In 1991, Israeli and Palestinian representatives gathered in Madrid, Spain to restart a “peace process” they hoped, at least ostensibly, would lay the groundwork for a future “two-state solution.” Three decades later, as Israeli bombs rain down on Gaza, the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza seems further from realization than ever. The idea of a two-state solution never made much sense. The West Bank and Gaza are geographically disconnected, and the Gaza Strip takes up all of 140.9 square miles. Under the terms of a future two-state deal, the residents of this tiny strip of land, densely packed with refugees from elsewhere in Israel/Palestine, wouldn’t be able to travel anywhere else in their country without venturing through the territory of a hostile military power that could deny such permission at any time.
One Democratic State
The “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” has often been presented as one of the most intractable in modern world history. But one reason for this is precisely that it has been wrongly analyzed as a conflict and thus the “solutions” offered and the “peace processes” for getting there fail. This is not a conflict. There are not two sides fighting over some issue that can be resolved through technical negotiations and compromise. Rather, Zionism was – and is – a settler-colonial project. Jewish settlers arrived in Palestine from Europe with the intention of taking over the country and making it their own. Like all settler movements they came equipped with a narrative of why the country actually belonged to them, and they pursued their claim to entitlement unilaterally.
Described as the “pope of liberal Zionism” and a “bellwether for the American Jewish community”, Beinart broke ranks in two essays. Writing in the New York Times and in Jewish Currents magazine, he embraced the idea of equality for all – Israelis and Palestinians. Beinart concluded: “The painful truth is that the project to which liberal Zionists like myself have devoted ourselves for decades – a state for Palestinians separated from a state for Jews – has failed. … It is time for liberal Zionists to abandon the goal of Jewish-Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish-Palestinian equality.” Similarly, the Times article was headlined: “I no longer believe in a Jewish state.” Beinart’s main point – that a commitment to Israel is now entirely incompatible with a commitment to equality for the region’s inhabitants – is a potential hammer blow to the delusions of liberal Jews in the United States.
Ever since President Donald Trump blundered blindly into the Middle East with his woefully inexperienced team of advisors, US foreign policy has swung wildly out of control. Predictably, it has destroyed the already fragile two-state solution as defined by the Oslo Accords. It’s no use pretending that such a solution is still viable. That, though, may not be all bad news for the Palestinians, whose current leadership in Ramallah is incapable of actually leading the people and taking control of the situation. The Palestinians have never worn the cloak of victimhood very well; it is simply not in their DNA to sit back and moan about their suffering which is real, very real. Any reasonable person can see that those who were driven from their homes in 1948 by Zionist terror gangs which became the “Israel Defence Forces”, as well as their descendants, have been treated unjustly.
In recent years, the idea of a one democratic state in all of historic Palestine as the best solution to the conflict has re-emerged. It started gaining increased support in the public domain. It is not a new idea. The Palestinian liberation movement, before the catastrophe of 1948 (the Nakba) and after it, had adopted this vision, including the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The PLO abandoned this idea in the framework of the diplomatic negotiations at the late eighties that led to the Oslo agreement of 1993. The Palestinian leadership hoped that this agreement would enable the building of an independent Palestinian state on the territories that Israel occupied in 1967. But on the ground Israel has strengthened its colonial control, fragmenting the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza into isolated cantons, separated from one another by settlements, checkpoints, military bases and fences.