Great Britain’s recent plebiscite calling, by a small margin, for an exit from the European Union is a great example for the law of unintended consequences. All the writings were on the wall and anybody who made a reasonable effort could have easily come to the conclusion that Brexit would unleash a host of really unpleasant consequences rather than just bring about the wanted result, whatever that may have been. Nevertheless, the British body politic went ahead recklessly. It may just succeed where so many others failed over the centuries to bring down Great Britain once and for all unless of course the politicians find a way out of this. Fortunately there are quite a few options how to avoid the worst consequences of the implementation of Brexit.
In a similar vein, the 2 State Solution, like Brexit supported only by a small majority, is a concerted effort to reverse a situation that has been in effect for decades. Just as Britain’s entry into the EU has had major benefits for British citizens, not all distributed equitably, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank has for many years provided considerable economic and social, if not political benefits to the local population. But just like British EU membership gradually caused serious misgivings among the less fortunate citizens who didn’t get a decent share of an ever increasing pie, so did the occupation lose acceptance over time among local West Bank residents and not only them. For lack of an implementable alternative, it is still accepted grudgingly by much of the population and remains popular with the ruling Jewish majority which continues to be its major beneficiary.
But just like the British government and the EU were not sensitive enough to the complaints and feelings of those citizens who lost their standing in the wake of the EU arrangements and failed to accommodate them, thus spawning the protest campaign resulting in Brexit, Israel was not sensitive enough to the local Palestinian population. It failed to provide the mix of economic, social and mainly political benefits that would have been necessary to make Israeli rule in the West Bank a permanent arrangement and avoid the pressure for the 2 State Solution.
With a deteriorating political and economical situation in the West Bank in danger of running out of control, Israel remains without a clear concept for its future with the Palestinians other than very tentative support for the 2 State Solution, and even that, only in theory as the recent report by the Quartet has documented. Ruling Likud Party conservatives mostly don’t want our local Brexit (the 2 State Solution) although many vocally abhor the reality of a bi-national state which would undoubtedly be the result of not going that way. The center and left, notably Yesh Atid, Labor and Meretz are pushing for the 2 State Solution, likewise rejecting a bi-national state but are painfully aware of the fact that they are unlikely to be able to implement such a major project. Implementation would have to be against the objections of many Israelis who like to remain in charge in the West Bank, if only to avoid the trauma of a forced withdrawal of 30,000 Jewish families. Meanwhile everybody on all sides in Israel seems to agree that this is not the time to do anything rash, a notion which only exacerbates an already tense reality with the Palestinians on the ground.
So what do we have here? Will Israel continue to muddle through, vaguely aiming for a 2 State Solution which would be extremely difficult to implement, if at all and if implemented would likely have grave economic, social, political and security consequences for the region, not any less dramatic than Brexit would have for Great Britain? Do we really want to tear apart an area which, regardless of the arrangements on the ground, has always been a single regional entity whose economic unity was called for in UNGA 181 and Israel’s declaration of Independence? Do we really, for the sake of political correctness and of giving in to a national movement that has been at best bungling and at worst a disaster, insist on an economically unviable Palestinian state that will be at the mercy of ISIL, Hamas and Hizbollah on one side and an overpowering Israel on the other ? Do we want to go through with the physical removal of more than 100,000 Jewish residents of the West Bank who were put there by Israel and feel an intense spiritual connection to the land of their ancestors to the extent that many of them will be willing to fight it out?
Instead we should be making a major joint effort at improving on the basic concept of two peoples living together, sharing a land they both claim to be theirs, a concept to which most people, by and large have gotten used to during almost 50 years of fragile coexistence even though it was interrupted not infrequently by spurts of open enmity. The enormous effort that would be necessary to disentangle the present arrangement to implement the 2 State Solution is destructive, hugely expensive, environmentally forbidding and spiritually discouraging. It is unlikely to work out to the benefit of the local population.
To build a common future in a single entity from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean, is a worthy goal that will find support among Palestinians and Jews alike who will have to work on this together, in earnest. The 2 State Solution, at this time, just like Brexit is not a real option for people who seek progress. The noted Italian historian Enzo Traverso who wrote about the wars in Europe 1914-1945 and called them “European Civil War”, concluded that in a region where the populations are largely intermingled, the ultimate choice is between finding a joint and equitable arrangement, whatever that may be and mass killing. Any other choice will return to the trap of incessant “civil war”.