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The two-state solution is no longer feasible: Time to decide

Binyamin Netanyahu fantasizes about 60 more years of occupation – and the Palestinians should demand equal citizenship in Israel

If anyone wanted to know what Binyamin Netanyahu actually thinks about the peace process, he said it clearly himself last week: According to Netanyahu, the Palestinian appeal to the UN “will gridlock the negotiations for 60 years”. So, 44 years after the occupation and 18 years after the Israeli government and representatives of the Palestinians began negotiating, Netanyahu thinks it feasible to carry on for some 60 more years, give or take. And, naturally, should anything of the sort happen, this will be the Palestinians’ fault. If it were up to him – who refused to accept Obama’s plan and commit himself to the 1967 borders – this would all be over by now. But those sinister Palestinians prefer going to the UN.

And with good reason. Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as mentioned, began 18 years ago. They were supposed to be finished by May 1999 with a final agreement. Unfortunately, we’ve been ruled by Netanyahu for three critical years during that time – and, as Netanyahu told his base, the settlers (Hebrew), he did everything possible to undermine the Oslo Accords while pretending to follow it. Then Barak was elected, Arik Sharon climbed Temple Mount, the IDF fired a million rounds in October 2000 while ignoring the government’s orders for a cease fire, the Palestinians began their great terror wave, Sharon became prime minister, and the rest is history. During this period – between September 1993 and September 2011 – the number of settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories more than doubled.

And not by accident: The West Bank settlements were Israel’s most important national project (Hebrew). During the last decade, while the government axed its support of municipal budgets in Israel proper, the budget per settler rose: It reached 951 NIS per settler per year, while the average in Israel was 303 NIS per person per year. Designated Support – another aid budget by the government – was 2,264 NIS per settler, versus 1,478 NIS per Israeli dwelling in a well-to-do city, 1,859 per person in Arab towns and 1,719 NIS per person in the “development towns”, poor Jewish towns. Furthermore, the government was responsible for 50% of houses built in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as for 35% of the funds invested in building there – as compared to 18% of the houses built in Israel proper, which were initiated by the government in only 10% of the cases.

If population growth in Israel proper was 18% on average, in the occupied territories it was 47%. In the early days of the J14 movement, it was noticed that housing in the settlements was much, much cheaper than in Israel; again, this isn’t an accident. Rather, this is the result of a long-range government plan – beginning in the days of Begin – intended to seduce Israelis to abandon Israel and move to the occupied territories, particularly the West Bank.

Given the fact that a significant part of the settlers is composed of Ultra-Orthodox, this government plan was a major success. In the 1980s, the Ultra-Orthodox were considered to be stubborn opponents of the settlement policy, with the leader of the Lithuanian faction, Rabbi Shach, defining them as baiting the nations and risking lives. The housing crisis among the Ultra-Orthodox, which came much earlier than to most other Israelis, was quietly solved by shelving these objections and mass exodus of tens of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox to the West Bank.

To quote Ali Abunimah, Israel pretends to negotiate the division of a pizza pie, while munching on the pie. Israel has already swallowed 78% of Mandatory Palestine – even the 1949 lines do not resemble the 1947 UN decision’s borders – and now it is grabbing more and more of the remains, while insisting that any negotiations must recognize “facts on the grounds”, meaning the war crimes it carried out. Anyone negotiating with an Israeli government unwilling to grant the bare minimum, a freezing of settlements during the negotiations (or, in plain English, insisting on right to grab more lands during negotiations) is an idiot. No other way to describe it.

The Palestinians have wised up. They had the sense to turn the situation into an easily understood moral play. They’ll go to the UN, and show Israel, Micronesia and the US what they really are: Lepers in the international community, the last bastions of an occupation regime which, under Netanyahu, even stopped pretending it is temporary. 60 more years, remember? Remember a settler foreign minister telling the UN there will be no peace?

