Robert Wright says at the Atlantic that the two-state solution is on its deathbed, and he’s getting over 300 comments. Like Gideon Levy at Haaretz, he is moving the mainstream discourse forward. He quotes an important statement at J Street, by Menachem Klein, that trying to repartition the land would start a civil war: Yitzhak Rabin was killed not for evacuating a single settlement, but for an interim agreement.
And meanwhile two states is an article of faith in Washington, as Wright points out. The importance of his post is in the second paragraph below: “those of us who live at a safe remove from the conflict, and can in theory summon detachment, should try hard to see the situation clearly, succumbing neither to paralyzing fear nor cozy illusions.” This is a statement about religious attachment and empowering non-Jews. Americans must not be bound by Israeli fears, and they must consider one of the options– “a one-state solution, and for demographic reasons that one state won’t be both Jewish and democratic”– with our own lenses.
My point isn’t that we should blame the Israelis for the death or very-near-death of the two-state solution. It’s not surprising that people with their history and geopolitical predicament would let fear get the better of them. (They’re being no more irrationally fearful than Americans were in the wake of 9/11, which led us to launch two wars, one of them against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and that posed no threat.) By the same token, it’s not surprising that the Palestinians wouldn’t endure 45 years of subjugation, during which they’ve been denied basic human rights, without any eruptions of violence (which of course isn’t to say I support the violence). That’s the depressing thing about the Israel-Palestinian conflict: It results from the Israelis and Palestinians acting more or less the way you would expect people in their shoes to act.
But that’s why it’s crucial that those of us who live at a safe remove from the conflict, and can in theory summon detachment, should try hard to see the situation clearly, succumbing neither to paralyzing fear nor cozy illusions. And the most common cozy illusion is that, though the time may not be right for a two-state solution now, we can always do the deal a year or two or three down the road.
The truth is that a two-state solution is almost completely dead, and it gets closer to death every day. If there’s any hope at all of reviving it, that will involve, among other things, somehow delivering a shock to the Israeli system.