory acts. There is close to a zero percent chance that a country in which Jews and Arabs are living at rough demographic parity will be functional in any way. Every political discussion will quickly collapse into sectarian divide. Every symbol and every street name (as well as the flag, anthem and name of the country itself) will be cause for conflict. Every proposed law will be seen as a zero sum game. Inevitably it would push both sides into taking even more radical positions (as difficult as it might be to imagine at the moment) and it would all break down into escalating levels of violence leading to atrocities and civil war until one side or the other wins. From the Israeli Jewish point of view the status quo is far more pragmatic since it ensures the existence of Israel, a [mostly] functioning government, and an army that is capable of defending the Jewish collective from external threats.

      So, much as I appreciate the pragmatism displayed by people like you and Sari Nusseibeh I can confidently tell you that Israeli Jews will not accept your proposal as is and would fight any attempt to implement it as they would see it justifiably as undermining their long-term survival as a collective. Nor can such a proposal really be imposed from the outside and any such attempt would only push Israeli Jews further to the right. And there is no real military possibility of imposing such a proposal on Israel given the means at Israel’s disposal. So, in other words, this proposal will go nowhere.

      Now, having said that, you are free to make other proposals and I would gladly hear them out, but keep in mind that any proposal that jeopardizes the ability of the IDF to defend the Israeli Jewish collective from the ravages of the Middle East is going to be a hard-sell.

      Reply to Comment
    5. R5

      Ok, put all of the Hamas members and IDF vets in one state. You’ll have to come up with a stronger word than “Nakba” for what happens the next day. If you think anyone’s going to have time to think about ballot boxes or a “balanced immigration policy” amidst the chaos, you’re very sorely mistaken.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Hazim

      As a Palestinian living in the US, I do not claim to know all the answers, but why can’t we accept Israel’s right to exist and push towards a 2 state solution. I do not want Israel to annex the West Bank. Saying we want all of Palestine eventually does not help us in my opinion

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ben

      @Bus189: Well you can certainly make it not work if you want, if you are dead set on maintaining the privileges of a comfortable supremacism. Easiest thing in the world to make something *not* work. Or you can make it work. It *will* take work. You did not nurture and coddle a brutal and brutalizing occupation for fifty years only to dismantle all its practical and spiritual effects on you and them and wipe the slate clean in a few months. That is in part what Jabari is saying. And ten other +972 writers. But if you feel unable to move yourself to change that much, and would like to hear out other proposals, you might start with something called “Two-State Solution, Fair and Decent Version.” Using the API as a starting point. Or similar starting point. Everyone knows the parameters of a fair and decent solution. It just seems too hard to you because you’ve been luxuriating in overlord-dom for fifty years.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “Or you can make it work. It *will* take work”

        This just conjures up the following response, particularly because of how Ben phrases his “helpful” (more like unhelpful) suggestion:

        “The Difficult We Do Immediately. The Impossible Takes a Little Longer”

        Why? Because Ben and his cohorts have stars in their eyes. They want us to sing Kumbayah and change the world but they expect us and us alone to do it. They expect nothing from their Palestinian buddies. They point at the API and tell us: “there is your start, hop to it”. But what does the API say? It certainly isn’t the recipee for the two state solution. For starters, it expects Israel to accept millions of descendants of Arab refugees. And what does that lead to? It leads to the one state solution which the Arabs always fought for. It leads to the establishment of the 23rd Arab Muslim state and it eliminates the one and only Jewish state.

        After that, the Ben and the Carmens of this world would be able to sit back, sing haleluyah and say praise the lord. Thanks but no thanks. That would not be a pragmatic solution as far as we are concerned.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bus189

        It isn’t a Zionist conspiracy that pigs can’t fly. Some things can not be made to work.

        We are entirely dead set on ensuring that the IDF will secure the Jewish collective in the land of Israel. If being secure in our own country is now a supremacist privilege then I embrace it wholeheartedly. And if Jabari is saying as you suggest that I am obligated to sacrifice my security and my country, then I will have to politely disagree and tell him to come back when he has some more workable suggestions.

        When the Palestinians accept that eliminating my country is neither fair nor decent then there can be a conversation about a two state solution. At the moment they continue to insist that the only fair and decent thing to do is to eliminate my country and their best stab at pragmatism is to suggest doing it gradually. The formula for peace has always been the same – two states for two peoples. I’ll wait until their pragmatism, misery or both take them that far. I can wait.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Hey guys, do you know what in neurology and psychiatry is called “perseveration”? It’s giving the same reply to different questions in a grossly inappropriate, repetitive way, and is a pathognomonic sign of encephalopathy.

          For example:

          What is the capital of Italy? Rome!
          What is today’s date? Rome!
          What is your name? Rome!
          What did you have for dinner? Rome!

          You give the appearance of perseveration with these replies, always with a variation on one word.

          Eliminate!
          Eliminate!
          Eliminate!

          But in your case it’s not due to brain damage of course. I would never be so impolite as to suggest it. It’s volitional. Doctors might consider this behavior “malingering”: feigning illness or weakness for secondary tangible gain. “Blaming the victim” and “projecting” also come to mind. Or they might wonder if it is a real thing: an anxiety disorder? What it definitely is not is an accurate perception of the world.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bus189

            If the sky is blue I am not going to say it is pink to make you happy. If the Palestinians wish to create a situation where my country doesn’t exist I am not going to praise them for their tolerance and pragmatism. If they are obsessed with eliminating my country I am not going to pretend otherwise and I will call them out on it every single time. I like my country. I plan to keep it. If that bothers you then that is your problem.

            Reply to Comment
    8. Lewis from Afula

      I agree with the author. Let the ex-Jordanians go back home. The Land of Israel belongs to us – not the arabs who already own 10% of the World’s Land Area.

