The American discourse is beginning to make room for a human-rights argument about the conflict: that there is one state right now, and it’s an unequal one. Khaled Elgindy is a former adviser to Palestinian leadership during the Quartet peace process and is now at Brookings. Here he is at Open Zion all but throwing in the towel on the peace process. His conclusion is similar to that reached by Ziyad Clot, a former negotiator for the Palestinians: There will be no Palestinian state. Note the concern about inevitable violence at the end of this excerpt.
Ask any Israeli or Palestinian–or American or European–official this question (which I do as matter of course) and you are likely to hear only vague reaffirmations of the crucial need for a negotiated resolution based on two states for two peoples. Press them further, however, and they will eventually concede something like the following: “The two-state solution cannot expire because there is no alternative.” But if there is no alternative, then time is certainly not “running out.” It is this paradox that gives American, Israeli, and even Palestinian leaders the illusion that the status quo can be maintained indefinitely, and why it is so easy for all sides to support a two-state solution without ever taking the necessary steps to make it happen.
That a bi-national state may not be an acceptable alternative at this time does not preclude the possibility of one as an eventual outcome. So, while, there can be no normative threshold beyond which a two-state solution officially becomes null and void, it cannot logically remain on the table forever. This is so not only because growing numbers of Israelis, and especially Palestinians, are abandoning the idea of two states, but because they already live in a one-state reality—albeit a highly inequitable and unsustainable one.
In the meantime, there are any number of ways a two-state solution might be rendered permanently unworkable on the ground. The most obvious and tangible of these is the physical collapse of the Palestinian Authority, including its many security and governing institutions. This could happen through an official decision by the Palestinian leadership to dissolve the PA, as President Abbas and other Palestinian leaders have occasionally threatened, or, more likely, as a result of the chronic lack of resources, political dysfunction, and declining legitimacy that plagues the PA. A decision by Israel to formally annex all or parts of the West Bank, as it threatened to do in response to last year’s UN bid, could also put an end to the possibility of two states, as could the eruption of sustained violence similar to what took place a decade ago in the West Bank.