But, terrifyingly enough, it is not at all clear a return to the 1967 borders is still feasible. In the 1980s Meron Benvenisti presented a scandalous thesis: That given the number of settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the two state solution is a fiction; the facts on the grounds were that of a bi-national state. It did not make him many friends on the Israeli left.

When Benvenisti wrote that, the number of settlers in the West Bank was about 30,000. Now it is more than 300,000. Given what happened during the Disengagement, Israel will not survive such an evacuation – if only for the reason that giving each West Bank settler the same terms granted the spoiled Gush Katif settlers will drive it into bankruptcy. And even if it were to offer such terms, there’s a strong chance of a military coup.

Furthermore, the settlements were built, on purpose, as mines – intended to blow up any chance of a Palestinian state. A few days ago I participated in a tour held by the Ir Amim association, which explains the complex, not to say insane, reality in greater Jerusalem. A quick look at the map they gave us (you can see it here) says all there is to say: You can’t divide this place. Have a look: The blue line is Jerusalem’s fictive municipal border after the annexation of 1967. The blue smudges are settlements. Note the bulge of the red line eastwards – this is the plan of the separation wall, euphemistically called Otef Yerushalaim, “Wrapping Jerusalem”, intended to make the settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim, Kfar Adumim and the rest a part of “Greater Jerusalem”.

Look to the southwest. Here we have a series of settlements – Gilo, Har Homa, and others – whose residents don’t even know they’re settlers. They’ve been taught they live in Jerusalem. They have no idea, and not by accident, that the place they live in was never a part of Jerusalem in any meaningful way. These settlements simply cannot be evacuated.

This makes the Palestinian move in the UN, which will make it clear to Israel that the current situation cannot go on, a good first move, which ought to be supported by all Israeli patriots. But, given that the Netanyahu government will remain obdurate, and will not allow the creation of a feasible Palestinian state, the second act of the Palestinians should be clear cut: They ought to demand that Israel will recognize anyone living in the de-facto country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River as an equal citizen. Because the other solution, the existence of an apartheid state while waiting for Netanyahu’s 60 years to pass is morally unacceptable.

And no, it won’t be easy. And yes, this will have a cost in blood, treasure and abandoned paradigms, foremost among them Zionism. And yes, terrorists from both sides, supported by elements of their side’s armed forces, will try to prevent such a solution. And it’s not at all clear that Jews and Muslims – and in the Middle East, of all places – can recognize others as equals. But, 44 years after the occupation, we have exhausted all other possible solutions. Time to make a decision.

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    1. Ben Israel

      I hear sort of a contradiction here. On the one hand, Netanyahu is at fault for not negotiating with the Palestinians, on the other hand, Benveniste said the situation was already irreversable by the 1980’s. Olmert offered a lot, even was willing to give up the Jewish holy places in Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, but Abbas didn’t accept it. Sharon was telling everyone after Gush Katif that he intended to withdraw unilaterally to the security wall, this giving up most of the settlements, and the Palestinians didn’t have to give up any of their demands, but they didn’t jump at the offer, instead HAMAS took over Gaza and the rocket attacks increased.
      Thus, the question is: what will happen if and when the Left comes to power in the future. Will they say “it’s too late, as Benveniste said 25 years ago”. Of course not. There is also Burg’s proposed new non-Zionist or anti-Zionist party. They aren’t giving up. So the game will go on and it won’t be the end of the world.

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    2. The two-state solution remains alive so long as it is rational, and it continues to be rational.

      If you believe in the concept of consent of the governed, then with the population distribution as it is, 80%+ of the population west of the green line, prefer to live within Israeli sovereignty. And, a similar % east of the green prefer Palestinian sovereignty.

      Very few prefer a fully integrated single state, in which ethnic screening of land sales in the west bank would be legally prohibited, thereby both gentrifying and Judaifying large sections, critical sections.

      The federal state idea of very strong national nearly sovereign entities is a prospective long-term solution, but very doubtfully a short-term one.

