This post is part of “What Comes Next?: A forum on the end of the two-state paradigm.” This series was initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace as an investigation into the current state of thinking about one state and two state solutions, and the collection has been further expanded by Mondoweiss to mark 20 years since the Oslo process. The entire series can be found here.
The two-state solution won’t be dead as long as both societies are on the ground. The Palestinians and the Israelis are dominated by the political forces supporting them, even if the support is done more and more for rhetorical reasons, and not as part of a real political agenda. Given the option between one state and two states, most Israelis will take the latter; all major Palestinian political parties are yet to give up the desire for their own nation-state. Even if international pressure on Israelis reaches the levels it did on South Africans in the mid 1980’s, at their “moment of truth,” Israelis are more likely to prefer another partial withdrawal to annexing the West Bank and Gaza and giving equal rights to the Palestinians. One could say that as long as nationalism lives, the idea of two separate nation-states between the sea and the river will live.
Implementing a real two-state solution, on the other hand, seems more and more unlikely. Right now, every sixth person east of the Green Line is a Jew. Under the current political circumstances, a more limited Israeli withdrawal to the separation barrier–which would force the evacuation of thousands of settlers and still won’t leave the Palestinians with sufficient contiguous territory in order to form a viable state–seems just as unlikely. And sure enough, this won’t be “a solution”: even if such a withdrawal is accompanied by an agreement between Israeli and Palestinian representatives; even if Israeli leaders can implement this agreement in good faith; even if Israel survives the inevitable internal battle that will ensue–all we are likely to end up with is an enhanced Palestinian Authority. Sooner or later, hostilities would erupt again.
We are left with a one-state reality and a two-state political discourse. The Green Line is all but meaningless: the populations are totally mixed. A separation mechanism–a nationalistic debate in both societies and the Jewish de facto sovereignty over the entire land– is preventing the implementation of a just political mechanism, one which would be in sync with the geographic and demographic reality. This problem is likely to bring much more pain and sorrow on both Jews and Palestinians.