Magical thinking: The two state solution

The two-state solution overturns itself each passing day. And I mean ‘day’, for each day Jewish settlers are, by force, stealing Palestinian land to create outposts that they intend will ultimately be integrated into already well-established Jewish-only Settlements, and then annexed to Israel. The IDF (Israel defence Forces) and Border Police enable these land thefts.

This creeping colonisation of Palestine is part of a wider colonising/land theft movement that has resulted in more than 250 Jewish-only settlements constructed in the OPT, all on stolen Palestinian land. Since 1967 some 750,000 Jewish settlers have moved into those settlements and East Jerusalem. The aim is to connect the different settlements into one contiguous block. To do this, Israel has expropriated about 24% of the West Bank for settlements, highways, bypass roads – i.e. bypassing and isolating Palestinian towns and villages. A Regulation Law (2017) allows Israel to retrospectively expropriate private Palestinian land on which settlements have been built.

Israel takes 30% of its water from West Bank and Gazan aquifiers located under its settlements. 87% of the water coming from the West Bank is channelled  to Israel and its settlements; only 17% to 2.7 million Palestinians. Israel also controls West Bank and Gazan airspace, including electromagnetic communication fields, enabling it to control and attack by means of an all-seeing and precise ‘aerial occupation’. 

Is it to be believed that Israel will voluntarily relinquish all the facts on the ground and in the air that it has created?[1]

A Palestinian state would be totally dominated by Israel in every aspect of its being, not least economically and militarily. This state would have no international borders of its own, and in practice be subservient to Israel and its requirements – its impositions.

The nature of Zionism

Political Zionism is a colonising project.  The aim: to create a Jewish State in Palestine – in the entirety of historic Palestine. By definition, achievement of that goal required and still requires, sine qua non, the removal of, the reduction of, the indigenous Palestinian population.  The evidence is before our eyes: in Israel’s history, in its current policies, behaviours, and in the pronouncements of its politicians, Government and Opposition.  On a daily basis, the colonising intent is graphically demonstrated in respect of Israel’s actions in the West Bank, annexed East Jerusalem and Gaza. 

It is inconceivable that Israel would contemplate relenting its hold on OPT land and allow a fully functioning Palestinian state given its clear, demonstrable, colonising intent.  The land notionally allocated to Palestinians in any case comprises only 20% of the totality of Palestine/Israel between the river and the sea.

On what grounds has it ever been thought that (a) there was any justice in limiting a Palestinian state to 20% of historic Palestine; and (b), that Palestinians would over the long term accept 20% as their meagre entitlement?  And is it to be believed that they would accept either no right, or very limited right, of return for the Palestinian refugees and their descendants expelled in the 1948 Nakba and subsequently?

Not a durable ‘solution’

We might for a moment speculate that older generations of Palestinians might persuade themselves that a hobbled Palestinian state should be accepted, if only out of weariness. But will younger generations of Palestinians follow suit, given their first-hand knowledge of Israel’s brutal oppression, and the pain, memories and longings of their parents and grandparents etched into their history, culture and understanding of themselves. Will they simply accept the unjust, two-state settlement? This is unfeasible, surely. 

Not a solution, but the avoidance of a solution

The UK, EU, and the USA all continue to support a two-state outcome. This commitment is repeated whenever comment on Palestine/Israel is seen to be required. The recitation of the commitment is no more authentic or heartfelt than is an atheist’s prayer in a church, mosque or synagogue.  President Biden has recently confirmed the incantatory function of the two-state proposal by saying, on his recent trip to Palestine/Israel (he was in Bethlehem at the time):

‘I know that the goal of a two-state solution is so far away….Even if the ground is not ripe at this moment to restart negotiations, the US and my administration will not give up.’

This is essentially a prayerful attitude, one where reward and fulfilment will be found in the next world, whilst here among the mortals, injustice is to be regretted, but not vanquished.

Pursuing the religious analogy, as with individuals, so with states, self-interest and venality are powerful motivating forces in determining actions in this world, as distinct from aspirations for the next.  So, it is unlikely to be only a matter of coincidence that the UK, EU and USA have powerful economic and geopolitical reasons for not troubling Israel with what would be a formidable list of indictments in respect of its stance towards Palestinians. Best, in the circumstances, to retreat into ritual formulations the effect of which is to reinforce, embed and extend Israel’s apartheid regime.

Who will mourn?

It appears that the time for funeral rites is indeed upon us. The Two State Solution is to all intents and purposes, dead.

It fails in terms of principle – it is unjust.

It fails in terms of practicality – Israel has already gobbled up vast swathes of Palestinian land, the land notionally allocated to a Palestinian state.

It fails because it does nothing to counter Israel’s apartheid regime in Israel itself – Palestinians citizens of Israel suffer under a debased definition of citizenship that ensures Israel remains an ethnoreligious, ethnonationalist Jewish state.

At present, key parties, state and non-state, have too much invested in the two-state proposal to acknowledge, or allow, its demise. The patient is dead, but nevertheless in intensive care, hooked up to flows of misplaced goodwill, alongside venal self-interest; and empty prayers. This moment will pass, but probably not before alternative perspectives gain greater traction. Vacuums are abhorred in politics as much as in nature.

What follows from this?

The recurring motif when discussing Palestine/Israel, is one of division, of separating people into pre-conceived categories: by religion, by nationality, by sect – all perceived as impermeable and resistant to change.

There is, however, an alternative, more open-hearted, more hopeful way of approaching Palestinian/Israel tensions. A way of recognising differences, but accommodating them in an inclusive constitutional framework. One such initiative is the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), a Palestinian/Israeli campaign based on the simple idea that a unitary state, with equal social, religious and political rights for all its citizens can and should be created. In other words, it is an initiative founded on the values of mutual respect, inclusivity, and the equal worth of each individual. 

‘The One Democratic State Campaign is a Palestinian-led initiative that calls for the end of the colonial Zionist regime and strives for the establishment of a single democratic state in historic Palestine, based on political, social, economic and cultural justice, in which Palestinians and Israeli Jews live in equality.

One Democratic State Campaign was launched by Palestinian and Israeli Jewish activists, intellectuals and academics in early 2018…. It aspires to cooperate and coordinate with individuals and groups, inside and outside historic Palestine, who seek to achieve liberation.

Our campaign considers itself part of the global human liberation movement, including the progressive forces of the Arab world fighting for a just regional and world order.

Yes, ODSC raises many questions, some of them at present seemingly insuperable. Yet, the initiative is gaining momentum. I will come back to this initiative in a future blog article as indeed I will to the Convivencia Initiative, a very brief summary of which follows:

Convivencia is a cross-faith, international initiative for a just peace in the Middle East that seeks to substitute the current militarised ‘solutions’ based on racist oppression, brute force, denial of rights and colonial dispossession with an approach predicated on shared values and commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The intention follows the original Palestine Liberation Organisation programme, towards building a shared political community through a process of decolonisation, beginning with Palestine. This requires an end to Zionism, apartheid and occupation, and building a just and democratic civic society in the whole of Palestine.

[1] Source: Decolonising Israel, Liberating Palestine, by Jeff Halper. Published by Pluto Press.


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