Deconstructing Ian Lustick’s ‘two-state illusion’

Israel/Palestine
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Ian Lustick

Ian Lustick

Editor: Ian Lustick is the man of the hour. The author of the seminal 9/15 piece in the NY Times called the Two State Illusion, which says the partition paradigm is over, is on Capitol Hill right now, debating the two state solution with Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, and Yousef Munayyer on Lustick’s side. Watch the livestream here. I’m sure they’ll have a video up later. In eight days Lustick will be talking with Max Blumenthal at the University of Pennsylvania. Meantime, Jerome Slater has published a lengthy piece on his blog, deconstructing Ian Lustick’s two-state illusion argument. Here is the first third of that piece.

On September 15, the New York Times published published Ian Lustick’s long analysis of the stalemated Israeli-Palestinian two-state peace process, entitled “Two-State Illusion.” In bringing to the attention of the general public the diminishing prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian two-state peace settlement, there is no doubt that Lustick—and the Times—have performed a very important public service.

Even so, there are three important problems in Lustick’s analysis. The first is that he is dismissive and condescending to supporters of a two-state settlement; indeed, some of his tone and language essentially questions their intelligence and even their motives. Second, some of his arguments are internally inconsistent. And most importantly, Lustick does not make a persuasive case for his central argument: that there might be an attainable and superior alternative to an Israeli-Palestinian two-state agreement if only the negotiations for such settlement were abandoned.

I will proceed by reprinting the Lustick piece, interspersing it with my own comments, italicized.

“Two-State Illusion,” by Ian S. Lustick

THE last three decades are littered with the carcasses of failed negotiating projects billed as the last chance for peace in Israel. All sides have been wedded to the notion that there must be two states, one Palestinian and one Israeli. For more than 30 years, experts and politicians have warned of a “point of no return.” Secretary of State John Kerry is merely the latest in a long line of well-meaning American diplomats wedded to an idea whose time is now past.

True believers in the two-state solution see absolutely no hope elsewhere. With no alternative in mind, and unwilling or unable to rethink their basic assumptions, they are forced to defend a notion whose success they can no longer sincerely portray as plausible or even possible.

It’s like 1975 all over again, when the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco fell into a coma. The news media began a long death watch, announcing each night that Generalissimo Franco was still not dead. This desperate allegiance to the departed echoes in every speech, policy brief and op-ed about the two-state solution today.

Here Lustick is attacking a straw man: Just who are these two-state advocates who hold to a “desperate allegiance” to“an idea whose time is past,” and who have “no alternative in mind and [are] unwilling or unable to rethink basic assumptions?” That doesn’t accurately describe any serious two-state advocate with whom I am familiar—all of whom fully recognize that currently such a settlement is no longer realistically attainable. At the same time they—perhaps I should say we–consider that the only alternative to a two-state agreement (other, that is, than the continuation of the Israeli occupation and repression of the Palestinians)would be the creation of some kind of binational democratic single state. The problem, however, is that such a state has even less chance of being accepted by the Israelis than a two-state settlement, and it is far more likely to end in bloody communal conflict than in a just and democratic peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Continuing with Lustick’s essay:

True, some comas miraculously end. Great surprises sometimes happen. The problem is that the changes required to achieve the vision of robust Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side are now considerably less likely than other less familiar but more plausible outcomes that demand high-level attention but aren’t receiving it.

Strong Islamist trends make a fundamentalist Palestine more likely than a small state under a secular government. The disappearance of Israel as a Zionist project, through war, cultural exhaustion or demographic momentum, is at least as plausible as the evacuation of enough of the half-million Israelis living across the 1967 border, or Green Line, to allow a real Palestinian state to exist. While the vision of thriving Israeli and Palestinian states has slipped from the plausible to the barely possible, one mixed state emerging from prolonged and violent struggles over democratic rights is no longer inconceivable. Yet the fantasy that there is a two-state solution keeps everyone from taking action toward something that might work.

But what is Lustick’s argument here? He begins by saying that it is more likely that Palestine will become a fundamentalist Islamic state and that Israel will somehow “disappear as a Zionist project” than that there will be a two-state settlement between a largely Jewish and Zionist Israel alongside a non-fundamentalist Palestinian state. The prediction about Palestine is offered with no evidence and no supporting argument; the prediction about the death of Zionism in Israel is quite unpersuasive, regardless of “war, cultural exhaustion or demographic momentum,” for the overwhelming majority of Israelis—including most Israeli liberals who deplore the occupation—have no intention of giving up Zionism.

Then, Lustick’s next sentence (“While the vision” etc.) strongly implies that in a “mixed state”–usually referred to as the one-state solution– “prolonged and violent struggles for democratic rights” between the Jews and the Palestinians would be more likely than smooth and peaceful transition to a true binational democracy.

Possibly so, but then Lustick’s next sentence seems to contradict this assessment, for he asserts that the two-state “fantasy” is what “keeps everyone from taking action toward something that might work.” But what is this “something?”  Apparently that it would be better to abandon fruitless negotiations so that a binational democracy state can emerge after prolonged communal warfare.  No wonder he doesn’t want to clearly spell this out–it would surely not hold much appeal to most Palestinians or Israelis.

About Jerome Slater

Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals. He writes foreign policy columns for the Sunday Viewpoints section of the Buffalo News. And his website it www.jeromeslater.com.

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  1. Shmuel
    October 9, 2013, 11:23 am

    The main inconsistency in Lustick’s article is that he seems to be saying ‘Why hold onto this unrealistic prospect, when you can embrace a whole new one?’

    But is Slater’s position that different? He says that “currently such a [two-state] settlement is no longer realistically attainable”, yet ” such a [single] state has even less chance of being accepted by the Israelis than a two-state settlement”. What makes a two-state solution only “currently” unattainable, but a 1ss a virtual impossibility? Where does one draw the line, and to what extent can circumstances be expected to change? In other words, what makes the one unrealistic scenario any more likely than the other?

    In reality, a viable 2ss (i.e. one that affords Palestinians sufficient dignity and self-determination) is as novel an idea as a 1ss — and about as likely to be achieved (currently). The “2ss” pursued thus far can hardly be considered a viable option, nor was it ever one, as its rationale has always been ‘will Israelis accept it?’, with little or no concern for its acceptability to Palestinians, expected merely to be grateful for “generous offers” (and punished for rejecting them).

