When the two-state solution is no longer a practical possibility, we may not have the luxury of deciding what to do: there are few remaining choices. The unraveling of the two state solution is going to leave us with one state, in a variety of possible forms ranging from a government of “one person, one vote” to that of an apartheid state. Israel (and particularly this right-wing government, which is ideologically opposed to two equal and independent states) is trying to push for “autonomous” arrangements whereby Palestinians will control the smallest possible landmass, while squeezing into that area the highest number of Palestinians possible. This “autonomy” will then be rigged to be fully surrounded by Israeli sovereignty on the whole of Israel/Palestine, from the sea to the river. In other words, we Palestinians and Israelis are being offered an apartheid solution where one state will include two ethnic groups, a majority and minority, that answer to two distinct sets of! laws, are served by two levels of infrastructure and maintain two entirely disparate socio-economic levels.
This end result is not going to solve anything, least of all the mutual hostility and fighting, because Palestinians will continue to demand their rights and to correct the injustice they have been done. Subsequently, Israel will never be settled as a stable and normal state in the region and will maintain its negative international reputation.
At the moment, political developments are significantly advancing this prognosis. Not only due to ongoing hostilities, but also because of the current layout of settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, a viable and contiguous Palestinian state is difficult to conceive of. As one Palestinian professor put it recently at a Birzeit University conference, “Five years ago, we were saying that if settlement expansion continues at current rates, then it would jeopardize the two state solution. Now I am saying that we are already at the point of no return, but for those in the audience with their doubts, just imagine things five years from now.”
In other words, either the two state solution is already an impossibility or we are fast moving in that direction. Given the minute chance that current trends will be reversed by political developments, we must begin planning for this eventuality. What is most frustrating is that this situation is by no means an act of God. The expansion of Israeli settlements is man-made, the result of deliberate policies pursued by successive governments of Israel. And in this situation, Palestinian extremists will be happier, riding the new realities created by the Israeli extremists that happen to sit in the Israeli government today.
Once the two state solution is dead, our fate will lie in one of two directions: in a single democratic state where religion and ethnicity do not determine the allotment of rights and resources, or in a limbo where religion and nationality are the basis for violence and instability and hatred for decades to come. In this scenario, both peoples are guaranteed more than their fair share of suffering. For this reason, the practices of the right wing Israeli government are more dangerous than they appear at face value. Not only is this government dismissing today’s small chance to sue for peace, but it is preempting the possibility for peace in the future by doing away with the basic physical outlines of two independent states.
Mr. Ghassan Khatib is a Palestinian political analyst and director of the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.