The Two-State Solution Changes

The prior concensus of what a two-state solution/approach would have looked like, is summarized by Obama’s statements in 2009, while he was committed to putting his personal political capital and the weight of US power and prestige into cementing completion of the deal that then Israeli prime minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority president Abbas started and nearly completed.

That is that based on the pre-1967 war armistice lines (formed in 1949), equal and consented land swaps would be treatied to comprise a permanent and consented border between viable and safe Israel and viable Palestine.

Unstated assumptions in that concensus included that the settlement blocs that were close to Israel proper would likely be incorporated into sovereign Israel and any protruding edges of otherwise consented settlement blocs and the settlement blocs deep within the West Bank (likely including the Jordan Valley settlements) would be incorporated into sovereign Palestine, and the consented assumption is that they would be required to be evacuated.

The settlement bloc of Maale Adumin was a source of contention. It protruded into the West Bank, creating a “waist” similar to the waist for Israel slightly further north.

There is a difference between the two “waists” though. Although there are potential staging areas for militants to cut off Israel at it’s waist, even in the six day and 1973 war, that was not undertaken or probably even conceived militarily. The Maale Adumin “waist” though does threaten to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The announcement of the settlement construction in the E-1 area (extending the Maale Adumin settlement bloc and connecting Maale Adumin to Israeli annexed and developed parts of East Jerusalem), did not threaten to completely sever Arab East Jerusalem from the West Bank, as was fairly widely reported, but would make access considerably more inconvenient and militarily exposed. A difficult location for a capital.

The assumed requirement for any of the settlements to be prospectively evacuated is inherent in all of the assumptions that I’ve read, from left and right. The left asserts that the permanence of the settlements’ residents themselves and unwillingness of the Israeli society to remove them, makes a two-state solution impossible, dead. The right site the demand that they be evacuated as reason why they can’t consider undertaking serious negotiation at this point. The numbers prospectively slated to be evacuated are either up to 20,000 in remote outposts, up to 100,000 in the far-flung settlements, up to 350,000 in the non-suburb settlements not so far-flung, or up to 650,000 of all east of the green line.

In contrast, prime minister Fayyad offered an alternative. That was to allow the settlers to remain in Palestine (with whatever border) but renounce Israeli citizenship, and adopt Palestinian. Settlers themselves or the Israeli state would then compensate either individuals or the Palestinian state or parallel land trust agencies for the value of previous extra-legal appropriations, and forego the exclusively Jewish permission to reside in the settlements. The proposal puts an end to the nature of the settlements as Israeli state sponsorship of state expansion.

In interviews this past week, Fayyad further stated his regret that the US had conspicuously used the language of “swaps”, as that led to Israeli liberal hopes that the protruding settlements could be part of Israel (they all protrude some), comprising a common gerrymandered pattern of border, rather than a more rational contiguous region, that accommodated a Jewish minority, in similar scale to the Arab minority in Israel.

Abbas rejects the Fayyad approach of allowing settlers to remain in Palestine, instead insisting on forced removal, or very conditional application for Palestinian citizenship.

From this impasse, numerous “single-state” proposals are being floated from sometimes odd sources. The Israeli proposal comes from Moshe Arens (former likud defense minister), in which the West Bank would be annexed, all residents would be granted citizenship, comprising a 61-39 Jewish demographic majority, with Gaza entirely excluded, presumed to form an independent state. Others from the left include full establishment of one-person one-vote including Gaza, and also including the right of return for diaspora Palestinians to anywhere in the river-to-sea area. Including Gaza would likely comprise a 51-49 Arab majority. Including the right of return, assuming that in a single state, it would be highly exercised (unlike to the likely exercise to a Zionist state), would result in a 60-40 Arab majority, or greater.

There is no consensus for any of these options. And, as there are so many options, with so many affected and primarily distrustful of the other, to sort through them would either take dangerous and bold leadership on partners’ parts, or just won’t happen.

There is a significant danger that aggressions will escalate, that sequences of confrontations would add up to war. There are so many possible scenarios that prediction is difficult, but the range includes war with Iran and Hezbollah, the spread of a third violent intifada into the West Bank, cruel forms of BDS, conflict and possible war with Egypt, civil war in Jordan, WMD war with Syria. Lot’s of horror stories.

