The two-state solution for Israel and Palestinians needs a big boost
Those on the extremes of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict don’t see a two-state solution as viable – or preferable. Secretary of State John Kerry and those in the center with practical ideas about how to achieve two peaceful states must strengthen their voices.
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Efraim Halevy, former head of Mossad (the Israeli national intelligence agency), believes that the best way to achieve two states is through low-profile negotiations. “We have to seek a practical understanding that will serve the interest of both sides without the other side having to renounce its devotion to its basic ideology,” he says. “An example of this is what happened recently in Gaza: When the people from Gaza began shooting rockets, Israel resorted to a weeklong operation, and out of the blue, on the eighth day of the conflict, a ceasefire suddenly emerged.”Skip to next paragraph
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He explains: “Nothing is known in public about this ceasefire, no documents have been published and there is no official information on who actually negotiated the ceasefire agreements. In practical terms, somehow ways are being found to do things that have not been done for several years, such as opening up the fishing area for Gazans. I think that similar things can be done with the Palestinians in the West Bank through negotiations with lower visibility.”
David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute’s Project on the Middle East Peace Process, argues that tunnel vision is best when it comes to negotiations. The disputed territory of Jerusalem and whether Palestinian refugees can return to their homes “are two narrative issues that cut to the self-definition of the parties,” he says. “They deal with very explosive issues like religion and nationalism. It seems to me you’re better off dealing with the practical issues of borders and security, creating the two states, and deferring these other two questions of Jerusalem and refugees.”
These “can-do” suggestions aside, those in the center or moderate position on this issue are not dictating policy or public sentiment. This poses a challenge for Kerry and the many others who still think two states are the best or only option. Rather, the “can’t dos” and “we shouldn’t dos” dominate the public forum, fueling suspicion.
Kerry and those in the center with practical ideas about how to proceed on the ground must strengthen their voices or risk continuing to be unheard. Already public support for two states is ebbing: “Today, after almost two decades of the Israeli left and outside ‘mediators’ pushing a so-called two-state solution on us, I believe that it is clear to the vast majority of Israelis that this fallacy will not lead toward peace and coexistence in our region,” says Likud party (far right) Knesset member Danny Danon.
Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab finds the same thing to be true among Palestinians. “More and more Palestinians are abandoning the two-state solution for the one-state solution, even while knowing that most Israelis still hold onto their desire for a majority Jewish state,” he says.
Is this yet another swing of the two-state pendulum, or is it the end? That public sentiment truly marks the end of the two-state solution is doubtful. But until a leader appears with a vision to mobilize the center, the saga of the two-state solution will continue unresolved.
Nadine Epstein is the editor and publisher of Moment Magazine, a bimonthly of Jewish politics, culture, and religion. For more, go to momentmag.com.