Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently argued, “What is required is creative, novel thinking in order to resolve these complex [peacemaking] issues.” Netanyahu has never been so right.
The current Mideast peace talks will fail, as befell predecessors, because they are based on a flawed premise blocking the conflict’s resolution. The proposed solution is based on an uneven partition of the land. Israeli Jews, who make up roughly 50 percent of the population, would receive at least 78 percent of the land – and probably more – while the Palestinians who comprise the other half of the population would receive what remains.
Over the last 100 years countless attempts have been made to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via partition. All have failed. Today, with Israelis living comfortably in all parts of the country, including major parts of the West Bank, there is no reason to expect the current attempt will fare any better. On the contrary, one can count on further attempts at partition to fail.
This solution, a two-state outcome wrongly regarded as the only game in town, is based on the Zionist narrative claiming that Jewish Israelis have a greater right to the land than do the Palestinians. The current state of affairs in Israel/Palestine is that 10 million people are ruled by the State of Israel but live under different laws. Israeli Jews enjoy a free democratic society, Palestinians who are Israeli citizens make do with limited rights within Israel, Palestinians within the West Bank suffer from a dual system of law, while those in Gaza are confined to an open-air prison over which Israel maintains ultimate control.
Israeli forces may detain or kill Palestinians at will and without due process. Furthermore, Israel can easily confiscate land and other property from Palestinians. Recourse by Palestinians stripped of property or fundamental rights is confined to a kangaroo court that largely rubber stamps military and government actions. International law is toothless.
Israel has made its stance on the main issues of the conflict abundantly clear: no, no, no, and no. Israel will never stop building settlements, Israel will never share Jerusalem, Israel will never allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, and Israel will never return to the pre-1967 borders. In other words, Israel rejects Palestinian requirements – and the obligations of international law — needed to establish a free and independent state.
The Arab leaders who support the current talks and traveled to Washington last week are all recipients of billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid. They certainly cannot afford to say no to the President of the United States. Likewise, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who saw first hand how his predecessor was vilified and then placed under siege while Israeli tanks took over the Palestinian government headquarters in Ramallah, cannot say no to ham-fisted demands by Israel and the U.S.
The Palestinian Authority is often likened to a government – it has a Prime Minister, a parliament, and a President – but in reality its authority merely rivals that of a city council. The Palestinian Authority has very little control and is permitted to do very little governing. Israel essentially exercises veto control.
Netanyahu was right to propose it is time for “creative, novel thinking,” but his caveats on a Palestinian state doom it from the start. It is time to discard the two-state premise.
Since both people share the land they call home, their futures are tied together. They must chart their future together as equals. As Israelis and Palestinians are already largely governed by one government and one state, it is time that they have an equal voice in that government and an equal voice in determining their shared future. A shared state providing equal rights and protection under the law to all those who live in this shared homeland is the only way for the two peoples to enjoy peace and prosperity.
The two-state solution is finished, done in by decades of settlement activity entrenching unmovable colonies. A pluralistic, secular democracy in all of Israel/Palestine, with no partition and no segregation, will be a powerhouse of creativity and cooperation and will enable Israelis and Palestinians to move ahead towards a bright future. What worked in South Africa and a de-segregated American South can work in Israel/Palestine as well.