IS THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION DEAD?
The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state.
— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN, Sept. 23, 2011
Let’s say it clearly and categorically: the two-state solution is dead. If the possibility ever genuinely existed – a subject historians are welcome to debate – it is gone as a political option. We should even stop talking about it because constant reference to an irrelevant “solution” only confuses the discussion.
How do we get to such an unequivocal pronouncement? Well, it only takes a little digging into the positions behind the official words and the ability to decipher the “codes” in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is couched to arrive at the unsurprising and straightforward conclusion that Israel has no intention of allowing a viable and truly sovereign Palestinian state to emerge even on the 22% of historic Palestine that is the Occupied Territory. But Israel does not rely solely on its political opposition to a “genuine” two-state solution – that is, one on which a Palestinian state arises on all the territory occupied in 1967, even if that is desired and the refugee issue can be somehow finessed – to carry the day. It has laid over the Occupied Territory a matrix of control anchored in its all-encompassing settlement project to effectively foreclose that option. Finally, Israel relies in Europe, but even more so on the United States, to fend off any international initiatives that might result in a two-state solution.
To nail down Israel’s opposition to a two-state solution and the measures it has taken “on the ground” to eliminate it, let’s use two occasions where the Israeli government was forced to spell out its positions as our points of departure. First, Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan University speech of June 14, 2009, when the new Obama Administration was pressing the newly-elected Prime Minister to actually utter the phrase “two-state solution” (which he didn’t). And second, the outcome of the desperate attempt of the “Quartet” (the US, Europe, Russia and the UN) to elicit from Israel a clear position on borders before its own self-imposed deadline of January 26, 2012 (which it pretty much did).
The Bar Ilan Speech:
Understanding the Codes and the Realities “On the Ground”
On the surface, what Netanyahu said that day at Bar Ilan University (a conservative religious university in Israel) seemed to meet Obama’s expectations – minus an explicit reference to the “two-state solution.” “In my vision of peace,” he said,
there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence…. I told President Obama in Washington, if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.
But then there’s the fine print. Let’s look at the key qualifications Netanyahu mentions in his speech. They can be presented as eight fatal obstacles to a two-state solution:
1. “The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been – and remains – the [Palestinians’] refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.”
This is not the place to get into an in-depth critique of Zionism; so many other accounts already exist, including my own An Israeli in Palestine. Suffice it to say that the Zionist claim of exclusive ownership over Palestine as the Land of Israel may have allowed for a tactical acceptance of partition in 1947, but has steadfastly until this day refused to acknowledge the existence of a Palestinian People with competing national claims to the land. Israel began exercising its exclusive claim when, in 1948, it reduced the Palestinian population living within its expanded borders from 950,000 to 154,000, a drop of 80%, and continued it after the occupation of 1967 when it established “facts on the ground” to foreclose any coherent, viable and truly sovereign Palestinian state. The Occupation is pro-active (in fact, Israel officially denies having an occupation since it recognizes no other claimant, and certainly not the Palestinians who never had a state of their own and whose claims are therefore disqualified according to Israel’s unilateral “principle of the missing sovereign”).
Netanyahu’s assertion is also factually false. In 1988 the PLO recognized the state of Israel, both in its official acceptance of UN Resolution 242 which acknowledges “the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force,” and in the political communiqué that accompanying the Palestinians declaration of independence in which the nationalistic principles of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its goals are defined as “ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to repatriation, self-determination, and the establishment of the independent Palestinian state.” Since then it has been Israel’s decision not to permit the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territory, i.e., on only 22% of historic Palestine, which has constituted “the root of the conflict.” This sentence of Netanyahu’s speech only affirms the Israeli line that “there is no partner for peace,” thus effectively removing any Palestinian representative from genuine negotiations.
2. “The fundamental condition for ending the conflict is the public, binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People…. Palestinians must truly recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.”
As a precondition for opening the Oslo peace process, the Palestinians were required yet again to formally recognize the state of Israel, which Arafat did in an open letter to Rabin (September 9, 1993) in which he wrote:
The signing of the Declaration of Principles marks a new era in the history of the Middle East. In firm conviction thereof, I would like to confirm the following PLO commitments:
The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.
The PLO accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
O commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.
The PLO considers that the signing of the Declaration of Principles constitutes a historic event, inaugurating a new epoch of peaceful coexistence, free from violence and all other acts which endanger peace and stability. Accordingly, the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators.
In view of the promise of a new era and the signing of the Declaration of Principles and based on Palestinian acceptance of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel’s right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid.
(For the record, Rabin’s reply acknowledged neither the Palestinians’ right to self-determination nor acquiescence to a two-state solution. His one sentence letter simply stated dryly: “In response to your letter of September 9, 1993, I wish to confirm to you that, in light of the PLO commitments included in your letter, the Government of Israel has decided to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and commence negotiations with the PLO within the Middle East peace process.”)
