The dead two-state dream remains alive in mainstream media

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 21 Comments
settlements
(Photo: Reuters)

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.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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21 Responses

  1. jimmy
    January 2, 2013, 4:50 pm

    two state was dead decades ago……

    what might be interesting though if israel gets away with ethinic cleansing,,,….

    which they are so far…

  2. jimmy
    January 2, 2013, 4:55 pm

    I have to ask this….

    who is moving there…

    from what I have read..somewhere between 500,00 and 700.000 israels are in US takeing up space

  3. southernobserver
    January 2, 2013, 6:14 pm

    already the largest open air prison in the world, and the only one that is meant to be funded entirely by the inmates.

  4. Les
    January 2, 2013, 6:21 pm

    Keep this debate going on. It keeps attention away from Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing.

    • ToivoS
      January 2, 2013, 8:05 pm

      Actually this debate provides us with a platform in which we can bring up the issue of ongoing ethnic cleansing. It is very difficult to even talk about Israeli ethnic cleansing in the mainstream without being accused of antisemitism. However, it can be brought up in the context as an explanation for why the Israelis are so willing to talk with Palestinians over the possibility of a Palestinian state — delaying tactics and all of that stuff for the bigger demographic solution.

  5. libra
    January 2, 2013, 7:45 pm

    Alex Kane: 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.

    Good report Alex, refreshing to start the new year on a realistic note. However, I’m not sure about these final two sentences. The US media is permanently behind the curve on this issue. Better to start exploring a just way forward now on the very premise that Israel has foreclosed the possibility of a two-state solution. Don’t wait for the media to start the conversation, they will only pick it up when they can no longer ignore it without looking impotent.

    • pabelmont
      January 2, 2013, 9:12 pm

      The idea that Israel has deliberately painted itself into such a corner so that it cannot (as a foreseeable political possibility) willingly make a peace with Palestine along the pre-1967 borders (per UNSC 242, etc.) is a good point and should made again and again. Thus, Israel is clearly lying if it says that it favors such a two-state peace.

      I argue elsewhere that such a peace becomes possible as soon as it no longer depends on Israel’s willingness (e.g., international pressure “forces” or encourages Israel to change its mind). But that seems to be as much a non-starter as every other good thing we might wish for.

  6. Henry Norr
    January 2, 2013, 8:33 pm

    This post, like so many others here, assumes a distinction between a two-state-solution and a bantustan plan. But to my mind there’s no such distinction: a bantustan – a small Palestinian entity, not just demilitarized, but fenced in and fragmented by settlements, military installations, buffer zones, roads, and so on, with its borders, airspace, electromagnetic spectrum, etc. under permanent Israeli control – is what most Israelis have always had in mind when they’ve contemplated a two-state solution. And in that sense – as I argued here – the two-state solution is anything but dead.

    For most of them, including Netanyahu, that plan is of course their third choice. First would be “transfer” – expulsion of all Palestinians from the West Bank (and from ’48 Israel, and Gaza too) – if they could arrange it and get away with it. Second choice is just letting the status quo drag on – why not, from their point of view?

    But if they can’t figure out how to pull off #1, and #2 somehow ceases to be sustainable (though I see no sign of that actually happening), the next best bet is to annex Area C (62 percent of the West Bank, including the settlements and the Jordan Valley), retain all or virtually all of greater East Jerusalem, and let the Palestinians have a state, in the sense described above, in what’s left. As Moshe Ya’alon, Netanyahu’s deputy prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, put it year or two back: “if they [the Palestinians] want to call it a state, let them call it that. If they want to call it an empire, by all means. We intend to keep what exists now and let them call it whatever they want.”

    In that sense Rudoren, Kershner, and the rest of the MSM are perfectly right in saying Netanyahu supports a two-state solution!

    As far as I can see, the only Israelis who disagree with that vision are a) a small and shrinking minority on the left that takes semi-seriously the idea of basing the Palestinian state roughly on the 1967 borders, and b) a small but growing minority who favor annexation of the entire West Bank, with its Palestinian population either “transferred” to Jordan or allowed to stay but in a state of permanent, formalized third-class citizenship.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 2, 2013, 8:49 pm

      This post, like so many others here, assumes a distinction between a two-state-solution and a bantustan plan. But to my mind there’s no such distinction……… “if they [the Palestinians] want to call it a state, let them call it that. If they want to call it an empire, by all means. We intend to keep what exists now and let them call it whatever they want.”

      sure, you can call the bantustan plan a state henry. but i won’t call it that because a bantustan plan is not a state.

      • Sibiriak
        January 3, 2013, 12:51 am

        “Bantustans” or a non-contiguous “state” (recognized by the UN?)–call it what you want, that’s what we are heading for.

        Jeff Halper speculates that the PA will eventually agree to some kind of “viable apartheid”:

        < Israel could well annex area C, which is 60 per cent of the West Bank. Now, a couple of months ago the European Council diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah sent a report to the EU saying that Israel has forcibly expelled the Palestinians from area C. Forcible expulsion is hard language for European diplomats to use.

