Sometime in September, in just over a month, U.S. President Barack Obama will effectively close the door on the two-state solution. Some say this solution has already been dead for years, due to the immense growth of settlements that would obstruct any option of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank. Others have held a certain amount of optimism, particularly believing that after his election, President Obama would usher in a solution. But one thing is for sure: come September, the two-state solution can be taken off the drawing board.
Palestinians and Israelis have done almost everything they could to squander the past two years and bring the negotiations to a halt, yet it is the Obama administration’s failure to fulfill its role as a fair and neutral mediator that has damaged the process the most. The latest example of this doomed policy came in February with its veto of the UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank – despite the fact that the resolution echoed Washington’s long-standing criticism of the settlements.
The administration will have a chance once again to betray its own faith when Palestinians bring their unilateral declaration of independence to the UN in September. Whether they do it through the Security Council or the General Assembly is no longer of any importance, seeing as how the Administration has caved in to Israeli and American-Jewish pressure to block such an initiative. It is hard to understand the American stance that Palestinian statehood should not be discussed at the UN, when it is precisely the most relevant venue for such issues (as Israel found out in 1947), and even more difficult to defend their claim that UN recognition would be the end of diplomacy, when in fact it should be seen as an impetus for negotiations.
But besides shaming itself once again, the Administration, apparently unknowingly, will be closing the door forever on the solution that it and Administrations before it – and the international community – have worked so hard to push forward. Not only is time of the essence, times have also changed – as have the facts on the ground:
* Timeout in the White House: President Obama has now begun his campaign for the 2012 elections. During the upcoming year of campaigning, it is unlikely that he will put any pressure on either side. In fact, we can see that the “easing off” has already begun. Also, seeing as how it was difficult for him to chalk up any success during his first term, jumpstarting the process after his election, if elected, will probably take another 1-2 years (if one is optimistic).
* Surge in the West Bank: The Israeli Interior Ministry recently announced that the number of settlers rose by over 14,000 in the past year. This has been the going rate for the past few years, but considering the 10 month settlement freeze in 2010, it’s an astonishing number. With over 330,000 settlers in the West Bank and the U.S. unavailable for the next 2-3 years, the Bantustan scenario is quickly turning into a reality.
* One-state on the rise: Polls conducted over the past few years show a slow yet steady decline of Palestinian support for the two state solution. The sense of hopelessness that is pervasive throughout the West Bank and Gaza is not only giving a boost to the one-state solution, it may also be a sign of the chances for violence after the UN move in September.
There are also increasing calls on the fringes of both the Israeli Right and Left of the political map to forgo the two-state solution and move on to the one-state solution. This is no longer considered taboo in Israel, as even the hawkish Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has voiced his support for this solution.
* Netanyahu’s future: Perhaps unsurprisingly given that this is the most right-wing government ever to rule Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is reportedly looking into the options of annulling the Oslo accords or even annexing the whole West Bank as a response to Palestinian unilateralism. Israelis may also feel the need to rally around their right-wing leaders when they begin to feel the international isolation resulting in the Palestinian initiative.
Furthermore, the Netanyahu government will most probably be busy with the new domestic unrest over cost of living in Israel, which has prompted some of the biggest demonstrations the country has seen in years. The media seems to have totally forgotten the September deadline, and some believe the unrest has the potential to bring down his government. But new elections would not bring in a left-wing government that would be more likely to deal with the Palestinian issue, if the latest polls are to be believed.
* The GOP on top: After all this, although at this stage it seems unlikely, there is the slight chance that a Republican could win the next elections. This outcome would not only strengthen Netanyahu’s current government, who has already become one of the longest-reigning prime ministers in Israel, it would probably hand him his own upcoming elections and allow him to continue avoiding negotiations with the Palestinians.
There isn’t much time left. The U.S. can still act responsibly and try to save the two-state solution by avoiding the veto – even abstaining in the General Assembly would be better. President Obama must understand that if he continues to kowtow to pressure from Israel and its lobbies in D.C., he will be sending the two-state solution into oblivion this summer, and with it the Zionist dream.
The one state solution will be the only thing left to discuss.