Widespread reports that the current round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,
initiated by US Secretary of State John Kerry, have yielded no progress, just
like the previous ones, have led to two developments.
Secretary Kerry returned to the region last week and met with Israeli and Palestinian
leaders. Second, with increasing intensity over time, the one-state solution to
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is creeping onto center stage.
argument for abandoning the two-state solution is that the parties have been
trying to reach it for 30 years and have failed.
The problem with this
line of reasoning, however, is that it confuses the ends with the
Achieving direct negotiations has become the goal, when it is
actually one path to the real goal: a two-state solution.
But decades of
failures must mean something. And what that should teach us is not to abandon
the goal, but to find a better path.
In addition, we have failed because
we set the bar too high.
We have set it at a full-fledged, permanent
solution. But that requires courageous and honest negotiations, and leaders,
which evidently is not possible in today’s domestic and regional political
environment. Negotiations between parties suspicious as to the other’s
intentions and hamstrung by domestic constraints cannot yield an
Therefore, if the talks remain at an impasse, it’s time to
lower the bar, and not hinge everything on direct negotiations. This is the
message Kerry should take back with him to Washington.
Instead of the two
parties negotiating a two-state solution with one another, with the United
States serving as the broker, each party needs to create a two-state reality on
the ground. And that can be achieved by independent steps by both sides –
without the need for the other side’s agreement – if these actions help
establish a two-state reality and advance us toward the goal of two states for
This path can yield significant progress.
Israeli side, such steps could include a declaration of having no sovereignty
claims over areas east of the security fence, enacting of a voluntary evacuation
and compensation law for the settlers who live in these areas, and initiating a
national-scale planning effort for the absorption of the some 100,000 settlers
who will eventually relocate.
For the Palestinians, the steps should
include fiercely fighting terror and intransigent groups that try to spoil any
progress, and making sure all textbooks in the education system accept the
existence of Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state.
The US and rest
of the international community have a key role in this new paradigm.
should use the prism of constructiveness when refereeing whether or not an
independent step advances a twostate reality. For example, under the proposed
paradigm, a step like the Palestinian UN statehood bid should not have been
vetoed by the US at the UN Security Council.
That’s because UN membership
advances a reality of two states. The argument that the bid was done outside the
scope of negotiation is exactly the problem.
But when either side takes
independent steps that impede progress toward two states – such as Israel
building settlements east of the security fence or Palestinian calls for Israel
boycotts – the international community must exact a price from the offending
At the same time, we should not take our eyes off the twostate
solution ball. The parameters of a two-states agreement are well understood, and
therefore any independent step by either party must be evaluated solely on the
basis of whether or not it brings the reality closer to that
When, after some experience with a two-state reality, the
conditions will be ripe to raise the bar back and return to direct negotiations,
the task will be much more manageable.
The choice between one state and
two states is a false one.
There is really no alternative to two states
for those of us who cherish the Zionist dream of a secure, democratic homeland
for the Jewish people.
But there is an alternative to the futile
As in a high-jump competition, there is need to
first clear the bar at the lower height: the reality of two states achieved by
independent steps. Once that is cleared, we can raise the bar further and aim
for an agreement, which must remain the goal.
Ami Ayalon is the co-chairman of Blue White Future, and a former
director of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet). Orni Petruschka is
co-chairman of the Israeli non-partisan organization Blue White Future and a
hi-tech entrepreneur in Israel.