        […] So area C contains less than 5 per cent of the Palestinian population. In 1967 the Jordan valley contained about 250,000 people. Today it’s less than 50,000. So the Palestinians have either been driven out of the country, especially the middle class, or they have been driven to areas A and B. That’s where 96 or 97 per cent of them are.

        The Palestinian population has been brought down low enough, there is probably somewhere around 12,5000 Palestinians in area C, so Israel could annex area C and give them full citizenship.

        Basically, Israel can absorb 125,000 Palestinians without upsetting the demographic balance. And then, what is the world going to say? It’s not apartheid, Israel has given them full citizenship. So I think Israel feels it could get away with that.

        No one cares about what’s happening in areas A and B. If they want to declare a state, they can…

        In other words, we’re finished. Israel is now from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, the Palestinians have been confined in areas A and B or in small enclaves in East Jerusalem, and that’s it.

        Now the wrinkle is that I think they will do this with the agreement of the Palestinian Authority because Fayyad is a neoliberal.

        Fayyad is saying to Israel, we don’t need territory. If you give us economic space, to do business, and our business class can do okay and we can trickle down to our working classes, it’s good enough. So we don’t need Area C.

        As a matter of a fact what the European Counsel General said in its report is that the Palestinian Authority has given up Area C. Completely. When government or agencies come to the Palestinian Authority for investments, the PA tell them invest only in Area A and Area B. Do not invest in Area C. They’ve given up C.

        The idea is that Israel allows trade, to move freely between these Palestinian enclaves. I call it “viable apartheid”. I think Fayyad has developed a viable apartheid, saying that in the neoliberal world we need economic space, not territorial space. You let us move our goods freely into the Arab world, you give us an access to the Israeli market, and it’s fine. In other words, all the developments, like this new city Rawabi for upper-class

        Palestinians, are in the contours of Area A and B. They are now building a highway from Ramallah to Jericho; the Japanese are building it with the PA. Then either the Japanese or USAID will build from Ramallah to Bethlehem so greater Jerusalem, with E1, will be incorporated into Israel.

        I think you can get into a deal where Israel annexes Area C, it’s taken Jerusalem, they’ll give the Palestinians something symbolic like control of Haram Al Sharif/The Temple Mount, you can put up a capital in Abu Dis again. Basically, what I am saying is not only that they are they going to nail this down but they will do it with the agreement of the Palestinian Authority.

        And then there is this:

        …earlier this month, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Abbas informed several PLO leaders “to be prepared for a new confederation project with Jordan and other parties in the international community,” and that his office has already issued reports that evaluate “the best strategies to lead possible negotiations with Jordan” toward “reviving the confederation.”

        He has reportedly asked PLO officials to prepare themselves to pursue this strategy. This report, if confirmed by official sources, could be a watershed moment for the Palestinian national movement, and the highest profile endorsement of this persistent proposal.

        Abbas’s willingness to explore a Jordanian confederation comes on the heels of the United Nation’s recent declaration of Palestine as an observer state by a 138-9 vote. This clear victory for Abbas gives him the political capital to explore such a potentially controversial move — and also the international recognition of sovereignty that would allow Palestinians to enter into a confederation with Jordan as equal partners.

        link to theatlantic.com

      • Annie Robbins
        January 3, 2013, 1:35 am

        As a matter of a fact what the European Counsel General said in its report is that the Palestinian Authority has given up Area C.

        can you link to this please.

      • Sibiriak
        January 3, 2013, 1:56 am

        Here’s a link to the Halper interview:

        link to icahdusa.org

        I don’t have any link for the report he mentions.

        A quick Google search didn’t turn up anything that supports Halper’s contention. I suspect he is being hyperbolic.

      • Henry Norr
        January 3, 2013, 10:41 am

        The EU Consul Generals’ report Halper refers to hasn’t been released to the public, but a bunch of European reporters got to read it and reported extensively about it last January. Joe Catron quoted from several of those articles in a post here:
        link to mondoweiss.net

      • Annie Robbins
        January 5, 2013, 10:50 pm

        thank you henry and sibiriak . yes i am aware of the report and linked to Amira Hass’s coverage in an article last year . but i don’t recall ever reading the Palestinian Authority has given up Area C. that seems really out there. perhaps i am misinterpreting what that means.

      • Sibiriak
        January 5, 2013, 11:11 pm

        Annie Robbins:

        i don’t recall ever reading the Palestinian Authority has given up Area C. that seems really out there. perhaps i am misinterpreting what that means

        For Halper, “Given up on Area C” seems to mean that the PA has *in fact* given up on Area C, even if the *rhetoric* is otherwise.

        [Halper:] When government or agencies come to the Palestinian Authority for investments, the PA tell them invest only in Area A and Area B. Do not invest in Area C. They’ve given up C.

        Perhaps that’s hyperbolic, but he may have a point.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 5, 2013, 11:31 pm

        hm, so the PA is facilitating israel’s plan. how disappointing. halper is pretty plugged in, hyperbole or not. i’d still like to read how this is phrased in the EU Consul Generals’ report . thanks for taking the time to walk me thru this.