Now, at Bar Ilan, Netanyahu inserted a fresh demand: before any negotiations could begin, the Palestinians had to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This introduced an entirely new element that Israel knew the Palestinians could not accept, if only because it prejudiced the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel. This is not merely an academic concern; it cleared the way for “transfer,” for ethnic cleansing, if a Palestinian state were to be established. “My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two distinct national entities,” said Tzipi Livni, Foreign Minister in the previous Olmert government and currently head of the Kadima Party. “And among other things, I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them: ‘Your national aspirations lie elsewhere’” (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 11, 2008).
3. “Whenever we discuss a permanent arrangement, Israel needs defensible borders.”
“Defensible borders” is another one of the code phrases for annexation of even more Palestinian land. Although Israel presents its positions as emanating from legitimate security concerns, in fact the two major “facts” that have eliminated the two-state solution – the creation of seven settlement “blocs” that imprison the Palestinian population in small, impoverished, resource-poor and truncated cantons (Sharon’s term) and the construction of “Separation Barrier” – have nothing to do with security.
From the start, the settlement enterprise was a pro-active attempt to both establish effective control over strategic parts of the West Bank – not in order to impose security (the army could do that well enough and civilian settlers might actually get in the way) but to establish new borders of an expanded Israel. Both the ideologically-driven settlers of the “Greater Land of Israel” Movement and Israeli government officials placed the settlement actively squarely within the Zionist enterprise; just as pre-state settlements played a major role in establishing the borders of Israel before 1967, so, too, would the settlements in the West Bank (or preferably, Judea and Samaria) determine whether the Greater Land of Israel would or would not come into being. “Defensibility” had nothing to do with it. No one even pretended that the annexation of Palestinian “East” Jerusalem had any security justification.
This is clearly reflected in the major document legitimizing Israeli control of the Occupied Territory, President George W. Bush’s April 14, 2004, letter to Prime Minister Sharon, which is at the foundation of Israel’s assertion that the US recognizes the legitimacy and permanency of the settlement blocs. Like Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech, it starts out sounding good: “As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338.” But then the underlying codes reassert themselves. “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion,” writes Bush, fatally undermining the “Road Map” initiative he himself had proclaimed just a year before. Notice the language. No “settlements” or “Occupied Territory,” only “existing major Israeli populations centers…on the ground.” And they are not connected in Bush’s letter to security but are rather presented merely as “new realities on the ground.” In one fell swoop Bush both sanctioned and normalized Israel’s major settlement blocs while, by declaring it “unrealistic” to expect that Israel would withdraw to the 1949/1967 lines, he eliminated any possibility that a viable Palestinian state could emerge.
(The role of Congress in supporting the Bush letter should not be overlooked, since it is the overwhelmingly “pro-Israeli” position of both parties that gives Israel the security of knowing that support for its policies, no matter how outrageous and even detrimental to American national interests, will be passed from Administration to Administration, Congress pro-actively reigning in any President who even appears to be unduly pressuring Israel. Thus the House, in an act that went almost unnoticed by the media and the public, passed Resolution 460 endorsing the Bush letter by the almost unanimous vote of 407-9. In fact, the Congressional Resolution went even further than Bush, eliminating any reference to a negotiated settlement or to a “viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent Palestinian state.” The next day the Senate passed a similar resolution (S Resolution 393) by a vote of 95-3. Sharon, as might be expected, called the votes one of the biggest diplomatic achievements in Israel’s history. “This is a great day in the history of Israel,” he told a meeting at the ruling Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv. “The bi-partisan Congressional support for the President’s letter and the State of Israel is without a doubt one of the most important diplomatic achievements for Israel since its creation.”)
Besides giving Israel the authority to construct settlements within East Jerusalem and the settlement blocs – despite the Road Map’s requirement that settlement construction be stopped – the significance of the Bush letter in nullifying the 1967 borders upon which a two-state solution rests is evident in the policies of Obama Administration until th
is day. In his own policy speech at the State Department on May 19, 2011, Obama, too, started out positively. “The borders of Israel and Palestine,” he declared, “should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Even mentioning the 1967 lines, in contradistinction to the Bush letter, sent Israel and its advocates into apoplexy. Obama quickly backed down. On May 22, in a speech before AIPAC, Israel’s lobby in Washington, he issued a correction that could only be picked up by those familiar with the codes, but one of fundamental significance to any two-state solution. “I know that stating these principles – on the issues of territory and security – generated some controversy over the past few days. I wasn’t surprised…. Since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday — not what I was reported to have said. I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state…. Now, that is what I said.”
