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The last chance for the two-state solution

January 24, 2014 at 3:31 am

The Palestinian cause is declining despite the negotiating process revived at the end of July. The eighth and most recent session of talks has just ended without making any significant or tangible progress. Israel continues to try to impose more demands and conditions on the Palestinians, most notably their recognition of the so-called “Jewish state”. This was reiterated publicly by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said it is “a necessary condition, and not the only one necessary to continue the political process with the Palestinians.” Although a time frame of 6 to 9 months was set for the completion of the negotiations, 3 months have already passed since they started and matters are still at a standstill without a specific agenda; only general matters are being addressed. The Israelis are focusing on “security first” in order to apply the resulting security agreement on the border map to suit the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government.

Observers of Israeli politics will notice the emergence of the belief that reaching the so-called two-state solution by means of an agreement has more or less become a thing of the past. This was expressed clearly recently by prominent right-winger and former minister Moshe Arens; the ex-ambassador to the US and UN has started to speak of a Jewish state established in all of historic Palestine except the Gaza Strip, which can contain all the Palestinians currently in the West Bank.

Arens is 88 years old and has had his opinions about a one-state solution for 20 years. He is one of the historic leaders of the right-wing bloc in Israel and co-led the Likud Party with its founder Menachem Begin; he is regarded as the political godfather of Benjamin Netanyahu, having introduced him to the world of politics and planted the spirit of extremism within him.

The veteran politician is urging for a “shift in the negotiations with the Palestinians and the demolition of the separation wall”, as well as the abandonment of the “two-state solution” along with the negotiation of “one state for two peoples”. Arens’s suggestion received support from some parties on the Israeli right which believe that they must keep the entire West Bank in any future agreement with the Palestinians.

Speaking in Tel Aviv, Arens focused on the rejection of the two-state solution in favour of the one-state option: “I do not want the wall to turn into a political border, and I am ready for the establishment of one state for the Palestinians and Israelis, on the condition that it does not include the Gaza Strip.” He added that he is “ready for the Palestinians to take part in the Knesset vote, if they accept that Israel is the state of the Jewish people.” His positions have been supported by several extreme right-wing figures, for similar or different motives, such as MK Yoni Shatbon of the Jewish Home Party.

The alternative of a democratic state on Palestinian land is still preferred by others who now make up a minority in Israel. They base their position on the fact that the one-state solution will impose itself on the ground automatically in time and, in their opinion, is essentially a “binational state solution, in which citizens will be equal and the Jewish identity of the state will be eliminated” (although there are reservations about the use of the term two nations, as it does not apply to the Jewish people in Palestine, otherwise we would be contradicting the logic of things).

There is support, albeit still limited, for the idea of a single state in the Israeli media on the basis that this is the only chance for a real political solution in the Middle East, even it is at the expense of what they call “the Jewish homeland”.

As such, it is important to emphasise that the two-state solution, which the Arab states are calling for, as are the West and the United States, seems almost impossible to achieve, not least because neither Washington nor Tel Aviv want to give the Palestinians East Jerusalem as their capital and a state built around the 1967 borders, or dismantle illegal settlements. Instead, they are talking about a nominal state for the Palestinians, instead of giving them their rights; it would be a bit more than self-rule but much less than an actual state. The right of return for Palestinian refugees would be cancelled, even though this right constitutes the core and foundation of the Palestinian issue.

The idea of the two-state solution, regardless of who proposed it, and whether or not it is just, is now standing at the last-chance crossroads. This has been pointed out by one of the so-called Labour Party doves, Minister Yossi Beilin. He was one of the people behind of the Oslo Accords in 1993, and has stated that, “The Oslo Declaration has become a way to allow parties to overthrow the two-state solution, rather than a path towards a two-state solution, as the signatories intended.” Beilin also pointed out that Oslo was a “great victory for the peace camps on both sides”, but has been “thwarted by enemies” who do not want a two-state solution.

In the same context, Ahmed Qurei, a former Palestinian prime minister who was also a key negotiator in the Oslo process, said, “The two-state solution has died, and the option of a one-state democracy on the historic land of Palestine from the river to the sea must now be considered.”

Aside from the seriousness or triviality of the statements made by Beilin and Qurei, two pillars of the Oslo Accords, they reflect a point of view that has now become the subject of controversy and debate even within the Jewish community in historic Palestine. Moreover, many observers of the stalled peace process in the region have adopted this view, and believe that the window of opportunity for the establishment of a Palestinian state has closed, or is about to very soon.

This article first appeared on Al

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.