    • OlegR
      October 9, 2013, 11:58 am

      So when choosing between the two options ,the question should be which one of the two is more likely to lead to a massive bloodshed ?

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 9, 2013, 3:39 pm

        “So when choosing between the two options ,the question should be which one of the two is more likely to lead to a massive bloodshed ?”

        There’s already been massive bloodshed by you zionists, Russian. The question should be “what solution would bring justice to the oppressed.” No surprise that you can’t see that.

      • Truthbug
        October 10, 2013, 12:04 pm

        Woody, I largely agree, though my criteria question is, “What solution would bring justice to all concerned?” To me, the obvious answer is: one secular state with all present occupants (Jew and non-Jew, including all Palestinian refugees/descendents). This solution goes as far as possible to remedy the original theft of Palestinian land in 1948, and it provides the best humanitarian solution for all present. Objection to this solution because “Israelis won’t go for it” is off the mark. World opinion and pressure must be brought to bear on Israelis and Jews everywhere to retract their commitment to the “Jewish State,” an idealism, and nonsensical concept to begin with.

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 10, 2013, 12:37 pm

        I agree completely. I think that justice for all must be the touchstone, and the single biggest obstacle is the insistence by the zionists of an ethno-religious supremacist state.

      • German Lefty
        October 10, 2013, 2:35 pm

        My criteria question is, “What solution would bring justice to all concerned?” To me, the obvious answer is: one secular state with all present occupants (Jew and non-Jew, including all Palestinian refugees/descendents). This solution goes as far as possible to remedy the original theft of Palestinian land in 1948, and it provides the best humanitarian solution for all present.

        Exactly!

      • RoHa
        October 10, 2013, 10:18 pm

        As you might expect, my question is whether the issue is a criterion (singular) or criteria (plural).

        If the latter, what are the other criteria?

    • Jerry Slater
      October 9, 2013, 12:37 pm

      A few comments on Shmuel’s comments:
      1. As bleak as are the prospects for 2ss, the reasons the 1ss is virtually impossible are that (a) it has little chance of succeeding as a genuinely democratic binational state, based on majority rule, with full and equal rights for the Palestinians (b) there is even less chance that the Israelis will accept it than a 2ss.
      2. You ask why the criteria has to be its acceptability to the Israelis rather than to the Palestinians. The answer is that it is the Israelis who have the power to block any settlement that they don’t like. That’s a plain fact of life–that both of us deplore that fact is irrelevant to an analysis that seeks to explain reality.
      3. In any case, you are probably wrong in your implication that a 2ss solution is not acceptable to the Palestinians. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence that the international consensus 2ss plan is acceptable to most Pal. leaders and a majority of its people–not necessarily even excluding Hamas, in practice though not in rhetoric or ideology. Not that the Palestinians think that the standard 2ss plan is fair, but rather that it is better than the occupation and no state.

      • Donald
        October 9, 2013, 12:46 pm

        I tend to think a 1SS would have to pass through a 2SS first. That is, the two sides would agree to a 2SS, come to trust each other, realize that many Jews want to live in the WB and many Palestinians want to live in their homeland, a light bulb goes off, they realize the boundary is silly, and they all live happily ever after. This comes from watching too many romantic comedies.

        Right now all solutions seem unattainable.

      • seafoid
        October 9, 2013, 12:55 pm

        Israel’s economy will have to collapse for things to change. Israelis like the status quo because of the financial benefits it brings. Long term apartheid cannot work and Israeli jews are not interested in justice so they will overextend and something will catalyse the breakdown. It would be much easier to accept peace now.

      • Shmuel
        October 9, 2013, 1:15 pm

        Jerry,

        1. a) I agree that the difficulties in creating a genuinely (I’d settle for sufficiently) democratic binational state are far greater, but if neither can actually be achieved, it’s an angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin sort of discussion. b) Regarding the chances of Israelis accepting a 2ss that is also acceptable to the Palestinians, I think it is close to nil at the moment and in the foreseeable future, making its relatively greater chances largely irrelevant.

        2. If it were only a matter of getting both sides to sign a piece of paper, you would be right, but any solution has to be viable enough to last longer than it takes the ink to dry. That involves considering at least the minimum requirements of the weaker side. I do not believe that has happened so far, or that it will happen any time soon.

        3. I’m not quite sure what you mean by the “international consensus 2ss plan”. Clinton Parameters? Olmert’s “napkin” proposal? Arab peace plan? Geneva Initiative? The two thorniest elements of all of these plans — accepted in principle by Palestinian leaders — seem to be refugees and Jerusalem. Even the leaders have balked at these (see e.g. Palestinian response to the Clinton Parameters), although they have at times (Arafat in primis) been less than honest with their Israeli counterparts and US sponsors about their positions on these issues. The people seem to take a tougher stand than their leaders on such things (one of the explanations given for the breakdown at Camp David).

        Not that the Palestinians think that the standard 2ss plan is fair, but rather that it is better than the occupation and no state.

        If it involves giving up reasonable access to Jerusalem, renouncing any significant redress for the consequences of ’48 (see e.g. Shenhav or Said), a disjointed state with limited sovereignty and a kind of “external occupation”, I’m not so sure.

      • Jerry Slater
        October 9, 2013, 1:52 pm

        Shmuel:
        You are right that my reference to the “international consensus” plan is too vague: I think the Geneva Initiative is the most detailed, and the fairest, and it provides for East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and at least by implication, full access to it.

        If by “significant redress for the consequences of ’48″ you mean a full right of return, in practice as well as in secret agreements (no longer so secret, thanks to the Palestine papers), both Arafat and Abbas and the PA have agreed to a much more limited, and as I say in my critique of Lustick, largely symbolic return. In the negotiations between Olmert and Abbas, I think the disagreements about how limited a return had been narrowed down to a manageable amount. Also, every serious plan involves significant compensation for Palestinian refugees (and many of their descendants) for those who either choose not to return or are not allowed to by Israel, whether for political reasons or because they don’t make it under the quota system.

