The Knesset has killed the two state solution

I just finished watching a live transmission of the Knesset vote on the referendum law. The law, which passed at a majority of 65 to 33, conditions any Israeli withdrawal from any of its territory – into which Israel, alone in the world,  includes the Golan Heights  East Jerusalem – on passing a nation-wide referendum. To overrule the law, the Knesset would need a privileged majority of 80 out of 120 parliamentarians.  Considering current and foreseeable trends in the public mood, overwhelming support for withdrawing from East Jerusalem – including the Old City, Gilo, Ramot Eshkol, and others – is highly unlikely.

This means that even if we ever get to an agreement on the key issue of a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and the status of the city’s Palestinian residents, the referendum will kill it. The only alternative are if the government makes a new legislation and kills referendum law first, which seems highly improbable. The future Palestinian state, if it ever comes to pass, will be without its main symbol and historic capital.

The two state solution was in dire straits ever since it was born; the huge settlement expansion under Israel’s most leftist governments, especially the Rabin-Peres one, made it all but impossible to achieve on the ground. Whatever was left of its political future was further cast into question by the Olmert and Netanyahu documents, demanding the new Palestinian state  has no control of airspace or non-Israeli borders, and other attributes of a sovereign state. The referendum bill put nail-before-last in the two-state process. The last nail will come when the Palestinian Authority implodes, whether for lack of credibility, or for a conscious change of tactic in favour of demanding vote and collective rights within the overarching Israeli government.

For the record,  all of the Labor ministers, led by Ehud Barak, walked out of the chamber, not voting at all.  Much of of Kadima are absent, except Livni, who voted against, and a handful of MKs. Labor once again chose the illusion of power over whatever they were once meant to stand for politically; some Labor ministers said they would vote against the law, but naturally didn’t threaten to resign, so Barak pulled out the lot of them. Livni, in all probability, feared an open revolt in her badly fractured party. Netanyahu voted in favor – I’m surprised you asked.

Click here to download the full text of the law (Hebrew .pdf)

In all honesty, the two state solution appears to be long past its due – what’s worse, considering the leadership Israel has to implement it, it seems likely to become an instrument of oppression, rather than liberation, for all involved.  If this path appears so unpromising, alternatives must be considered and discussed openly. I can only join Danny RubinsteinAli AbunimahYehuda ShenhavNoam SheizafReuven Rivlin and a growing number of other voices calling to begin earnestly examining ways of achieving self determination, security, and collective rights for Israeli Jews and for Palestinians in a one-state framework.

Dmitry (Dimi) Reider is a journalist and photographer working  from Israel and the Palestinian territories. This post originally appeared in +972.

Posted in Israel/Palestine, One state/Two states | Tagged , ,

{ 16 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avi says:

    This was passed to spite every American and to spite the president of the US. It comes but mere days after the US bribed Israel to extend the settlement freeze for three (3) months in exchange for some 40 F-35 aircraft and $3 billion.

    Much in the same way Netanyahu announced the construction of East Jerusalem settlements on the day that Biden was visiting the country.


  2. annie says:

    wow, just stunning. i’m speechless

  3. Bumblebye says:

    Spitting in the US government’s eye while stomping on Palestinian statehood. As well as throwing sand in the eyes of the UN, since the lawas that annexed both territories are illegal. So who’s gonna bring ‘em to book? No one. So things will go on, since the Sky Fairy is unlikely to add anything new (or take anything from) to their Land Deeds.

  4. Antidote says:

    Netanyahu keeps warning against repeating the mistakes of the past – the appeasement of Hitler. Of course he means not bombing Iran before it has the bomb. Maybe that’s why I keep thinking of 1938, and in this case of Hitler’s successful gamble during the Anschluss of Austria, a deal that was already accomplished de facto via occupation and ratified by a referendum to defy the Versailles peace treaty (which ruled out any union of Austria and Germany). The 1938 referendum (no secret ballot) produced the official result of close to 100 % of the population being in favor of the ‘annexation’.

