It’s time to bite the bullet. We of the critical (non/anti/post-Zionist) Israeli peace camp understand why a liberal Zionist organization like J Street could never consider, let alone accept, the end of the two-state solution. You say it yourselves: the end of the two-state solution is the end of Israel as a Jewish state; it marks the end of Zionism.
We understood why you can’t go there – but the luxury of picking the solution you like regardless of its relevance and do-ability is no longer an option. In light of the collapse of the Kerry initiative (and it has finally collapsed, no matter if Abbas can be persuaded not to go to the UN), you cannot continue to deny the collapse of the two-state solution upon which it was built. That was not a failure of Kerry or of “negotiations” or of “both sides” or even the failed Oslo negotiators like Martin Indyk that you and the American government continue to parade that brought about that result, it was a conscious, deliberate and explicit policy of all successive Israeli governments since 1967 to eliminate a two-state solution.
You might be right that most Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs want a two-state solution. You are right that this is the only way a “Jewish” state can be salvaged. But you hit up against three insurmountable facts of life: (1) No Israeli government – and certainly not the current one – has ever seriously considered a genuine two-state solution, and in fact all have worked assiduously (and successfully) to create “facts on the ground” that prevent the establishment of a truly sovereign and viable Palestine state; (2) the Israeli public has no idea what it means by “two-state solution” and simply does not care; what we call the “occupation” has been rendered a non-issue in Israel and Israeli Jews will not pro-actively overthrow it; and (3) as long as Israel has Congress in its pocket – which it does despite your best efforts – it can thumb its nose at the Administration, the Europeans, the UN, international law, liberal Jewish values and J Street alike, or so it thinks.
The end of the Kerry initiative is a big thing. It represents that fateful juncture that we of the critical left have been speaking of for years: in the next few weeks, perhaps days, Israel will have irrevocably abandoned any opportunity for a just peace with the Palestinians for apartheid or, worse, for the warehousing of Palestinians in permanent ghettos. Israel will unilaterally annex the “settlement blocs,” up to 30-40% of the West Bank, arguing that “there is no partner for peace,” we need to ensure our security and, besides, 95% of the Palestinians live under Palestinian Authority rule in Areas A and B (38% of the West Bank truncated into 70 enclaves) and Gaza. Whether the PA remains as a collaborationist regime or leaves the scene makes no difference. The Occupation is over. Will J Street finally admit that apartheid has arrived, or will it try to make the best of a Palestinian bantustan as a “good enough” two-state solution?
In light of the struggle for a truly just peace between Israelis and Palestinians, of which the two-state solution was merely a diversion, I would suggest that we view the end of the Kerry initiative as a good thing. Finally the fog of the two-state solution is lifted. We finally see reality: naked, raw occupation and apartheid with no pretense of two equal “sides” or genuine negotiations. Now where do we go from here?
If J Street can learn anything from its years of existence, it is that you cannot simply assert a political position. You cannot promote “solutions” like that of two-states merely because you cannot entertain anything else. If there is no more connection between your political stands and the political facts on the ground, your stands have to change whether or not you want to “go there.” In the end, if J Street really wants to salvage something of worth from the rubble of the two-state solution, it must acknowledge what was apparent to everyone on April 1, 2014: Israel itself and no one else turned Israel/Palestine into one indivisible state.
Why am I writing this open letter to you-all of J Street, an oganization that would never allow people like me into its tent? Because a post-two-state-solution J Street could help bridge the gap between critical and liberal supporters of a just and lasting solution. Join with us, critical Israelis, Palestinians and others, in convening a meeting of minds on the one question remaining before us all: now that the two-state solution is gone, where are we headed? This is a question made urgent by the collapse of the Kerry initiative. It is of relevance not only to post-PA Palestinians who must now provide us with leadership, but of anyone concerned with securing a place for Israeli Jews in what will be a common country.
The new chapter opening before us will be infinitely more difficult and challenging than obtaining a two-state solution would have been, but so be it. Israel made its choice. This is the historical moment. Can we all rise to the occasion?
(Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at <[email protected]>.)