“I am totally in favor of a realistic two-state solution. There is no alternative but a two-state solution.”
This conviction is often stated with the distant gaze of one uttering a transcendental truth. There is often a quasi-religious tenor to the declaration, an articulation of faith.
However, when one moves beyond the mantra, as it were, there is much murkiness, uncertainty, and downright ignorance.
What does it mean to be in favor of a realistic two-state solution? Who’s solution are we talking about? Is it mutually agreed upon or imposed? What form does it take — meaning what is envisioned for the second state, Palestine? Is it contained in the areas it currently controls? Does it include Gaza? How about parts of Israel or Jordan?
What has to happen for such a state to come into being? What pre-conditions, if any, should attend the creation of a Palestinian state? What about the right of return, for instance? Must that be discarded?
The overwhelming likelihood is that few, if any, of these questions have been thought about by those who declare their bedrock conviction that this is the only outcome that can occur between Israel and the Palestinians.
All of this leads me to posit my Iron Law of Mideast Peace Planning: The greater the distance from the region, the less the willingness to engage in the details, and the greater the intensity for an immediate solution in line with an ideological narrative.
Simply stated, the real world consequences of any peace agreement are so profound and important, that they basically force most people to retreat to an aspiration, a wish, a vision, a dream.
Let’s analogize this with a less consequential situation. A young newlywed couple wants to move into their first residence together. The husband announces, “I want to live in a house. I have never had the chance and have always wanted this.” This is said with passion and intense conviction.
“Okay,” says his wife, “where? What state, what town, what neighborhood? Old? New? Size? Style? How big? How many floors. And of course, what price?”
The husband, suddenly wondering what he is doing with this hyper-practical person, doubles down: “Look, this is something I’ve always dreamed of. I just want to live in a house!”
Of course, now it is the wife’s turn to question her own judgment, since her spouse has no interest and possibly little aptitude for assessing the details that will go into the ultimate decision of what house to buy.
This analogy can only hint at the complexity (as well as the willful disregard for that same complexity) that attends the conceptualization and contemplation of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. For example, is the term “peace” even relevant in the face of an ideology of the “return” of “refugees” that is basically tantamount to a replacement of Israel with a never before seen Palestine?
More than anything, I believe it is this unwillingness to grapple with the complexities of the actual state of affairs here that has created the growing divide between most Israelis and those who see Israel as the culprit in not wanting to make peace happen.
In the 1980s, there was the phenomenon known as the World Hunger Project, an attempt to engage Westerners with the reality that hunger was rampant in many parts of the world. Rather than seeking to explain and to harness potential solutions for supply and distribution problems (which would inevitably entail geo-political complexities), the movers behind the project came up with the slogan of “Hunger is over if we want it.”
In other words, if we could conceive of a world without hunger, we will have essentially willed the solution into being. Of course this was no solution, it was just a pandering to the effete narcissism of comfortable Westerners.
Something on the same order involves the “I am going to hold my breathe ‘til I turn blue” posture of many in the West towards the situation here. Ultimately, it’s about themselves, about salving their own consciences that what they believe is right and proper should actually take place.
Forget the fact that what they deem to be right and proper might constructively spell the end of Israel as a sovereign Jewish and democratic state. To the conceptualizers, that kind of fearfulness is just a failure of imagination, just an excuse to prevent the Palestinians from getting their rightful place in the sun.
If my view of the situation sounds fanciful unto paranoid, one need only consider the widespread condemnation of the recently-released Trump peace plan by many on the Left, including Jews, to see how accurate this mindset unfortunately is. There was condemnation of Israel for annexation, apartheid, and a thwarting of Palestinian national aspirations. Nowhere was a consideration raised as to why the proposals were what they were, and what underlying conditions and fears were being addressed.
Israelis have both extended themselves and sacrificed dearly for the vain prospect of peace. Our hands are still stretched out, but our eyes are wide open.
Our eyes are open both to the lack of desire to truly engage on the part of the Palestinians, but also to the lack of seriousness, and ultimately of empathy, on the part of the so-called pursuers of peace.
Ironically, no one wants real peace more than the people of Israel. At the same time, none are as aware as we are of the false siren songs of those whose eyes are closed in rapturous dreaming, instead of being open to stare at things as they truly are.
Mr. Altabef is Chairman of the Board of Im Tirtzu and a Director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at [email protected].