The State of the Two-State Solution

The Hour

By Leonard Fein

Published April 15, 2009, issue of April 24, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Perhaps you’ve noticed, but what with all the spring cleaning, Obama’s 24/7 whirlwind and Pesach, it may have escaped your attention: Our world is upside-down.

In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the term “hard-liner” is used to refer to a person who opposed the idea of an independent Palestinian state. There were such people in Israel, in numbers that dwindled over the years. Ask them how they saw the future, and they’d wax eloquent about Israel’s right to the whole of the land, or about Palestinian perfidy or, even more commonly, they’d shrug their shoulders and say, “Who can tell how the situation will change in the years ahead? Why tie ourselves into knots? The status quo is not so bad.”

As against this, the two-state crowd said and sometimes shouted that time was not on Israel’s side, that the world was growing weary of this futile conflict, that muddling through was inadequate and, frankly, inappropriate for an allegedly sophisticated and enlightened state. More: The “benign” status quo was actually corrupting the consensual values that once characterized that state.

But by now, after two messy and inconclusive wars, one with Hezbollah in the north and the other with Hamas in the south, in the thick of growing impatience with a conflict that seems permanently stuck, there’s more and more talk of a “one-state solution,” a state that would reach from the Mediterranean to the Jordan and would (somehow) guarantee the rights and perhaps even a degree of autonomy for its component minorities (i.e., the Jews). Those who cling to the two-state idea — that is, those who believe that a Jewish state is both desirable and possible alongside a new Palestinian state — increasingly resemble, and feel like, a balloon with a slow but accelerating leak. They have become today’s hard-liners, hewing to Zionist axioms that once felt bold, evoked fervor, but now seem increasingly quaint, forlorn.

It took an unconscionably long time for the Palestine Liberation Organization to accept the idea of a two-state solution. Yet today, its most ardent advocate is Mahmoud Abbas, still president of the Palestinian Authority. And the Saudis are not far behind. In the meantime, Israel has a prime minister who is steadfast in his distaste for the two-state idea. The world has turned upside-down.

Fortunately, President Obama is apparently quite serious in his commitment to the two-state solution, even if that means provoking a real divide between Jerusalem and Washington. The Obama people have begun a quiet campaign with congressional leadership to prepare for what might be called “a confrontation,” but which in truth is no more than an insistent call on Israel to honor commitments it has long since formally accepted. This follows Obama’s March 24 press conference in which he said, bluntly, “the status quo is unsustainable.” Israeli officials, nervous and incredulous, try to paper over the impending tension, claiming that the differences between the two governments are, as one Cabinet minister put it, essentially “semantics.” (If that is so, count me as anti-semantic.)

So we approach a moment of truth for pro-Israel American Jews: Accept the sterile Netanyahu perspective, all foam and no beer, or stand firm, with Obama, against the status quo and for a two-state solution, which is to say, for a Jewish state.

Let there be no mistake: A one-state solution with Jews in control and the Palestinian majority offered less than full rights of citizenship is morally and politically bankrupt. It is an invitation to continuing violence. A one-state solution with the Palestinian majority in control means an end to the Zionist enterprise, to the Jewish state. But: A two-state solution is not an option that will always be available. Unfolding facts on the ground — growing Palestinian resentment, growing Israeli settlement — are already subverting its prospect.

In Khartoum in 1967, the Arab world famously issued its “three no’s”: No to peace with Israel, no to recognition of Israel and no to negotiations with Israel. First Egypt, then Jordan rescinded that doctrine. Now the Saudis and the Syrians are willing, even eager, to negotiate, as are significant elements among the Palestinians. And the Israelis? By turning toward Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, they turn away from the serious pursuit of peace, hence away from an enduring Jewish state.

There are times when what seems to be mere irony is in fact tragedy.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen.
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.