Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Two States solution is no longer feasible

From Wish you Orwell

If anyone wanted to know what Binyamin Netanyahu actually thinks about the peace process, he said it clearly himself last week: according to Netanyahu, the Palestinian appeal to the UN “will gridlock the negotiations for 60 years”. So, 44 years after the occupation and 18 years after the Israeli government and representatives of the Palestinians began negotiating, Netanyahu thinks it feasible to carry on for some 60 more years, give or take. And, naturally, should anything of the sort happen, this will be the Palestinians fault. If it were up to him – who refused to accept Obama’s plan and commit himself to the 1967 borders – this would all be over by now. But those sinister Palestinians prefer going to the UN.

And with good reason. Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as mentioned, began 18 years ago. They were supposed to be finished by May 1999 with a final agreement. Unfortunately, we’ve been ruled by Netanyahu for three critical years during that time – and, as Netanyahu told his base, the settlers, he did everything possible to undermine the Oslo Accords while pretending to follow it. Then Barak was elected, Arik Sharon climbed Temple Mount, the IDF fired a million rounds in October 2000 while ignoring the government’s orders for a cease fire, the Palestinians began their great terror wave, Sharon became prime minister, and the rest is history. During this period – between September 1993 and September 2011 – the number of settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories more than doubled.

And not by accident: the West Bank settlements were Israel’s most important national project. During the last decade, while the government axed its support of municipal budgets in Israel proper, the budget per settler rose: It reached 951 NIS per settler per year, which the average in Israel was 303 NIS per person per year. Designated Support – another aid budget by the government – was 2,264 NIS per settler, versus 1,478 NIS per Israeli dwelling in a well-to-do city, 1,859 per person in Arab towns and 1,719 NIS per person in the “development towns”, poor Jewish towns. Furthermore, the government was responsible for 50% of houses built in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as for 35% of the funds invested in building there – as compared to 18% of the houses built in Israel proper, which were founded by the government in only 10% of the cases.

If population growth in Israel proper was 18% on average, in the occupied territories it was 47%. In the early days of the J14 movement, it was noticed that housing in the settlements was much, much cheaper than in Israel; again, this wasn’t an accident. Rather, this was the result of a long-range government plan – beginning in the days of Begin – intended to seduce Israelis to abandon Israel and move to the occupied territories, particularly the West Bank.

Given the fact that a significant part of the settlers is composed of Ultra-Orthodox, this government plan was a major success. In the 1980s, the Ultra-Orthodox were considered to be stubborn opponents of the settlement policy, with the leader of the Lithuanian faction, Rabbi Shach, defining them as baiting the nations and risking of lives. The housing crisis among the Ultra-Orthodox, which came much earlier than to most other Israelis, was quietly solved by shelving these objections and mass exodus of tens of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox to the West Bank.

To quote Ali Abu Nimeh, Israel pretends to negotiate the division of a pizza pie, while munching on the pie. Israel has already swallowed 78% of Mandatory Palestine – even the 1949 lines do not resemble the 1947 UN decision’s borders – and now it is grabbing more and more of the remains, while insisting that any negotiations must recognize “facts on the grounds”, meaning the war crimes it carried out. Anyone negotiating with an Israeli government unwilling to grant the bare minimum, a freezing of settlements during the negotiations (or, in plain English, insisting on right to grab more lands during negotiations) is an idiot. No other way to describe it.

The Palestinians have wised up. They had the sense to turn the situation into an easily understood moral play. They’ll go to the UN, and show Israel, Micronesia and the US as they are: lepers in the international community, the last bastions of an occupation regime which, under Netanyahu, even stopped pretending it is temporary. 60 more years, remember? Remember a settler foreign minister telling the UN there will be no peace?

But, terrifyingly enough, it is not at all clear a return to the 1967 borders is still feasible. In the 1980s Miron Benbenishti presented a scandalous thesis: that given the number of settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the two state solution is a fiction; the facts on the grounds were that of a bi-national state. It did not make him many friends on the Israeli left.