So far, so good. And then came the punch-line. “And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what ‘1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps’ means. By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967 [applause from the AIPAC crowd.]. That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years [more applause]. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides…. If there is a controversy [over my previous statement], then, it’s not based in substance.” Obama virtually quoted from Bush’s letter, Netanyahu smiled (he was fresh from his second speech before Congress which was received with 28 rounds of applause and standing ovations 28 times) and the two-state solution was buried (yet again).
4. “Any area in Palestinian hands has to be demilitarized, with solid security measures….”
Demilitarization doesn’t sound bad. True, most countries regard their armed forced as the very symbols of their sovereignty (a few years ago General Petraeus flipped the coin at the opening of the Superbowl while fighter jets flew overhead). True, Israel has been named 2012’s “most militarized nation in the world” by the Global Military Index (for the sixth year running). Yet at least one country, Costa Rica, has renounced a military, so maybe not having an army isn’t such a bad thing for the Palestinians.
The problem is, as with all the code words, that “demilitarization” means much more, especially when reframed as “security-based diplomacy” by Israel’s military strategists. Last year the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a right-wing think tank with close relations to “pro-Israel” think tanks such as the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) – yes, there really is an organization with that name – the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy and the Heritage Foundation, convened a conference of Israel’s leading military thinkers to deliberate on “Israel’s Critical Security Requirements for Defensible Borders: The Foundation for a Viable Peace.” I attended, and the convocation reminded me of C. Wright Mill’s characterization of such people as “crackpot realists.” So “realistic” and hard-headed were their assessments, so authoritative was their security-speak, that one could understand why Netanyahu’s seeming reasonable “security-first” approach eliminated any two-state solution. The military “experts” concluded that there is simply no room from a security perspective for any form of a Palestinian state. The conference, whose conclusions were published in a volume of the same name and edited by Dan Diker (2011), sets out explicitly the main principles guiding Israeli military thought – and why from the security perspective of crackpot realists leaves no breathing space for Palestinians.
In sum, the principles are:
- The Palestinians are Israel’s permanent enemies; the Middle East is irrevocably hostile to Israel.
Since the beginning of the conflict, even before the founding of the state and all the way through the Oslo Accords, says Moshe Yaalon, a former IDF Chief of Staff and presently the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister,
the readiness of the Zionist leadership to reach an historic compromise has failed to convince the Palestinians to forgo their commitment to “armed struggle” and other forms of opposition to the right of the Jewish people to live peacefully in a nation-state of their own in their historic home, the Land of Israel…. The lessons learned…is that the Palestinians have adhered to their historical narrative of armed struggle that denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation-state, regardless of signed agreements or unilateral Israeli withdrawals.
And if a Palestinian state would be established? Would there be peace? “Israel is likely to face two main scenarios in the wake of the establishment of a Palestinian state,” according to Major-General Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, former head of Military Intelligence (quoted in Diker 2011:36):
In the first scenario, the Palestinian state-in-formation would be a failed one, that serves as a convenient base for the development of terrorist infrastructures…. In the second scenario, involving the entire region, the threat to Israel would develop to the east of the Palestinian state, and Palestinian territory would be used as a base from which to attack Israel. Islamic radicalism would provide the context for this type of threat.
The assumption driving of Israel’s political and military leadership, as well as the vast majority of its population, is that the Arabs – Palestinians and other Arabs, and by extension the entire Muslim world – are Israel’s permanent enemies. Throughout the history of Zionism, says Shlomo Gazit, a somewhat more critical military thinker, in his book Trapped Fools (2003:8-9), “Israeli leaders did not see a Palestinian people with political aspirations of their own, but rather intransigent enemies whose only hope was the destruction of the State of Israel.” The Palestinians, this line of thinking goes, will never accept the idea of the state of Israel in their midst – and especially an exclusively Jewish state of Israel – thereby locking Israel into permanent conflict, a constant struggle for its very existence. Since Israel will never know genui
ne peace, it must ensure a qualitative military edge over its enemies, hence its obsession with security and the importance it gives to security politics. This, despite the PLO’s acceptance of the two-state solution in 1988, its reaffirmation in the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, twenty years of negotiations in the Oslo process, formal peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and, until the second Intifada at least, functional relations with many of the Arab and Muslim countries.
And in a sense this is true in a kind of Catch-22 way. Since Zionism, embodied today in Israeli government policy, claims an exclusive right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and has never, until this moment, acknowledged Palestinian national rights or even the very existence of a Palestinian people, Israel itself has left the Palestinians with little choice but to be its permanent enemies until Israel agrees to a political settlement that addresses their national aspirations – although they made an enormously “generous offer” to Israel when they accepted the two-state solution. Israel, in its own self-serving way, interprets Palestinian resistance in purely security terms, thus perpetuating the conflict and enabling it to impose a permanent form of colonization.
- Security-based diplomacy.
