It has been well-understood among alternative media outlets for some time that the alleged two-state solution for Israel-Palestine was little more than a charade. Now, it appears The New York Times has caught up, with one of its lead columnists recently writing that the era of the one-state solution is upon us.
This really is a remarkable development. Not because the article is particularly good or insightful, but because of where the article is appearing. For all its flaws, the NYT remains a deeply influential news outlet. Perhaps not for most everyday Americans, but it certainly is important for many powerful people in business, academia, and politics. Indeed, it is entirely common for politicians to cite stories in the NYT to buttress their arguments. So the fact that they are willing to take a position like this, one that would be previously viewed as radical, is significant in itself.
It also happens to be the correct position. As it stands, the West Bank region that would theoretically comprise a future Palestinian state has been hopelessly carved up by Israeli settlements. There are essentially islands of Palestinian-dominated lands that are divided from each by settlements with extensive walls in between them. Thus, as a practical matter, a two-state solution would require uprooting thousands of (generally radical) Israeli settlers from their homes and sending them back to Israel proper. And this is a near impossibility.
To understand why, it’s useful to consider an analogy that could make sense in an American context. As most people know, much of the land that comprises the US today was originally taken from Native Americans many years ago, some of it through peaceful sales but most through force. If there was an ongoing occupation or open conflict with the Native Americans today, there might be an argument that the Native Americans need to have their original holdings (the ones taken through force) restored. In a way, it’s easy to see how that would be just. In another way, the generation growing up on the once stolen land of today had nothing to do with perpetrating the original crime, which could complicate the calculation somewhat. Either way, as a practical matter, no one would have any illusions that it could practically be achieved in any case. You’d have to uproot entire communities, and no conceivable political scenario would allow that to occur. Of course, this is a somewhat extreme example since Americans are multiple generations removed from the initial confiscation. But really, you only need one generation to pass before something becomes effectively the norm. It thus follows that many settlers in the West Bank view it as their proper home and would be unwilling to give it up without a fight.
And actually, we don’t really have to speculate that this is the case. Israel knows its settlers are unwilling to leave their land from experience. Back in 2005, Israel removed settlers on a smaller scale from the Gaza Strip. Even though the policy only affected a small part of the overall population (some 9,000 according to Ha’aretz), the decision was furiously protested and left a very negative legacy. Applying a similar policy to any meaningful portion of the West Bank settler population (estimated at 500,000 Israelis) would clearly be an impossibility.
As a result, the two-state solution has been dead for some time. It is based on a false premise; that the Israeli settlers could be removed. The reality is that no Israeli politician would dream of implementing such a thing. But discussions of a two-state solution have been a helpful distraction. It makes the US happy and the EU happy, and it helps shield Israel’s occupation policies from scrutiny–since after all, they are temporary (ahem, and have been for nearly 50 years). As long as the discussions continued, the status quo did as well.
But the Palestinians and the Middle East deserve more than the status quo. Israel has already de facto annexed much of the West Bank. What is needed is for the annexation to become official and for them to grant all Palestinians in their borders the full citizenship and due process rights that are accorded to regular Israelis. That’s what the one-state solution ultimately entails, and at this point, it’s all that’s left.
For more on this, I’ll refer you to the original NYT piece from Thomas Friedman. Be forewarned that the commentary in this piece, particularly about Iran, should be taken with several grains of salt. The NYT is not known for its even-handed coverage of Middle Eastern affairs after all. Here’s that piece.
And finally, you can check out this related piece on the Israel-Palestine conflict that we did a few months back for some more general background.