      • seafoid
        October 9, 2013, 2:08 pm

        Likud say it is about 48 not yesha and most zionists want to forget about the Palestinians. Apartheid is the easiest option. And Israel itself is not stable with the growth of the economically very weak haredi population. The binational state is a fantasy , we are told , but so is the notion that Israel can manage the mess going forward. I think Israel has got to the stage where judaism needs to hand it over to people who can actually lead it back to some sort of equilibrium. You do not want someone like Danon or Lieberman running the show. What it does NOT have is unlimited time. Israel may soon be essentially unmanageable. And how do you unfuck Israel then?

      • Shmuel
        October 9, 2013, 2:09 pm

        Jerry,

        The Geneva Initiative has never actually been the subject of negotiation (Barak may have gotten somewhere in the ballpark at Taba, but it was too little too late – and all involved knew it at the time). The Clinton Parameters also state that “what is Israeli will be Israeli and what is Palestinian will be Palestinian” in Jerusalem, but considering the physical reality intentionally created by Israel to prevent such an eventuality, “access by implication” doesn’t mean very much.

        I think “significant redress for the consequences of ’48″ (a clumsy attempt to include both the Saudi formula regarding the refugees and some form of recognition of the suffering of Palestinian citizens of Israel) might include recognition of the “right to return” with negotiated, planned, phased, etc. quotas and compensation. I think this would go a long way to bridging the gap between the positions presented by the leadership (see Palestine Papers) and Palestinian public opinion – including not only those resident in the OT.

      • Abuadam
        October 9, 2013, 2:41 pm

        JS
        In regards to your #3 in your answer to Shmuel, We Palestinians never will accept a 2SS simply because and never have. I am constantly amazed how people like you always refer to the Israel’s subcontractors as Palestinian leaders. The PA represents the Palestinians as much as Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski of the Lodz ghetto represented the Lodz ghetto residents before the Nazis.
        Comparing Abbas to Rumkowski is proper and not Anti-Semitic and does not imply the Jews bought the Holocaust on to themselves, it just states the obvious that there will always be someone who will sell his own people for the right price., and that is what is happening now with the so-called PA.
        As a Palestinian from Al Bireh, why should I share my property with the victims of the Nakba? Did Your American Jewish parents share their property with the Holocaust survivors?
        Israelis have the power only for so long, in fact it is worth their while to settle now with us rather than later when they have lost that power. Israeli power is really your only excuse to not accept the 1SS.
        JS
        The problem with liberal Zionist like you and Roger Cohen, is that you are so blinded by your Jewish Supremacist thoughts that you go through all sorts of contortions to justify Jewish domination over us Palestinians.

      • Walid
        October 9, 2013, 3:20 pm

        “Also, every serious plan involves significant compensation for Palestinian refugees …” (Jerry Slater)

        How could a compensation plan for non-returnees work in the case of the 500,000 camp refugees in Lebanon when it’s a foregone conclusion that these 500,000 would never be accepted as permanent residents and citizens of Lebanon and taking into account the Lebanese laws that do not allow them to work in most trades and professions and do not allow them to own property?

        There has been on and off talks about Lebanon absorbing the balance of refugees (it has naturalized about 100,000 since 15 years) for which the US and SA would dish out $20 billion to Lebanon to build the required cities, infrastructures etc for the refugees. If this is the compensation envisaged in the compensation plan, it would mean that the Palestinian refugees would get nothing directly for themselves but that Lebanon would be getting the compensation money on their behalf to build what’s needed for them.

        All this talk of compensation is smoke and mirrors. Irrespective of what the stateless Palestinians would be receiving themselves or the host country on their behalf, the first question that has to be resolved is which country would accept to have them as citizens. So far there aren’t any serious takers of refugees. At one point Canada offered to take in 20,000 but under the condition that it would cherry-pick them. Australia made a similar offer. As much as it’s a certainty that Lebanon would never accept to naturalize the 500,000 refugees, it’s even more of a certainty that the Gulf countries would also never accept any of them. So what would happen to them other than make of them refugees with about 20 or 30 thousand dollars in their pockets but with nowhere to go and nothing to spend it on while continuing to live in camps?

        As to Jordan and its camps, it would probably welcome a financial package to absorb its refugee population. For Syria’s 400,000 Palestinians, a quarter of them are already in Lebanon because of the civil war and a solution would probably be imposed there.

        So what’s the compensation plan?

      • seafoid
        October 9, 2013, 3:24 pm

        Sinai?

      • Danaa
        October 9, 2013, 3:54 pm

        Excellent points, Abuadam and Walid. You bring up some of those thorny little issues that we never see discussed in the context of solutions that really are just intellectual cover-ups for “what’s good for israel”, or the more ubiquitous “what should be good for israel, were it and supporters, rational entities”. Whic really covers up the deeper and ever-present question pre-occupying so many great minds “what’s [really] good for the jews”, which then leads to the eternal question of questions: “what’s a jew, anyways?”

        I wish there was ever a discussion about “what’s good for palestinians” or even “what’s good for some palestinians and may be not so good for others and why”. Will we ever have those kinds of discussions (as in ‘we, the smart and sensitive of the world over”? I know this is discussed among palestinians aplenty, but among the rest of us? could we possibly, just possibly, be not so interested, and if so, what does that mean?

        So many questions today, so little time…

      • W.Jones
        October 9, 2013, 5:22 pm

        Danaa,

        Agreed.

      • W.Jones
        October 9, 2013, 6:16 pm

        Jerry,

        Palestinians should be allowed to live in their homeland with freedom, democracy, and equality. The refugees should be allowed to return.

      • Shingo
        October 9, 2013, 7:58 pm

        1. a) I agree that the difficulties in creating a genuinely (I’d settle for sufficiently) democratic binational state are far greater, but if neither can actually be achieved, it’s an angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin sort of discussion.

        I agree entirely. Mr Slater’s analysis seems to hinge on the calculation that 0 > 0.

      • Shingo
        October 9, 2013, 8:10 pm

        Outstanding comment Abuadam, but it would be wrong to label Mr Slater as a Jewish Supremacist. I think Mr Slater is merely exhibiting the internal conflicts and contradictions that go with being a supporter in principal of a Jewish state, especially one that was founded by the dispossession of the Palestinians.