“Israel’s formal diplomatic positions on the peace process must be derived by first establishing its security needs, rather than the reverse,” writes Diker in another JCPA publication (2010:92). Adds Yaalon in the conference report: “Israel’s vital security requirements and a conditional endorsement of a Palestinian state were laid out by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his first major policy speech at Bar-Ilan University. [The] ideas he endorsed represent a restoration of Israel’s traditional security-based approach to achieving a lasting peace.”
As the following “security” principles show, such an approach forecloses any just and workable peace.
- Israel will maintain an active and constant military presence in the Occupied Territory.
Today, the relative calm on Israel’s borders and in Judea and Samaria should not be misinterpreted…. [The] IDF has been working around the clock to uproot the terror infrastructure in many Palestinian areas…. The recent decline in Palestinian violence is not a generous response to Israeli gestures. Rather, greater calm has been accomplished largely because of the construction of the security barrier, ongoing IDF operations in Judea and Samaria that keep terrorists on the run, the increased rivalry between Fatah and Hamas, and a growing realization that Palestinian terror doesn’t pay (Yaalon 2011).
- No return to 1949 armistice line/1967borders.
[The JCPA conference] is a corrective to the widely-held view in many international quarters and even in limited circles in Israel about the “need” and even the “inevitability” that peace requires Israel to withdraw to the perilous 1949 armistice lines (erroneously called the 1967 “borders”). These borders would not achieve peace – they would weaken Israel and invite war by denying the Jewish state strategic depth and topographical protection against Palestinian rocket and other attacks. The 1949 armistice lines enabled Israel’s enemies to deploy and operate in dangerously close proximity to Israel’s main population centers to such an extent that they constituted an existential threat to Israel…. If the IDF were withdrawn to the 1949 lines, the conquest of Judea and Samaria would become easier and therefore assume even greater strategic value to Hamas and its Iranian patron…. Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom would thus both be threatened by the attempt to develop a “Hamastan” in Judea and Samaria (Yaalon 2011).
- Maintaining control over strategic parts of the West Bank and of a “greater” Jerusalem.
Israel’s security depends on its retaining defensible borders. This means maintaining control over key areas of Judea and Samaria and certainly over an undivided Jerusalem. Any division of Israel’s capital city will invite sniper attacks, and mortar and rocket fire on the country’s capital from the surrounding high ground. In the event that the Palestinians obtain full sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, those areas – as Gaza before them – may be quickly taken over by Hamas and become staging grounds for attacks on Israel. This would pose a particularly serious threat due to the topography of the territory, which includes high ground from which even relatively primitive rockets – and even mortars – could easily strike Ben-Gurion International Airport (Yaalon 2011).
Adds Major-General Uzi Dayan (2011:32), a former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff:
After 1967, due to defensive considerations, Israel moved to establish permanent control of the hills dominating its capital, developing the Givat Zeev settlement bloc to the north, the Gush Etzion bloc to the south, and the city of Maale Adumim to the east of Jerusalem. Maale Adumim is also located along one of the most important strategic east-west roads for moving Israeli reinforcements into the Jordan Valley in case of war. It is essential that Israel retain control of these areas that dominate Jerusalem
- If a Palestinian state were to emerge, it will not have territorial contiguity, either between the West Bank and Gaza (“safe passages” will not be extraterritorial) or within the West Bank. It may have “transportational contiguity,” but only under Israel supervision.
[C]ontiguity refers to creating an unobstructed connection between all the West Bank cities, so that a Palestinian could drive from Jenin to Hebron. Palestinians might construe American references to contiguity as including a Palestinian-controlled connection from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, like the “safe passage” mentioned in the Oslo Accords. But this would entail bifurcating Israel in two (Gold 2011:60).
“Transportational contiguity,” an Israeli term brought up repeatedly in negotiations, is meant to offset the Palestinians’ loss of territorial contiguity. It would indeed allow Palestinians to drive from Jenin to Hebron, but would maintain Israeli control – checkpoints and various kinds of surveillance – as well as the right to arrest Palestinians as they traverse “Israeli” space.
- Israel will keep its major settlements – and the settlement “blocs.”
As for further evacuations of Jewish communities, similar to those of Gush Katif in Gaza and northern Samaria in 2005, this, too, has to be considered in a broader context – even beyond immediate security concerns relating to the Palestinians. The fact is that the mere discussion of removing Israeli settlements encourages jihadists across the globe…. We ha
ve learned from bitter experience that territorial withdrawals do not alleviate grievances; they indicate weakness and convince Israel’s enemies that victory is possible (Yaalon 2011).