When Benbenishti wrote, the number of settlers in the West Bank was about 30,000. Now it is more than 300,000. Given what happened during the Disengagement, Israel will not survive such an evacuation – if only for the reason that giving each West Bank settler the same terms granted the spoiled Gush Katif settlers will drive it bankrupt. And even if it were to offer such terms, there’s a strong chance of a military coup.

Furthermore, the settlements were built, on purpose, as mines – intended to blow up any chance of a Palestinian state. A few days ago I participated in a tour held by the Ir Amim association, which explains the complex, not to say insane, reality in greater Jerusalem. A quick look at the map they gave us (
you can see it here) says all there is to say: You can’t divide this place. Have a look: the blue line is Jerusalem’s fictive municipal border after the annexation of 1967. The blue smudges are settlements. Note the bulge of the red line eastwards – this is the plan of the separation wall, euphemistically called Otef Yerushalaim, “Wrapping Jerusalem”, intended to make the settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim, Kfar Adumim and the rest a part of “Jerusalem”.

Look to the southwest. Here we have a series of settlements – Gilo, Har Homa, and others – whose residents don’t even know they’re settlers. They’ve been taught they live in Jerusalem. They have no idea, and not by accident, that the place they live in was never a part of Jerusalem in any meaningful way. These settlements simply cannot be evacuated.

This makes the Palestinian move in the UN, which will make it clear to Israel that the current situation cannot go on, a good first move, which ought to be supported by all Israeli patriots. But, given that the Netanyahu government will remain obdurate, and will not allow the creation of a feasible Palestinian state, the second act of the Palestinians should be clear cut: they ought to demand that Israel will recognize anyone living in the de-facto country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River as an equal citizen. Because the other solution, the existence of an apartheid state while waiting for Netanyahu’s 60 years to pass is morally unacceptable.

And no, it won’t be easy. And yes, this will have a cost in blood, treasure and abandoned paradigms, foremost among them Zionism. And yes, terrorists from both sides, supported by elements of their side’s armed forces, will try to prevent such a solution. And it’s not at all clear that Jews and Muslims – and in the Middle East, of all places – can recognize others as equals. But, 44 years after the occupation, we have exhausted all other possible solutions. Time to make a decision.

11 Comments:

At 7:51 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

Wouldn't the same violent settlers who oppose the two state solution also oppose the one state solution? And wouldn't even more people join them to violently thwart the one state solution than would join the fight against two states?

His reasoning makes no sense.

 
At 9:09 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Emm:

I don’t know who can still believe in a TSS, considering not only all this time that’s gone by, the fact that rate of colonisation of WB/EJ has been increasing nearly all that time, Israel general public’s apathy towards the issue (see J14’s conspicuous absence on the Occupation) and that the US’s position of support for Israel isn’t going to change fast enough to make a dent in all this.

With every day gone by not only does the settler movement get more numerous, its facts on the ground also get more ‘normalised’ (because older). Already you have considerable numbers of Zionist settlers there who can claim indigenousness because they can rightly claim to have been born there.

Sooner rather than later the non-Jewish inhabitants of the OTs will have to be given equal rights in the ‘Greater Israel’, that is simply inevitable. Israel and its idiotic supporters are sleep-walking into a OSS of sorts…

 
At 8:57 AM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

The 2-state solution does get harder to implement by the day, unfortunately, though it is far from being impossible. That doesn't mean a one-state solution gets any easier to implement. You don't realize how much opposition there is in Israel to the one state solution, which means it will never happen.

By the way, the absence of the occupation from the J14 movement isn't because of apathy, but because it's a contentious issue, and they wanted as many supporters as they could get.

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger Gert said...

”You don't realize how much opposition there is in Israel to the one state solution, which means it will never happen.”

I think I do but I also think that won’t stop it from happening. Unfortunately both Israel and its backer the US are permanently gripped in an electoral cycle that seems to strongly favour the further colonisation of land once deemed to be reserved for a Palestinian state. In neither the US nor Israel itself do I see political forces that are strong enough or growing fast enough to try and reverse the tide anytime soon.

