By Sever Plocker
Op-ed: It’s about time that Israel’s political left woke up and started thinking seriously about other alternatives to ‘two states for two people.’
Upon the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian-American talks, US Secretary of State John Kerry presented two terrifying alternatives for Israel’s future without an agreement: There would either be one bi-national state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, or Israel would become an apartheid state.
Both alternatives fail to reflect the wide range of possibilities. There is, for example, an option that a bi-national state will indeed be established with an apartheid regime, but that the Jews – tired, shrinking and frustrated by the end of the Zionist dream – will find themselves on the other side of the apartheid regime. They will be the victim rather than the master.
Another alternative is continuing the current situation: A Hamas military rule in Gaza; a Fatah autonomy without sovereignty, based on international funding and aid, in part of the West Bank; the quick populatution of Judea and Samaria with settlers; a quiet emigration of Christian Palestinians from the area; terror attacks of varying intensities; condemnation of the Israeli occupation; and attempts to reignite the fading fire of the negotiations.
There is also an alternative which one should not mention, despite its historic logic – Jordan’s return to the West Bank territories and parts of East Jerusalem as the sovereign, and turning the Jordanian kingdom into a democratic Jordanian-Palestinian state. Negotiating with this state on returning territories and land swaps and recognizing it as the Palestinian country, their national home. After all, the Palestinians are already the majority in Jordan.
There are also unilateral actions on the agenda, like a renewed Palestinian appeal to be admitted into the UN or Israel’s annexation of several territories and disengagement from others.
The alternative that the parties to the conflict find less palatable is the one that international diplomacy insists upon, known as “two states for two people” (or “two nation states,” according to the Israeli interpretation). It is described in detail in the principles laid out by President Bill Clinton in the final month of his term. From a Palestinian perspective, it means establishing a bisected and torn micro-state, with limited sovereignty, surrounded by enemies and dependent on external economic aid for generations to come. Hardly a dream come true.
From an Israeli perspective, the “two-state” solution means forcibly evacuating some 80,000 to 100,000 settlers (creating a further hike in housing prices in Israel), a rift among the people of Israel, a repartition of Jerusalem, a winding border in the east and a national threat that will take shape when hundreds of thousands of refugees move from Arab states to the new, crowded and resourceless Palestine. Hardly the fulfillment of peace.
The existence of many different alternatives allows Israeli, Palestinian and other politicians to avoid what is known euphemistically as “tough decisions.” These decisions are usually made when all hope is lost, when all other options are gone and there is no way out. In 2014, there are still a lot of ways out. At least that’s what everyone thinks. That’s the real reason why the Israeli-Palestinian talks on the permanent agreement reach a dead end again and again.
The majority of the Jewish public and the majority of the Palestinian public are certain that they have enough time to select from the range of solutions something other than “two states for two people.” Like in a restaurant – what kind of fool chooses a dish he doesn’t like when there are other, tastier selections on the menu? Only when the menu is narrowed down to one indigestible option, and the choice is between that and hunger, is the dish likely to be selected. This situation, I believe, is still far away. Very far away.
Isn’t it about time, therefore (and when will it be time?) for the Israeli political left to wake up from its slumber and shed its illusions, and start thinking seriously about the other alternatives instead of just blindly following “two states for two people”?
Because while we were sleeping (in other words, while we were busy dealing with the price of cottage cheese), the Jewish settlement movement became more radical and managed to populate tens of thousands of additional housing units in the territories.
The Palestinian population has become more radical too, and has produced a new generation of young, educated and resolute people, who are strongly against the Clinton outline.
The theoretical option of “two states for two people” has moved further away from reality, in a critical manner. It is now of zero value: There is no demand for it, nor is there a forecast for its implementation.