Israel, Palestine, and the demise of “the two-state solution”
From the least of them to the greatest
every one is greedy for unjust gain;
And from prophet to priest,
every one deals falsely.
They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
Saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.
Jeremiah 6: 13-14
On December 2 the New York Times reported: “Israel’s announcement on Friday that it was moving ahead with zoning and planning preparations for the [4.6 square mile area known as E 1] . . . would connect the large Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem, dividing the West Bank in two. The Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem would be cut off from the capitol, making the contiguous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations impossible.”
We have reached the tipping point in public awareness that the so-called “two state solution” has slipped beyond our grasp, never to be retrieved. Year after year the Likud-led coalition of Israeli parties has claimed that it wanted serious “peace negotiations” with the Palestinians. Now it is apparent to all that the nice picture painted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton–“two sovereign states living in peace side by side, one Palestinian and the other Jewish Israel”—is a myth designed to mask the truth. She knows this, of course, but finds it inexpedient to say so. We’ve known for many years that, with the Likud ascendancy, hard-line and religiously fundamentalist Israelis have sought to spread Israeli settlements as rapidly as possible in East Jerusalem and the West Bank (which they call “Judea and Samaria”). To this overarching aim they seek to perpetuate the occupation of Palestine and keep the massive military aid flowing from the United States. The U. S. Congress, Republican and Democrat alike, loves it.
The idea of a truly independent Palestinian state—With its own military? With equal rights to water resources? With a right of return from the Palestinian diaspora? With a shared capitol in Jerusalem?—is utterly out of the question to dominant Israeli public opinion. The best we can foresee is a Palestinian Bantustan, or two, or three, with economic conditions kept so meager that any talented Palestinians will emigrate. I find myself painting a picture that Netanyahu himself could love! Only one problem: It will be an apartheid state, dotted with impoverished, semi-autonomous reservations for the natives, united by figurehead leaders, as we see today in Gaza and the West Bank. If this picture looks familiar, it’s because this is pretty much what we already have.
For a long time we’ve imagined that, somehow, a just peace would be negotiated. President Bill Clinton invested a lot of political capitol in the effort, and got burned. President George W. Bush, sensing it was a loser, and didn’t even try. Then came President Barack Obama, whose advent was crowned as if with leafy fronds on Palm Sunday: Hail the Nobel Peace Laureate! His only efforts have been to protest—ever so mildly—the expansion of Israeli settlements as “not helpful to the peace process.” Which Mitt Romney, predictably, called “throwing Israel under the bus.”
So, what’s brought us to the present tipping point, the collapse of the “peace process” in quest of “the two-state solution”? The Israeli response to Mr. Abbas’s successful bid for United Nations recognition of Palestine as a “non-member State” (rather than “Entity,” as at present), announcing thousands of new homes for Israelis to be built in occupied East Jerusalem. The overwhelming vote left the United States in splendid isolation from world opinion. So much for Mr. Obama’s repairing of our national reputation!
Obama has remained silent on the issue, allowing his minions, Secretary Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice to carry the political water for him. Both justified our vote against recognizing Palestine in this minor way, saying it will be “a setback for the peace process” and “changes nothing on the ground”—words that are true only in the sense that the Israelis, as they well knew, would punish the Palestinians with another massive building program in occupied territory. It had long been planned, the New York Times reported. U.S. protests against these building projects have a ritual quality; there is no follow-up, military aid is never at risk. The retaliation nicely serves the real Likud goal, sealing their illegal annexation of East Jerusalem with irreversible “facts on the ground.”
In East Jerusalem in 2007 I saw the banners placed high on buildings celebrating the 40th anniversary of the “annexation.” Even then I was naïve enough to be shocked. (My sermon, “Journey to Israel and Palestine: What I Saw, What I Heard, What I Felt,” is now posted on the “Addresses and Sermons” page of this blog.) Although the annexation and the settlements in occupied lands are illegal under international law, the U. N. is unlikely to do anything about it. We can expect Hamas, from its base in Gaza, to continue it’s sporadic attacks on Israel. Are these rockets counterproductive? A hopeful view of the situation says No, not helpful. But recent experience suggests that such attacks actually garner moral support. This comes both from within the Palestinian bloc and from much of the world, which stands horrified at the massive Israeli military responses.
Ironically, these attacks also serve the Likud interests, for they maintain the psychology of a mortal enemy on their borders, needed to justify their continued expropriation of Palestinian land.
The upshot of this demonic situation? A one-state solution! It’s time to drop the two-state myth. Let the whole of Palestine/Israel be one country. Would it be a democracy, enfranchising everybody? Maybe, some day. Would it still have racially segregated and unequally funded public schools, among other indicators of legalized injustice? Maybe not, some day. Look how long it took the United States to address these issues, and we’re still far from done with it. Though I suspect the world no longer has that much time; something will explode, first.
A writer of “romance” novels in a recent interview said that her stories are popular—among other obvious reasons—because they have the kind of endings people naturally wish for, happy endings. I’m afraid that this commentary does not have a happy ending. “From prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely, . . . saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” Call these words a “Jeremiad” if you wish, but know that Jeremiah was considered a true prophet because his prophesies proved true.
G. K. B. (Photos taken in 2007 by G. K. B.)