Of course even the most hypocritical nation of all the Western hypocritical nations, the US, will one day have no choice but to stand up to its protégé: the day that even the staunchest pro-Israel congressman or senator can no longer deny that what is going on in Israel is the worst kind of Apardheid ever seen will also be the day that those rats will leave the sinking ship, without even a passing thought for Bibi or whoever. These are simple political realities: the US cannot forever proclaim to stand for freedom and democracy while at the same time indirectly supporting the oppression and dispossession of an entire people.

But by that time there will be nothing left to build any state on. And there will be second and third generation settlers, born and bred in ‘Judea and Samaria’. You’d expect them to up sticks and come and live in Israel proper? By what rationale, exactly? It was the Israeli state who encouraged them to settle there to begin with!

”By the way, the absence of the occupation from the J14 movement isn't because of apathy, but because it's a contentious issue, and they wanted as many supporters as they could get.”

Et voila. You’re saying what I’m saying: that what should be the biggest social issue in Israel is too contentious to be a crowd puller. That’s what I call political apathy vis-à-vis the occupation.

You want to avoid the worst, the dreaded OSS? Take to the streets in your hundreds of thousands, protest against Netanyahu’s crazy status quo policies and show the settlers that no means no. You don’t: because you can’t; there just aren’t enough of you…

 
At 10:55 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

Before you go all apocalyptic, remember that Netanyahu could lose the next election to Kadima or even to the Labor Party (which has made a surprise comeback in polls recently). The Likud will not be in charge forever.

Settlement growth is bad, but creative ideas are required to overcome this obstacle, like land swaps and allowing some settlers to become citizens of Palestine (believe me, most of them won't want that and will come running into Israel before they're at the mercy of the Palestinian government).

As for protests - it is distrust of the Palestinians, rather than support for Netanyahu that keeps many leftists from the streets. We want to vote for someone much more open to peace and concessions, but who would be a tough negotiator that would make sure we have a good peace agreement with the Palestinians. Protesting against Netanyahu at this point would just seem like support for Abbas, and that isn't what we want. Besides, we know protests wouldn't change his mind. Only an election where he's tossed out can make a difference.

 
At 10:34 AM, Blogger Gert said...

In my honest opinion you’re clinging to ifs and buts.

The polls I’ve been shown tell that despite the protests, Netanyahu isn’t in bad electoral shape. But let’s go with your idea: he gets busted and Kadima gets in. You think Livni will be any different? Politicians are the same the world over: like used car sales men they promise a lot, yet deliver little. A month into Tzipi’s new reign there’ll be complaints about ‘not having a partner for peace’, perhaps there’ll be some more firecrackers from Hamas or a Fogel-like incident and Livni will feel forced to take a strong stance or risk getting booted out. Your system of governance is fickle and prone to being hijacked by three loons in one party to make up the numbers.

But in a sense it’s true that Israel has no negotiation partner: the requirement for ‘no preconditions’ (aka ‘you don’t mind talking while we’re building, do you?’) means that any Palestinian chief negotiator who’s willing to sit down and talk would have to considered certifiably mad. It’d be like negotiating the price of a house while the owner vandalised room after room. What should have happened a long time ago is that the owner should have stopped vandalising and started have started restoring the vandalised rooms…

You don’t want to talk to Abbas? Pity, because there doesn’t seem to be anyone else, right now. And from a Palestinian street vantage point, the tandem Abbas/Erekat achieved nothing but potentially signing away more and more without any returns.

Landswaps? With all due respect but that really sounds like something some Obersturmfuhrer Schmidt in a Nazi ‘Planning Department’ would come up with, including timetables for the transports. It’s a recipe for more refugees, people finding themselves on the wrong side of the fence, areas that won’t have any decent access to water (ooops: Schmidty didn’t think of that!) or other utilities and a whole plethora of problems that arise when politicos start messing with natural demographics.