      Reply to Comment
    9. i_like_ike52

      The 2-state-solution is dead because the Palestinians killed it. As the recent UNESCO vote and the new Palestinian demands that the British “apologize” and recant the Balfour Declaration show, the Palestinians will NEVER accept a compromise peace with Israel under any conditions. They prefer keeping the status quo going over making what they believe to be suicidal compromises over existential issues like the “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees..
      No Israeli gov’t, including one of the Left will agree to withdrawals from the West Bank leading to the creation of a Palestinian state that is certain to be a serious security threat to Israel, as happened when Israel destroyed Gush Katif and unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Stip.
      Thus, the most that can be hoped for is the fashioning of a modus-vivendi which in fact exists to a large extent anyway. Political solutions are impossible.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        Then say hello to a lot of brand new arab-Israeli citizens.

        Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “More stale canned hashbara.”

        On another thread Ben advocates negotiations

        Yet here, Ben dismisses the narrative of our elected representatives. We dismiss Ben’s and his buddies narrative. One good turn deserves another.

        Is that Ben’s idea of how to negotiate?

        Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        I read part of this “Peace Now” manifesto. Totally delusional. They keep harping on the Jordanian and Egyptian peace treaties. These are unpopular agreements made with people at the top and are quite fragile. But the Palestinians are in a different situation since they don’t have a strong leadership that can impose an agreement on their population as did Jordan and Egypt.
        This manifesto ignores the extreme violence and religious fanaticism that is tearing apart Syria, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen and other countries. Any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would ignite even more extremism there as happened when Israel abandoned the Gaza Strip.

        Reply to Comment
    10. Barry Meridian

      I feel bad for the Arabs with only 22 countries.
      I think i’ll shed a tear for them and Ben

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Don’t cry for me, Barry Meridian. Anyone (meaning lots o’ folks ’round here) deploying the phrase “the Arabs” in this manner does not have a clue. Jews got a lotta countries too, and big important stable liberal ones with high standards of living:
        As of 2010 the largest numbers of Jews live in Israel (5,703,700), United States (5,275,000), France (483,500), Canada (375,000), the United Kingdom (292,000), Russia (205,000), Argentina (182,300), Germany (119,000)[58] and Brazil (107,329. Etc.

        Reply to Comment
    11. decisive

      These pals already have three states…They have one in Gaza one in the pa and one in Jordan…They can keep dreaming the majority of Israelis don’t want to have anything to do with them….

      Reply to Comment
    12. Ben

      “But the Palestinians are in a different situation since they don’t have a strong leadership”

      And Israel has done its calculated best to keep it precisely that way. You underestimate how cynically objective people view the Israeli professions of pining for a strong leadership. The Israeli right goes out of its way to vilify and demean precisely the most moderate and peace seeking Palestinian leaders. No one is buying what you’re selling, Ike.

      “Any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would ignite even more extremism”

      Again, this is viewed by objective observers as a cynical profession of helplessness, as feigned helplessness. The Israelis do every possible thing to promote extremism and shut down non-violent initiatives in the West Bank. When they could perfectly well promote just the opposite and engineer a very secure two state solution. If they wanted to. They do not want to. And this Israeli strategy existed long before Syria destabilized. It won’t wash.

      Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        You claim “Israel is responsible for the extremism in the Palestinian territories”. You are completely ignoring the political and religious extremism tearing all the countries of the Middle East apart. You always harp on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way disconnected from the rest of the Middle East. Fortunately, most Israelis do see what is going on after the years in which the Rabin/Peres/Beilin Oslo gang was pulling the wool over Israelis eyes with their delusions of “the New Middle East”.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Ike, it is apparent that your purchase on reality is different than mine. We cannot even agree on basic facts, never mind their interpretations. That’s not going to change if the foregoing is any indication. You say I harp on things disconnected from the larger picture but that describes exactly what Israelis do incessantly with respect to the lack of peace they cause by all the things we subsume under “occupation” and feign to stand dumbfounded as to why the people they oppress resist instead of submitting and as to why people outside the conflict could possible side with the oppressed. A while ago Natasha Roth wrote penetratingly about Israeli narcissism. One sees it every day here. The right wing missing the forest for the trees and completely oblivious to the problems they cause. Tirelessly, with numbing repetition, presenting heavily distorted and self-serving versions of events. Israel is trapped in an impenetrable, intractable syndrome of pathological blame-externalizing and victimhood-nurturing, this peculiar tracing of absolutely everything to anti-Semitism and “the whole world is against us” to the point of a kind of national delusion. In the face of mountains of contradictory information. Not one of you ever actually refutes a thing +972 writers expose and explain. You just churn out the same stale memes. There is no reasonable conversation to be had. One is talking to a wall. Only increasingly dire consequences will stay the hand of fanatics. Extreme nationalisms such as this have never ended well.

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “Not one of you ever actually refutes a thing +972 writers expose and explain.”

            That is Ben’s story. I see it exactly the other way around.

            We constantly present facts which at the least puts the situation in context and presents the P-I conflict as a national conflict between two peoples for the same piece of land. We show the history of this conflict which clearly demonstrates that the Arabs are not the innocent little victims without any fault.

            Ben constantly tries to whitewash his Arab buddies and to vilify and demonise Israel only.

            As for who is a brick wall and who is illogical, Ben thinks that it is us. We on the other hand think that Ben and his buddies are the ones with the single track mind who cannot ever admit that they are wrong at least about somethings. No problems. I call the situation SNAFU. It mirrors the situation in the Middle East exactly! As long as this mindset prevails, the mess will continue.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yes, thanks for proving my point. I can always count on you.

            Reply to Comment
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