“Bad Faith and Futile Conflict Management” — that’s the headline I would give to the extraordinary events of the past couple days: the vote in the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlement; Kerry’s speech tonight on the necessity of saving the two-state solution; and Netanyahu’s reaction to both.
The fact that neither Kerry nor the international community can get beyond the defunct two-state solution demonstrates two things. First, the only reason the two-state solution CANNOT be obtained is because of the lack of will of the international community – with the US at the head – to force Israel out of the 22% of historic Palestine which is occupied. Neither the US nor any other government nor the UN has ever threatened Israel with meaningful sanctions if it remained in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Why? The US and Europe imposed severe sanctions on Russia when it took (back) the Crimea. Why is Israel allowed to keep the OPT? Kerry in his speech even opposed BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) of civil society. As long as the will to force Israel out of the OPT is lacking and sanctions ruled out, Israel wins.
Second, governments do not resolve conflicts; they merely manage them or, by taking sides, make them worse. Just look at Syria. If the two-state solution is dead, its because the US and all other governments did nothing to stop land expropriation, settlement building, the imprisonment of the Palestinians in tiny enclaves of Areas A, B and Gaza, the destruction of Palestinian agriculture and economy, home demolitions, Israeli highway and infrastructure construction that has irrevocably incorporated the OPT into Israel proper and all the rest. Just look at the map I made of Israel’s Matrix of Control and you’ll see there is nothing left of what would have been a Palestinian state (Don’t even bother trying to decipher the map, its point is clear.)
Not only did Israel eliminate the two-state solution, but we have what Kerry warned us about: one apartheid state. Israel has expanded onto 85% of historic Palestine. The Palestinians, half the population of the country today even without the return of the refugees, are locked into enclaves on only 10% of the land – Kerry’s “Swiss cheese” analogy. They lack all civil, national and human rights.
All this represents bad faith on the part of governments. Like Kerry, they all talk about “both sides.” It is a false symmetry, and they know it. Palestinian resistance is labelled “violence” and “terrorism,” while the terrorism of Israeli settlers towards Palestinians, backed by the official, pro-active state terrorism of the Israeli army and policies of displacement and home demolitions, are framed by Kerry & Co. as “legitimate security measures” and “Israel’s right to defend itself.” That is bad faith. Trying to present a symmetry between the oppressed and the oppressor, especially when the latter is a state with one of the most powerful militaries in the world (and a nuclear power), is not only disingenuous; it is knowingly dishonest.
The policies of every Israel government are also examples of bad faith – though that of Itzhak Shamir and his clone Netanyahu take the cake. Netanyahu’s response to both the UN vote and Kerry’s speech was worthy of his other clone’s (Trump’s) post-truth. The “true” reason the conflict cannot be resolved is not settlements or occupation, says Netanyahu, but the Palestinian’s refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state. (Kerry also echoes this when he says that Israel can be “Jewish and democratic,” an obvious oxymoron.)
In fact – and its worth focusing on this, because it “pro-Israeli” apologists will raise it ad naseum – the Palestinians recognized the state of Israel 30 years ago. That was the basis of the Oslo peace process. Netanyahu then raised the bar: the Palestinians had to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Not only was no other country asked to do that (not Egypt or Jordan), but such a recognition would have prejudiced the civil rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel who are fighting for equal rights in a normal democracy. And what the character of Israel is should be an internal matter, not one Palestinian non-citizens should determine. Whether the US will become officially a White Christian ethnocracy or struggle to retain its multiculturalism is of concern to everyone. But it is a matter for Americans to decide, not others. Demanding that the Palestinian recognize Israel as “Jewish” is simply another trick of Netanyahu’s to blame the Palestinians for the stalemate. The Obama Administration bought it. Interestingly, when Netanyahu first suggested this to Bush and Condoleeza Rice, he was laughed out of their offices.
Suffice it to say that a just peace will not come from Israel (bad faith) or governments (conflict management mixed with bad faith), or from the collaborationist Palestinian Authority. (It is truly sad but telling that rather than lending his voice to the discussion Abbas simply sent a one-liner saying he would resume negotiations if Israel stopped settlement construction. The PA is not even in the game.) A just resolution will only come when Palestinians and their Israeli allies come together pro-actively, in good faith and with a determination to resolve the situation justly. And it will take the form of a one-state solution – a bi-national, democratic state – because that is the only option Israel and Kerry have left us with.