Reviewing the Possibilities of a Post-Two-State-Solution Middle East Policy
16 years after the failed Camp David summit, the fiction of the two-state solution is about to be shattered once and for all. The only relevant question today, is what does Israel intend to do next? — Caroline Glick, “The end of Mahmoud Abbas,” The Jerusalem Post, August 29, 2016
Imperative to prepare for post-two-state era
Last month, following the decision of the Republican Party (GOP) to remove its longstanding support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the party platform, The Algemeiner published my article entitled “Potential Payoffs and Pitfalls for Israel if the GOP Wins the Presidential Election.” In it, I noted that this shift was merely one more indication that “enthusiasm for the two-state concept is waning — even among ardent erstwhile adherents,” some of whom have actually acknowledged that the Palestinians have contributed to the policy’s accelerated irrelevance.
However, I also advised that Israel must begin preparing itself for a new reality, one in which the two-state principle is no longer the dominant paradigm that, in large measure, monopolizes the discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the growing awareness of the dangerous futility entailed in continued pursuit of the two-state chimera is potentially a distinctly positive development, the challenges Israel may yet have to face could well be as dire — perhaps even more so — than those posed by the perilous two-state paradigm.
Indeed, with the passing of the two-state formula as a relevant policy option, new perils will immediately — and inevitably — emerge. Accordingly, I urged that planning to contend with those issues ought to be seen as a pressing national imperative.
I was, therefore, extremely gratified that Caroline Glick took up essentially the same theme in her recent article, “The end of Mahmoud Abbas,” in which she made a similar call for focusing on the approaching post-two-state situation.
As if in a parallel universe
Given the internal realities of the Palestinian administered (or, rather, largely un-administered) territories, it is hard to believe that any well-meaning soul is seriously suggesting anything approaching a two-state prescription as a means of defusing — never mind permanently resolving – the conflict.
Citing studies from the Gatestone Institute and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), Glick describes the disintegration of Palestinian society, its descent into lawlessness and violent anarchy and the accelerating decline of Abbas’s central authority in Ramallah. These developments are set against the backdrop of approaching Palestinian Authority (PA) municipal elections in which those associated with or backed by Hamas are expected to emerge victorious — or at least with handsome gains.
Indeed, it would appear that today’s adherents to the fatally flawed formula of two states inhabit a parallel universe, where facts are very different and far more amiable from in this one.
After all, given the situation on the ground — a quarter-century after the Oslo process was initiated with all the pomp and ceremony, the international fanfare and enthusiastic optimism — it is difficult to accept that anyone could, in good faith, still suggest, that some stable two-state scenario was even remotely feasible, much less desirable. When it comes to Israelis, who profess concern for the security and well-being of their country, continued support for the idea is little short of staggering.
Accordingly, given the past precedents and future projections it is difficult to avoid the disturbing conclusion that yet unchastened Israeli two-staters have greater allegiance to their pet ideology than they do to the security of their country and the safety of their countrymen.
Fading relevance of two-statism
Glick writes, “Like it or not, the day is fast approaching when the Palestinian Authority we have known for the past 22 years will cease to exist.” It is a caveat that both the Israeli political leadership and civil society elites will do well to heed.
An urgent and thorough debate is called for to formulate ways to contend with emerging realities, in which the demise of the two-state principle appears inevitable — or at least highly probable.
Indeed, recent polls show sagging support for the idea in both Israeli and Palestinian societies. A recent joint survey conducted by the left-leaning Israel Democracy Institute and the Palestinian Center for Policy Survey Research shows that only small majorities support (and hence very sizable minorities oppose) the generic two-state idea.
However, when the proposal is fleshed out and the details elaborated, support for two states declines steeply from small majorities to distinct minorities.
Only 39% of Palestinians and 46% of all Israelis (39% of the Jewish population) support a peace agreement “package” that comprises:
– A de-militarized Palestinian state;
– An Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line with equal territorial exchanges;
– A family unification in Israel of 100,000 Palestinian refugees;
– West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine;
– The Jewish Quarter and Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty, and the Muslim and Christian quarters and the al Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount under Palestinian sovereignty;
– The end of the conflict and claims
Significantly, the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly rejected similar offers in the past.
“Regionalism”: a ridiculous canard
Refusing to concede the irresponsible impracticality of continued endorsement of the two-state folly, its proponents — undeterred by the disaster their political credo has wrought on Jew and Arab alike — have, in a desperate effort to rescue it from fading into oblivion, plucked a new rabbit from their magician’s hat: the idea of “regionalism.”
Having more or less despaired of reaching a two-state outcome in a bilateral arrangement between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, dogged — or, rather, dogmatic — two staters now bandy about the idea of such an outcome being achieved within the context of a regional accord with the wider Arab world. This proposal is usually presented in the form of the Arab Peace Initiative (API), aka The Saudi Peace Plan, which involves Israel withdrawing to the pre-1967 lines, including from the Golan Heights, the division of Jerusalem and acknowledging the “right of return” of Palestinian Arabs within the pre-1967 borders. In return for these far-reaching concessions, the Arab world would “establish normal relations with Israel in the context of a comprehensive peace, and consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended…and provide security for all the states of the region.”