 
At 7:51 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

"Landswaps? With all due respect but that really sounds like something some Obersturmfuhrer Schmidt in a Nazi ‘Planning Department’ would come up with, including timetables for the transports."

Now you're pissing me off. If I say landswaps you immediately think of something racist. I'm not talking about swapping Jews for Arabs. If that's what you think of me after all these years we've been debating these issues, I don't know why I bother having any conversations with you.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Gert said...

You’re taking it personal where it wasn’t meant personal. I’m not comparing you to anything or anyone. The ‘idea’ of land swaps isn’t yours either, it’s been around for a long time.

It won’t work: drawing artificial lines in a natural and social geography is a disease the ME suffered from long before Israel came into being: just look at the map of your ‘dangerous neighbourhood’. Thanks once again, colonial powers!

You say you’re not talking about swapping Jews for Arabs but land almost always belongs to someone even if that person or legal body may not actually reside on it. Any undeclared territory still remaining in I/P must be pretty rubbish, considering how hotly contested land really is.

But go right ahead: build that TS ‘solution’, with ‘kissing points’, ‘land swaps’, walls, fences, every security gadget under the sun and all held together with paperclips and UN stationary, after all if it doesn’t hold together too well the Masters of the Universe (Quartet and Co) can reflexively blame the stooped Arabs

 
At 1:02 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

You are right that any line would be artificial. There are no natural geographic boundaries between Israel and the West Bank, and no clear demographic boundaries either. But there's no choice - some line has to be drawn. I'd rather the line included as little land swaps as possible.

"You say you’re not talking about swapping Jews for Arabs but land almost always belongs to someone even if that person or legal body may not actually reside on it."

Most land in Israel is owned by the state, not by private citizens or institutions. In that regard, finding unpopulated land nobody owns adjacent to the green line wouldn't be a problem. With limited land swaps, there wouldn't be much of a problem with land that is worth the same as the land Israel will keep in the West Bank - but junk land does indeed become a problem the more land Israel demands to swap.

"But go right ahead: build that TS ‘solution’, with ‘kissing points’, ‘land swaps’, walls, fences, every security gadget under the sun and all held together with paperclips and UN stationary, after all if it doesn’t hold together too well the Masters of the Universe (Quartet and Co) can reflexively blame the stooped Arabs"

If there's a viable Palestinian state, with Palestinians having good lives, why would it break apart? A one state solution, on the other hand, would be a disaster the very first second of its existence, because it would be in perpetual civil war.

 
At 8:05 PM, Blogger Gert said...

”If there's a viable Palestinian state, with Palestinians having good lives, why would it break apart? A one state solution, on the other hand, would be a disaster the very first second of its existence, because it would be in perpetual civil war.”

Aren’t you being a bit self-serving here? Whether or not the Palestinians will lead any lives at all remains conditional to Israel’s near-absolute security requirements. These security demands, that you wholeheartedly support BTW, are in response to fear of a new Palestine becoming launch pad for militants (a Greater Gaza, as it were). So you confidence in a TSS really isn’t that great at all.

Remember one thing from this exchange: I believe that a OSS is already almost inevitable and will become more so with very year passing. And boy do these years pass quickly. Now resumption of negotiations seems more unlikely than ever, with the Palestinian bid for UN statehood causing further ire with the Netanyahu government and Palestinian position on a settlement freeze being rigid.

20 or 30 years tops, before someone will write a history book called ‘Israel/Palestine: The Accidental One State Solution’…

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

To paraphrase Winston Churchill - the Two State Solution is the worst solution to the conflict, except for all the others. You're right that I don't have a lot of confidence in the two state solution, but I have much less confidence in all other proposals.

As for security requirements - I support some, not all of what Netanyahu wants. For instance, I don't think we should maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley. And why do these demands exist? Because we distrust Palestinians. For a one state solution to work, it would require even more confidence between Israelis and Palestinians than a two state solution.

Let's hope 20 or 30 years won't pass before a settlement is reached (or even five). If we wait 20 years, the 2ss will indeed be long gone.

 

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