      • W.Jones
        October 10, 2013, 3:09 am

        Shingo,

        Do you believe Slater is right that the Holy Land is safer for the Jewish people than other places to the extent that the need for it is greater than refugees’ own rights to live in their homes?

        Or perhaps the existence of a 70+ year conflict is actually evidence that the Holy Land is actually less safe for them?

      • Shingo
        October 10, 2013, 3:37 am

        Do you believe Slater is right that the Holy Land is safer for the Jewish people than other places to the extent that the need for it is greater than refugees’ own rights to live in their homes?

        Do I really need to answer that W?

      • German Lefty
        October 10, 2013, 3:05 pm

        I am constantly amazed how people like you always refer to the Israel’s subcontractors as Palestinian leaders. The PA represents the Palestinians as much as Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski of the Lodz ghetto represented the Lodz ghetto residents before the Nazis.

        I think of the PA people as kapos.

        Israeli power is really your only excuse to not accept the 1SS.

        Right. He seems to forget that Israel depends on Western support. Without Western money and the USA’s veto at the UN, Israel wouldn’t be able to commit its crimes. Therefore, we need to show Western politicians that Zionism is unjust and make them join the BDS movement. That’s the only way to achieve justice. The Zionist Israelis will never AGREE to justice. That’s why we have to FORCE justice on them, preferably by non-violent means.

        The problem with liberal Zionist like you and Roger Cohen, is that you are so blinded by your Jewish Supremacist thoughts that you go through all sorts of contortions to justify Jewish domination over us Palestinians.

        Yes.

      • Shingo
        October 9, 2013, 8:04 pm

        In fact, there is a great deal of evidence that the international consensus 2ss plan is acceptable to most Pal. leaders and a majority of its people–not necessarily even excluding Hamas, in practice though not in rhetoric or ideology.

        That might well be true, but there is precious little evidence that the international consensus 2ss plan is acceptable to any Israelis leaders, nor the majority of Israelis.

        So given your observation that Israelis have the power to block any settlement that they don’t like, surely this would mean that there is ZERO chance of the the international consensus 2ss plan being implemented.

        That makes the 2ss just as unlikely as the 1ss.

      • German Lefty
        October 10, 2013, 4:58 pm

        That makes the 2ss just as unlikely as the 1ss.

        Exactly! A just two-state solution is as unlikely as a just one-state solution, simply because the Zionist regime is not interested in any just solution at all.

      • Sibiriak
        October 12, 2013, 11:44 am

        Shingo:

        So given your observation that Israelis have the power to block any settlement that they don’t like, surely this would mean that there is ZERO chance of the the international consensus 2ss plan being implemented. That makes the 2ss just as unlikely as the 1ss.

        Unassailable logic. Any remotely just settlement has to presume that it will be possible to pressure Israel into a “settlement that they don’t like”.

  2. Cliff
    October 9, 2013, 11:44 am

    The inevitable outcome is that Jewish colonists will either exterminate the Palestinians or ‘warehouse’ them in bantustans.

    Jordan and Egypt will not take them. Israel wants the land and not the uppity indigenous population.

    So we’ll see more of the same: whining about antisemitism, Iran, occasional sensationalist headlines about Palestinian violence (Jew stubs his toe on Palestinian’s face whilst knocking the latter’s teeth in), etc.

    This is – btw – why I am for banning all the Zionist trolls on this blog. We already have to put up with Jewish supremacists pushing the Palestinians around in Palestine. Why let them do it here?

    It’s like that saying re: Holocaust denial – ‘its like they killed them all over again’ (or something to that effect; the memory of the dead).

  3. Michael Rabb
    October 9, 2013, 11:55 am

    There is only one solution: end the Jewish State.

  4. Citizen
    October 9, 2013, 12:16 pm

    The key to any type of solution is the USA. The USA has never given even lip support to any solution other than the 2ss one. Has it? The one-state solution takes advantage of the practical control matter, that is, all the Palestinians under Israeli control and administration, both inside and outside the green line, are subject to Israel’s state government. This in itself is an argument for the 1ss. Imagine if the US suddenly came out in support of equal rights for Palestinians in all the areas controlled as a practical matter by Israel as it stands now. US foreign aid to Israel could be a huge lever towards 1ss, just as it is now a huge lever towards the status quo. And such a solution would actually be in accord with America’s equal civil rights value, rather than the current US hypocrisy which enables a double standard in fact and funding and diplomatic cover.

  5. pabelmont
    October 9, 2013, 12:59 pm

    The Lustick idea that the Palestinian State would be Islamist is probably based on the idea, far from absurd, but by him UNSPOKEN, [1] that the long-term suffering of the Palestinian people will be exacerbated by a VERY unfair 2SS and that suffering and unfairness (the long-time previous suffering and the prospective suffering from the unfair 2SS, which is all that Israel has ever suggested) and [2] that Muslims tend toward Islamic societal forms rather than toward democracies when they’ve suffered too much.

    MY IDEA is to remind Lustick and everyone else that surrounding circumstances (environment) matter: if you have a negotiation between a paper match and the striking-strip on the side of the match-folder, that is, if you strike the match on the striking-strip on the match-folder, you get an immediate chemical reaction (immediate short-term combustion) but you DO NOT GET SUSTAINED COMBUSTION UNLESS YOU DO THIS IN AIR. The air is the “surrounding circumstance” for the desired long-term combustion.

    And the “surrounding circumstances” for today’s apartheid 1SS (and all futures, both possible and impossible, likely and unlikely, etc.) is the influence of the nations, of the international community, and especially of the USA.

    The “combustion” which is the occupation is possible only because the nations encourage it and do not encourage any alternative.

    When you live in the neighborhood of a dragon, you should take the dragon into consideration. (Tolkein?). Here, the international action — or inactivity — is the “surrounding circumstances” which in fact govern the long-term combustion of the I/P situation.

    I don’t see that Lustick pays enough attention to it. If he believes that there can be “combustion” (a 1SS) in a vacuum, then he’s wrong.

    • Citizen
      October 9, 2013, 2:38 pm

      @ pabelmount
      I think my earlier comment fits directly into what you say. Do you?

  6. Danaa
    October 9, 2013, 3:39 pm

    I see this entire discussion of ’1ss’ vs ’2ss’ as an interesting exercise for those who want to engage in a brand of optimism essential to the ever hopeful of the west’s political left. It is, of course an exercise in futility, a pretense where we all agree to draw a world as we wish to see it, ie, ruled according to rational principles, then proceed to discuss “solutions” that could happen in such an imaginary world.

