Robert Festenstein

I told you so…

For some years I have been saying that the whole idea of a two state solution is no longer viable. This was brought into sharp focus as a result of an article on the BBC website and a chance meeting at a reception last week celebrating the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

The article in question was titled “As Palestinian youths, the political process has failed us”.  The article described how in the absence of elections in the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority over the last 30 years, there has been a collapse of trust of the leadership. The result has been – according to the article – a rejection of the idea of a two state solution and increase in support for violent attacks on Israel.

In other words, the general population have been kept down politically and economically for so long, some of them have had enough and are prepared to take matters into their own hands, using violence.

I was uneasy when I read this and it was on my mind when by chance I bumped into a BBC producer at the reception. I explained that I am the President of the Zionist Central and it takes no stand on Israeli politics. I was asked then what was my view and I realized with some concern that the article that morning could be of much greater significance than I first appreciated.

In May 2020 I wrote in the Times of Israel about the American plan for peace in the Middle East. I named the article ‘Shouting at the wrong people’, which meant that instead of criticizing Israel for giving more concessions, we should be shouting at the Palestinian Authority for being intransigent and refusing even to negotiate.  That simply meant that there could be no two state solution since the leaders of one of the states concerned doesn’t want it.

Now, three years later, and many many more calls for Israel to be more reasonable, we are reaping the rewards for this ridiculous one-sided approach. Whilst the Palestinian Authority have been cheerfully refusing to negotiate and pay terrorists who kill Jews, the Palestinian youth it would appear have developed other ideas. So when I was asked what my view is on the Israeli political situation it became very clear that it could be very serious indeed.

Arguments about the Israeli Supreme Court and cabinet ministers which certain communal leaders might find objectionable will pale into insignificance if as the BBC report, the under 30’s Palestinians start taking matters into their own hands.  Those who claim the two state solution is the only way forward have led us into a position where very few of us in our community have thought about an alternative.  In other words. It’s a two state solution or nothing, because no-one has been allowed to think anything else.

There needs to be a wholesale re-think, now, because time is not on our side. I strongly believe that the reason there have been no elections (other than the leaders don’t like being challenged) is that there is a strong likelihood that Islamist parties might gain control. Easier than not to have an election. Either way, if this means that there is an increasing view amongst young adult Palestinians that there should only be one state with the violence that goes with it, then all the calls for a two state solution will count for nothing.

What is needed is a different approach. The starting point has to be wholesale condemnation of the pay to slay policy, where terrorists who kill Jews are financially rewarded. I have said for some years now that the reason there is no peace is because the Palestinian leadership didn’t and don’t want it.

It is time to recognize that and turn the pressure on them instead of blaming Israel.  On the subject of recognition, perhaps the best pressure on the Palestinian leadership could be a demand for them to recognize Israel. If Mahmoud Abbas, (leader of the Palestinian Authority) or if he is too unwell, someone from his party – Fatah – could take this single most significant step and recognize Israel, progress might finally be made.

What cannot be allowed to happen is nothing, since if there is a vacuum, it will be filled and if the BBC piece is correct, that has already started. It gives me no pleasure to say I told you so, it is time to abandon the existing plan which hasn’t worked, and try and create one that does.

About the Author
Robert Festenstein is a solicitor based in Manchester with considerable experience in Court actions. He is active in fighting the increase in anti-Semitism in the UK and is President of the Zionist Central Council, an organisation devoted to promoting and defending the democratic State of Israel.
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