    • Donald
      January 2, 2013, 11:12 pm

      “But to my mind there’s no such distinction: a bantustan – a small Palestinian entity, not just demilitarized, but fenced in and fragmented by settlements, military installations, buffer zones, roads, and so on, with its borders, airspace, electromagnetic spectrum, etc. under permanent Israeli control – is what most Israelis have always had in mind when they’ve contemplated a two-state solution. And in that sense – as I argued here – the two-state solution is anything but dead.”

      There are basically two types of two state solutions and in your final paragraph it turns out you realize this. There’s the bantustan type, which, as you say, is what many Israelis mean when they talk about a 2SS. Then there’s the 2SS where the dividing line is on the 67 borders and there aren’t the sort of restrictions you describe, where Palestinians have free and easy access to all portions of their state. There are apparently some or even many Palestinians who support a 2SS (I suppose they don’t trust the Israelis and don’t want to share citizenship with them, as otherwise I would guess they’d want a 1SS). Clearly they don’t have a bantustan state in mind.

  7. American
    January 2, 2013, 11:59 pm

    “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.”

    Afraid it’s way past time for that and too late.
    Israel is on it’s way to it’s appointment in Samarra.

  8. yonah fredman
    January 4, 2013, 12:19 am

    The death of the two state dream- Certainly while Netanyahu is prime minister, the two state dream is ephemeral. but I think we should define our terms.

    There are two recent maps of the two state solution: The Clinton parameters of Dec. 2000 and the “Geneva agreement” between Yossi Beilin and Abed Rabo, first signed in Dec. 2003 and since expanded into a more complete agreement, in terms of defining all terms of the agreement. I believe that the Beilin Rabo “agreement” takes less land from the Palestinian West Bank in exchange for territories adjacent to the Gaza strip, (meaning that the land swap element of the agreement is more limited than the Clinton parameters.) I also believe that the Clinton parameters only returned 99% of the 22% to the Palestinians whereas the Geneva agreement returned 100% of the 22%.

    There has of course been the offer of Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas’s counterproposal.

    But i think if we use the Geneva Accord as our “dream” model, it is more efficient merely in terms that this is the most complete accord and even though it is only in the imaginary stage, it was agreed to by a prominent powerless Israeli and a prominent powerless Palestinian.

    When we question the death or life of the Geneva Accord, based upon building by Israel in occupied territory it is relevant to ask, how many Israelis would have to be moved from Palestine to Israel in order to implement those accords. Of course all settlers are bad news for Israel on its public relations front, for if there were no settlers the occupation would be merely military and not a civilian occupation and then there would be no apartheid in the West Bank, because there would be no Arab/Palestinian living next door to the Israeli Jew, with the Israeli Jew going to civilian court and the Arab Palestinian going to a military court and the separation of roads and such for security reasons (or false security reasons). And of course the various decisions of the UN condemning Israel for civilians in the O.T. would not be relevant, but… But in fact if we take the Geneva Accord as the given, then we would calculate only those settlers outside the Geneva Accord’s boundaries of Israel as settlers that would have to be moved according to the accord and thus only those settlers are “obstacles to peace.”

    Before I finish: Are the Geneva accords considered to be a Bantustan agreement according to the editors and readers of this site?

    Whenever I hear that the two state solution is dead, I remember the scene from one of the sequels of Frankenstein where the monster is brought back to life from what was thought irrevocable death and the doctor’s enthusiastic- “it’s alive! It’s alive.”

    When Israeli politicians say they favor a peace accord, with borders much more liberal to Israeli demands than the Geneva accords, it is valid to consider their proposals merely self satisfying and not real. I don’t think Netanyahu is serious enough to consider the Olmert proposals let alone the Geneva accord proposals and that is why I do not consider the two state solution serious while Netanyahu and the right wing control the conversation.

    • Henry Norr
      January 4, 2013, 1:22 am

      I myself am no fan of the kind of two-state solution the “international consensus” contemplates – to me it would be a gross historical injustice, above all to the refugees. But (speaking only for myself) I’d characterize the three proposals you mention – the Clinton parameters, the “Geneva Agreement,” and the terms Olmert and Abbas were discussing – as serious, if to varying degrees incomplete, attempts to implement that “consensus.” But beyond the problems with that whole approach, the trouble is that it’s inconceivable, in the world as it stands, that those plans would actually be implemented. It’s not just Netanyahu who stands in the way – who in Israeli politics is prepared to push any plan like those, and where among the Israeli public would they seek political support? The settlers and the rest of the right would resist with all their considerable might, and the so-called center wouldn’t dare buck them even if they wanted to (which they don’t seem to). I doubt even Meretz would go along, and they’re nothing.

      Hypothetically, the Americans could force them to go along, just as Eisenhower forced Ben Gurion to give up first the Sinai, then Gaza in 1957. But at this point that’s no more conceivable than the Israeli leadership deciding to do it themselves.

      • Sibiriak
        January 4, 2013, 2:05 am

        Henry Norr:

        It’s not just Netanyahu who stands in the way – who in Israeli politics is prepared to push any plan like those, and where among the Israeli public would they seek political support?

        Exactly.

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