Other more benign possibilities include entirely non-violent third intifada in the West Bank, deferral of Hamas to PA authority with a new election and shared government, continued Egyptian role as mediator.

The consequences of increased violence in the West Bank is the likud right’s dream, resulting then in likely annexation of Area C (all of the settlement blocs and Jordan Valley), Israeli removal from areas under Palestinian control, permanently separating West Bank from Gaza, and the West Bank from East Jerusalem, landlocked and surrounded by only Israel (like the Bantustans). Likud regards that as survivable, resulting in temporary isolation from Europe and US, but ultimately creating a new fact on the ground, analagous to a new accepted armistice line.

Faced with West Bank violence, and the complex of “we’re unwilling to accommodate the settlers”, they will consider annexation of Area C their only choice.

My own sense is that the Fayyad proposal is the only two-approach remaining, and that Abbas should adopt it, and the Israeli and western left should adopt it.

As the communities do not think of themselves as one nation, and the various dissenting groups pursuing a single state are sadly NOT undertaking the kind of integration and persuasion efforts that would be necessary for it to be viable and desirable if remotely possible at all, that the two-state approach remains the only one that could be characterized as democratic. All others result in imposition on the governed, rather than consent of the governed. A single state solution would then be very unstable, again with dangerous prospects for all communities should violence result.

(At the same time, the one state accommodating a plebiscite after passage, might be the fastest path to a two-state solution, as the two state solution achieved five years ago, might have been the fastest path to a single state – following calm, then increased transit, then open transit and trade, then multi-national federation.)

A way forward?

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7 Responses to The Two-State Solution Changes

  1. I wish Fayyad was more accepted but it appears he is not.
    I think that a good basis for beginning negotiation is still the UN document of 1947. It recognizes among other things the interdependence of the 2 small countries. This document of course would not be the final document but could be a basis to begin negotiation. I recommend reading it.

  2. Dan Fleshler says:

    Like a lot of ideas for ending this nightmare, Fayyad’s proposal has much to recommend it. But it falls apart because he expects settlers to “renounce Israeli citizenship, and adopt Palestinian.” That will never happen. Amos Oz used to talk about the need to agree to a “horrible, ugly solution,” one that satisfies no one but is better than any alternative. I don’t know if he believes even that is possible anymore.

  3. According to Meron Benvenisti, the whole purpose of Ma’aleh Adumim – and everything else built in the WBank – was to keep Jerusalem for Israel alone. He says that not only would E-1 break up a would-be Palestine, he says it’s already fatally broken up. Benny Kashriel, mayor of MA for the last 20 years, says the purpose of MA was to break up Palestinian contiguity. The way I see it, Israel is only going to take down settlements when its basic viability is at stake, when it’s threatened by int’l isolation and all its got left is the Republicans and a minority of Diaspora Jews on its side, and at that point it’s going to have to dismantle MA and Ariel and move out about 150,000 settlers. It’ll be extremely hard, it’ll play havoc with the economy – but still it will be nothing to what various countries overcame after WWII, for instance. The one-state solution is fatal to the Jewish presence in this country; the settlers will never agree to live as citizens of Palestine, so the least of all possible evils is massive evacuation of settlers and a two-state solution – but again, that will only come when the status quo is too painful and frightening for Israel to sustain.

  4. Thanks for commenting Larry and Dan, two people that I personally admire, individuals with heart and backbone together.

    I don’t know of the original intent of the Maale Adumin settlement specifically. My understanding of all of the settlement enterprises, from 1920’s on, was to ultimately establish a “fingers” geography, of peninsulas of settlement, that were thick enough to comprise coherent self-supporting and defending communities, that were intended to incrementally stretch out to form a coherent Israeli geography.

    When Jews did not have “enough” land to live, that was a survival strategy, harsh but prospectively justified. Now, collective Jews (Zionists) have enough land and the finger strategy is not morally justifiable, except via the various formulations of land lust.

    You wrote recently of the need for US to intercede in Israeli policies, and of your despair that that would happen under Obama, that the more likely US role is just to quietly hide away, not make waves with LIkud/Israel Beitanhu.

