After offering their initial unequivocal support for Israel’s “wiping out Gaza Strip”, instead of “wiping out Hamas off the face of the earth” as the declared Israeli war objective, almost all Western governments and political leaders started to talk about what should happen when the current Israeli madness ends. Under pressure from their own peoples, who are demanding a ceasefire while condemning Israeli aggression, they have slowly but steadily started to climb down from their earlier shameful positions. They even attempt to appear more dovish than hawkish, by talking about how the current conflict should lead to a final solution to the entire conflict. They, of course, kept parroting Israel’s right to defend itself.
Not that any single Israeli ally or supporter, whose word is less paramount to the Israelis as is that of the United States, has offered any realistic workable scenario for the besieged enclave, or what survives of it. All of them reverted to the old classic defunct idea of the so-called “Two-state solution” whereby a Palestinian state is created alongside Israel to end the old running antagonism once and for all. However, the only party that has, so far, never mentioned the idea as a potential solution is Israel itself, because its particularly wounded and humiliated fascist government will never accept an independent and viable Palestinian State in which Palestinians live in peace and dignity.
Those who, rhetorically, support the “Two-state solution”, including the US and all major European countries, know only too well that such a solution has long since become outdated, to say the least. Israel, for decades, has managed to find ways to evade every single commitment it made towards that goal, including its commitments to the notorious Oslo Accords. In the practical sense, Israeli settlements expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem did not leave much land for a viable and sustainable future Palestinian State.
As of January this year, there are some 144 Israeli settlements, including 12 in East Jerusalem, occupied by more than 700,000 settlers recognised and funded by Israel as legal settlement expansion in what the Israelis, sometimes, call natural growth of settlements by building more housing units to accommodate more settlers. On top of that, there are some 100 illegal settlement outposts that are initiated by few individual radical settlers erecting a tent somewhere on Palestinian private land, while lobbying the government to recognise the new project as a legal settlement eligible for public funding, services and protection. At the same time, Israel, in the first quarter of this year, demolished 290 Palestinian structures, including homes, particularly in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli settlement scheme is continuing unabated after it became a policy pledge of the current government.
Yet, the Americans, enjoying a dominant role in the conflict despite being biased against the Palestinians, when they talk about the “Two-state solution” appear to envision something similar to the Madrid Peace process which came as a reward by the Bush Senior administration to Arab countries, in return for their support to evict Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. The Madrid Conference brought together, for the first time, Israeli, Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian-Palestinian joint delegation to talk peace. But months of negotiations failed to yield any substance for the underdog—the Palestinians. It might have contributed to the Oslo Accords, signed two years later, but even that failed to satisfy the least of Palestinian demands.
Back in 1990, President George Bush rightly saw that the Iraq war to liberate Kuwait as a major political and military development in the region, which must create a momentum for peace on the Palestinian front since it is the cause of every trouble in the Middle East. Again, the Biden administration in 2023 is viewing Hamas’s Al-Aqsa Flood operation as a major regional development that is likely to change the entire conflict parameters, if not the region itself, requiring some progress to be made on the peace front. But what was possible three decades ago seems more difficult now.
The conditions that led to the Madrid Conference are absent from the reality today. Firstly, Israel’s ambiguous Hamas-free Gaza Strip war objective is both unrealistic and likely to create more problems than solving any. Secondly – and most critical – Israel will not accept a comprehensive peace process in the aftermath of Hamas’s attack as that would make it appear weak. Thirdly, the current US administration is too weak to put any kind of meaningful pressure on Israel, forcing it to sit in inclusive peace negotiations. Mr. Biden, facing re-election next year, has been consumed by Israeli propaganda from day one in the current conflict and unlikely to risk upsetting the Israeli lobbies by taking any steps towards some kind of peace talks.
However, and even in the wildest imagination, and giving Israel the benefit of the doubt, a very serious and detrimental obstacle facing any re-launching Israeli-Palestinian negotiations remains to be the issue of land being grabbed by Israeli settlers. The current Israeli government is supporting settlement expansions. Netanyahu is in no position to take any drastic measures towards settlers as did his former predecessor, Ariel Sharon, back in 2005, when he decided to disengage from the Gaza Strip and dismantled all settlements there. Today’s Israel is hostage to settlers who have, over the years, become a political power to be reckoned with. Sharon, two decades ago, had to deal with some 10,000 settlers in the Gaza Strip. He also had a plan: expand settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and build the security wall to isolate Israel from both territories, particularly, the Gaza Strip, only for Hamas to come, 18 years later, and pull it down with a rusty and noisy bulldozer—something Sharon could not have imagined in his wildest dreams.
Today’s Israeli government is yet to develop any sustainable plan for the day after in the enclave, let alone for any comprehensive peace deal.
All the talk about the “Two-state solution” is no longer sensible and everybody, including the US, knows this fact; the Hamas Al-Aqsa Flood operation has made the idea even more difficult. While the settlers changed the internal Israeli politics towards the idea of a “Two-state solution”, the Hamas attack has also changed the internal dynamics of the Palestinian struggle, rendering the idea impractical.
If the US is serious about peace, it should consider the other potential alternative, that is one state for both Israelis and Palestinians, along the model offered by apartheid free new South Africa. However, this is a bitter medicine which current Israel cannot swallow.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.