Why the demise of the Middle East ‘peace process’ may be a good thing
Recognizing that a two-state solution is no longer in the cards opens the way for other paths that don’t depend on Western mediation. It puts to rest the fiction that a Palestinian state will emerge from even the best intentions of the West instead of from the political realities of the Middle East.
Establishing a Palestinian state has been a sine qua non of Western foreign policy for the last 20 years. For some, the evident demise of the “peace process” has given rise to a sense of bereavement nearly on par with the end of civilization. A Palestinian state, for many, was a banner of conscience, a matter of justice. It was perceived, too, as the essential remedy for the wider maladies of the Middle East. Its final exhaustion would seem to edge the region closer to an abyss.Skip to next paragraph
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Paradoxically, this breakdown may well be a good thing. It finally puts to rest the fiction that a Palestinian state will emerge from even the best intentions of the West instead of from the political realities of the Middle East itself.
A Palestinian state has been pursued since the Madrid Conference of 1991 set it as an objective after the first Gulf War. But meanings shift with time. Ideas become hollowed out like shells whose internal living organisms have long since withered.
“Statehood” no longer means what it once meant. It now veils an opposite concept: Statehood no longer signifies autonomy and independence, but an “alleviated occupation” that is really a management strategy of control and containment.
A new concept of statehood?
Perhaps under this concept of statehood a new Palestinian elite could live more comfortably, albeit amid persistent general poverty. Perhaps the visible tools of occupation and control over Palestinian life would be better concealed from the naked eye, even operated remotely through new technology. Such “statehood” would still be an occupation nonetheless, with the Palestinian internal security conduct, borders, airspace, water, economy and even its “electro-magnetic” field under the unchallengeable security control of Israel. Jerusalem, the refugees, and even the status of the Jordan Valley would be left pending for the never-arriving longer term.
In a way, this outcome after two decades is not surprising. It was seeded from the outset by Western acquiescence to Israel’s exclusive notion of self-determination in which its own security imperatives confined the space within which Palestinians would have to find their “solution.”
The fiction unveiled, a moment of clarity
The end of the peace process provides a rare moment of stark clarity as the veil drops, revealing the fiction underlying the two-state narrative. The truth is that a “state” was never on offer. Many in Israel were never comfortable with the concept of a Jewish majority state, since this would confer a parity of rights on the minority. The ideology of Zionism – a system of differential rights for Jews and non-Jews – has always been inherently in conflict with the idea of a Jewish majority. A two-state solution would have formalized a non-Zionist Israel as a “majority Jewish state,” as the counterpart to a Palestinian state.