    Israel won’t need to employ any old/new tricks or coercion: “Considering current and foreseeable trends in the public mood, overwhelming support for withdrawing from East Jerusalem – including the Old City, Gilo, Ramot Eshkol, and others – is highly unlikely.” And yes, this leaves Abbas with little more than playing the part of Schussnigg and resign. At least he won’t end up in prison.

    If Israelis should vote in favor of annexing EJ, US and Europe will no doubt be terribly disappointed. As they were in 1938. Here’s Chamberlain:

    “His Majesty’s Government have throughout been in the closest touch with the situation. The Foreign Secretary saw the German Foreign Minister on the 10th of March and addressed to him a grave warning on the Austrian situation and upon what appeared to be the policy of the German Government in regard to it…. Late on the 11th of March our Ambassador in Berlin registered a protest in strong terms with the German Government against such use of coercion, backed by force, against an independent State in order to create a situation incompatible with its national independence.


    I imagine that according to the temperament of the individual the events which are in our minds to-day will be the cause of regret, of sorrow, perhaps of indignation. They cannot be regarded by His Majesty’s Government with indifference or equanimity. They are bound to have effects which cannot yet be measured. The immediate result must be to intensify the sense of uncertainty and insecurity in Europe. Unfortunately, while the policy of appeasement would lead to a relaxation of the economic pressure under which many countries are suffering to-day, what has just occurred must inevitably retard economic recovery and, indeed, increased care will be required to ensure that marked deterioration does not set in. This is not a moment for hasty decisions or for careless words. We must consider the new situation quickly, but with cool judgement… It would be idle to pretend that recent events do not constitute a change of the kind that we had in mind. …. The hard fact is that nothing could have arrested what has actually happened [in Austria] unless this country and other countries had been prepared to use force.”

    What can possibly stop Israel from taking all of Jerusalem? Unlike Iran, they already have the bomb. And seem fairly obsessed with Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of Israel. Unless the referendum produces some unexpected results…

  5. Taxi says:

    Not surprised they’d paint themselves into the war corner and make it law to stay there.

    I call it the collective israeli bunker mentality manifesting.

  6. Colin Murray says:

    This vote is a good thing. A stable 2ss hasn’t been politically possible for 10-15 years. All the Israeli political establishment has done is sweep away another layer of obfuscation off the lack of limits in Zionist expansionist policies of ethnic cleansing and colonization.

    Now American ‘liberal’ Zionists have one less excuse to pretend that their Israeli counterparts won’t carry this sordid process of racial purification in the Holy Land to its final gentile-rein conclusion at our expense. Another positive aspect is the continued spitting in the faces of the American political establishment. More frequent and ignoble loogies dripping down their bowed heads hastens the day of our political independence from the Israel Lobby. If they didn’t have eyebrows, they’d be blind. Keep hocking them, Netanyahu!

    • syvanen says:

      Colin have to agree with you. I am tired of hearing how the Israeli public really does support a two state solution and is willing to give up land for peace. It has been clear for the last five years (to me anyway, it probably goes back farther) that the Israeli public supports the annexation of the WB and Golan Heights and have no interest in peace with the Palestinians, other than as docile servants. It is not just the fanatical WB settlers but it is a clear majority of the Israeli people. This point needs to be understood in this country.

      I hate to put it in such stark terms, but the enemy of peace is not some rightest minority, but it is Israeli society. Their vote is important to record so that when we really attempt to apply sanctions against Israel and dismiss the argument that it will injure innocent Israelis that are opposed to the annexation. They are an insignificant minority and we should accept that painful pressure will have to be applied to the entire population to force them to change.

      This will of course create the impression of the whole world ganging up on victimized Jews, but unfortunately that is a situation they have created for themselves. The important debate is the one going on in this country — will we continue to back Israel once it is obvious to all that this means we will in effect be backing the dispossession of the Palestinians. The “peace process” has obscured this reality, now the truth will be out. I really cannot predict how this new debate will play out here in the US, the Zionists forces are very powerful and they do have powerful allies in our MSM. On the other hand, these same people have been telling us for decades that they really do support a just two state solution. I am not sure they can win this argument after being forced to make such an extreme about face even with their resources. It will make this debate more interesting for sure.

  7. Dan Crowther says:

    The Israeli Knesset is better informed about what is going on in American government than Americans. This type of bold action makes one think that they either had explicit assurances of no action or condemnation, or they think that America is or won’t be in a position to do anything about it. The latter is unsettling, especially when taking into account the other recent “snubs” from foreign governments. I’m beginning to get the feeling that the sh*t is about to really hit the fan stateside…………

  8. straightline says:

    I agree – we are seeing a little more honesty about their intentions from the Israeli government – though an examination of the writings of the leaders of Zionist thought – of all political persuasions – over the years makes it very clear what this confrontation is all about. The more they state clearly to the world what their aims are the better. And how much more saliva can Obama take on his face? Even the Republicans must be beginning to worry about this treatment of POTUS by a foreign power – can kowtowing to Israel really be a vote winner in the longer term?

  9. Shmuel says:

    Thanks, Dimi. If I understand the text of the law correctly, it refers to revoking Israeli “law, jurisdiction and administration” in areas where these apply. This currently includes the Golan and East Jerusalem but would, theoretically, include any areas Israel may choose to annexe (e.g. “settlement blocks”) in the future – although I can see RW lawyers arguing that Israeli “law, jurisdiction and administration” already apply in all of the settlements (present and future).

    Of course it’s all angels on the head of a pin. In the unlikely event that an Israeli government manages to reach an agreement even minimally acceptable to the Palestinian people (as represented by fairly and democratically elected officials, as opposed to external appointees, caretakers or usurpers) the Israeli political landscape will have changed so much as to make this further obstacle inconsequential. Like the “loyalty oath”, the significance of this law is almost entirely symbolic.

  10. I haven’t read the text.

    But, from what I have read this is one of the most significant pieces of modern Israeli legislation, and for the negative, as many have stated.

    I understand the request for a super-majority perhaps on a comprehensive agreement, indicating near-concensus on a mutually agreed peace for example. To have a super-majority would make subsequent internal disruption from a peace agreement really fringe.

    I expect that Palestinians request a super-majority on any plebiscite that they might be empowered to endorse or reject.

    The language in the knesset legislation though stops all even incremental agreements, and to a level of lowest common denominator endorsement.

    I continues to convince me that electoral efforts within Israel are critical, and that the divestment of activists from electoral efforts are a divestment away from democracy, in the name of democracy.

    Its very irritating reading your inferences of what I think, especially so innacurately.

    • Shmuel says:


      I’m not sure what “Richard Witty lawyers” are supposed to be, but my RW was meant to stand for “right-wing”.

      • Thanks for the clarification.

      • David Samel says:

        Shmuel, I must confess, I also thought of Witty first and was mystified.

        As for the law itself, I was confused by Reider’s description. The referendum would have to pass with 50%, and repeal of the referendum law would require 80 Knesset members? Is that it? Would there by any possibility that a withdrawal from some of EJ would be approved by a majority of Israelis? But as you say, the chances of getting to that point look ridiculously slim anyway. Maybe it was just more of Bibi the bully kicking sand in the face of Obama the weakling.

  11. Koshiro says:

    In addition to concerning EJ and the Golan, this law also affects the land swaps generally touted as essential for a future peace deal.
    What is astounding is how openly Israel can show off its contempt for anything remotely resembling an acceptable peace deal and still be considered a credible partner. How much more evidence that Israel wants land, not justice, not democracy and certainly not peace do we need?

  12. seafoid says:

    The 2 state Solution died when the settlers went back to Hebron and the bulldozers started in East Jerusalem in 1967. One state is in the DNA of Zionism. Israel’s existential crisis didn’t start yesterday and it won’t be solved in one day either .