Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Opinion

George Mitchell and the end of the two-state solution

Israel's settlement growth means we have to find a different plan.

By Sandy Tolan / February 4, 2009



Los AngELES

On the surface, the most daunting task facing US envoy George Mitchell in his trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories is strengthening the Gaza cease-fire, and helping Gazans rise from the rubble.

Skip to next paragraph

But actually, the super diplomat's biggest challenge, as he wraps up his first trip and lays plans for future journeys, lies in coming to terms with a grim and unavoidable fact: The two-state solution is on its deathbed.

Since the Six-Day War of June 1967, the two-state solution, based on the concept of "land for peace," has been the central focus of almost all diplomatic efforts to resolve this tragedy. But because of Israel's unrelenting occupation and settlement project in the West Bank, the long-fought-for two-state solution has finally, tragically, become unworkable. Consider:

•In 1993, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat famously shook hands on the White House lawn, there were 109,000 Israelis living in settlements across the West Bank (not including Jerusalem). Today there are 275,000, in more than 230 settlements and strategically placed "outposts" designed to cement a permanent Jewish presence on Palestinian land.

•The biggest Israeli settlement outside East Jerusalem, Ariel, is now home to nearly 20,000 settlers. Their home lies one third of the way inside the West Bank, yet the Israeli "security barrier" veers well inside the occupied territory to wrap Ariel in its embrace. The settlement's leaders proclaim confidently that they are "here to stay," and embark on frequent missions to seek new waves of American Jews to move to the settlement.

•A massive Israeli infrastructure to serve and protect the settlements – military posts, surveillance towers, and settlers-only "bypass roads" that allow Israelis easy access to prayer in Jerusalem or the seaside in Tel Aviv – has cut the West Bank into tiny pieces, fragmenting Palestinian life.

•To maintain separation between West Bank Arabs and West Bank Jews, Israel has erected more than 625 roadblocks, checkpoints, and other barriers – a 70 percent increase since 2005 in a land the size of Delaware, the second-smallest state. Israelis rarely encounter such obstacles, but Palestinians seeking to travel between villages and towns must seek permits, and even then, a short journey can take hours.

•Israel's "suburbs" in Arab East Jerusalem, home now to nearly 200,000 Jews, form a concrete ring, isolating the would-be Palestinian capital from the rest of the West Bank. It is therefore increasingly difficult to imagine how a Palestinian president would govern from a capital that is sealed off from the people of his nation.

Permissions