When Ehud Barak proposed to “jump” to final status negotiations in 1999, he consolidated the settlements Israel sought to retain into “blocs” that expanded Israel onto 85% of historic Palestine (versus today’s 78%) and reduce the Palestinians to “cantons” on only 15% of their historic homeland. Instead of dealing with 200 settlements, Barak had only to negotiate the annexation of seven settlement blocs: (1) the Jordan Valley Bloc. Comprising some 30% of the West Bank, the Jordan Valley – from which Palestinians have been almost entirely removed except for the city of Jericho and replaced by settlers – contains some of the Palestinians most fertile land and the source of much of the West Bank’s water (the Jordan River). Without the Jordan Valley, which Israel insists is its “security border,” the Palestinians have no unmitigated border with Jordan, and thus no genuine sovereignty; (2) the Ariel Bloc that divides the West Bank east and west, creates the norther Palestinian “canton” and preserves Israeli control over the Territories largest water aquifer; (3) the Modi’in Bloc that connects the Ariel settlements to Jerusalem; (4-6) a “Greater Jerusalem” consisting of three settlement blocs: Givat Ze’ev to the northwest of the city, the expansive Ma’aleh Adumim Bloc extending to the northeast and east of Jerusalem, which effectively cuts the West Bank in half again and creates the central and southern Palestinian “cantons,” and the Etzion Bloc to the southwest. It also keeps the Palestinians of the West Bank far from Jerusalem, isolating the 200,000 Palestinians of East Jerusalem from their wider state and society, and cutting the natural urban link between Jerusalem and Ramallah. In terms of viability, this bloc constitutes the greatest threat to a coherent Palestinian state. It separates Jerusalem from its wider West Bank surroundings, and because some 40% of the Palestinian economy revolves around Jerusalem, it destroys the very economic viability of a Palestinian state. In general the “Greater Jerusalem” concept neutralizes Jerusalem as a major Palestinian urban, religious and cultural center. And (7) a corridor rising from the settlements in the south to incorporate the Jewish community of Hebron.
- Israel will retain permanent Israeli control over the mountains running through the center of the West Bank and over the Jordan Valley.
There are several specific threats that defensible borders can help prevent. The first is that of rockets. Today, Hamas possesses rockets with a range of more than 50 kilometers. If launched from the Judea-Samaria mountain ridge, these rockets could strike the center of Israel where more than 70 percent of the population resides. This is also why it is crucial for Israel to control the strategically vital Jordan Valley (Yaalon 2011).
- Military thinking rules out a Palestinian state; only limited “autonomy” is possible.
Israeli policy immediately following the Six- Day War in 1967, and up to the Oslo Accords in 1993, centered on finding a formula that would enable Israel to avoid ruling over the Palestinians, without returning to the unstable pre-war ‘67 lines. It was on this basis that Israel did not annex Judea, Samaria and Gaza, yet at the same time did not speak of a Palestinian state within those territories. In fact, nothing that Israel did or said in those years – including at the 1978 Camp David Accords between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, which called for “autonomy for the Palestinian people,” and later, in 1993, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin entered into the Oslo Accords – constituted intent or consent to establish a Palestinian state within the pre-war ‘67 lines. Those Israeli leaders understood that these lines were indefensible…. Rabin was very clear on the need to provide Palestinian autonomy, yet maintain defensible borders for Israel (Yaalon 2011).
- A Palestinian state, should it emerge, must be demilitarized and Israel must retain security control (with all the implications for genuine Palestinian sovereignty).
“An additional necessary condition for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” says Yaalon (2011), is
that it be demilitarized…. Israel must insist on preventing the prospective Palestinian state from acquiring any arms or maintaining forces other than those necessary for internal Palestinian security and preventing terror attacks on Israel…. But even a demilitarized Palestinian entity does not mean that Israel can afford to fully relinquish security control… [T]here will have to be a permanent IDF presence controlling the border crossings, particularly on the eastern side of any future Palestinian state, as well as the right of the IDF to enter the Palestinian entity when warranted.
- Israel must control all the borders, plus the “external envelope” around any Palestinian state.
Proper supervision and inspection by the IDF and other third-party monitors, not outside security forces, at the international border crossings to prevent the smuggling of prohibited weapons and dual-purpose materials, infiltrations of terrorists, and the transfer of funds and other forms of aid to terrorist groups in the Palestinian state…. Supervision of the external envelope along the borders of the Palestinian state, including supervision of the seas (Farkash 2011:46).
- Israel must control Palestinian airspace and the electro-magnetic sphere.
Israel must control a unified airspace in order to prevent hostile military action and terrorist aerial activity from the skies over a Palestinian state, or through it, aimed at the Jewish state. Farkash 2011:45).