    The reality of course, is different. What’s on the table from the Israeli side at most are only the terms of surrender. What Netanyahu and other Israeli “negotiators” are dictating is the 60% solution: palestine on the 60% of the land israel designates, mostly centered in enclaves around the main cities, no Jerusalem as capital, no Jordan valley, no army, no independent right to build roads or allocate water, no uniting with Gaza. Israel keeps Area C with the fate of the palestinians still there (300,000?) to be decided however israel wants that fate to be (preferably they will be moved to the newly designated Palestinian reservation). These are the parameters of the “Economic peace” and that is pretty much the maximum israel will offer. There will be no dismantling of settlement blocks, E1 corridor will go forward, Area B will be carved up as is now planned, contiguity will become just a word, water rights will be as israel determines them, and israel will maintain the right to re-designate areas it wants later as future settlements pretty much as it sees fit. That includes a plan for a robust jewish settlement in Hebron, one the palestinians will just have to accept, and who knows where else. As for “sovereignty”, that too is just another word, that can be redefined with the stroke of a pen.

    The danger for the palestinians is that their hapless “leaders” may just have to accept what’s on the table. Which though it’ll be presented as an “interim solution” will really be the final – and only one they’ll ever get. In return the palestinians will have to recognize israel as a “Jewish” state, forgo future claims at the ICC court, direct its activists to stop criticizing israel, call a stop to BDS plus who knows what else.

    The only hope the Palestinians have is that there is a strong sentiment among israelis against even offering that much, since for the most part the majority of israelis would rather have it all, lock, stock and barrel, preferably with the palestinians out of there – permanently, however that can be achieved.

    The israelis have, of course many other plans. The number 1 plan is to play for time as they keep squeezing the palestinians unto smaller and smaller tracts of land, making their lives less livable and more miserable, even as they find ingenuous ways to keep foreigners out of the west bank, just as they got them out of Gaza. Ultimately, they hope to negotiate something with Jordan to take in more of the west bank Palestinians, perhaps in return for goblets of money. Not unlike the deal they are working out with Uganda to accept the African refugees in return for some antiquated re-polished armaments. As for the plan for gaza, that’s more complicated, but the plan was always to pan it off on Egypt and nothing changed in that regard. It’s really just a question of how to get the Egyptians to go along (Saudi money could smooth the way perhaps?).

    Frankly, I believe the time of the great western intellects like Lustig, Ben Ami and Slater will be better spent on figuring out ways to better inform the world about the plight of the Palestinians now, including those stuck at the internment camp of gaza. That and advertising – to whatever extent possible, Israel’s true intentions. And of course, support the great cause of BDS – hopefully an all out one, where all contact with israel ceases – on every possible level. That, IMHO< is the only hope Palestinians have – keep their plight front, back and center, with the goal of preventing an even worse calamity. Final solutions and various state plans are really a whistle in the wind at this stage.

    On the other hand I may, of course, be wrong. Even Attila the Hun let some cities stand, as long as the original rulers were done away with and the good citizens agreed to pay tribute. Or we can jump ahead to Ginghis Han centuries later. who was also willing to negotiate "in good faith" with the citizens' representatives, as long as he got to interpret what 'good', 'faith' and 'negotiating" meant. Who knows, israel may find in its cold little heart just enough of a flicker to at least be a good Attila.

    • seafoid
      October 9, 2013, 5:08 pm

      Danaa , Zionism assumes stability and time. Jordan will always be there. After so long the Palestinians will be ground down and Jordan will comply. But climate change is already playing havoc in the region. Egypt’s mess started off with a wheat shortage in 2009 that drove prices up 4 fold. Syria’s revolution was driven by a flight from the land following a rural drought in 2010. The jewish state is a good laugh but what is coming is existential. Jordan may not make it. Israel won’t.

      • Keith
        October 9, 2013, 7:18 pm

        SEAFOID- “…Zionism assumes stability and time.”

        I’m not so sure. We have entered a period of considerable uncertainty and instability in regards to the coming-to-fruition global financial/corporate empire, the heir to the US empire. Predictions are tenuous at best during this period of extreme volatility. I suspect that the US would like to focus on other priorities than Israel/Palestine, and that both the US and Israel are waiting until the dust settles to re-evaluate global power relationships, constraints, and opportunities. However, Israel may perceive that the current situation presents a strategic opportunity to implement Zionism’s “final solution” regarding the non-Jews in Israel/Palestine, particularly if they sense a significant weakening of their US patron, without whose support their dreams of a Greater Israel would not be possible. In any event, before the end of Obama’s second term, I think that the you-know-what is going to hit the fan. Furthermore, the coming disaster is more-or-less intentional, a means to realign the system.

      • seafoid
        October 11, 2013, 6:19 am

        Keith,
        I think Iraq showed the limits of Dan Senor/ Likud/ Cheney strategic thinking.

        Ethnic cleansing in jerusalem could be the end of the house of saud and.be a catalyst for ww3. China needs ME oil. With the US weakened I think Israel’s room to manoeuvre is diminished.

      • Keith
        October 11, 2013, 4:01 pm

        SEAFOID- “With the US weakened I think Israel’s room to manoeuvre is diminished.”

        Exactly my point. Faced with a declining patron, Israel could conclude that it is now or never for Greater Israel. Zionists have a long history of throwing caution to the wind and taking high risk actions to achieve their objectives.

        “Ethnic cleansing in jerusalem could be the end of the house of saud and.be a catalyst for ww3.”

        Both Israel and the US are risk takers who have engaged in brinkmanship for many years with scant regard for the consequences. The expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders, the pivot to Asia and the deployment of missile defense systems on Russia’s and China’s borders is provocative in the extreme. As for the house of Saud, don’t romanticize the effectiveness of the Arab street or underestimate the effectiveness of brute force.

        “China needs ME oil.”

        China needs oil. Most of China’s imported oil and gas comes from areas effectively under US military dominance. China lacks significant force projection to secure oil supplies on its own and is dependent upon the US to guarantee a continued supply. My best guess is that should things unravel in the Middle East, China would support US military actions to restore “stability.” Control of access to resources is why we have about 1000 US military installations worldwide.

        As for a nuclear war, the risks are as great or greater than they have ever been. If the empire keeps behaving the way it does, nuclear war may be unavoidable. But if you are a sociopathic, power-lusting imperial fat-cat, you have other priorities. Cheers.

      • Walid
        October 12, 2013, 10:47 am

        “Ethnic cleansing in jerusalem could be the end of the house of saud and.be a catalyst for ww3.” (seafoid)

        Why is that, seafoid, shit’s been happening for 65 years and it has never fizzed on the Saudis except for a brief period in 73 with the oil embargo that was in the process of breaking the West’s back when it was called off after a year. Jerusalem is far from the Saudis’ sphere of influence. First it was the Umayyads of Damascus that gave Jerusalem a holy site importance in the mid-7th c. to compete with Mecca and Medina, then more recently, it was the Hashemites of Jordan that got involved with it as its guardians that wanted a holy city of their own, but I don’t recall anything about the Saudis’ serious interest in it.

      • yonah fredman
        October 13, 2013, 1:41 am

        Walid- The oil embargo was called off on March 18, 74, a little more than 5 months after it was started, not a year.

      • seafoid
        October 13, 2013, 7:11 am

        Walid,
        The Sauds are going to be deposed eventually. The loss of jerusalem to islam would be up there with the fall of constantinople and I don’t think that 1bn muslims are going to take it. Zionism has the insanity that defined the nazis.

    • W.Jones
      October 9, 2013, 5:31 pm

      Good analysis.

      Most people do not care, while one religious group has military and economic power over the situation and it is bound at the hip to the world’s biggest superpower.

      The situation is one of oppression and it is not going to change unless people wake up about it. Like you said, they need to devote their time to raising awareness bigtime about the oppression and asymmetry of power, and that is not being done.

    • Keith
      October 9, 2013, 7:36 pm

      DANAA- “I see this entire discussion of ’1ss’ vs ’2ss’ as an interesting exercise for those who want to engage in a brand of optimism essential to the ever hopeful of the west’s political left. It is, of course an exercise in futility….”

      I agree completely. A clumsy analogy would be arguing over the placement of furniture in a future home when you have no money and no job. First things first. As long as Zionism in its present form holds sway over US and Israeli Jews, neither a viable one state or two state solution is possible. Zionism would have to change significantly (cultural Zionism to replace political Zionism?) or be abandoned completely. In the meantime, let us forget grandiose plans for the future and concentrate on the here and now. The focus needs to be on human rights and justice for all. End the siege of Gaza, equal water for all, replace discriminatory laws one by one, etc. I have no idea how this can be implemented, however, I think that focusing on human rights is perhaps easier to explain and sell than elaborate arguments over one state versus two states.

    • irishmoses
      October 9, 2013, 8:18 pm

      Danaa says:

      ////”I see this entire discussion of ’1ss’ vs ’2ss’ as an interesting exercise for those who want to engage in a brand of optimism essential to the ever hopeful of the west’s political left. It is, of course an exercise in futility, a pretense where we all agree to draw a world as we wish to see it, ie, ruled according to rational principles, then proceed to discuss “solutions” that could happen in such an imaginary world.”/////

      Great summary and analysis Danaa (as always). I think the only real option left for the Palestinians (after the current”negotiation” charade ends) will be a third Intifada unless the Europeans are willing to apply some serious pressure on Israel which I doubt. Violence, though regrettable, sometimes is the only choice left to those oppressed and backed into a corner. It also can work, even in the face of massive losses over decades. Algeria is a great example as are dozens of others.

      How the Palestinians would fight a third Intifada is the critical question. It seems an impossible task but other peoples have fought back against overwhelming odds and finally prevailed. The price for continuing the status quo is now acceptable to the Israelis, and only bothersome to the US and the Europeans. That price will have to increase substantially before an real pressure on Israel will be brought to bear.

      1SS, 2SS are pipe dreams at this point. Debates about angels and pins. Fun to discuss and debate but pointless.

      The current reality is that a one state apartheid solution is in place and has been since 1967. Non-apartheid one state solutions, or fair two state solutions are just not in the cards. Best thing Abbas can do at this point is show the world how futile the current negotiations are, how reasonable and acceptable the Geneva/Saudi plans would be, then turn over the keys to Israel, abandon any governmental role in the occupied territories and proceed to the UN, ICJ. When all that fails, and the Israeli oppression of the entire West Bank becomes more and more evident, a resort to a third Intifada may seem justifiable.

    • German Lefty
      October 10, 2013, 2:31 pm

      What’s on the table from the Israeli side at most are only the terms of surrender.

      Palestinian state = dumpsite where Zionists can dispose of the demographic threat

      I believe the time will be better spent on figuring out ways to better inform the world about the plight of the Palestinians now, including those stuck at the internment camp of gaza. That and advertising – to whatever extent possible, Israel’s true intentions. And of course, support the great cause of BDS on every possible level.

      I agree. However, I have to say that all the discussions about a one-state or two-state solution helped me understand the conflict and become an anti-Zionist and a BDS supporter.

  7. W.Jones
    October 9, 2013, 5:39 pm

    most importantly, Lustick does not make a persuasive case for his central argument: that there might be an attainable and superior alternative to an Israeli-Palestinian two-state agreement if only the negotiations for such settlement were abandoned. ~J.Slater

    Lustick shows well that the 2SS is unrealistic due to complete Israeli control. One-state is in fact the reality, where one group has Stated the laws the other must live under.

    Once you realize that the Palestinians are not going to have their own state, what are you going to do? You must raise awareness of that.

  8. W.Jones
    October 9, 2013, 6:09 pm

    The passages Slater cited in Lustick’s article here are either correct or pretty arguable.

    Lustick started by pointing out the unrealisticity of the “2ss” and then went on to talk about other things that could happen. The major transition passage was this:

    The problem is that the changes required to achieve the vision of robust Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side are now considerably less likely than other less familiar but more plausible outcomes that demand high-level attention but aren’t receiving it.

    In other words, it is very unlikely that there will be a 2SS because of the settlers and because the Israeli state in practice opposes it and has control over the situation, not to mention the strong support of key elements in the world’s number 1 superpower that is joined to the hip with it.

