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Tomorrow There Will Be No More Two-State Solution—and Then What?

Ex-Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin warns that Israel’s leaders appear to be dangerously detached from reality

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Israeli security near the separation wall in Abu Dis, bordering Jerusalem, July 2013. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)
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One only needs to consider what took place in the largest political parties that supposedly support a two-state solution. When asked to comment on their positions during the election campaign, Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who for the most part was certain that he was en route to a crushing victory, said nothing of consequence about the subject or other matters. Yair Lapid continued to dazzle us with mediocre pronouncements that were designed to be well-received by all, shrewdly avoiding the need to commit himself either way as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Shelly Yacimovich has steadfastly refrained from any clear-cut statement on the topic, which has traditionally been a litmus-test issue for her predecessors in the Labor Party.

At the center of the Israeli political map and taking a clear stand were just Tzipi Livni, the leader of Hatnua, a party that placed a solution to the conflict as the central item on its agenda; Meretz, headed by Zehava Gal-On; and the disintegrating Kadima Party.

The reasons for this disappointing and disconcerting state of affairs could be found in a misunderstanding of the gravity of the situation as well as in discomfort from meeting this issue head-on, a discomfort motivated by narrow political interests. Then there is the populist stance taken by leaders who prefer uncontroversial, palatable sound bites that appeal to the widest possible audience. They take this stance while avoiding the task of dealing with a fateful, weighty, and unpopular issue that is still on the national agenda.

Whoever is adept at constantly drawing “red lines” for the Iranians would be better off taking a look at his next-door neighbors rather than those on the other side of the far-off, darkened hills, for doing so would reveal to him that it is here, right here, where we are nearing the point of no return. The problem is that our planes that will take off toward the unknown will also be of no use in solving the problem.

***

If our leaders in Israel and the Palestinian leadership both lack the necessary willpower to lead us to a two-state solution, then it would be best to begin thinking about the bi-national alternative in realistic terms. This isn’t because I necessarily support the bi-national model, but rather because it is gradually turning into the only alternative that is on the table. If the situation remains as is, then it would be best to begin preparing for the inevitable.

This alternative entails addressing some serious concerns. What status will be conferred upon the Palestinian citizens in this “from the river to the sea” state that we have created with our own hands? Will they have full voting rights like those enjoyed by Israeli Arabs? Will they be given equal rights as residents with the exception of the right to vote? Will we grant the Palestinians autonomy that will allow them to manage their own affairs? And what of the Arab citizens of Israel? Won’t they demand autonomy of their own? Will the security situation improve in such a setting? Will the Palestinians really relinquish their demands once this “river to the sea” state arises? Will we remove the separation wall in such a state? How will we sort out our identity as a Jewish and democratic once we turn into a minority? Will our status in the eyes of the family of nations improve as a result? We cannot simply brush off these questions as nothing more than “shrapnel in the buttocks,” in the words of Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi. Indeed, in the eventuality of a “river to the sea” state, one of the most difficult questions that need to be addressed is who is the shrapnel and who is the buttocks? These are questions that cannot be evaded by means of “bypass routes” or highway junctions, nor can they be sidestepped by annexing pieces of Area C or establishing Palestinian autonomous zones in line with the “progressive” vision propagated by Bennett and others. There really is no way to avoid these issues.

If we don’t wish to continue ruling over another people and thus turn into an ostracized apartheid state, there is no alternative but to grant full rights, including the right to vote, to Palestinians. In such a scenario, there is no need to hold further discussions about the future of the Jewish and democratic vision as put forth by our founding fathers, the same vision on which we were reared and educated. It will melt away and disappear.

***

Lapid and Yacimovich must help Netanyahu. Yes, on the surface this issue is quite simple, yet at the same time there is no more complex conundrum. It seems simple because everyone knows what the parameters of a settlement will inevitably entail: the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state along the 1967 lines with territorial swaps that will allow Israel to keep large settlement blocs; a symbolic right of return for refugees, with financial compensation being paid to Palestinians in the diaspora; dismantling of settlements that are beyond the agreed-upon borders and compensation to those who will be evicted from them; a political partition of Jerusalem that would be in line with our interest to avoid ruling over a large Palestinian population; a creative solution regarding sovereignty over the holy sites in the Old City (internationalization, perhaps?); a resolution of the future status of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall; and a diplomatic solution over the contours of Israel’s eastern border and the Jordan Valley.

This alternative is also extremely complex for a number of reasons.

There are the enormous psychological gaps and lack of faith between those who are charged with leading the negotiations; the fact that apparently neither Netanyahu or Abbas has what it takes to lead their peoples to such a solution; the fact that Abbas has no solution to the serious rift that has been created between his Fatah-led West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip; the fact that it is impossible to solve this conflict without Hamas; and—let’s face it—the fact that Netanyahu has no realistic solution to the federation-like network of settlements that has grown out of control in the West Bank.

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Tomorrow There Will Be No More Two-State Solution—and Then What?

Ex-Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin warns that Israel’s leaders appear to be dangerously detached from reality