Brigadier-General Udi Dekel (2011:76-78), former head of the IDF Strategic Planning Division, raises yet another little-known restriction on Palestinian sovereignty: Israeli control of the electro-magnetic (communications) sphere:
Similar to Israel’s vital security requirement to control a unified airspace if a Palestinian state is established, the topographical conditions and limited distance between the
population and communication centers of the two entities do not allow for division of
the electromagnetic spectrum. Since it largely occupies the central mountain ridge, the
Palestinian Authority enjoys a topographical advantage – with its communication systems
far less vulnerable to disruptions and jamming than those of largely coastal Israel. A
small Palestinian transmitter station on Mou
nt Eival, near Nablus, for example, could jam
virtually the entire communication system in Israeli areas broadcasting on the same
frequencies…. Israel’s position is that it must retain overriding control of the electromagnetic spectrum, and there must be an effective supervisory apparatus in place to
guarantee that its decisions are implemented. The Palestinians, on the other hand, view
this issue – as in the case of airspace – in the context of sovereignty. They demand
full independence in managing the electromagnetic spectrum and consider Israel’s demands to be excessive and their own to be based on international conventions.
- The Palestinians must not only recognize the State of Israel but recognize it as a “Jewish state.”
Perhaps the most important element of a viable security framework is the requirement that the Palestinians at all levels of society inculcate in their people a culture of peace that forswears indoctrination and incitement to violence and terror, and accepts the Jewish people’s 3,300-year connection to the Land of Israel and its right to live in Israel – the Jewish nation-state – in peace and security (Yaalon 2011).
- No reliance on “foreign forces” (read: no international presence that would allow Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines, a necessary condition for the establishment of a minimal Palestinian state and the achievement of a two-state solution).
The return to a security-first approach is firmly rooted in Israel’s longstanding commitment to defend itself without reliance on foreign forces. Israel has never asked any foreign power to endanger its troops in its defense. Israel’s insistence on defensible borders…will ensure that Israel will be able to defend itself in the future…. International peacekeepers tend not to be militarily equipped or organized to deal with the threats they face. Their bureaucratic incentives orient them toward cautious, risk-averse behavior – the exact opposite of the motives that drive a nation- state’s military forces…. Peacekeepers are not strong or capable enough to prevent terrorist groups….from arming and organizing themselves – but they are enough of a presence to become a dangerous obstruction on the battlefield when war breaks out. This has been a great detriment to the IDF’s ability to carry out crucial missions (Yaalon 2011)
- The strategic importance of “framing.”
[Part of] Israeli strategy [considered] critical is combating the incessant delegitimization of Israel that has become a major feature of the strategy to weaken and destroy the Jewish state. The notoriously biased, misleading, and vicious UN-sanctioned Goldstone Report proves the dangers that Israel and other liberal democracies face when forced to combat terror…. [A key] element that characterizes Israel’s current policy is the emphasis it places on the national and historic rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Without this component, arguments over security and borders have no context. One of the central challenges Israel has to confront in contending with Palestinian aggression is its successful “asymmetrical” battle in the international court of public opinion…. Now is the time to put these axioms of Jewish rights and history at the forefront of the debate and use them as an integral part of Israel’s security strategy (Yaalon 2011).
5. “The Palestinians cannot make military treaties…”
And, to ensure peace we don’t want them to bring in missiles or rockets or have an army, or control of airspace, or make treaties with countries like Iran, or Hizbullah…. We must provide for our security needs…. (Netanyahu at Bar Ilan)
6. “Jerusalem remaining the united capital of Israel…”
This demand alone, inserted into Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech but always presented by Israeli leaders as absolute and unbending, torpedoes any two-state solution. Not only does it ignore completely the religious, cultural and political significance of Jerusalem, but the disconnection of a “greater” Jerusalem from the rest of Palestine destroys any economic viability a Palestinian state may have. The World Bank estimates that 40% of the Palestinian economy revolves around Jerusalem, where tourism would be its largest potential industry, and excluding it from a Palestinian state cuts out that state’s economic heart. But, like the two-state solution itself, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem is already a dead letter. The Israeli “closure” of the past 18 years prevents Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from entering; its own local economy has virtually died. Israeli settlements and highways, around and throughout the city have destroyed the urban fabric of Palestinian East Jerusalem, fragmenting it into disconnected ghettos (or “villages,” as Israel calls them). “Jerusalem remaining the united capital of Israel” is only another confirmation that the two-state solution is gone.
7. “The territorial issues will be discussed in a permanent agreement. Till then we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements….”
This claim is deceiving, but also indicates to what degree Israel has in fact completed its incorporation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Even the term “settlements” is misleading because it minimizes the size and degree of control of settlement cities, some of them housing 50,000 residents or more, spread strategically throughout East Jerusalem and the West Bank “settlement blocs.” Three circles of expropriation surround every settlement. Besides the built-up area of the settlements that one actually sees, each settlement possesses an expansive master plan (the urban space of Ma’aleh Adumin, for example, extends from Jerusalem to Jericho, effectively cutting the West Bank in half). All this is then integrated in the seven settlement blocks comprising about 25% of the West Bank. Since the US recognized the settlement blocs as being permanently a part of Israel, all Israeli construction within them is considered “in-filling” or merely “thickening” existing settlements to account for “natural growth.” Then there are myriad ways of grabbing additional Palestinian land, some legal, some not. The “Special Security Area” (SSA) framework surrounds twelve settlements east of the Separation Barrier with rings of land that are closed to Palestinian entry, though more than half of this ring land is under private Palestinian ownership. B’tselem estimates that pirating private Palestinian land by settlers blocks Palestinian entry to tens of thousands of acres of farm land, thus annexing them de facto to the settlements. Area C. Other areas have been designated as Nature Reserves or “closed military areas.” And on and on….
