George Mitchell and the end of the two-state solution
Israel's settlement growth means we have to find a different plan.
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These massive changes on the ground – the majority made since the initiation of the Oslo "peace process" – have, after 41 years, rendered the two-state solution all but impossible. Workaround "fixes"– land swaps, consolidated settlements, and networks of roads and bridges to funnel Palestinians under and around the Jewish West Bank presence – have become increasingly hard to imagine. The goal, after all, is a "viable, contiguous" Palestine, not one cut up by the visions of Israeli engineers in order to maintain an everlasting Jewish presence on Arab land.Skip to next paragraph
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Adding to the increasing impracticality of a two-state solution is the stubborn presence of the settlers themselves, some of whom have pledged violence should soldiers come to evict them. Their religious fervor, and their formidable numbers – dozens of times that of the Gaza settlers removed in 2005 – suggest such threats are not idle.
Israeli President Shimon Peres warned in London recently that such an "evacuation" could trigger a civil war in Israel. Weakening the two-state option even further has been the rain of Hamas rockets from Gaza, and Israel's outsized response, which have placed basic necessities and reconstruction well above peacemaking on the list of priorities.
Mr. Mitchell would do well to listen to people who are thinking beyond two-state options, and foster an openness and creativity absent from American diplomacy since the beginning of this tragedy 60 years ago.
He will continue to hear from former US negotiators, such as Aaron Miller, author of "The Much Too Promised Land," that two states represent "the least bad alternative." Indeed, some of the nightmare futures – the continuation of the status quo, which is growing inexorably into apartheid; or, expulsion of West Bank Palestinians to Jordan, which is already being seriously discussed among Israelis – are completely unacceptable. So is a one-state solution, to Israelis, which they insist would mean the end of the Jewish state.
Yet it was no less a man than Albert Einstein who believed in "sympathetic cooperation" between "the two great Semitic peoples" and who insisted that "no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." A relative handful of Israelis and Palestinians are beginning to survey the proverbial new ground, considering what Einstein's theories would mean in practice. They might take heart from Einstein's friend Martin Buber, the great philosopher who advocated a binational state of "joint sovereignty," with "complete equality of rights between the two partners," based on "the love of their homeland that the two peoples share."
• Sandy Tolan is author of "The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East." He is associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.