The author argues that the time for a two state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is quickly running out.
Bringing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to be, at times, an insurmountable task. As time goes on, peace does not get easier, it only becomes more and more difficult. If the bloodshed does not come to a halt soon the situation will only deteriorate further. This puzzle has proven itself an extremely tough one to solve, and as time goes on, the solutions put forward seem to head in one direction. It’s no secret that with continued settlement expansion in the West Bank Israel has made it harder and harder to envision a viable, contiguous, Palestinian state coming into existence there. While it would be difficult, is it in fact too late? Is the only reasonable solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, as of right now, either a bi-national state or a single state encompassing all of Mandate Palestine?
To put it simply, no it is not too late. However, if nothing is done soon, there may very well come a time when the only solution is in fact a bi-national or single state. As of now, a two state solution would be difficult for both sides for a variety of reasons but it is in no way a lost cause as some make it out to be. To reach this point, however, concessions need to be made by both parties. The first of those being establishment of borders “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” This is the quote from a speech recently made by President Obama that received backlash from Israel to Canada. In reality anyone who has paid any attention to the matter knows that our previous two Presidents have called for the same starting point. It is obvious that the larger settlements in the West Bank, which are already to the west of the wall built by Israel, would be annexed to Israel. This is where the “with swaps” would come into play. But this is much harder than it sounds as well. Israeli politicians on the far right, such as Avigdor Lieberman, see this issue and feel the only just thing to do is to take predominantly Palestinian/Arab areas of Israel and swap them for the Israeli settlement blocs. While this sounds good to some on paper, the reality of the situation is presented here: “In the debate Pappe drew upon the example of the village of Baqah, East and West…Baqah was left largely unscathed, but like some other villages along the border, it was cut in two by the Green Line…Half of the town…came under Israeli rule while the other half…came under Jordanian rule.”
What happened here is pointed out by Pappe as Zionism’s success. It created two separate identities, those of the Palestinian Arabs who live within Israel’s borders and do not want to be forced to live in a Palestinian state, and the Palestinians who continue to fight for a state of their own.  While it may be a point of contention for both sides, land swaps and a serious reworking of the “security barrier” are the only rational way to even out the mangled borders of 1967.
In doing this, Israel would have a fairly large task to carry out as well. There are at least eighty thousand settlers that would need to either move from the West Bank, or wake up the day after peace is reached living as a minority in Palestine.  If Israel were to evict those living in the settlements to the East of the wall, it would be facing an extremely tough task. As we saw in 2010, when Israel removed the settlements in Gaza, there was some resistance, not only toward the forces trying to remove the settlers, but to the Palestinians in Gaza as well. However there is a big difference between the two settler populations. Gaza, while believed by some to formerly be a part of Eretz Israel, is not considered to be holy land. However the West Bank, also referred to as Judea and Samaria, is an area that is referenced in Jewish scripture. To some more hard line, religious Israelis, this gives validity to the claim that the territory historically belongs to Israel which lead to illegal settlements being built deeper in the West Bank. The nature of these settlers could pose a serious problem if Israel tries to remove them, or abandons them and allows the area to come under Palestinian control. As of right now, the task of moving the settlers would be extremely difficult, and would need to be handled very delicately. It is hard to say if this could even be accomplished without violence against Palestinians near the settlements and/or violence toward those trying to remove the settlers. But as time goes on and these settlements continue to grow it will only become harder and harder.
Another issue that is certainly a point of contention is the Palestinian right of return. Some sources claim that the Palestinian refugee population is around 4.2 million.  Logically, there is no conceivable way to allow 4.2 million non-Jewish residents to return to Israel, while keeping it a Jewish state. There would need to be an agreement made by the two parties that allowed some form of payment to be made to the refugees. Furthermore, there is the issue of the refugees in the countries they were forced to move to, i.e. Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The most optimistic outcome here is that with the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and a great deal of negotiation between all parties, the refugees would receive reparations and would be given a choice; live in the newly formed Palestinian state and leave the other three countries or be given citizenship and/or full civil rights in the country they have resided in since being expelled. Obviously this would be a very hard bargain, but it is not an impossible job. In the case of Syria, there is undoubtedly a solution. The return of the Golan Heights by Israel to Syria would make the rectification of the Palestinian refugee problem in Syria and normalization of Syrian-Israeli diplomacy. Secondly, the same could be said for the normalization of Lebanese-Israeli relations. A peace agreement, recognition of the sovereignty of Israel in the first two cases exclusively, and citizenship or full civil rights for the displaced Palestinian population, and more than a few incentives to sweeten the deals in all three cases could resolve this issue. Furthermore, an agreement between Israel and Jordan would also solve the issue of what is to happen to the Jordan Valley area in the West Bank. With a peace treaty in place there would be no reason for Israel to keep troops, military outposts and settlements in the area as a safety precaution as it has wished to in the past. If Israel and the United States want to right the wrongs they have committed and supported, respectively, over the past sixty years, this would be a small price to pay for solution to this stalemate.
As noted, it would need to be a joint effort by all neighboring countries and the United States to assure that all issues are sorted out. Over time these issues become harder and harder to rectify. The populations in the territory of Mandate Palestine become more and more intertwined and the refugee populations continue to grow and the world creeps closer and closer to the only solution being that of a single state or a bi-national state. But for now, a two state solution is still a legitimate one. As Israeli President Shimon Perez expressed recently, “I’m concerned that Israel will become a bi-national state. What is happening now is total foot-dragging. We’re about to crash into the wall. We’re galloping at full speed toward a situation where Israel will cease to exist as a Jewish state.”  Only time will tell if his analysis of the situation is correct, but with each passing day it looks more and more accurate. If something is not done soon, not only could Israel face backlash from the Arab world for its stalling, but as seen in recent years, it may face backlash from the international community as a whole due to the lack of compassion and urgency to finally come to an agreement.
1. “Obama’s Mideast Speech.” New York Times. 19 May 2011. Web. 17 June 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/world/middleeast/20prexy-text.html.
2. Nusseibeh, Sari. What Is a Palestinian State Worth? Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2011. Print.
3. “Palestine Monitor Factsheet – Israeli Settlements.” Palestine Monitor | Exposing Life under Occupation. 15 Mar. 2010. Web. 17 June 2011. <http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article7.
4. Abdelrazek, Adnan. “Palestinian Refugees’ Property in West Jerusalem: A Fortune Up for Grabs.” Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics & Culture 17.1/2 (2011): 88-95. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 17 June 2011.
5. Verter, Yossi. “Peres Warns: Israel in Danger of Ceasing to Exist as Jewish State – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.” Israel News – Haaretz Israeli News Source. 17 June 2011. Web. 17 June 2011. <http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/peres-warns-israel-in-danger-of-ceasing-to-exist-as-jewish-state-1.368132