The bottom line is that, in one way or another, Israel already controls the strategic land it nee
ds to foreclose any viable, sovereign Palestinian state and can indeed complete its settlement enterprise without expropriating additional land or building “new” settlements.
8. “We need a clear agreement to solve the Palestinian refugee problem outside of the borders of the State of Israel…. this humanitarian problem….”
Without genuinely addressing the refugee issue, there will be no resolution of the conflict. It is not a “humanitarian problem,” but a human rights issue rooted in the refugees’ right to return.
Reading the Bar Ilan speech with a critical eye and informed by both the “facts on the ground” and Israel’s security thinking, we have a better insight into the cryptic remark made by Netanyahu at his address before the UN last September where: The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state. What is evident is that a Palestinian state is not in the cards.
January 26, 2012: The End of All Illusions Regarding a “Two-State” Solution
We have passed many “turning points” and deadlines in the struggle to end the Occupation. The latest, following Mahmoud Abbas’s approach to the UN last September, was laid down by the “Quartet:” the parties had until January 26, 2012, to present their positions, particularly on borders, so that negotiations may resume. The Palestinians, who have maintained their position for the past 25 years, did so almost immediately. Negotiations can begin on the basis of the 1949/1967 lines and an end to Israeli settlement construction.
Israel delayed until the last day, then presented a position without maps or explanations whose implications, now that we have decodified the discourse, we can readily understand. In any permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, said Isaac Molho, Netanyahu’s representative, most of the Israelis who live in the West Bank will remain in Israeli territory, while the Palestinians in the West Bank will be in the area allotted for a future Palestinian state.
The Palestinians rejected this out of hand and declared the negotiations ended – though at this writing there are hints that they may go on until March due to American and European pressures. The PA threatens to launch a “diplomatic offensive” to put Israel under an “international siege.” It may apply to the UN General Assembly for non-member observer state status, which they would surely receive. And Fatah and Hamas are again talking of a unity government and elections in May, 2012.
None of these steps would end the Occupation, though they may shift support in world public opinion towards the Palestinian cause. Ironically, even as the two-state solution disappears irrevocably under the eight of Israeli settlements and US obstructionism, even as negotiations fail miserably and Israel publically proclaims positions that rule out a viable Palestinian state, and even as the two-state solution is being rejected as unjust and inadequate by growing sectors of the Palestinian public, the PA continues to cling to it. Why it does so is not clear. As a para-government, it may be locked in by diplomatic constraints. Or it may be seduced by the billions of dollars being channeled into its institutions, Palestinian NGOs (just look at the massive new buildings and expensive new restaurants in Ramallah) and into the upper- and middle-classes so dear to the neoliberal Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Or, maybe, it is ensnared by the privileges conferred on its VIPs by Israel or by a false sense of power bestowed by its American trained and equipped militia – which many Palestinians consider a second oppressive occupation regime.
Where is Israel Headed? Towards Warehousing
Israel and its supporters also know full well that the two-state solution is dead, and good riddance because it gave too much land and sovereignty to a collection of people whose national rights Israel has always denied. But it nevertheless plays a key role in perpetuating Israeli control of the Occupied Territory, holding everything in place until the Occupation is normalized, the Palestinians pacified and the world moves on to the next urgent conflict. By playing along with variations of a two-state solution that it knows are unacceptable to the Palestinians – for example, a “two-state solution” in which the Palestinians are locked into a non-viable, semi-sovereign Bantustan – Israel is able to avoid any genuine solution to the conflict, since any genuine solution would require either too large a concession of land or shared sovereignty with the Palestinians.
But while Israel endeavors (with the US, Europe and, for its own reasons, the Palestinian Authority) to keep the two-state charade going on indefinitely, it has already moved on to the next stage: putting in place an apartheid regime or, preferably, simply warehousing the Palestinians forever.
