In an incisive piece at Huffpo, Henry Siegman asks, Can John Kerry rescue the two-state solution? And though Siegman clings to the prayer of two states, the answer is evidently no, given Siegman’s belief that the two-state solution depends on Israel returning to the ’67 lines so as to immortalize the only compromise that either side has ever made, the Palestinian concession of 1988 to accept Partition on starkly-unfair proportions. Some of Siegman’s insights.
Obama didn’t do anything to revive the two-state solution on his trip:
But nothing he said in Jerusalem or Ramallah–and, more importantly, that he failed to say–justifies an expectation that his reengagement will be of a kind that has any chance of preventing Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government from finally nailing down the coffin in which they are burying a viable two-state outcome. For no matter how much he was pressed–by reporters and others–Obama could not get himself to affirm the main point of his speech of May 19th, 2011 at the Department of State that peace talks must begin at the 1967 border..
The ’67 borders were in the Road Map, but Obama has walked away from that:
It is important to understand that Netanyahu’s unilateral abrogation of so central a provision of the Roadmap is based on his bizarre determination to present the West Bank as “disputed” territory, not occupied territory. That is why he has been so insistent on the eradication of the 1967 line, even to the point of calling President Obama moments before his speech of May 19th, 2011 to demand that he omit any reference to the 1967 border from his speech. [Obama went ahead with that reference; how did Netanyahu know ahead of time?] And that, too, is why he recently appointed a commission of rightwing judges who share his view to help determine the government’s position on this question..
I like how Siegman rejects the “disputed” territory appellation for illegally occupied territory:
In both Jerusalem and Ramallah President Obama called for the abandonment of old formulas that haven’t worked and for new out-of-the-box ideas that can yield a two-state accord. But there is no formula in the world that can do this if resumed talks are premised on the principle that the West Bank is contested territory…
Seigman notes that Naftali Bennett responded to Obama by saying it’s “our land.” An extremist position.
Obama’s failure to address these well-known Israeli positions tells us how seriously to take his attempts to establish his evenhandedness in this conflict. In both Jerusalem and Ramallah, he ruled out recognition of Hamas and its participation in a Palestinian unity government as long as it refuses to recognize Israel’s legitimacy. He also expects them to renounce resort to violence. Now that Bennett has informed Obama that he mirrors precisely Hamas’ positions in his own view of Palestinian claims–denying Palestinian rights to a state anywhere in Palestine and justifying the use of IDF violence in the implementation of that denial (it certainly will not be self-implementing)–will Obama apply the same standard to Netanyahu’s government that he applies to the Palestinians?…
All Israeli governments, including three headed by Netanyahu, have blocked the two state solution:
Unless Kerry’s strategy for achieving a two-state agreement is absolutely clear-eyed about this reality, he will get nowhere. Its dishonest denial by the U.S. and by other Western countries is the reason the Oslo Accords yielded nothing but a deepening of the occupation it was supposed to end…
The only confidence that Palestinians seek is in a credible Israeli acceptance of the pre-1967 border as the starting point of peace talks. What they need to hear from Secretary Kerry is unwavering American support for this demand..
Palestinians are the only party that has truly accepted Partition:
John Kerry must bear in mind that the only painful compromise that was ever made by either party was Arafat’s decision not to seek the return of Palestinian territory that was lost to Israel in the war of 1948 when Arab armies invaded the newborn state. It was not an apologist for the Palestinians but Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, who when recently challenged to defend his claims for the importance of the Oslo Accords (for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize) said the following: “Before Oslo, the Palestinian state’s size should have been according to the 1947 … UN map [about 44 percent of Palestine]. In Oslo, Arafat moved from the 1947 map to the 1967 one. He gave up on 22 percent of the West Bank. I don’t know any Arab leader [does he know an Israeli leader?] who would give up 2 or 3 percent. He gave up 22 percent.”
Peres was mistaken. Arafat did not give up 22 percent of the West Bank but much more: 22 percent of Palestine–fully 50 percent of the territories recognized in the UN Partition Resolution of 1947 as the legitimate patrimony of the Palestinian people. And instead of acknowledging that this concession was a gut-wrenching one-sided Palestinian contribution to peace, Peres described it as “our [i.e., Peres’s] greatest achievement.”…
This is from the ending. Note the incredibly incisive treatment of the legitimacy of Israel:
And theft, or more precisely robbery, is exactly what the settlement project is. For if the UN’s Partition Resolution of 1947 lost its legal standing when Arab countries rejected it, as Likud ideologues claim, then the State of Israel, whose Declaration of Independence cites the UN Partition Plan as the source of its legitimacy, is also left without international legitimacy.