Palestinian support for 'two-state' solution drops with Israel defiant on settlement freeze
Palestinian support for a two-state solution is declining, according to a new poll released as Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to continue building in East Jerusalem.
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Israel considers Jerusalem its "undivided and eternal" capital but its 43-year control of the eastern part of the city has long been contested by Palestinians, who make up a majority in the district but have increasingly faced housing evictions in favor of Israeli settlers. Israel's announcement during Vice President Joe Biden's visit earlier this month that it would build 1,600 new homes in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of East Jerusalem led to a rare chill in US-Israel relations. President Barack Obama had been urging Israel to adopt a full settlement freeze as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians.Skip to next paragraph
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But the Palestinians have long hoped that East Jerusalem – home to religious sites sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims – would be the capital of a future independent state. Though Israel has apologized about the timing of the announcement to build new homes, it has vowed to move forward and declared that neither the Palestinians, nor anyone else, has a right to tell them what to do in East Jerusalem. Though Israel annexed East Jerusalem after 1967 neither the United Nations nor most other states consider it to be legally Israel's.
Could the dream of two-states living in peace die? While it's unlikely to leave the peace process discourse any time soon, some in Israel and Palestine say that will be the inexorable outcome of settlement expansion, with the chance that a Palestinian population growing at a faster clip than Israels will eventually demand political representation in Israel on a one-man, one-vote model.
"A generation ago, the demand for establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel expressed a radical, post-Zionist stance," Israeli political scientist Meron Benvenisti wrote in Haaretz at the end of last month. "Now that this position has been deemed acceptable by the heart of the establishment, and even serves as the platform of centrist political parties, the circles that fought for it are distancing themselves from it. In its stead has come talk of a binational state."
Enfranchise Palestinians, or enforce apartheid
Dr. Benvenisti was deputy mayor of Jerusalem under Teddy Kollek in the 1970s and was responsible for administering the predominantly Arab eastern neighborhoods of the city. In the 1980s, he was one of the loudest academic voices in Israel warning that Palestinian population growth could eventually leave Israel with the unattractive options of enfranchising the Palestinians, which would undermine the Jewish character of the Israeli state, or of administering a form of apartheid.
"Those hostile to Israel have discovered that the call for one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, a state based on civil and collective equality, is a powerful propaganda tool, because it is based on universal norms that enable critics to denounce Israel as an apartheid state," he wrote. "There is a growing realization that the chances of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state no longer exist, aside from an entity along the lines of a bantustan... The diplomatic positions of Benjamin Netanyahu's government inevitably lead to a diplomatic deadlock and a deepening of the policy of annexation."
Benvenisti's views are as yet far from mainstream in Israel – or almost anywhere else. After all, a majority of Palestinians still favor a two-state solution as do most Israelis and major powers such as the US.
But recent events have also emphasized that the time for that option is drawing shorter.
"As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel, it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic," Israel Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in February. "If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."
(This story was corrected after posting to show that 71 percent of Israelis support a two-state, not a one state, solution. We apologize for the error.)