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    3. aristeides

      That photo serves to point out one fact that is rarely discussed – the West Bank occupation is a giant real estate scam. Someone – undoubtedly a someone highly connected within the Israeli government – is making billions on these hideous construction projects. The land, as notoriously in the case of Bil’in village, has already been earmarked for development, and the developers are impatient for their profits. The inconvenient fact that the land already belongs to someone else can’t be allowed to get in the way of making all that money.

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    4. RichardNYC

      Whats the argument here?, that 100,000 (not 300,000) settlers beyond wall among 2.5 million Arabs (<5%) are going to compel Israel to accept all those pals as equal citizens? Ultimately the demographic/geographic reasons for two-states remain – you need to explain how the threat of a "settler coup" is more compelling to Jewish Israelis than the threat of having to disassemble Israel's entire security apparatus…and so what about Jerusalem? Didn't the "Palestine Papers" show that the PA was ready to concede most the city anyway? And even if they weren't, I don't see how Palestinians' dismantling the PA and imposing lawlessness on themselves spells the end – you expect the international community to say "checkmate Israel, they've cornered you now so were going to go against our founding principles and allow to unilaterally annex a territory conquered in war and impose yourself on a hostile and unstable population"?

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    5. RichardNYC

      You’re projecting your own nihilism onto other Jewish Israelis – they want to live, you see. They aren’t as jaded and enlightened as you are.

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    6. Two states seems stymied if the decision is up to Israel — in its current circumstances. In its current circumstances, the Israeli government would no more remove all settlers adn demolish/dismantle all settlement buildings and the wall NOW than they did in 1980 when UNSC-465 demanded (without teeth) that they do so (in 1980, when there were FAR fewer settlements and settlers than today).

      Today, the international politics is slowly shifting toward fairness for Palestinians. It has not yet been demonstrated to have shifted so far as to re-issue UNSC-465 but WITH TEETH. But that is the direction, and that is my hope.

      Question: if all settlers were required to be repatriated (behind the green line) and were in fact repatriated, would there STILL be insuperable impossibilities to prevent 2SS?

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    7. Addendum: the count of settlers in West Bank (which includes East Jerusalem, as everyone knows) is 550,000.
      This is fewer than the number of Palestinian Arabs dispossessed and exiled in 1948.
      If these people were required to go back behind the green line, they would at least be greeted by relatively friendly folks. But the difficulties and expenses in providing housing would have this benefit: they would create a LITTLE UNDERSTANDING AMONG ISRAELIS about why the various Arab countries into which the 1948 exiles were scattered found it impracticable to provide housing and land.

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    8. RichardNYC

      Not even the Palestinians expect Israel to evict more than 100,000 people

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    9. The key throughout the period is the old advice to watch what is done rather than what is said.

      Israel has cooked it’s goose. While thinking it is enlarging itself and making more land exclusive, it is only bringing forward the time it will be an open state by showing the world what the whole Zionist effort has been from the start: a blatant taking. The current situation is so outrageous that only the money and influence of Zionists in the U.S. can temporarily hold that country to backing an impossible project. Even in the States the cracks are widening, voices long suppressed are breaking through, Jew and gentile alike are seeing the oppression in action and the contradiction to “liberty and justice for all”.

      Nobody takes to colonization. Equal rights for all is a primary thrust of modern times. Young people everywhere are infused with it. Supremacy of one group has been completely debunked by the social and hard sciences and by the mass of humanity itself. Israel has side-stepped this with the cry of “but we’re Jewish!” The profession of victim can’t hold.

      Israel is like a lighthouse built in the middle of the ocean. The builders shout out from the top that the ocean has no right to be there. Then, to spite the ocean, the lighthouse is expanded, becoming ever more top heavy and unstable.

      It’s only a matter of time.

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    10. Palestinian

      @ Yossi ,correction ,”63″ years of occupation and land theft , this is a very critical point

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    11. “To quote Ali Abunimah, Israel pretends to negotiate the division of a pizza pie, while munching on the pie.”

