The two-state solution and 2,000 barrels of herring

The atrophying two-state concept will continue to fester until Israel, supported by allies who understand the realities of the Middle East, takes a realistic initiative.

By JAY SHAPIRO
March 7, 2016 21:22
4 minute read.
World Climate Change Conference 2015

Netanyahu and Abbas. (photo credit: LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

To appreciate that the two-state solution is moribund and in fact never was realistic, it is necessary to understand the intentions of the three entities that are involved in the creation of the concept and its continuing presence in the public mind. These three entities are the Jewish State of Israel, the Arab world and the amorphous group of fellow-travelers who have been associated with the concept since it was first proposed.

Israel considers the two-state solution to be the end of a process that would result in peace with its Arab neighbors. To further this end, Israel was willing to waive its rights to parts of its historic homeland in 1948, 1967 and 1993. Although there are many in Israel who disagree with this approach, Israel has remained formally committed to this process and only awaits an appropriate response from the other parties to the conflict.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


The Arabs consider the two-state solution to be a step in the process leading to the destruction of the Jewish state.

For this reason, in 1964, by means of the Palestinian Covenant, the Arab world created the previously nonexistent group known as the Palestinians as a tool to be used in the process of destroying Israel.

The purpose was to demand the creation of a Palestinian state in part of the historically recognized homeland of the Jews and then use this state as a base from which to destroy Israel. However, the Palestinians declined to play their part in this strategy in two ways. First, they refuse to recognize Jewish rights to any part of the land, and second, they refuse or are unable, despite the inflow of millions of dollars from outside sources, to establish or maintain an entity that has the basic characteristics of a maintainable state. It is of interest to note that the original Palestinian National Covenant specifically excluded the area of Judea and Samaria from its mandate since at that time it was occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan. Only after the Six Day War, when Israel took over that area, was the Covenant revised to include it.

The amorphous group of fellow-travelers includes politicians, statesmen, pundits, diplomats, foreign policy experts, academics, book publishers and anyone else who can figure out how to make a profit from and/or enhance their reputation by means of the two-state solution.

To understand the motivation of this group, it is necessary to be familiar with a Yiddish fable concerning 2,000 barrels of herring: Once upon a time, a fisherman approached a merchant in a small shtetl in Lithuania and offered to sell him 2,000 barrels of herring that had just been taken from the Baltic Sea at the price of two kopeks per barrel. The merchant had never dealt with fish before and was somewhat wary of the deal. So, in order to make the deal more appealing, the fisherman offered to reduce the price to one kopeck per barrel. Unable to resist such an offer, the merchant purchased the fish and stored them in his warehouse. On the next market day the merchant found a buyer who purchased the whole stock for two kopecks per barrel, giving him a nice profit. The second buyer went to the nearest large town on market day and sold the fish for three kopecks per barrel. This new purchaser found a buyer for four kopecks per barrel, who found another for five.



This continued until a large business firm was offered the entire stock at 20 kopecks per barrel.

One of the younger members of the firm suggested that before making this large purchase, the stock should be inspected.

So two of the partners traveled to the shtetl where the fish was stored. As they approached the warehouse they became aware of the terrible stench of rotting fish.

This was only natural for quite some time has passed while all these business deals were taking place. When they opened the warehouse door they were almost overwhelmed by the odor of the fish.

The younger partner turned to his more experienced colleague and cried “Good Heavens! Who can possibly eat this fish?” The older and wiser partner answered, “Idiot! This fish is not for eating. This fish is for buying, selling and making a profit!” Thus, for the fellow-travelers, the purpose of the two-state solution is not to resolve a problem. Its purpose was and remains to provide life-time job security.

And now that the failure of the two-state solution is becoming apparent even to its erstwhile supporters – who evasively say that it is still viable but the time is not yet ripe – they will continue to give speeches, attend seminars, write books and do everything that they have been doing for the past two decades, but this time their efforts will be directed toward explaining what went wrong.

A prime example is the seminar being held this week at Ben-Gurion University under the title “The Two-State and Other Solutions: Vision and Viability in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” This seminar will be attended and addressed by academics from a number of Israeli and foreign universities as well as representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Perhaps a better metaphor, as far as this group is concerned, is the “goose that lays the golden egg.”

The atrophying two-state concept will continue to fester until Israel, supported by allies who understand the realities of the Middle East, takes a realistic initiative that will enable a reasonable modus vivendi to exist between itself and the Arab world. Real peace, in the sense of acceptance of Israel within the Middle East as the state of the Jewish people, may remain unattainable, but living without war and terror may be achievable.


Related Content

June 20, 2018
What are the American and Israeli challenges in the Middle East now?

By ERIC R. MANDEL