On March 16, before the Israeli elections, an Israeli news site asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to confirm that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch. “Indeed,” he replied.
After the election, he said he does support the two-state solution, but meant to say that such a solution is impossible under current conditions.
There are three problems with his latest statement:
1. If you believe in the two-state solution but are unwilling to do anything to bring it about, your supposed belief doesn’t mean much.
2. Netanyahu also bragged about trying to cut off the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state by construction in Har Homa, in east Jerusalem.
3. I don’t believe him, nor do a great many other people, including the president of the United States.
Netanyahu bases his refusal to consider a Palestinian state on security concerns, ignoring the repeated warnings of top Israeli security professionals — including former heads of Shin Bet and Mossad and high-ranking generals — that Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank poses an even greater security risk.
There are others who no longer believe in the two-state solution, some of them on the political Left. At the recent J Street national conference, Marcia Freedman, founder of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, an organization that has since merged with J Street, said she no longer believed that the two-state solution was possible.
Freedman said she doesn’t believe that any Israeli government will be able to give back the land necessary for the formation of a Palestinian state. She suggests that there could be a binational state with a Palestinian majority that is also a Jewish homeland and a secure refuge for the Jewish people.
Freedman implies this is pie-in-the-sky thinking. That’s an understatement. If Israel and the Palestinians can’t work out a two-state deal along lines that have been long understood and widely accepted, how can they bring about a single utopian state where both peoples live in harmony with a shared government and guaranteed rights for all? Who are these so-called leaders who are capable of producing such a government and, if you can find them, how can you say that these same leaders can’t possibly produce two states?
The goal of a multinational state, where the rights of all peoples are respected, is appealing. The United States seems to have done a pretty good job of it, although many African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans might disagree. In most places, however, it hasn’t worked. Given the history of the region, it doesn’t seem feasible for the Israelis and the Palestinians. Furthermore, ethnic groups with no home state have, in general, fared poorly in the world.
The only plausible way a one-state outcome — I don’t call it a one-state solution, because it would solve nothing — could arise is some version of the following: A right-wing Israeli government annexes most or all of the West Bank. Most or all of the Palestinians living in the West Bank are disenfranchised or given some kind of token Bantustan government. Israel becomes an international pariah. Even U.S. support is severely strained. Ultimately, the Palestinians, with a great deal of backing from abroad, stage some kind of an uprising, hopefully a non-violent one, but quite possibly not. In the end, this may succeed in overthrowing the government of Israel. The resulting government may state a policy of protecting Jewish rights, but there is no guarantee this policy will prevail. Even if it did, the state would be yet another non-Jewish state with a Jewish minority. In any case, there would undoubtedly be yet another uprising, this time by radical Jews coming out of the settler movement and its allies.
Now, it is, of course, possible for Jews to thrive in countries where they are minorities, as we do in the United States. But remember the history of Jews in Europe, who felt secure there until their world was shaken by the Dreyfus affair and obliterated by the Third Reich. Jews everywhere are more secure if there is one place on earth where we are a majority and control the government.
Perhaps a two-state solution is becoming less probable, but I refuse to believe it is impossible, because the alternatives are so unpalatable. As long as there is a shred of possibility for a two-state solution, I believe we must keep fighting for it and advocating for it.