The term “apartheid” is an emotive one. We recall the firestorm that greeted Jimmy Carter’s 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, but since then it has entered into the mainstream debate. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has run editorials warning of an impending apartheid regime over the Occupied Territory, and even Ehud Olmert, when he was the Prime Minister, warned that if the two-state solution Israel would “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished. Israel’s supporters abroad would quickly turn against such a state.” So far Israel has avoided that eventuality by keeping the illusion of negotiations going. (Even as I write this, Feb 2, 2012, Netanyahu has asked the visiting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to “prod” the Palestinians to “continue the peace talks.” “Israel,” he said, “is interested in continuous talks with the Palestinians while preserving the security interests of Israeli citizens.”) But in hindsight, given current Israeli policies and the fact that Israel has completed its de facto annexation of the West Bank, a remarkable development has emerged: apartheid is the liberal “solution” based on a concept of “two-states” pushed by Barak, Sharon and Olmert in which the Palestinians would get a truncated Bantustan in the nooks and crannies of the settlements. Netanyahu’s vision of warehousing, embodied in his famous phrase “autonomy plus-independence minus,” is far more chilling.
Ehud Barak was the first to give an explicit name to Israel’s policy of apartheid: hafrada, which in Hebrew means “separation,” just as it does in Afrikaans. Hafrada is Israel’s term for its policy towards the Palestinians, most tellingly in the official name of the Wall – the “Separation Barrier” (mikhshol ha-hafrada). Apartheid is neither a slogan nor a system unique to South Africa. The term describes precisely a regime defined by
two elements: one population separating itself from the others, then creating a permanent and institutional regime of domination. Exactly the conception of Barak, Sharon and Olmert.
The Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Palestine, convening in Cape Town, South Africa and hearing testimony on separation and domination not only in the Occupied Territory but within Israel itself, issued a clear statement on why Israel’s policies constitute apartheid:
This discriminatory regime manifests in varying intensity and forms against different categories of Palestinians depending on their location. The Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are subject to a particularly aggravated form of apartheid. Palestinian citizens of Israel, while entitled to vote, are not part of the Jewish nation as defined by Israeli law and are therefore excluded from the benefits of Jewish nationality and subject to systematic discrimination across the broad spectrum of recognized human rights. Irrespective of such differences, the Tribunal concludes that Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.
Yet apartheid at least pretends to respect the political rights of the people it in fact oppresses. The regime in South Africa promoted an “eleven state solution:” the creation of ten black Bantustans (actually called “homelands”) on 13% of South African land, the rest becoming a “white democracy.” Israel’s version of the two-state solution would do the same: create a Palestinian Bantustan on 15% of historic Palestine, grant it putative sovereignty yet keep it entirely under Israeli control and domination, the rest of the country becoming a “Jewish democracy.” Warehousing makes no such pretense. Just as in a prison, Palestinian would become inmates – or more accurately, wards of the international community – to be fed, protected but that’s all. It represents the bleakest of realities for the Palestinians, since it is a static condition leading nowhere. Aided by the US, Israel merely delays and dallies for years, prolonging “negotiations” indefinitely by perpetually holding out the possibility of a two-state solution, all the time pacifying the Palestinians by military operations, mass arrests, infiltrating thousands of collaborators, revoking residency, confining them to tiny and impoverished enclaves (the cells of the prison) surrounded by high walls – in general making life unbearable so as many as possible will leave altogether. At some point down the road, Israeli rule will be normalized and the Palestinians quietized, any attempt on their part to resist put down as “terrorism.” The world will move on to other issues, perhaps, as in Israel, to its own internal problems and to the obsession with entertainment and, like prisoners, the Palestinian will simply disappear, become a non-issue.
The haunting spectre of warehousing lends an urgency to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – though colonization and displacement more accurately capture the nature of what is happening in Israel/Palestine than “conflict” does, given the tremendous disparity in power and control between the two “sides.” Yet in the current political paradigm of the two-state solution we simply cannot get there from here. The Israeli facts on the ground, combined with an American refusal to allow a genuine, if tiny, Palestinian state to emerge, have brought us to a dead-end. Nor is a one-state solution, be it a democratic or bi-national state, possible given the present constellation of American and European support for Israel as a “Jewish” state.
Still, I believe that the conflict is unsustainable. It is not merely a localized conflict between two peoples but is a global one fundamentally disruptive to the international system and a challenge to the rule of international law and human rights that cannot be allowed to prevail. We must keep the pressure on – through BDS, our flotillas to Gaza and resistance actions inside the Occupied Territory, lobbying governments and mobilizing public opinion – but we must also seek the collapse of the “peace process” of the past twenty years and the agency that allows it to continue, the Palestinian Authority. This may seem like a cruel thing to say, but in my view only when the Occupation is thrown back squarely into Israel’s lap will it become unsustainable. Only then will the international community, pushed by an exasperated Muslim world and a galvanized global civil society, be forced to act. When that moment arrives, we must be primed to ensure that the new political possibilities that arise from out of the chaos lead to genuine justice and a lasting peace. Part of the process of “clearing the table” will be to abandon, once and for all, the illusion of a two-state “solution.”