    I am “certain” that likud/Israel Beitanhu will continue intent settlement expansion, and intentionally sited to prohibit Palestinian contiguity. The Palestinian dream of an East Jerusalem capital is nearly gone politically, for the fragility of a state with a sequestered Berlin-like capital.

    Have you played the strategic game “risk”? In playing it, I learned of the nature of exposed flanks. In reading briefly of the military history of empires (Greece, Rome, Napoleon, Nazi), the motivation to defend against exposed flanks, was the primary motivation for territorial expansion.

    The grave collective moral danger is when the need to protect flanks (stated with the proposed construction of E-1 to “protect” Maale Adumin), when combined with some land lust, creates a justification of the land lust. It is the equivalent of what Abbas or even Meshaal is accused of, “speaking differently in English than in Arabic”. (When speaking to US Congressman in English, “we need to defend our civilians”. When speaking in Hebrew among the converted, “we need to complete our original mission”.)

    I think you are right about Obama, that he is unwilling to consume political capital on pressuring Israel to halt settlement expansion. And, unless the world power structure entirely shifts to China (more than unlikely), that the US policies will be the primary game.

    Europe is important to Israel as Israel now sees itself economically as a combination of global and Mediterranean world. But, they won’t boycott or sanction Israeli agriculture or technology.

    The only way that would happen would be if we got back to the nazii formula of rejecting “Jewish physics”. I don’t see it.

    There is always the difficult argument of attempting to make some change based on what is reasonable and possible versus what is necessary.

    On eventual removal of the settlers.

    I personally oppose it on moral grounds, on the same grounds that I oppose forced removal of Palestinians, that mass forced removal is cruel, that there is some significance to one’s relationship to one’s home space. (“Wandering Jews” had to entirely make their families and communities their homes – social, not geographic.)

    As the East Jerusalem Jewish settlements (or suburbs) already make a contiguous Palestine implausible, to speak of moving only 100,000 settlers, is to advocate for a two-state that dismembers East Jerusalem from Palestine.

    The only remaining path to close to 67 borders with East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital, is the Fayyad approach.

    It can happen more easily than forced removal of 500,000 (150,000 in far flung settlements, and 350,000 in West Bank “suburbs” of Israeli cities).

    It is the new inevitability, the ultimate two-state end result. (The hope for a 95 – 98% Palestinian majority in Palestine will have to yeild to accepting an 90% if it is to exist at all.)

    Either that or the likud strategem of war, followed by prohibition to return, followed by annexation of at least Area C, but with 1/3 of the Palestinians evacuating prior.

  5. Richard, Abbas, from the “maps” that have been published of the talks w/Olmert, accepted Israel’s retention of the East Jlem Jewish neighborhoods except for Har Homa – so maybe it’s possible to have a Palestinian capital in EJlem without having to evacuate all but a few thousand Jews from there. And I think Abbas basically accepted the land swaps except for MA and Ariel – so I think his map calls for evacuation of about 150,000 settlers – meaning 400,000 could stay where they are in EJlem and the settlements near the Green Line. Doable, I think.

    • Published differences between Olmert and Abbas were Abbas’ acceptance of like 2% over the green line, Olmert’s demand for like 6.5%.

      They each stated that they felt that they were a couple months from a specific agreement to propose to legislatures, then public.

      But, haven’t the demographics in East Jerusalem changed in those four years? Haven’t the pincers of East Jerusalem neighborhoods limited and limited the scope of Arab East Jerusalem?

      On 972, when confronted with the assertion of a plebiscite comprising “consent of the governed”, the right-wing Israelis that post there agree gleefully. They site that East Jerusalem, and particularly the arteries to the old city, are dominated by Israelis now, that a plebiscite would yield a Jewish (Israeli) Jerusalem, not a partitioned one.

      A change from 2008.

      Where do you think “too far” would be? Or, has it already been passed?

  6. One more comment on the finger strategy.

    A maze is more difficult to defend than a rectangle or even waist.

    But, the peninsula maze is also currently a significant military advantage for Israel in the event of armed dissent. The Israeli peninsulas are not particularly vulnerable at all (some vulnerability to temporary guerilla actions), but do create enormous vulnerability for Palestine, including for non-violent civil disobedience. Palestinians are now very easy to isolate from one another.

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