    It is arguably more plausible that other things will happen that the State willingly giving up its own power. For example, as Lustick mentions, there could be a demographic change. You could have large increases in the Haredi and Muslim populations over time that changes the balance of forces in several generations where the non-Haredi Israelis cannot effectively manage everyone. This loss of power in Lustick’s view is more likely than Israelis willingly agreeing to give up a “State” to those it conquered.

    Lustick has realized and shown the unlikelihood of the 2SS, and this is why some liberal supporters of the State system, such as Slater, are strongly criticizing him.

  9. Shingo
    October 9, 2013, 7:55 pm

    The first is that he is dismissive and condescending to supporters of a two-state settlement; indeed, some of his tone and language essentially questions their intelligence and even their motives.

    On the contrary Mr Slater, I think it perfectly reasonable to question the intelligence and even their motives of 2ss proponents. Only a fool would take them at their word or face value.

    After all, does anyone seriously believe Netenyahu, who campaigned in 2008 on a platform opposing a Palestinian state and who’s charter also rejects a Palestinian state , is serious about a 2ss? Does anyone seriously dispute that the 2ss has become a facade for the ongoing land grab and expansion of settlements?

    As for questioning the intelligence of the 2ss proponents, one need only witness the train wreck of Jeremy Ben-Ami’s efforts at the Washington Court Hotel to realize that this is a worthwhile inquiry. As one attendee wrote:

    I think a large part of the audience, like me, thinks he sounded downright delusional next to the cold analysis of Munayyar and Lustick.
    link to mondoweiss.net

    Second, some of his arguments are internally inconsistent.

    Again, the same can be said for the 2ss.

    And most importantly, Lustick does not make a persuasive case for his central argument: that there might be an attainable and superior alternative to an Israeli-Palestinian two-state agreement if only the negotiations for such settlement were abandoned.

    Just who are these two-state advocates who hold to a “desperate allegiance” to“an idea whose time is past,” and who have “no alternative in mind and [are] unwilling or unable to rethink basic assumptions?”

    How about J Street for starters? Are you not familiar with that group?

    The problem, however, is that such a state has even less chance of being accepted by the Israelis than a two-state settlement

    That’s debatable. The fact is that the reality on the ground is much closer to a 1ss than a 2ss. Israel controls the entire territory and the lives of all who live there. So in essence, what we already have a 1ss albeit unofficially.

    To achieve a 2ss, Israel would have to dismantle the settlements, drag the settlers back to Israel propped and withdraw from the OT. That’s is NEVER going to happen.
    To achieve a 1ss, Israel would simply have to annex the WB and offer citizenship to all the non Jews living there.

    • German Lefty
      October 10, 2013, 2:04 pm

      I think it perfectly reasonable to question the intelligence and even the motives of 2ss proponents.

      That’s exactly right!

      Does anyone seriously dispute that the 2ss has become a facade for the ongoing land grab and expansion of settlements?

      Remember what David Ben-Gurion said: “I favor partition because when we become a strong power we will abolish partition and spread throughout Palestine.”
      link to mondoweiss.net

      Israel controls the entire territory and the lives of all who live there. So in essence, what we already have a 1ss albeit unofficially. To achieve a 2ss, Israel would have to dismantle the settlements, drag the settlers back to Israel propped and withdraw from the OT. That’s is NEVER going to happen.

      Totally right!

      To achieve a 1ss, Israel would simply have to annex the WB and offer citizenship to all the non Jews living there.

      Don’t forget the Gaza Strip.

  10. German Lefty
    October 10, 2013, 1:24 pm

    Just who are these two-state advocates who hold to a “desperate allegiance” to“an idea whose time is past,” and who have “no alternative in mind and [are] unwilling or unable to rethink basic assumptions?”

    Um, pretty much all Western politicians.

    The problem, however, is that such a state has even less chance of being accepted by the Israelis than a two-state settlement

    Um, why should Israeli Jews be asked for approval? The “Jewish state” was built on stolen Palestinian land. The Palestinians are the rightful owners. That’s why it’s solely up to the Palestinians to decide how many states there should be on their land. We should do BDS until the Israeli government starts abiding by international law. Thieves have to return ALL the things they stole. They don’t get to keep 78%.

    [The one-state solution] is far more likely to end in bloody communal conflict than in a just and democratic peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

    Bullshit! Even in a JUST two-state solution, there would be many Palestinians in Israel:
    1) the 20% Palestinian Israelis who are already there
    2) the Palestinians refugees and their descendants who exercise their right of return
    Therefore, in a JUST two-state solution, Israel would have to be a “binational” state anyway. And in that case, you might as well opt for a one-state solution.
    A JUST solution requires the end of the “Jewish state”, regardless of the number of states in Palestine! That’s what you need to understand.

    A two-state solution that includes
    1) the expatriation of the 20% Palestinian Israelis and
    2) the denial of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return
    is NOT a just solution!

    Read Ben White’s article on why Israel’s idea of “two states” is a terrible idea:
    link to aljazeera.com

    • German Lefty
      October 14, 2013, 7:18 am

      @ Jerry Slater

      The problem, however, is that such a state has even less chance of being accepted by the Israelis than a two-state settlement

      Here’s what Shir Hever has to say about this:

      (between 39:23 and 42:30)