      As usual at this point I shall register my usual protest. I been usin’ that line forevah. 🙂

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    12. RichardNYC

      “Even in the States the cracks are widening, voices long suppressed are breaking through, Jew and gentile alike are seeing the oppression in action and the contradiction to “liberty and justice for all”.”
      Wrong. People don’t actually care that much. Wishful thinking on your part.

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    13. Philos

      Ha! Who needs Bibi. The Republican’s want a single-state solution too. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/u-s-republicans-submit-resolution-supporting-israel-s-right-to-annex-west-bank-1.385394

      They’re proposing a bill to support Israeli annexation of the West Bank. That’s hilarious. Truly hilarious.

      Another note Stephen Walt wrote an interesting article about “dual-loyalty”

      Frankly I don’t get the Jewish American attachment to Israel. I don’t see Mexican-American’s sending their kids to Mexico on explicación scholarships to defend Mexico on university campus’. I mean if there were Arab-American groups sending their youngsters to say Egypt to study Pan-Arabism and they went to Pan-Arab Summer Camps in which they sang Arabic national anthems they’d probably be high on the FBI terror watch list for groups trying to radicalize American citizens against their country, no? I mean what is this?!? It’s beyond my comprehension.

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    14. Danny

      Looking at that photo of the settlement, one is filled with an intense disgust at the sheer ugliness of these settlements. (they look like huge beehives!) Oh well, they will make wonderful homes for some of the 4 million Palestinian refugees who will eventually return to their homeland (God willing soon!)

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    15. Sam

      Great analysis Yossi. One of the points which was not covered in your analysis was the cost of possible transfer of the 300,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank to Israel. Israel has already spent more than 17 billion on the settlement enterprise. They would probably have to spend that much to establish the settlers in Israel proper. There are settlers that were transferred from Gush Katif in 2005 who STILL have no permanent accomodation. So, would it even be financially viable for Israel to transfer, compensate and accomodate the West Bank settlers?

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    16. BOOZ

      @Richard Witty :

      I fully support your 1st sentence. But when you write :

      “The federal state idea of very strong national nearly sovereign entities is a prospective long-term solution, but very doubtfully a short-term one.”

      ….not even that. Just look at the way Dutch and French speaking Belgians cannot come to terms !

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    17. Mitchell Cohen

      “I mean if there were Arab-American groups sending their youngsters to say Egypt to study Pan-Arabism and they went to Pan-Arab Summer Camps in which they sang Arabic national anthems they’d probably be high on the FBI terror watch list for groups trying to radicalize American citizens against their country, no? I mean what is this?!? It’s beyond my comprehension.” [End of Philos] It’s actually quite simple. If the Arab-American groups send their youngsters to Arab countries for summer camp that are considered allies of America, then who cares. There is no issue. If they send their youngsters to countries who are considered enemy states, then that is where there is an issue. The last time I checked Israel is an ally of America. So is Egypt (although it would be nice if they released Ilan Grapel back to America so he can attend his last year of Law School, but that is another story).

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    18. I say we abandon the religious Zionist settlers to the life they have chosen, outside the recognized borders of Medinat Yisrael.

      I am myself a religious Zionist. I felt a religious obligation to move from the UK and establish my life in Eretz Yisrael. But in doing so, I carefully chose to meet my obligation in the politically less contentious part which falls within the sovereign boundaries of Medinat Yisrael. If other Jews wish to live in parts of Eretz Yisrael which fall outside of Medinat Yisrael, then that should be between them and their government. I believe Israel’s right of return will not be affected by Palestinian sovereignty over Palestine. Knowing our government we’ll probably give special rights to any of them that choose to “return”.

      I welcome Palestinian statehood in whatever form it comes. I believe that successive Israeli governments (and therefore successive Israeli electorates) have squandered any rights they probably never had anyway to dictate that form.

      I still believe wholeheartedly that a two-state solution can work, but at least one of those states has to remove its head from its own arse for it to happen. I vote that it should be us.

