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Monday, May 18, 2009

Obama tries to pressure Netanyahu into adopting a two-state solution: is it viable?

The Dome of the Rock seen behind the Western Wall. A key area in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in Washington Monday to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama. The key issues on the leader's agenda were how to deal with Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons program and whether or not Netanyahu will endorse Obama's two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

As always, Middle East politics is extremely complex, so it's a good idea to look at some of the different perspectives on the viability of a two-state solution, as well as the other potential solutions that could take its place.

Daniel Doron lays out the case against a two-state solution in Forbes:

The creation of yet another dysfunctional Palestinian Arab state will not only mortally threaten Israel, its irredentist nature will inflame the region. As importantly, it will continue making the personal and communal life of Palestinian Arabs unbearable. Remember what happened in Gaza after Israel vacated it: the wanton destruction of the hot houses Israel left behind to enable the Gazans to make a better living from agriculture; the rule of oppression and mayhem Hamas has instituted in Gaza; the continued impoverishment and immiseration of their hapless citizens. Is this the kind of government America wants extended to the West Bank?

But this will inevitably happen as a result of the premature formation of a Palestinian state. Within a very short time, it will disintegrate and be taken over by the extremist Hamas movement.

As in Gaza, a Hamas West Bank government, an Iranian proxy, will quickly launch missile attacks against Israel. From the West Bank, however, the missiles will not hit a sparsely inhabited Negev but the densely populated heartland of Israel, the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area. They will hit Israel's only links to the world, Ben Gurion International Airport and the ports of Haifa and Ashdod.

This does not mean that Obama's favoured two-state solution doesn't have its supporters. Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland, claims the two-state solution is the only solution:

It is the only realistic alternative since the Israelis will not accept a one-state solution and the Palestinians will not acquiesce in their conditions. The collapse of the two-state option would stress Israeli relations with all its neighbors and test its peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Indeed, it could lead to another Palestinian Intifada, fuel militancy and have serious ramifications for Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. The impact would be felt beyond the region, as the Palestinian issue remains the prism through which many Arabs and Muslims view the world.

Likewise, Benny Morris argues that while the two-state solution is a "practical nightmare," a one-state solution is even less likely to succeed:

If Arab expressions in the early years of the 20th century of fear of eventual displacement and expulsion by the Zionists were largely propagandistic, today -- in view of what has happened -- they are very real. And if Jewish fears in the 1930s of Arab intentions to push them "into the sea" -- to destroy the Zionist enterprise and perhaps slaughter the Yishuv -- were, if heartfelt, unrealistic (as it turned out), today they are very real, as are Jewish fears of a nuclear Holocaust at Islamic hands.

These fears and hatreds make a shared binational state, in which each community inevitably would seek to dominate the other, if only to prevent the other's domination of itself, inconceivable.

Meanwhile, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi made the case for a one-state solution in The New York Times:

A just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, but it lies in the history of the people of this conflicted land, and not in the tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions.…

In absolute terms, the two movements must remain in perpetual war or a compromise must be reached. The compromise is one state for all, an “Isratine” that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it.

Of course, being the Middle East, there is no shortage of ideas on how to solve this conflict. The idea of a three-state solution is becoming increasingly popular. Three-state solutions involve either creating separate states for Gaza and the West Bank, or giving the territories back to Egypt and Jordan respectively, as John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, suggests:

Let's start by recognizing that trying to create a Palestinian Authority from the old PLO has failed and that any two-state solution based on the PA is stillborn. Hamas has killed the idea, and even the Holy Land is good for only one resurrection. Instead, we should look to a "three-state" approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. Among many anomalies, today's conflict lies within the boundaries of three states nominally at peace. Having the two Arab states re-extend their prior political authority is an authentic way to extend the zone of peace and, more important, build on governments that are providing peace and stability in their own countries. "International observers" or the like cannot come close to what is necessary; we need real states with real security forces.

However, in an op-ed piece in The Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick contends that a three-state solution would only serve to weaken the governments of Egypt and Jordan, while increasing the security threat against Israel. Instead, she believes that a new policy paradigm is needed, one that would see an increase in Israel's control over the territories:

The option of continued and enhanced Israeli control is unattractive to many. But it is the only option that will provide an environment conducive to such a long-term reorganization of Palestinian society that will also safeguard Israel's own security and national well-being.

While it is vital to recognize that the failed two-state solution must be abandoned, it is equally important that it not be replaced with another failed proposition. The best way to move forward is by adopting a stabilization policy that enables Israel to secure itself while providing an opportunity for Palestinians to integrate gradually and peacefully with their Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian neighbors.

Personally, I still think the two-state solution is the most viable long-term solution. However, as I wrote awhile back, I have become quite jaded by the whole process:

I am not so naive as to believe that I can come up with a workable solution to such a complex problem. As the fighting continues in Gaza, the situation in the Middle East is becoming analogous to the Kobayashi Maru, the no-win scenario that Lieutenant Saavik is faced with at the beginning of The Wrath of Khan. Can you really blame me for being so pessimistic about the whole situation?

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 18, 2009 in International Politics | Permalink


Tanned and ready. ROGER's back, with a new strategy.

Posted by: dp | 2009-05-19 8:51:54 AM

You forgot to mention the fourth option and likely the most realistic, the post-nuclear exchange rebuild. Perhaps the area will be too radioactive for the UN to get involved, allowing some Darwinism to occur. Failing that, Bolton's plan makes some sense.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-05-19 10:34:58 AM

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