      We should be very careful, very responsible in the way that we speak in such a way that we do not adopt this sort of authoritative rhetoric of imposing a solution, also from the other side. The key of the movement has to be Palestinian choice. Palestinian subjectivity and the Palestinians’ right to choose their own future. No one will tell them what kind of future they should have.
      Now, some people say: “Well, what about the choice of Israelis? If we want to talk especially about one state, shouldn’t the Israelis also have a choice?” Well, the Israeli society has already made its choice. The Israeli society chose to continue the status quo forever and not to engage in any process to allow Palestinians their rights. So, that means the ball is now in the court of Palestinians.
      I was recently in a conference and a member of Germany’s Left Party said: “The Left Party’s policy is the two-state solution.” So, I asked him: “So, should the Palestinians come to the Left Party to hear what is their plan? The Left Party is now the leader of the Palestinian people?”
      But the same kind of argument I also apply to myself. I am an Israeli Jew. I don’t have any right to tell the Palestinians also that the one-state solution is the right solution. I happen to prefer that solution. But there is a difference between when Palestinians discuss “What should be our future?” and when Israelis or internationals tell the Palestinians… So, I have no authority to impose. But I can make a request. I can make a suggestion. And that is what I’ll do.
      My suggestion is: Please don’t use the term “The two-state solution is dead.” Because when we say “The two-state solution is dead.”, it is a rhetoric of defeat. It says: “We don’t prefer the one-state solution because it’s our goal. It’s because we don’t have any other choice.” If the Palestinians choose the one-state solution, they do it not because they are desperate, but because this is the future they want to see. So, please, let’s not use the term “It is dead.” I don’t think it is dead. I think if the Palestinians would decide they want two states, there will be two states.
      And for the same reason, I want to say, please don’t say that the right of return of Palestinian refugees depends on the one-state solution. Because Palestinians do have a right [to choose] if they want to have one state or two states. That is up to the Palestinians to decide. But the right of return belongs to the refugees. And not even a Palestinian can tell a Palestinian refugee: “You don’t have a right to return.” Not even Mahmoud Abbas. So, that is something that stands by itself. It is not dependent.

      I agree 100%.

      • Shingo
        October 14, 2013, 7:34 am

        I agree 100%.

        So do I. What a brilliant summation.

        It’s quite poignant too given what Kerry had to say today to AIPAC about Iran when he said that:

        “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

        And that pretty much sums up Israel’s rainson d’etre. No deal.

  11. Donald
    October 10, 2013, 6:13 pm

    “On the contrary Mr Slater, I think it perfectly reasonable to question the intelligence and even their motives of 2ss proponents. Only a fool would take them at their word or face value.”

    Proponents of a 2SS cover a very wide spectrum, but you can divide it, roughly speaking, into three groups. (In reality it’s a continuum–there are a lot of people who fall somewhere in the gray area between my groups 1 and 2, and Peter Beinart to my mind falls somewhere in the gray area between 2 and 3.)

    1. Pure hypocrites who claim to favor a 2SS as cover for Israel continuing to steal land. This would include Netanyahu and probably a fair number of American self-proclaimed 2SS supporters.

    2. Somewhat sincere advocates, who however have such an attachment to Zionism they can’t be honest about what Israel has done to the Palestinians, so in practice they tend to whitewash Israeli crimes, calling things like the 2009 Gaza slaughter “self defense”. Whether they realize it or not, this type of 2SS supporter provides cover for Type 1. Many or most American politicians fall in this category, if they don’t fit into Type 1.

    3. People like Jerry, who are completely honest about Israeli crimes (and has written a great deal about them) but still think the 2SS is the least bad option.
    I think people like him are a pretty small minority in the vast crowd of Americans who claim to favor the 2SS.

    • Shingo
      October 10, 2013, 6:37 pm

      I agree 100% Donald.

      Like I said, the 2ss like the peace process, simply became a facade to legitimize Israel’s ongoing expansionism.

  12. Mayhem
    October 10, 2013, 9:38 pm

    Please tell me why this on-topic posting is so unacceptable that it has to be censored.
    The kingdom of Jordan is based on the diminutive Hashemite family. Jordan should be declared the democratic nation state of the Palestinian people. 80% of Jordan’s population are disenfranchised Palestinians and this declaration would be a decisive contribution to finally ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead of all this bleating about 1SS or 2SS which gets us nowhere let’s strive to make Jordan a democracy – sign the petition at or link to ipetition.com.

    • Annie Robbins
      October 11, 2013, 12:04 am

      mayhem, stop pretending this has nothing to do w/territory. the idea israel should be rewarded from their occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and the destruction of palestine, by acquiring more land, is abhorrent.

    • Shingo
      October 11, 2013, 12:25 am

      Jordan should be declared the democratic nation state of the Palestinian people.

      Why? it’s not what the Palestinians want, nor is it what the Jordanians want. So no, this declaration would not be a decisive contribution to finally ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

      You seem happy to impose solutions on states, so let’s demand Israel withdraw from the occupied territories, remove the settlers, leave the settlements intact as a good will gesture and allow refugees to return. After all, that is the true solution to the conflict.

      And while we’re at it, let’s strive to make Israel a democracy for all it’s people.

    • talknic
      October 11, 2013, 1:56 am

      Mayhem “Jordan should be declared the democratic nation state of the Palestinian people”

      Uh? It has already been declared as the nation state of Jordan and Palestinians who were NOT from the area that became Jordan have a right to self determination in the territory they ARE from.

      “80% of Jordan’s population are disenfranchised Palestinians”

      Statistics / source please …. and who disenfranchised them?

      ” this declaration would be a decisive contribution to finally ending the Arab-Israeli conflict”

      Israel could have NOT started it in the first place by adhering to its Internationally recognized sovereign extent, as it asked to be and was recognized link to trumanlibrary.org Israel could immediately withdraw from all non-Israeli territory

      “Instead of all this bleating about 1SS or 2SS which gets us nowhere let’s strive to make Jordan a democracy – sign the petition “

      Uh? How would making Jordan a democracy solve the issue of Israel’s occupation of non-Israeli territories and Israel’s illegal acquisition and illegal settlements in occupied non-Israeli territory?

      BTW You really think a stupid petition based on bullsh*t is gonna have any bearing.

      • Walid
        October 11, 2013, 3:35 am

        “… Israel could have NOT started it in the first place …”

        talknic, considering the ill-equiped and disorganized Arab armies in 48, could Israel have started anything or even survived if the only Arab state with a properly-armed and trained military force not taken a back seat in the war when it was provoked by Israel?

    • Walid
      October 11, 2013, 2:45 am

      “… 80% of Jordan’s population are disenfranchised Palestinians…”

      Look who’s talking about disenfranchisement!

  13. yrn
    October 11, 2013, 5:23 am

    “… 80% of Jordan’s population are disenfranchised Palestinians…”
    In 20-25 years they are going to be 100% and take over and will be the Palestinian state.

    • Woody Tanaka
      October 11, 2013, 11:16 am

      “In 20-25 years they are going to be 100% and take over and will be the Palestinian state.”

      There already is a Paletinian state. It’s called “Palestine.”

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