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The End of the Two-State Solution

Losing the only right answer

Adam Chandler
December 10, 2012

Over the weekend, two notable voices seemed to turned their backs on a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Thomas Friedman, the eternally cheerful Times columnist, lamented the impending retirement of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whom Friedman designates as the last effective adherent of the “Yitzhak Rabin school.”

Rabin, the former Israeli prime minister and war hero, started exactly where Bibi did: This is a dangerous neighborhood, and a Jewish state is not welcome here. But Rabin didn’t stop there. He also believed that Israel was very powerful and, therefore, should judiciously use its strength to try to avoid becoming a garrison state, fated to rule over several million Palestinians forever.

Even more morose was Leon Wieseltier, who sounded the death knell for peace in his life.

I have been thinking about lost causes because I have concluded that one of my causes is lost. I no longer believe that peace between Israelis and Palestinians will occur in my lifetime. I have not changed my views; I have merely lost my hopes.

It’s hard to blame them. Both give a grim diagnosis between Israel’s unilateral withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza, which brought more violence and other regional instability in the region doing little to gird the conditions for peace. It doesn’t help that there are growing murmurs about the likelihood of a third intifada.

But what about the alternative? Friedman was joined in the Times by Saree Makdisi, who announced the death of the two-state solution as the opportunity for one state. This is a cynical idea that seems to be gaining traction at the fringes of each side. Makdisi wrote:

A campaign for rights and equality in a single state is a project toward which the Palestinians will now be able to turn with the formidable international support they have already developed at both the diplomatic and the grassroots levels, including a global boycott and sanctions movement whose bite Israel has already felt.

For Palestinians, in any case, one state is infinitely preferable to two, for the simple reason that no version of the two-state solution that has ever been proposed has meaningfully sought to address the rights of more than the minority of Palestinians who actually live in the territory on which that state is supposed to exist.

Jeffrey Goldberg, before detailing the nightmare of a one-state reality, took Makdisi to task:

What is remarkable about Makdisi’s column is what is remarkable about all calls for a one-state solution: He writes as if a) the Jewish people do not deserve a state in even a part of their historic homeland; b) the Palestinians were never offered a state of their own (why can’t, just for once, an advocate of the one-state solution acknowledge the fact that the United Nations offered the Arabs their own state in Palestine in 1947, an offer their leaders rejected? Not to mention offers made to Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas?) and c) the one-state solution is actually a solution.

The argument for one state may be weak, but the nightmare of it is quickly becoming real, whether fools champion it or not. The window seems to be closing–inexorably–on the opportunity to make a lasting peace that would maintain a Jewish democratic state.

Even as Arab rejectionism remains the leading cause for the failure of peace, the Jewish world–its scholars, spiritual leaders, and public intellectuals–should begin to think soberly about how to handle the crises ahead. There is no Iron Dome for demography. And there is no hasbara strong enough to keep Israel popular in the Diaspora when the Jewish majority is gone.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.