A lot of the grief over Shimon Peres is grief over the end of the two-state solution. The obsequies for Peres may be helpful to mainstream figures in coming to terms with a passing that is more tragic to them personally, and that so many have denied: the death of the idea of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.
And that is good news: because it is a reflection of reality.
Peres died at a time of growing signs that the U.S. establishment is waking up to realities that it has denied for a long time. There will be no Palestinian state. Israel will not withdraw from the occupation. We have entered the era of a binational state, and people should recalibrate their expectations, and their demands on the sovereign, the Israeli government.
This awareness is explicit in eulogies to Peres. Roger Cohen has a very good column today; because he writes sincerely about his love for something that has passed and acknowledges that the dream of an idealistic Israel has died in the eyes of the world:
I began by saying that a void fills the soul. It does, for those like myself who love Israel. But because of the politics of the past two decades, fewer people love Israel today, more people are reflexively hostile. In Peres, a noble idea of the Jewish State clung on against the dismal tide.
Tom Friedman is also woeful over an Israel that was once a “miracle” to him. The column is echt Friedman because he needs to tell us how close he was to Peres (and do some neoliberal networking/namedropping, too), but remember that a few days ago Friedman told Israeli tv that there is only one state in Israel/Palestine and the New York Times stylebook should reflect that reality.
Bibi [Netanyahu] won. He is now the father of one-state Israel. He is the Prime Minister of Israel-Palestine. He wants it; I think he should own it. I think the New York Times should change our stylebook and we should call him, ‘The Prime Minister of Israel-Palestine.’
Wonderful. Maybe the Times will listen.
Now let me go through other signs of this growing awareness.
The US Embassy sends out a Jewish new year’s gift that includes settler wine. Then it apologizes saying it didn’t know; but the fact is that the settlements are so normalized inside Israeli society that who would know?
And people are so upset over Donald Trump’s advisers saying that Israel should annex the West Bank; but the Democratic Party this summer removed any reference to “occupation” and “settlements” from the platform at the bidding of Hillary Clinton, in transparent deference to big donors (demonstrating, as I used to say here all the time, the occupation is a Jewish American achievement). But there you have it. There is no Green Line, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are amalgamated into Israel.
Rudy Giuliani says that the United States should “reject the whole notion of a two-state solution in Israel,” and in an unconscious reflection of this understanding, Politico publishes a piece on Trump’s campaigning in “Israel’s West Bank.” (And later corrects the error).
Bloomberg’s David Wainer shows what that means in an excellent piece about Israel’s surveillance regime in the West Bank, which is so pervasive it makes an organized Palestinian uprising all but impossible. The piece is a picture of ruthless sovereignty:
Israel’s grip on the territory, underpinned by granular surveillance methods that eavesdrop on phone calls and read text messages, is far more extensive than in previous decades. Based on high-tech monitoring methods, combined with human intelligence that includes a discreet but fertile cooperation with Palestinian security services, multiple raids occur nightly…
That piece is a bookend to Vox’s vapid piece on Jewish settlers that exonerates them of religious or nationalist fervor, as if they are all suburbanites in Westchester County. Adam Johnson of FAIR skewered that piece: “Vox explainer is 90% real estate ad; doesnt talk to one palestinian.”
But again: it’s the same understanding that Politico and Bloomberg reflect, “Israel’s West Bank.”
And statespeople know it. In the New York Review of Books, Nathan Thrall writes that Obama White House officials now divide over the question of whether the two-state solution “is dying or already dead,” and that the reluctance by some of them to engage in the so-called peace process reflects the understanding that it is a charade that “gives new life to the lie of a ‘temporary occupation’… as Israel gobbles up more of Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
As a general says in Wainer’s Bloomberg piece, Israel is becoming “the world champions of occupation.” While Haaretz’s Barak Ravid reports that John Kerry became extremely agitated with Israeli counterparts last week over the country’s intransigence about settlements and the inevitability of a binational state in Israel and Palestine.
“Now, every single terrible act of violence, every new settlement announcement, takes us not closer to peace; they take us closer to a one-state solution,” he said. “That is no solution. It is an invitation to perpetual conflict. And as Shimon Peres himself said, it will bring one war, not one state.
Make no mistake about it, I believe that is the risk if we continue on the current course.”….“How does increasing the number of settlers indicate an attempt to create a Palestinian state?” Kerry asked, raising his voice. “The status quo is not sustainable. So either we mean it and we act on it, or we should shut up.”
Of course when Obama had a chance to do something about it, in 2011, with the UN Security Council resolution against settlements, he vetoed the resolution. Actions have consequences. Kerry was angered that there are now nearly 100,000 more Jewish settlers than there were a few years ago, but the US government was complicit.
Some of Kerry’s rage seems mere fulmination:
Kerry concluded by saying that Israelis and Palestinians are at a crossroads. “Either we reverse course and take serious steps on the path to a two-state solution, or the momentum of existing actions will carry us further toward an intractable one-state reality that nobody wants and nobody really thinks can work.
The fact is that others have moved on to a binational reality, and a demand for equal rights. Long ago, Ilene Cohen began signing her emails, 1S1P1V, for one state, one person, one vote. Sam Bahour makes this case in the Cleveland Plain Dealer this week:
If Israel is imposing upon us one state, then we Palestinians insist that it be one state with equal rights for all and not a continuation of the apartheid policies we now endure.
Anyone who has been to the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Gaza knows that Palestinians are rightsless. They don’t control their own back yards, let alone have the right to vote for the government that determines so much of their fortunes. The failure of the American mainstream to acknowledge these realities is an atrocity; though when it at last accepts this reality, there is a good chance that it will confront the Jim Crow/apartheid conditions of Palestinians, and the ethnocentric character of the regime that created those conditions. As Yakov Hirsch says, Israel has a lot bigger problems than the end of the two-state solution.
Zionists genuinely loved Shimon Peres. He reminded them of the ideals of their youth. As long as he was alive, he was the living picture of Oslo, and they could believe in a mirage: an enduring Jewish democracy. His death will serve an important function, closing that chapter forever.
Thanks to Todd Pierce, Allison Deger and Naomi Dann.