Saturday, March 28, 2009

Two State Solution: Last Chance Saloon?

Interesting post here by Jewbonics (minor edits and some emphasis by me):

Left-wing opinion on whether or not a two-state solution is still feasible bifurcates into two camps. One says Yes. The other says No. Norman Finkelstein, for example, argues that the rational strategy is,

OK, not to try to defy the international community with your own or someone else’s more radical slogans, but rather to bring to bare the weight of international public opinion: bring to bare the weight of the United Nations resolutions, the world court — the International Court of Justice — decision and so on and so forth in trying to resolve the conflict. For some of you in this room, and maybe for the majority of you in this room, that’s not going to be a satisfying answer. You’re going to tell me you want to go out and advocate a one state solution, or you want to go out and advocate a democratic secular or whatever Palestine. And my answer is going to be to you, in my opinion, that’s a dead-end strategy. It may be very satisfying for you in your little group; it may be satisfying for you in your living room, and maybe satisfying for you in your little club or grouplet. But if you’re seriously committed — as I assume was my mandate from Sumayyah — if you’re seriously committed to trying to lessen the suffering of the Palestinian people, to bring a little bit of sunshine into an otherwise very gray life of forty years and more, then that’s not in my view the strategy. Because there’s exactly zero support in the international community for a one state, democratic state, of whatever you want to call Palestine. On the other hand, there’s a huge amount of international support for a two-state settlement, and it’s that which we have to bring to the attention of People.

Ali Abunimah, founder of the invaluable ezine, Electronic Intifada, suggests that a two-state solution is impossible, that its advocates are ignoring the “facts on the ground,” in the lingo of Zionist apparatchiks, build up over the past 40 years–a network of entrenched settlements, segmenting the West Bank into dribs and drabs of land, territorially separated, economically unviable. This much is well-known.

Here’s the news: the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP), whose president is Henry Siegman, just released a report, entitled, “A Last Chance for a Two-State Israel-Palestine Agreement.” The Executive Summary observes that “In short, the next six to twelve months may well represent the last chance for a fair, viable and lasting solution.” What is the USMEP? Hardly a radical institution. It spun off from the Council on Foreign Relations, establishmentarian think-tank par excellence. The authors of the report, most of the project’s Senior Advisors and board members, include Zbigniew Brzezinski, Chuck Hagel, Lee H. Hamilton, Carla Hills, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, Thomas R. Pickering, Brent Scowcroft,Theodore C. Sorensen, Paul A. Volcker, and James D. Wolfensohn. These are not–and this is neither insult nor encomium–the Nasrallahs or the Noam Chomskys of the world. They are the most conservative, placid, status quoarians one could hope to find. This gives the report greatly added heft. Will it be enough? We shall see.

It does not couch its recommendations in such idealist naivete like concerns regarding “social justice” or national self-determination. It speaks directly to security issues, noting that

“Although a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace would not erase Al Qaeda, it would help drain the swamp in which it and other violent and terrorist movements thrive, and eliminate a major source of global Muslim anti-Americanism,”
seven years ago a radical argument, today, conservative wisdom.

It fends off the argument of political infeasibility, or the lack of sufficient political will, noting that “According to polls, most Israeli and Palestinian public opinions back a fair settlement, and Arab countries now offer unprecedented support for the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002,” suggesting that the problem is turning inchoate opinion into political action.

And it presents the brief for acting with dispatch:

“Failure to act would prove extremely costly. It would not only undermine current efforts to weaken extremist groups, bolster our moderate allies and rally regional support to stabilize Iraq and contain Iran, but would also risk permanent loss of the two-state solution as settlements expand and become entrenched and extremists on both sides consolidate their hold.”
The report’s authors recognize that if the two state settlement is not emplaced now, it will be emplaced never.

It does not kowtow to the “Israel Lobby,” nor to Zionist sentiment that demands complete Palestinian capitulation, noting that the plan, which must be “fair, viable, and sustainable,” must also be based on UNSCR 242 and 338, the principles agreed to in the 2003 Road Map and the 2007 Annapolis proceedings, and must demand a return to the Green Lines, land swaps on a 1:1 basis, a fair resolution to the refugee problem (although it explicitly prohibits a “general right of return”), dual-and-divided sovereignty over Jerusalem, and a de-militarized Palestinian state.

It suggests Israeli engagement with Syria, as well as accepting Hamas as a legitimate interlocutor of Palestinian political will, moving away from punitive boycotts or sanctions. As the report puts it, Israel and the US must take “a more pragmatic approach toward Hamas,” although it does call for a “government that agrees to a ceasefire with Israel [and] accepts President Mahmoud Abbas as the chief negotiator.” It is not clear if the Palestinian citizenry, sick of the quisling Fatah’s betrayals, will accept such a condition, although this does not detract from the point that coming from US power circles, this is a very welcome document. And there is some evidence that it will: as Roger Cohen noted in the NYT yesterday, Siegman told him, through oral and written media, that although Hamas would withhold recognition of Israel, “it would remain in a Palestinian national unity government that reached a referendum-endorsed peace settlement with Israel. De facto, rather than de jure, recognition can be a basis for a constructive relationship, as Israel knows from the mutual benefits of its shah-era dealings with Iran.”

Its suggestion for dealing with the refugee problem are welcome, if imperfect:

For Israelis the “right of return” issue is the ultimate “third rail.” For Palestinians, the entitlement of four million refugees to justice and dignity is an absolute. A formula must be found to protect Israel from an influx of refugees, assist Palestine to absorb as many refugees as possible, and offer Palestinian refugees options for productive and dignified lives in Palestine or elsewhere, closing refugee camps wherever they exist.

The document also outlines fairly reasonable solutions to the issues of borders, water, peace with Syria, and security, recommending extensive use of the United Nations as a peacekeeping force in the region. One really hopes Obama is listening.


At 6:27 PM, Blogger Margaret said...

I had pretty much resigned myself to this. The Magnes Zionist suggests two states in some form under a federated authority.

Allocation of land in areas that aren't contiguous seems to me a likely problem.

About Goldberg: one rather would like to like him, but he seems convinced that Israel deserves the land more than the Palestinians.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Personally I think he's [Goldberg] a bit of a twit. But he's "authoritative" in American Jewry, so that statement is significant, IMHO.

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Gert said...

And all bets on the 'x-state(s) solution' are academic until the power differential between Israel and the Palestinians decreases.

At 3:18 AM, Blogger Margaret said...

Gert - I figured out the problem with access to comments. But email to you bounces and I would like to talk with you without talking to the world...

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Gert said...


Try Gert.Meyers at

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Margaret said...

Thanks, Gert!

At 8:32 PM, Blogger jewbonics said...

Thanks for the link. I agree that one way to make peace would be to change the power differential between Israel and the Palestinians, which is happening as we speak. There's increasing parity in destructive capability. Norman Finkelstein suggests that a military defeat would compel Israel to come to the negotiating table for a REAL solution.

But I also think it's a mistake to discount the power of the American government or to assume that it's intractably "pro-"Israel (whatever that means, right?). There are realists, and Arabists, who recognize the folly of the present course. It remains to be seen if they will prevail. The Freeman affair was just a skirmish.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Gert said...


Oh, totally agreed: Palestinian power AND American/European power. But power is all that will make the Israelis change course. T'was never different before or elsewhere.

Thanks for calling!


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