Why are Israel’s critics trying to kill two-state solution?

Left-wing critics have been strongest proponents of two-state “dream,” even when most were still calling it a fantasy.

January 9, 2013 21:44
4 minute read.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas

Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R). (photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)


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The two-state solution apparently has seen better days. Indeed, according to The Atlantic’s Robert Wright the two-state solution is on its “deathbed,” while the Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan has already lost all hope in the prospects of an independent Palestinian state.

These two prominent commentators are hardly alone in their bleak prognosis. In fact, for the past few years, it has become an article of faith among Israel’s most reliable left-wing critics that the prospects for a two-state solution are about to vanish, if they haven’t already done so.

Such pundits offer several reasons for why they believe the two-state solution is near death, such as settlement growth and Israel’s current right-wing leadership, among others.

But this shared pessimism is curious, to say the least. After all, going back decades, Israel’s left-wing critics across the globe have consistently been the strongest proponents of the two-state “dream,” even when most observers were still characterizing it as a fantasy.

Since that time, it would be impossible not to notice the progress made between the sides: prime minister Rabin and PLO chairman Arafat shaking hands on the White House lawn after signing the Oslo Accords in ’93; prime minister Sharon dismantling all Israeli settlements in Gaza in 2005; and, in 2008, prime minister Olmert’s offer of a Palestinian state with land swaps and a capital in Jerusalem.

Sure, current conditions make it unlikely that a peace deal will be struck in the immediate future. But progress in the peace process has moved slowly over the decades, overcoming many obstacles along the way. For Israel’s critics who formerly advocated the two-state solution to now suddenly give up all hope is completely out of character with their previous unshakeable optimism.

So why are these critics seeing so little hope now, with the recent past providing plenty of reasons to believe that a two-state solution is a real possibility? For the simple reason that they no longer view the two-state solution as the preferred resolution to the conflict. In other words, it’s not that Israel’s critics believe the two-state solution is dying; they are actively trying to kill it.

INSTEAD OF pushing for two states, Israel’s most vociferous critics lately have been subtly shifting their arguments to focus on the “inevitability” of the one-state solution, where Israel and the occupied territories would be incorporated into a single democratic state, resulting in a Palestinian majority.

But in order for the one-state solution to become inevitable, the two-state solution must first be killed. Here is former US president Jimmy Carter doing his part, in a recent piece he co-wrote for The New York Times: “If the [UN resolution for Palestinian nonmember state status] fails, it will probably mark the death of the two-state solution and move us even closer to a one-state outcome, with uncertain and potentially catastrophic consequences for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

I somehow doubt, however, that Carter truly believes that becoming the majority power in Israel would be “catastrophic” for Palestinians. At least, no less than I doubt Br’er Rabbit believed it would be catastrophic to get thrown into the briar patch.

Soon after featuring Carter’s article “warning” of a one-state outcome, the Times ran another an op-ed, titled, “If Not Two States, Then One.” Only this time, the author didn’t pretend to disfavor the one-state solution.

The New York Times is hardly alone in giving a prominent platform to one-state advocates. Left-leaning publications, such as The Guardian and NPR, have also recently run articles discussing the possibility of a one-state solution. Predictably, these pieces prompted widespread media debate on the merits and feasibility of a one-state outcome.

What’s more, this shifting narrative by the anti-Israel Left isn’t confined to pundits and politicians; our most prestigious academic institutions are also getting in on the action.

This past March, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government held a symposium featuring 20 prominent speakers, titled “The One- State Conference: Israel/Palestine and the One- State Solution.”

TO BE sure, many on Left still believe in and are advocating for a two-state solution. But up until very recently, attempts to end the prospects for a two-state outcome had been the exclusive domain of certain segments of the political right. Now, in order to bring one-state advocacy into the liberal mainstream, the anti-Israel wing of the Left has taken up the mantle of trying to kill the two-state solution.

Of course, these critics know that a one-state solution is far more improbable than any two-state solution, but that’s beside the point. With enough chatter about the obsolescence of the two-state solution, Israel’s critics will have laid the groundwork for explaining how Palestinian grievances can only be addressed through a single Palestinian-Israeli state with a Palestinian majority. Anything less would be no better than apartheid.

The author is an attorney and frequent political commentator. His articles have been previously published by The Washington Times, Fox News and the Daily Caller.

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