Whenever there is a hiccup in the peace process, or signs of real crises between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli and international left trot out the one-state solution. Their message is that Israel will be stuck with one state between the Jordan and the Sea that will include both Israelis and Palestinians with full citizenship, if Israelis do not figure out a way to reach the two-state solution.
Demographics will do what they do, and sooner or later Israel will be voted out of existence by its Arab majority.
The idea sounds good, but it''s nonsense.
As long as Israel retains its capacity and will, no imaginable government will agree to absorb the entire West Bank and Gaza.
The wall that Israel has built along most of its borders, and in protection of most Jews living beyond the 1967 lines, may not last forever. But as long as it is there, with its patrol roads, watch towers, cameras and other electronics, Palestinians should not delude themselves into thinking that they''ll get anything on the Israeli side of it.
Thanks to Oslo, which succeeded more than its critics admit, Israel leaves Palestinians to run their own affairs. Exceptions occur when it is necessary to send in the troops for the sake of Israelis'' security.
The profile of the left in Israeli politics should not encourage its activists or their overseas friends. Currently the Labor Party has 15 Knesset Members, not all of whom are warm and cuddly toward Palestinians. Meretz has six. The largely Arab parties have 11, but they are so anti-establishment that few of their MKs merit a listen.
Tsipi Livni''s Movement has 6 MK''s who have staked their party''s existence on the peace process, but she raised her voice at the Palestinian delegation for breaking the rules of the game. Yair Lapid''s There is a Future has 19 MKs, and peace is somewhere on its agenda. However, Lapid has recently expressed exasperation about Palestinians claiming to be partners for peace.
Some may dream about putting together a cluster of 57 Jewish and Arab MKs likely to support a deal, and reaching a Knesset majority by getting 4 more votes from somewhere among the other parties. However, their basic 57 would be a slippery gathering with more than a few doubters and self-servers inclined to trade their votes elsewhere. Moreover, the whole idea depends on Palestinians being more accommodating than have been any of its leaders over the most recent 80 years.
By all the signs, the world--along with Israelis and Palestinians--will have to accept the anomaly of a Palestine short of statehood, with substantial but incomplete autonomy. Or a state recognized by others but not by Israel that will continue to surround all of Palestine-West Bank and most of Palestine-Gaza. Egypt sits on the short part of Gaza''s borders, and is currently no more friendly to the Gazans than is Israel.
Various British, American, Israeli, UN, European, Palestinian and other Arab officials and activists have worked to deal with the issue since the 1930s.
None has had a better record than John Kerry, currently scurrying to keep his talks going, or to trying to explain their failure by pointing to Israeli and Palestinian politicians.
He should have known better than to start something with such limited prospects.
Things have improved in recent years, despite the dim prospects for Kerry''s process. The Palestinian leadership seems to have learned from their periods of violence not to provoke the Israelis with anything more than words. Continued conversations between various groups of Palestinian and Israeli technocrats, sometimes with the prodding and help of outsiders, have reduced violence to a manageable level, allowed more easy movement for Palestinians throughout the West Bank and into Israel, and the entry of more to Israel on a daily basis for work. These steps are less dramatic than what the politicians say they want, but they have served to increase investments and living standards for West Bank Palestinians.
Currently we are hearing a wave of commentators, with political and military backgrounds, accusing Kerry and Obama of unrealistic obsession with a general and final arrangement, which gets in the way of lesser bur more promising accommodations dealing with security, trade, transportation, communications, water, sewage, payments for electricity and other services, and border controls.
There are Palestinian individuals intent on revenge for one or another reason of personal suffering or their personal ideology of violence. Groups--now with the financial and material support of Iran--have sought to act, and occasionally produce limited damage or casualties.
Also active are Jews who seem fearful of an arrangement, and do what they can to remind us of God''s Promised Land, relying on one of the more expansive promises in the confusing material of Torah.
The Arabs of Israel and those of Jerusalem limit their own capacity to benefit from what Israel can offer.
Those of Israel support anti-establishment parties whose Knesset Members fail to play the conventional game of working with the majority in order to benefit their constituents. Those of Jerusalem--almost all of whom rejected Israel''s offer of citizenship--can vote in municipal elections, but bow to considerable pressure from Palestinians to abstain. Thus they give up the prospect of electing a third of the Municipal Council and using their leverage to select the Mayor. Along the way, they also give up the right to complain about the minimal services received in their neighborhoods. In some of those neighborhoods, fire fighters and ambulances enter only at their peril, and the police enter only in force when essential.
Israel pretty much lets Arab localities of Israel and Arab neighborhoods of mixed population cities manage themselves, with the Arab villages of Israel and neighborhoods of mixed cities getting less services than the Jewish areas.
Not all Arab villages of Israel or Arab neighborhoods of mixed population cities are similar. One must know the social terrain in order to realize where Jews are welcome, tolerated, or likely to be threatened with bodily harm. There are sizable numbers of Druze, Circassian, and Bedouin Israelis, and others (calling themselves Israeli Arabs or Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) who aspire to mutual accommodation, higher education in Israeli institutions, service in the IDF, Israeli police, prison service, or other governmental agencies. Some Israeli Jews enjoy personal friendship with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.
The problematic nature of Israeli-Palestinian relationship is not unlike those which prevail on the borders or within other democratic states. One can think about the African and Muslim neighborhoods of cities across Britain and Western Europe, and African Americans.
Israel has nothing like the Black President of the United States.
Alongside Obama''s accomplishments are lots of African Americans who have done well, especially since the inception of Affirmative Action. All that deserves praise, but it does not deal with the condition of Black ghettos, and residents who fail to escape the cycles of crime, drugs, violence, limited education, prison, and early death.
Israel has an Arab on the Supreme Court along with the dozen or so Members of Knesset, and Arabs who have reached professional and managerial positions, partly due to affirmative action written into law or practiced informally where it is not required. One must admit that the opportunities of Israeli Arabs are limited by Jews who do not have a level of trust that would facilitate greater opportunities.
One can quarrel about the relative intensity and justifications of opposition to hiring, promoting, renting or selling housing, or the significance of one or another social indicator pertaining to minorities in Israel and the United States, or the Black and Muslim neighborhoods in Britain and Western Europe.
It is not easy to do this in the context of political correctness and more exciting ideologies, but it is worthwhile keeping one''s head and arguing about the data.
And arguing about further accommodations, without the illusion of a one-state solution.