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    19. Philos

      Mitchell Cohen, Pakistan isn’t an enemy state either (it’s officially a US Major Non-NATO Ally) but people raise flags about Pakistani-American’s doing a summer over there. The point I’m making is that there’s a double-standard and Jewish-American’s shouldn’t be surprised when their loyalty to America is questioned. I’m Jewish but I’m Israeli. So, perhaps, that’s why I don’t get this American brainwashing system of their Jewish population by a foreign state.

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    20. annie

      richardnyc writes “People don’t actually care that much. Wishful thinking on your part.” i think more and more people are going to be caring very much once israel is front and center in our next american presidential election. the lobby has over stepped and bit off more than it can chew. while the gop primary candidates are clawing their way to the top by pandering to israel instead of americans people will start to notice. when both parties compete by swearing further and further loyalty to israel people are going to start looking at israel, people who never looked before and what they will see doesn’t match our values.

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    21. RichardNYC

      Wishful thinking – and yeah you’re totally right, Americans are really gonna see how Israel, the front line against Hamas and totalitarian Islam “doesn’t match our values.” And that America, a country of settlers, isn’t like Israel at all. Any day now, Americans are going to start hating Israel…right…

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    22. Mitchell Cohen

      Philos, I HONESTLY do not understand what double standard you are talking about. There are overseas high-school and college exchange programs where students of all ethnic groups spend a year in countries all over the world (including Arab countries). Israel is only one of MANY countries with overseas programs both during the school year, as well as during the summer. I also don’t understand what you mean by “American brainwashing system of their Jewish population by a foreign state.” Most American Jews, like the general population in America, are first and foremost concerned about keeping their homes, having health insurance, and figuring out how they will afford to send their kids to college, followed by social issues (abortion, gay marriages, etc.). Yes, I would fathom most American Jews believe Israel has a right to exist and wish her well and yes, some even visit (heaven forbid!!), but outside of the Modern Orthodox, I would say the American Jews electing the president on his/her policy towards Israel is in the small minority.

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    23. You think an evacuation of the settlements might lead to a military coup, but granting Palestinians Israeli citizenship wouldn’t lead to a coup? That makes no sense. The same people most likely to attempt a coup to prevent the establishment of Palestine, would also be likely to attempt a coup to prevent the establishment of Isratine.

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    24. RichardNYC: Front line against totalitarian Islam? What front line? In the modern world, as opposed to that of WWI, there are no physical trenches. That’s why the United States has been taken to the cleaners financially by rag-tag indigenous forces that form and dissolve overnight. This was a lesson of Vietnam that was quickly forgotten. The bottomless pocket of Uncle Sam has been found to be limited. The glaring exception of money to Israel will be increasingly noted.

      If Israel is any kind of front line – it is a line of militant colonists ranged against virtually impotent natives. HAMAS, just like the impotent natives of the Old West is dedicated to throwing off the oppressive interloper. Native Americans knew well of the Trail of Tears and Palestinians know well of the Nakba. The very mention of that word in the United States is proof of change.

      The reason Americans have pro-Israel views is ignorance of history and it isn’t an accident that the line of Republicans giving pro-Israel statements are not known for their depth of knowledge on any subject, but for pandering to fear. That Michele Bachmann is considered a contender speaks volumes.

      Times are changing rapidly. I had to rub my eyes to make sure I was really seeing the lyrics sung by the London Prom concert protesters printed for all to read in the New York Times. Rae Abileah shouting out against Netanyahu from the gallery of Congress. Voices are being heard against the Zionist party line at long last. American Jewish organizations are anguished over the discord that Israel brings to their meetings.

      And a reminder regarding your comparison of settler Americans to settler Israelis – Native Americans have full citizenship and can move to and live anywhere in the US. They have the rights of every other American.

      The clock is ticking on Israel as it every more stridently defends the indefensible. Liberty and justice for all – it’s blowing in the wind.

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