Really insightful episode of Al Jazeera English‘s “Empire” following the UN vote and the attack on Gaza. Host Marwan Bishara and guests Rashid Khalidi, Tony Karon and Ethan Bronner serve up yet another post mortem on the two-state solution. Peter Beinart is the lone hold out.
Khalidi, Karon and Bronner all seem in agreement that the time has passed for the current peace process and the two state map has it has come to be known. Karon says, “I don’t think there’s much prospect for the realization of the two state solution on the basis of the current political geography,” adding it’s not realistic to imagine an Israeli government that could move out the number of settlers necessary, a growing number which includes many second generation settlers at this point. Khalidi points out that 1 in 10 Israelis live in settlements and that the Oslo process is dead – “that approach has failed, in Palestinian eyes.” Bronner agrees, “I think we are very well likely beyond a time when we can imagine a contiguous Palestinian state exisiting.” Similar to Karon he doesn’t think any Israeli government could remove a meaningful number of settlers in a society that is, in his words, “home and land obsessed.” This is a powerful statement. Will it begin to find its way into the Times?
Beinart seems to indicate there is still hope, and trots out many of the familiar liberal Zionist arguments — polls show the Israeli public supports a Palestinian state, Abbas and Olmert were so close — and seems woefully out of sync in the current moment. Khalidi, the historian, responds just look at the record. Regardless of what polls show, the facts on the ground have been clear. Karon says the world has rebuffed US stewardship over the peace process through the overwhelmingly one sided UN vote, but Beinart stands behind US leadership while warning against pressuring Israel. He defends the status quo while admitting it is untenable. The liberal Zionist consensus under girding the Oslo Accords is toppling as Israeli colonization redraws the map and Beinart comes off as flailing. The typical beltway talking points sound nonsensical in a forum not restricted to Washington’s conventional wisdom.
The future may be wide open, and while shaking off the failed frameworks of the past is liberating, the alternatives are not necessarily more just. Darryl Li approaches this is an important article for Jadaliyya, “A Separate Piece?: Gaza and the ‘No-State Solution’“. He describes what may become an unintended outcome in Hamas’s victory in Gaza — a Palestinian statelet disconnected from the the Palestinian collective and the answer to Israel’s demographic fear:
In recent months, more and more quarters of respectable opinion have sounded the alarm that at some undefined point in the future, partition of Israel/Palestine along the 1967 lines will no longer be “feasible.” Yet any ensuing fights over the accuracy – or even the public acceptability – of such announcements miss how far ahead the Zionist right is on these questions. Unwedded to any pieties about “moderation” or the “two-state solution,” some Zionists have floated the idea of formally annexing the West Bank and extending citizenship to Palestinians – but with the massive asterisk of excluding the 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in order to forestall a clear indigenous demographic majority.
While one can ridicule this proposal as a non-starter, it is a helpful reminder of the dangers lurking ahead for the Palestinian national movement in the wake of Israel’s onslaught against the Gaza Strip last month. The cease-fire agreement that ended the latest conflagration has been seen by both supporters and critics as a political victory for Hamas. Yet historically, greater autonomy for Palestinians in Gaza – be it under Fatah after the first Intifada or Hamas after the second – has come at the expense of broader solidarity. There is again a danger that Israel will exploit short-term Palestinian gains on the ground in order to further deepen the political disconnect between the Gaza Strip and the rest of the Palestinian people. If such trends continue, then the proposal above of an open apartheid regime with a Jewish majority made possible by removing Gaza from the demographic equation may not be such a remote possibility after all. . . .
Yet despite all of Israel’s problems with managing the Gaza Strip, the territory continues to maintain an important function: to help the Zionist project re-balance its demographic books. Between the river and the sea is a regime that calls itself the state of the Jewish people, but half of those living under its writ are not Jews. The Gaza Strip includes one out of every four members of this “troublesome” population, packed into a tiny corner of the whole country. Israel’s marginalization of Gaza is in many ways an attempt to ignore the question of how to build a common political community with the indigenous population, an effort to postpone Zionism’s reckoning with equality.
Commentators who frame their critiques in terms of Israel acting against its own best interests have once again trotted out the empty cliché that Israel has empowered “radicals” over “moderates.” The real paradox of Hamas’ “victory,” however, lies elsewhere: that if Israel decides against all odds to actually honor the cease-fire and improve conditions in the Gaza Strip, that Hamas will be tempted to opt for unmolested and undisputed rule in its tiny corner of the land over the more arduous and risky path of working to reconstitute a broader liberation movement encompassing Palestinians everywhere. Until struggles in Gaza can be strategically connected to Palestinian and allied mobilizations elsewhere, however, Israel will face setbacks but not defeat.