But “regionalism” of this kind is nothing but a risible ruse, a mere sleight of hand to prevent the public acknowledgement of the final failure of the two-state formula.
You couldn’t make this stuff up
Significantly, since it was first raised almost a decade and a half ago, the API has been rejected by all successive Israeli governments — including by some of the most ultra-concessionary ones, such as those headed by Ehud Olmert. Indeed, for years, any such proposal would have been considered borderline sedition, and with good reason.
For, in essence, what does this “regionalism” entail?
It involves Israel undertaking perilous (and largely irrevocable, except at enormous cost) concessions in exchange for pledges (entirely revocable at the slightest pretext) for some of the most decadent, depraved, oppressive, unstable, anachronistic and tyrannical regimes on the planet. Seriously???
You couldn’t make this stuff up — especially today with the post-Arab Spring ravaging the area.
If, with a giant leap of faith, one might have conceived of there being any sense in such an arrangement back in 2002, when the API was first aired, there can be no justification for such forlorn hope today. With the Arab world ablaze with merciless fratricidal frenzy, with Arab countries at war among — and within — themselves, with no guarantee that the regimes of today will be the regimes of tomorrow, what possible stock can be placed in any pledges to “ provide security for all the states of the region” — when they can provide it for none today?
What credence can be given to undertaking to “establish normal relations with Israel” when Arab nations cannot even establish, much less maintain, “normal” relations (in the normal sense of “normal”) with one another?
No, “regionalism” is little more than a red herring to divert attention from the increasingly evident collapse of the concept of two-states.
Israel will do well not to succumb to its lure.
End of two-state era: Potential payoffs and pitfalls
With the growing prospect of the two-state option being abandoned, the question of what alternative paradigm Israel should adopt is becoming a matter of increasing and urgent relevance. But, while there can be little doubt this is a development that heralds great opportunity for Israel, it is not one without dangerous pitfalls.
Indeed, to reap the potential benefits (and avoid the potential pitfalls inextricably inherent in this emerging situation), Israel must prepare a persuasive, sustainable, long-term alternative blueprint for the outcome of the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs to replace the two-state folly.
In recent years, a debate on such alternatives has indeed begun. Sadly, however, its output has been less than impressive. After all, not everything that is not a two-state proposal is preferable to the two-state principle itself. Indeed, nearly all the major alternatives being advanced today by prominent opponents of the two-state paradigm, are, notwithstanding the sincere goodwill of their authors, no less inimical to the long-term survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
In broad brush strokes, these “alternatives” can be divided into three major categories.
The first is proposed by those who favor “managing — rather than resolving — the conflict,” a plan which basically consists of “kicking the can down the road.” In effect, it calls for letting the problem fester, until some unspecified event(s) occur to — hopefully and inexplicably — facilitate resolution.
The other two, somewhat more proactive, suggestions can be divided into those that will, almost inevitably, lead to either:
(a) The Lebanonization (and later Islamization) of Israel, by incorporating the Palestinian-Arab residents of the territories across the pre-1967 lines into the permanent enfranchised population of Israel; or
(b) The Balkanization of Israel by trying to encapsulate the Palestinian-Arab population in disconnected, miniscule, autonomous enclaves in portions of these areas.
No less menacing than the two-state formula
In a series of past articles, I have — with varying degrees of acerbity and exasperation — laid out in considerable detail, the manifest shortcomings of these alternative proposals.
In them I demonstrate why:
– “Managing the conflict” is an exercise in futility — and self-delusion — that will only carry the country on a perilous downward spiral, with prevailing security and political problems increasing in scale and intensity;
– Proposals that prescribe including the Palestinian Arabs in the permanent population of a post-two-state Israel would almost inevitably turn the country into a Muslim-majority tyranny within a few generations — even if the optimistic demographers are right and, initially, the Muslim population will comprise a 35-40% minority;
– Proposals that advocate partial annexation and limited autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs, concentrated in disconnected mini-enclaves, will result in wildly torturous and contorted borders, virtually impossible to demarcate and secure, thus emptying “sovereignty” in the annexed areas of any meaningful content.
None of these three categories can pave the way for Israel — as the nation-state of the Jews — to a sustainable long-term situation that is any less menacing than that entailed in the two-state scenario.
To do this Israel requires a policy paradigm that addresses both its geographic and demographic imperatives for survival, lest it adopt a proposal that threatens to make it untenable, either geographically or demographically, or both.
Accordingly, it must be a proposal that ensures Israeli control over vital geo-strategic assets in Judea-Samaria and drastically reduces the presence of the hostile Arab population resident there — preferably by non-coercive means such as economic inducements…which, by the way, is what attracted the bulk of the Arab population here in the first place.
A very relevant question…
To formulate such an alternative policy paradigm in lieu of the two-state formula, to acquire sufficient legitimacy for it, to advance it in the public discourse and to generate widespread recognition for its adoption as a national imperative is undoubtedly, as Glick identifies, one of the most pressing and pertinent questions on the Zionist agenda today.
Dr. Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org).