The two-state solution is dead, killed by state-supported Israeli colonies that have pushed the Palestinians into cantons behind walls, checkpoints and blockades. But the U.S. mainstream won’t tell you that: they’re keeping the solution on life-support, pretending its still possible. And the continued promotion of a two-state discourse is a hindrance to discussing the roots of the conflict, namely displacement and colonization, as this site notes here.
Two recent news items highlight how the mainstream is keeping the two-state discourse alive and well. In a New York Times article on how an Israeli raid sparked clashes in the West Bank, Isabel Kershner writes that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud-Beiteinu…has endorsed a two-state solution under certain conditions.” The other example is the Washington Post’s blind insistence in an editorial that Israeli settlement construction is no big deal and doesn’t pose a threat to a Palestinian state.
Kershner’s quip that Netanyahu has “endorsed” a Palestinian state is not new for the New York Times. The Times’ Jodi Rudoren recently wrote that Netanyahu has “supported” a two-state solution. But the notion that Netanyahu is supportive of a Palestinian state is misleading, to say the least.
This idea stems from Netanyahu’s 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University, when he uttered the words “Palestinian state”–a first for the prime minister. A closer look at what Netanyahu means, though, shows that what he has in mind is a bantustan for the Palestinians, not unlike what they’re contained to right now. Netanyahu’s Palestinian “state” is demilitarized, complete with a military occupation of the Jordan Valley and an annexed Israeli Jerusalem. Netanyahu is also on the record as vowing to hold on to the colony of Ariel, which cuts 11 miles into the West Bank. If you want to call that a state, you might want to get your head checked.
The New York Times may not get it, but a member of Netanyahu’s party does. Noam Sheizaf of +972 points out today that “Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely said on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not intend to ever carry out the evacuation of West Bank settlements, and that the Bar Ilan speech, in which he accepted in principle the idea of a demilitarized Palestinian state, was meant to please the world and corner the Palestinian leadership.”
The Washington Post adds to the prevailing fiction that the two-state solution is possible with a tone-deaf editorial on settlements. They dismiss the uproar over the E1 announcement by saying this:
Diplomats were most concerned by Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to allow planning and zoning — but not yet construction — in a four-mile strip of territory known as E-1 that lies between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement with a population of more than 40,000. Palestinians claim that Israeli annexation of the land would cut off their would-be capital in East Jerusalem from the West Bank and block a key north-south route between West Bank towns. Israel wants the land for similar reasons, to prevent Ma’ale Adumim — which will almost certainly be annexed to Israel in any peace deal — from being isolated. Both sides insist that the other can make do with a road corridor.
This is a difficult issue that should be settled at the negotiating table, not by fiat. But Mr. Netanyahu’s zoning approval is hardly the “almost fatal blow” to a two-state solution that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described.
Note the insistence that Ma’ale Adumim will be annexed to Israel–which is the Israeli position. But +972 Magazine’s Larry Derfner, writing in Foreign Policy, dispatches that fiction–and says that Ma’ale Adumim prevents a viable Palestinian state from coming into existence. Here’s Derfner:
Besides, who says this settlement, the third most populous in the West Bank, isn’t already a stake in the heart of a prospective Palestinian state, even without E-1? “Ma’aleh Adumim was established to break Palestinian contiguity,” Benny Kashriel, the town’s mayor since 1992, told the Jerusalem Report in 2004. “It is Jerusalem’s connection to the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley [on the other side of the West Bank from Jerusalem]; if we weren’t here, Palestinians could connect their villages and close off the roads.”
Derfner also quotes a chagrined Meron Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem and now critic of Israeli policy. The two-state solution is “nonsense,” he told Derfner, noting that it was the Israeli left who began Ma’ale Adumim. “People want to believe there’s hope for the two-state solution, they believe it’s the only game in town. Forget it,” said Benvenisti. “You can’t build a Palestinian state in the West Bank — the settlements [and road infrastructure built for them] have permanently cantonized the territory…Yes, E-1 will certainly cut Jerusalem off from Ramallah in the north and Hebron in the south — but they’re already cut off.”
This perspective is tough to find in U.S. media, so kudos to Foreign Policy for running Derfner’s sober piece. But how long will it take for the rest of the mainstream discourse in the U.S. to catch up? With each passing day, the colonization of the West Bank deepens. It’s time for an honest conversation in the media now on how Israel has foreclosed the possibility of a two-state solution. Only then can we set about exploring a just way forward.