May 27, 2011
The death of the two-state solution
In the US you will hear a lot of talk about the so-called peace process for the Middle East that never seems to go anywhere. You will also hear a lot about the two-state solution. But you rarely hear about the situation on the ground while this is going on. Take a look at this BBC map that shows how Israel has steadily encroached on the West Bank over the decades. (While Israel has relinquished formal control of Gaza, the harsh blockade they and Egypt imposed on that land means that they still dominate life there. Fortunately it looks like the new Egyptian authorities are going to lift the blockade.)
If you strip out the portions of land in the West Bank that are under Israeli control, this is what you are left with (via Balloon-Juice).
The areas in which the Palestinians are confined look like an archipelago, similar to the islands that comprise the Maldives or the Philippines. But it is much worse. At least in those other countries, people can freely go from one island to another, with only water as a barrier to travel. As a result of settlements and roads and walls that have been illegally built by Israel, the Palestinians are subjected to having to go around high barriers and pass through humiliating checkpoints as they go from one reservation to another. The splintering of land is even worse than the Bantustans for black people created by the white South African government during the worst days of apartheid.
It should be obvious why such maps are rarely published in the US media because it becomes immediately obvious that the so-called peace process has been a farce, meant to stall for time while successive Israeli governments steadily encroach on the West Bank while they and the US pretend that they want to strike a deal with the Palestinians. The Israeli governments have no intention of allowing a viable Palestinian state. Indeed it was in looking at these maps, that I came to the realization that the two-state option is already dead. The settlers who have encroached on Palestinian lands are the most extreme religious zealots who think they are fulfilling some divine mandate to occupy all the land and they want still more.
Those who try and argue that the periodic tiffs between the Israeli and US governments (like the dressing down that Netanyahu just gave Obama) is some kind of kabuki prior to advancing the peace process simply cannot see that Israel has been negotiating in bad faith and the US has enabled it. The US has long ago ceased to be the so-called 'honest broker' in the process.
As far as I can see, the goal of the Israeli government is to seek to either make life so miserable for the Palestinians that they will leave or at some point forcibly expel them from the occupied territories or keep them as a second-class people indefinitely. But such a strategy runs the serious risk of boomeranging. Jeffrey Goldberg argues that the Israeli government, by making a Palestinian state impossible, is actually creating the conditions to destroy itself as a Jewish state because time and demographics are on the Palestinian side. He says that the current policies will "hopelessly, ineradicably, entangle the two peoples wedged between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea." That will leave Israel with the following options:
Either the Jews of Israel would grant the Palestinians the vote, at which point their country would lose its Jewish majority and its identity as a refuge for the Jewish people, or it would deny them the vote, and become an apartheid state. The latter option is untenable, of course: Many Jewish Israelis would be repulsed by this thought; other nations that already consider Israel a pariah would now have just cause; and Israel would lose its last remaining friend, the U.S., because no American -- including and especially young American Jews -- would identify with a country reminiscent of pre-Mandela South Africa.
In my opinion, the two-state solution is rapidly ceasing to be viable. The question is what will happen as more and more people realize this.