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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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There is no way to solve this conflict without involving our brothers (and this is said without a hint of cynicism) the settlers.

There are those who say that the conflict is insoluble. I believe there are many strategic and tactical risks involved, but the alternative—a “river to the sea” state and continued occupation of another people, with all that it entails—is far worse. As such, the problem is unavoidable. It cannot be put on hold or contained.

This is Netanyahu’s moment of truth. He can prove to all of his most vociferous naysayers and critics (me among them) that he is not just a politician passing his—and our—time in the prime minister’s office, but a leader who is capable of grasping the gravity of the situation; a leader capable of freeing himself of his trepidations, fears and secret advisers; a leader capable of understanding the critical need to rise above himself and establish a proper set of priorities; and, most important, a leader capable of shepherding the nation (or, at least a majority of it) to the right path. I have huge doubts as to whether Netanyahu is such a leader, but I will be the first one to praise him if he proves otherwise.

This is also a moment of truth for Yair Lapid, who has a chance to liberate himself from the image of a Facebook-centric, shallow politician, and for opposition chief Shelly Yacimovich, who can restore the soul of a party gone awry. Together, these two individuals can help Netanyahu rise above himself. There’s no need to worry about Tzipi Livni and Hatnua not extending their support for such a move, and I am convinced that Zehava Gal-On of Meretz will also back it, as will what remains of Kadima and other parties.

This is also the moment of truth for another key figure—Naftali Bennett—who can prove that he possesses the maturity of someone who understands the strategic significance of this point of no return as it relates to the future of the state and this nation.

This is not a matter of Right versus Left, or who is in the political Center.

This is a matter that requires national responsibility of the highest order.

It requires taking advantage of what may be the last opportunity to extricate ourselves from the deadly clutches of our conflict with the Palestinians, clutches that we have tethered to ourselves.

***

I, too, believe that the risks are considerable, and success is not guaranteed because this is a very deep conflict, with dimensions that are religious, nationalistic, and territorial. In the Middle East, blood doesn’t turn into water. The two sides are also separated by deep economic, cultural, and psychological gaps, and the wounds are still fresh. We are still more likely than not to experience moments of crisis, disappointment, and failure, and there will be further need to readjust our expectations amongst ourselves as well as with our Palestinian interlocutors.

I still believe that genuine leadership that charts a clear path toward a defined goal could propel forward a process that if undertaken in a truly positive spirit (and I emphasize a truly positive spirit) could instill hope and create the momentum and positive atmosphere on the Israeli and Palestinian streets, thus leading to the crystallization of strong majorities on both sides that will support the process. Such a process would have to be devoid of pettiness and intrigue, and it would have to entail generous, confidence-building gestures by Israel. It would have to gradually establish a relationship of trust between the leaders, a relationship that just may form the basis of fruitful negotiations.

As part of this effort, a complete, immediate cessation of all construction in the settlements (with the exception of some building within the large blocs) for an indefinite period is critical to keeping alive the chances of creating a positive atmosphere conducive to relaunching negotiations. Even acceding to the Palestinian Authority’s request for the release of “pre-Oslo” prisoners and bolstering Fatah’s credibility in the eyes of the Palestinian street is, in my view, a worthy gesture. It is far more preferable than capitulating to the dictates of a terrorist organization that abducted an Israeli soldier and agreeing to the disproportionate release of murderers in prisoner swaps that will only encourage more abductions.

Perhaps we will fail. One cannot discount this possibility, which would most likely lead us to begin entertaining all sorts of interim alternatives that some have bandied about, most prominent of which is a unilateral Israeli move in which we exit most of the territories that we control today without coordinating it with a partner or delineating an agreed-upon border.

It would also be done most likely without summoning significant public support for the evacuation of outposts and settlements that lie outside of the large settlement blocs.

Such a move may partially—and temporarily—improve Israel’s image in the eyes of the world, though this is doubtful. It will not, however, solve the problem. Obviously I would recommend against giving this alternative any sort of preference at this stage. I do not believe in the utility of such a move or in the ability to implement it.

Given the complexity and the gravity of the situation, I would recommend that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is famous for his admiration for Winston Churchill and is wont to quote him, make it a point to internalize this quote from the latter: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” This is true leadership in a nutshell. It is a leadership that adheres to a determined path, one that is determined to realize the goals that it has established.

There is no alternative but to enter into a diplomatic process with the Palestinians, here and now, despite the anxieties and the numerous risks. Without such a process, we will certainly cross the point of no return, after which we will be left with one state from the river to the sea for two peoples. The consequences of such a state for our national identity, our security, our ability to maintain a worthy, democratic state, our moral fiber as a society, and our place in the family of nations would be far-reaching.

***

Tablet Magazine is reprinting this English-language translation by Amishai Gottlieb of Yuval Diskin’s essay, which first appeared in the Jerusalem Post, because it is an unusually eloquent and persuasive statement of one view of Israel’s future.

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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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