Israel’s core settlement within the West Bank — known as Ariel — is about to become a little bigger, with the state’s recent approval of 277 new buildings. This construction on disputed lands marks the third new settlement expansion project announced in the past week, or so. Just four days before Defense Minister Ehud Barak signed off on the Ariel expansion, the final go-ahead was given for some 1600 new settler homes to be built in East Jerusalem.
Naturally, the Obama administration has pressed the Israeli government to halt the expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. While the president grasps for anything resembling an authentic symbol of a peace process that disintegrated years ago, the administration’s has turned up the volume on public complaints about these expansive settlements. Of course, Washington’s objections are muddled by an unwritten agreement on the issue between Israel the United States reached during the Bush administration.
Further complicating the matter of West Bank settlement expansion, is the looming September UN vote on the future of Palestinian statehood. For its bid to be successful, Palestine must secure a two-thirds majority from the 192 member General Assembly. It will likely exceed the 128 votes required to achieve that goal.
Honestly, however, the vote is irrelevant.
Palestinian “statehood,” such as it might be, would be immediately vetoed by the United States at the Security Council level. I’m not prognosticating here. President Obama has already said as much. But despite the fact that this distinctively token resolution on Palestinian statehood has already failed to launch, its consequences will be very real.
As far as I can tell, the mere discussion of a Palestinian state has come at Israel’s expense. Passage of the measure would demonstrate the Jewish state’s growing isolation from the international community. Conversely, rejection of the resolution would undoubtedly escalate simmering tensions in the West Bank and Gaza.
But maybe there’s another solution that exists in a parallel universe beyond the hysterical blindness of the Israel question.
I’d like to suggest alternative: a one state solution, that would witness Israel’s acceptance of Palestinians into Jewish society with the same rights and privileges that Israelis, themselves, enjoy. Bear with me…
Suffice to stay, a splintered Palestine divided between Hamastan and Fatahland, is untenable. At best, its stunted economy and lack of resources would render it a blight on an already scarred region. At worst, the tenuous alliance between equally unpopular ruling parties would collapse into violence, amidst the present instability of an uncertain Middle East. In other words, the facts on the ground eliminate the whole “two state solution” hypothesis, despite D.C.’s most dogged diplomatic efforts to the contrary.
As far as I can tell, the inevitability of a one-state solution is generally accepted within the Palestinian Authority. Most of the Palestinians don’t particularly care for the notion of a fractured “homeland” premised on ’67 borders. They also don’t like their homegrown political leadership. To the contrary, most simply want the same basic rights and protection Israelis enjoy, and would take the Knesset for lack of a better alternative.
Palestinians don’t hold a monopoly on this understanding of a one state solution that grants all parties, Jewish or otherwise, equal rights under the law. European diplomats and U.N. staffers are privately discussing the one-state solution. Prominent Jewish professionals in Israel and abroad have offered the most profound endorsements of this solution.
To be clear, I’m not just pontificating from an academic ivory tower on the matter of Israel and Palestine. I recently returned from a summer spent living and working in Bethlehem, just west of the separation wall that divides the West Bank from Israel. In the permanent Palestinian refugee camp where I lived, a plain truth has emerged that’s eluded American diplomats, human-rights activists and academics, alike. The two state solution was DOA from the start. My trip only amplified the death knells I thought I’d been hearing for years.
So why is Mahmoud Abbas pushing for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations? Short answer: I couldn’t begin to tell you.
There are legitimate concerns that a U.S. rejection of Palestine’s membership bid – lacking a suitable alternative – would provoke a violent response. Mr. Abbas is a weak ruler, and widely mistrusted by many Palestinians. His Palestinian Authority could potentially lose control of any broad-based Palestinian street movement.
What I can promise is that Palestine won’t be granted statehood next month and Israel will need to respond accordingly to mounting international pressure given condemnation of recent settlement plans and the near-certain rejection of Palestine’s UN resolution.
Despite concerns about the demographic threat a one-state solution holds for the prevailing Jewish majority within Israel, it is not longer tenable to debate terms based on the presumed convenience of disagreement.