John Kerry Is Wasting His Time — and Ours

Why We Need an Alternative to the Two-State Solution

Mission Improbable: Is John Kerry driving into a dead end?
Getty Images
Mission Improbable: Is John Kerry driving into a dead end?

By Hillel Halkin

Published July 22, 2013, issue of July 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

To what can John Kerry’s efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” be likened? Perhaps to those of a mechanic doggedly working on the engine of an old jalopy whose body is eaten by rust: Even if he gets the damned thing running, it won’t go anywhere.

When something has gone nowhere for 20 years (and that, minus two months, is how long it’s been since Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn), there are two possible conclusions. One is: a little more tinkering, a little more elbow grease, another squeeze of the oil can and — whoosh! — off we go at last. The other is, it’s time to look for a different car.

The Oslo process was built on a central paradigm. One might call it the French-Algerian one, although the names of other countries could be substituted. According to this model, Country A (in this case, Israel) was a foreign power that was colonizing the land of Country B (in this case, Palestine).

What was needed was decolonization. Country A would withdraw its armed forces, governmental apparatus and colonists from Country B, Country B would drop its many grievances against Country A, and the two disengaged states would live independently and apart forever after.

Unfortunately, the Israelis were not the French and the Palestinians were not the Algerians. France and Algeria were, both geographically and in the minds of most of their inhabitants, two different countries. One ended here and the other started there, and although disentangling them was not easy, it was doable.

But “Israel” and “Palestine” (a pair of confusing words that sometimes denote all the territory of the 1918–1948 British Mandate and sometimes just a part of it) are not different countries at all. Geographically, they are a single unit, enclosed by the Mediterranean to the west, the Jordan River to the east, the Sinai desert to the south and the mountains of Lebanon to the north.

Psychologically — for Jewish tradition, for a majority of Israelis and for nearly all Palestinians — they are also one land. Economically they form an integrated area in which Palestinians, while often exploited, use the shekel and depend on Israel for their livelihoods. And demographically everything is mixed together, too. Twenty percent of the population of pre-1967 Israel is Palestinian. Israeli Jews now constitute about the same percentage of the population of the West Bank.


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!
  • 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?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX 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.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • 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.