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The two-state solution will die in September

If all goes as planned, the U.S. will effectively send the two-state solution into oblivion this September, after caving into Israeli demands to torpedo the Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence at the United Nations

Here's where it will all end (Photo: Flickr / Luke Redmond)

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.

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    1. Ahmad , Occupied Palestine

      If you accept the “two-state solution” you are accepting Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 ..I will never accept that !

      Reply to Comment
    2. Barry

      The more it changes the more it stays the same. (French translation is more succinct}

      Reply to Comment
    3. Anthony

      Is it really that bleak?

      If they do start adopting peaceful protests, or wind down the PA and give the keys back to Israel, surely that would put enormous pressure on Israel to compromise.

      The chances for a two-state solution are getting gradually smaller but no one event will kill it off – because practically speaking the one-state solution would be a nightmare scenario for most Israelis and Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Sam Smith

      Ahmad, life is about compromises. You won’t get all you want, just as many Israelis who believe in a “greater Israel” will not get what they want.

      Reply to Comment
    5. David

      Something else to thank the Obama administration for. What a freaking disaster these spineless wonders have been. Can’t stand up to the Tea Party or the Likud.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Wayne Bastrop

      This comment has been deleted

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ben Israel

      Just to remind everyone, Ami left out the real reason why there can’t be a “2-state” solution….the Palestinians will never agree to a compromise peace with Israel no matter what the terms are. It is simply incorrect to believe that Israel can have if only she wants it bad enough which seems to be the prevelant outlook here.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Louis

      Need to call on Obama to earn his (Peace) Prize! or to keep his eyes on his (Peace) Prize…

      Reply to Comment
    9. Ben Israel

      I just want to point out that I am not the only to say this. Former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, who conducted the negotiations under Barak’s gov’t in 1999-2001 conducted a long interview in Ha’aretz after the collapse of the negotiations and the outbreak of the suicide bomber war. He said CLEARLY that the Palestinians did not want any agreement on any terms, they simply want to “put Israel on trial”. He at first didn’t want to believe this, but he was forced to admit it in the ende. He is a veteral member of the “peace camp”. I realize it has been 10 years, and I am not sure what his position is today, the last I heard some time ago was that he believes in some sort of imposed solution the US and NATO would be involved in, sending troops into the area to force a state on the Palestinians. This is still consistent with his original views.

      Reply to Comment
    10. RichardNYC

      Despite the big number of settlers, they aren’t really so spread out. Something close to 50,000 live east of the barrier. That’s not really a lot compared to 2.5 million Palestinians. There’s something scary about current omens, but it doesn’t seem like Israelis are really prepared to surrender their security to Arabs anytime soon – and the demographics on the ground still indicate that they won’t have to.

      Reply to Comment
    11. John Bradford

      “the two-state solution can be taken off the drawing board”. Well, perhaps, but this problem has existed for many years, with each new twist and turn generating similar sorts of responses. In a year’s time, the two-state solution is likely still to be around.
      “the immense growth of settlements that would obstruct any option of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank”. Well, perhaps, but the existence of Palestinians in Palestine in the late 1940s didn’t stop the creation of Israel, so why should the existence of Israelis in Palestine stop the creation of Palestine? Most Israelis will have to move out, as most Palestinians did.
      What’s wrong with a one-state solution? Have you read Ali Abunimah’s book?
      If Obama wins next year, then perhaps as a second-term president, he may feel better able to resist the American pro-Israeli lobbies.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Elli Sacks

      The “death” of the two-state solution is not a result of changing demographics but of changing attitudes. While the number of settlers continues to be on the rise, the increase east of the separation barrier is small and the geographic area that the settlers encompass is more or less the same as it was 10 years ago. The settlements are no more and no less of the threat to the two-state solution than they were at the beginning of the Oslo process.

      Reply to Comment
    13. directrob

      Reading of maps has been a long lost skill. The West Bank is now Israeli with a large number of Palestinian enclaves. See: http://www.btselem.org/maps
      You could also check for yourself with google earth.

      Reply to Comment
    14. The two state solution never dies, as so long as the communities think of themselves as separate people’s, they will desire to self-govern rather than be governed by an oppressive or even potentially suppressive very slight majority.

      What might die is the assumption that the settlements can be part of sovereign Israel. They might have to accept being part of sovereign Palestine, and as Palestinian citizens abiding by Palestinian law.

      If once the extent of the settlements permanently preclude a contiguous West Bank, then if the settlers or Israel refuse to accept being Palestinian citizens, then it will be a single state.

      An integrated single state currently is a forced marriage, prone to conflict.

      The only possible alternative is a Vermont/New Hampshire participation in a federation. Two states, but in a federation.

      For those that don’t know Vermont and New Hampshire are about the size of Israel/Palestine (maybe a little smaller), divided by the Connecticut River (a small river). Vermont is politically very liberal. New Hampshire is relatively conservative.

      The land is the same, but even crossing the river, the communities are connected but distinct.

      “We will never recognize Israel” stated by Hamas, is as much an obstacle to EITHER a two-state or a single state, as the settlements.

      Reply to Comment
    15. A question: If you could take over a small relatively poor country in the middle east with a minimum of effort or alternatively by expending a bigger and more sustained effort take control the biggest super power in the world which one would you choose?

      Reply to Comment
    16. Robb

      The two state solution was never a very good one. Whatever Palestine came out of it would be a de-facto Israeli client state, there to provide a pool of cheap and desperate labor for Israeli industry. A two state solution could only ever work if Israel was willing to pay out reparations, not just to the state (corruption would siphon those to swiss bank accounts no doubt) but to every private Palestinian citizen, both living in the OT and those living in refugee camps elsewhere.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Darius

      Negotiations are doomed. What is needed is binding arbitration enforced by the UN Security Council.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Art Hebert

      I believe that one should abandon any thought of a two-state or one-state solution. The number one agenda of the past several Israeli governments has been and remains the removal of all Palestinians from Palestine. Consider the current landscape of Palestine. Consider the multifaceted obstacles the Palestinians must overcome. The indefatigable increase in settlements coupled with regular military incursions into Palestine will bring to fruition a pure Jewish state with no Palestinian presence.

      Reply to Comment
    19. MarkR

      Mr. Ben Israel hits the nail on the head. The discussion all year was that Abbas would not go to the UN if the Palestinians and the Israels would get back to the negotiating table. Netanyahu said any time any place, but Abbas placed false roadblocks like settlement building as an excuse. Facts are proven in the past that buildings have been and can be abandoned by Israel… So what the real excuse for not talking? Putting up a facade then blaming Israel (and world opinion goes out of its way to agree ). Bottom line its not wanting to talk or to be cornered (then blamed)like his predecessor, Arafat, is the only true conclusion.

      The Palestinians cannot or will not give up what they truly want (and still do not have), East Jerusalem. And they will not accept that they cannot invade the rest of greater Israel with generations of descendants of peoples they have held in perpetual UN concentration camps, otherwise known as refugee camps (and run by a proven Anti-Semite egging it on). Or agree for Israel to be a Jewish state G-d forbid!

      But Sharon realized that a one state solution is unsustainable, and so too I believe has Netanyahu… But two states are almost impossible to negotiate when the other side has actually admitted that is NOT their true aim.

      Reply to Comment