Jan 24th 2009

The End of the Two-State Solution?

by Joschka Fischer

Joschka Fischer, Germany’s Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998 until 2005, was a leader in the German Green Party for almost 20 years.

BERLIN - Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has fought seven wars against its neighbors, including the recent war in Gaza. If you add the Palestinians' first and second Intifada in the occupied territories, the total rises to nine.

From a military perspective, Israel eventually won all of these wars - or at least didn't lose them. But neither have these wars changed much for Israel in strategic terms. Indeed, the core conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has remained almost unchanged throughout the past 60 years.

The United Nations' Partition Plan of 1947, which split the former British Mandate of Palestine between both peoples, was not and still is not accepted until this day. Sometimes one side rejects it; sometimes the other. This is why, to this day, people on both sides are dying.

Of course, Israel made a "cold peace" with Egypt and Jordan, and also established diplomatic relations with a few other Arab countries, but nothing has really changed at the core of the conflict, despite the Oslo peace process of the 1990's and other treaties and agreements with the Palestinians. The central question for both sides remains unanswered: where does Israel end and Palestine start?

Without a territorial compromise between Israel and the Palestinians, the conflict will go on endlessly, for it is viewed as existential by both sides. All those involved know that, in the end, only the borders of June 1967 - including Jerusalem and a negotiated, smaller territorial exchange - can be acceptable to both sides, however painful. Everything else is evil wishful thinking for which more innocents will continue losing their lives.

But, while it is abundantly clear that Israel will not vanish, and that the Palestinians will not wave the white flag, the conditions for a two-state solution are deteriorating. It took more than four decades for the PLO to recognize Israel. But, with Hamas's victory over Fatah, the Palestinians have gone back to square one, to the rejection of 1948. Hamas rejects any peace with Israel, and is at best prepared to agree to a temporary truce. Moreover, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood it also pursues an Islamist agenda, supported by Syria and Iran.

On the Israeli side, approximately 200,000 settlers on the West Bank and further development of the settlements weigh heavier than all noble words about two states. Given the facts on the ground created by Israel, there are justified doubts about whether a two-state solution is feasible at all.

The war in Gaza will harden this negative trend. For one thing can already be said with almost complete certainty: the political casualties on the Palestinian side will include President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. Their loss of legitimacy will not be reparable.

Whatever becomes of Hamas in military terms following the recent fighting in Gaza, politically it has finally taken over the PLO's role as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians. This means that the West's policy of isolating Hamas in order to weaken it, which has been pursued since Hamas's victory in a free and fair election in 2006, has failed.

When the weapons remain silent and the dead in Gaza are buried, the question of a political solution will re-emerge. An initial truce, by means of international mediation, can lead to a monitored long-term truce and reconstruction in Gaza. But what then?

Both Israel and the West will no longer be able to postpone the question of how to deal with Hamas, because Abbas and Fatah are now too weak and discredited to negotiate a peace settlement. And there is no easy answer, because Hamas will gain status through negotiations while maintaining its position to destroy Israel.

Or do we de facto accept Hamas's position that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not possible, and that peace talks therefore make no sense?

In that case, we would have to make do with organizing a truce until the next crisis. But that would finally make any two-state solution a lost cause, and, although Hamas would have lost militarily, politically it would have won.

The alternative to a two-state solution is continuation of the conflict and the de facto reality of a one-state solution in which Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean will, sooner rather than later, constitute a majority. For Israel and the Palestinians, this is a dire perspective from both a strategic and a humanitarian point of view. Indeed, it is hopeless.

Trying to extricate both parties from the strategic dead-end into which they have maneuvered themselves will be possible only from outside. First, the United States must attempt to integrate Syria and Iran into a regional solution that also fundamentally changes conditions for both Israelis and Palestinians. Second, the US must impose a two-state solution on the parties involved, which will require both determination and maintaining the unity of the main international actors.

If an imposed solution fails, the entire region will begin to slip into a dangerous confrontation during the first years of Barack Obama's presidency. And that confrontation will not be limited to Israelis and Palestinians.


Copyright: Project Syndicate/Institute for Human Sciences, 2009.

If you wish to comment on this article, you can do so on-line.

Should you wish to publish your own article on the Facts & Arts website, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com.

 


This article is brought to you by Project Syndicate that is a not for profit organization.

Project Syndicate brings original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by esteemed leaders and thinkers from around the world to readers everywhere. By offering incisive perspectives on our changing world from those who are shaping its economics, politics, science, and culture, Project Syndicate has created an unrivalled venue for informed public debate. Please see: www.project-syndicate.org.

Should you want to support Project Syndicate you can do it by using the PayPal icon below. Your donation is paid to Project Syndicate in full after PayPal has deducted its transaction fee. Facts & Arts neither receives information about your donation nor a commission.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "