If you read the journalism on the Arab/Israeli conflict on the pro-Israeli side from, say, twenty, twenty-five or thirty years ago, you’ll find writers deriding as insane the idea of a two-state solution to the conflict. A two-state solution, they said, was merely a recipe for war and for the destruction of Israel. If you want hints on where to find this stuff, I’d suggest reading back issues of Commentary magazine. (Here’s a collection of essays from that magazine representative of the relevant point of view.)
Nowadays, of course, the two-state solution has become an axiom: if you’re in favor of peace, you’re in favor of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. Corollary: if you’re not in favor of a two-state solution, you must not be in favor of peace. John Kerry‘s errand in the Israeli-Palestinian wilderness is based firmly on both the axiom and the corollary.
If you look a little more carefully at the journalism of twenty-five years ago, however, you’ll find, in the much-derided minority, critics of the axiom of that day: even back then, there were prominent and vocal defenders of the two-state solution. A two-state solution can work, they insisted–and insisted, and insisted. Partition and separation is our only hope for peace. Gradually, as a result of the American-sponsored peace process of the 1990s–Madrid, Oslo, Geneva, the famous Clinton Offer of 2000–the two-state solution became the new conventional wisdom.
But if you look carefully, you’ll find that the supposed consensus in favor of a two-state solution is, today, under attack by its critics, that is, by people in favor of a one-state solution. I’ve been defending the version of the one-state solution proposed by the Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh. I’m gratified to see, however, that a similar approach is being given credence–for similar reasons–by prominent Israelis. A recent example is an excellent piece by Yuval Diskin in The Tablet, an online magazine of Jewish affairs.
Diskin’s pro-Israeli security credentials are impeccable: he “was head of Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, from 2005 to 2011. During the First Intifada, he served as coordinator for the Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarm districts. During the Second Intifada, he served as Deputy Director of the Shin Bet and, from 2003 to 2005, as special advisor to Mossad head Meir Dagan.” I don’t think one can easily accuse such a person of a wish for the “destruction of Israel,” for laxity on terrorism, or for a less-than-assiduous desire for Israeli security (standard objections to the one-state approach).
I don’t precisely agree with what Diskin says in the essay, but much of what he says is sound, and the essay as a whole is notable for flying directly in the face of the so-called conventional “wisdom” on this topic in American discourse. A notable passage:
Among the Palestinians there is a growing sense of anger and frustration. The fading hopes for a real change in the situation haven’t just lowered the Palestinian street’s faith in a solution to the conflict through means of the negotiation, but it is also the reason why, at the end of the day, the Palestinians will take to the streets, leading to another round of bloody violence. And the construction of settlements (whether or not this is taken as a symbolic gesture toward Mahmoud Abbas) is not stopping; the number of settlers or “inhabitants” in the West Bank, outside of the main settlement blocs, is growing to (if they have not already arrived at) dimensions that no Israeli government will be able to dismantle in an orderly fashion, unless through willing consent—and it doesn’t appear that the current government possess the will and/or the desire to buck the trend.
Just as troublesome—many of our friends in the world, whose support of the peace process with the Palestinians is critical, understand the powerless leaderships of Netanyahu and Abbas. They see the continued expansion of the settlements and are choosing to call it quits regarding the possibility of ever implementing the solution of “two states for two nations.”
Until recently I believed with all my heart that there is still a chance for the “two-state solution.” However, in the absence of true leadership willing to take real actions instead of making idle statements, I am convinced more and more that this option, which until recently was preferred by the Israeli majority according to surveys, is becoming increasingly unrealistic and is no longer feasible.
Someone ought to forward this passage–the whole link–to John Kerry.
It’s a great irony that one of the recent defenders of the one-state solution is none other than…Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute. He defends the one-state solution (in passing) in his 2002 lecture, “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What Is the Solution?” Most of the lecture is an extremely ill-informed (occasionally downright embarrassing) attempt to provide a history of the Israel/Palestine dispute that implies that the Palestinians are to blame for every element of it. It’d be an interesting exercise in philosophical detection to identify the philosophical assumptions that explain the differences between, say, Brook’s approach to the issue, Diskin’s, and Nusseibeh’s (or mine). But I’ll leave that exercise for another time.