The non-state solution

For years Israel and the Palestinians have been in negotiations towards a two-state solution; two new books look at where the negotiations are going and whether the idea is still feasible.

One land, two states book (photo credit: PR)
One land, two states book
(photo credit: PR)
On July 29, 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat shook hands in Washington and began yet another round of peace talks.
Nine months later those seemed to have reached another point of non-committal. Neville Teller, looking back on it in his new book The Search for Détente, says, “I thought of titling the book... ‘Road to Nowhere.’” Why two more books on the subject of Israel-Palestinian negotiations? Neville Teller, a commentator for Eurasia Review, whose articles frequently appeared in The Jerusalem Post, sets out to look at the recent period of negotiations. Mark Levine, a history professor at the University of California; and Mathias Mossberg, a retired Swedish ambassador, in One Land, Two States, seek to bring together essays on a novel approach of a concept called “parallel states,” which envisions two states overlapping in some convoluted way between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Ocean.
Reading Teller’s book feels like reading statements from today. Back in 2012 Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told PA President Mahmoud Abbas that “you can’t have it both ways, it’s either a pact with Hamas or it’s peace with Israel.”
This is a reminder that in 2012, just as he did in 2014, the PA leader was looking to form a unity government with Hamas. Readers will wonder what the point of a whole book on only two years of failed negotiations is. Teller tries to point out in his various chapters that the conflict in this period has deep roots.
He argues that “the civilized world is confronted by loosely-knit world-wide Islamist terrorist groupings-Jihadists – intent on disrupting and eventually destroying our way of life.” Furthermore Hamas “includes in its official charter the notorious forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Teller’s book is based on articles he wrote over the last two years on topics from the Iranian nuclear threat to the role of the Arab League in the peace process.
One Land Two States seems to start off on the right foot.
It argues that “only by challenging the established paradigms and looking at the basic elements from a new perspective can new ways forward be found that will bring the much-desired ends of peace, fairness and justice for both peoples.”
The authors argue that the current parameters of the peace process have been ineffective and “counter productive” and they want to ask new questions. The following chapters don’t deliver the goods.
Mossberg argues that outside the Middle East “control of territory has ceased to carry the same meaning it once did... economic and political power no longer grows only out of power over the land.”
He sketches a notion of a post-national global market.
In this he observes that much “sovereign space has been ceded to other actors than the nation-state.”
If he meant terrorist groups like Islamic State he might be correct in the Middle East, but he means “international institutions, transnational companies, major cities... and even private citizens.”
All this may be true for Europe and a few places in Asia. But it is the diametric opposite in the Middle East. Peter Wallenstein’s chapter proposes “peace by 2017.”
The author is a professor of peace and conflict studies at Uppsala University and his analysis of other occupations, such as Cyprus, is accurate in saying that occupations don’t end without some benefit for the occupier. But his view of “similar” situations to Israel leaves much to be desired. He proposes that two states be carved out of the same space and that they be overlapping in Israel and the Palestinian territories. This sounds nice, but what does it mean? In addition, issues relating to property and Jewish communities in the West Bank “would be a matter the two states would have to deal with early and head-on.”
Citizens would have access to resources in both states. The question not asked is what is in this for Israel? Israel already has access to all these resources and, anyway, debates over how to divide the West Bank are precisely what encumbers negotiations.
In the end the Levine and Mossberg text is an academic exercise in imagining a two-state solution that might work in Europe whereas Teller’s narrow analysis examines the apparent failure of the last two years of negotiations. What both books remind us is that Israel and the Palestinians are no closer to a peace agreement than they were years ago.