Salo Aizenberg
Salo Aizenberg

Is the Two-State Solution Viable? Depends on if You Hate Israel

Is the Two-State Solution Viable?

Earlier this month Foreign Affairs magazine published a survey of 64 so-called experts on their views of whether the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is still viable.[1] The experts were asked to select among five answers, strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree or strongly disagree on the statement: “The two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer viable.” Twenty-five respondents agreed or strongly agreed while 32 disagreed or strongly disagreed. Seven respondents were neutral.

A close review of the results demonstrates a clear set of uniform characteristics for those that believe and do not believe in the viability of the two-state solution. Those who are decidedly anti-Israel and speak of the country in the most aggressively negative terms do not believe that two-states are viable. Those who support the existence of Israel as a Jewish state and do not see the nation as a unique violator of human rights consider the two-state solution viable, even if not possible to achieve in the near term. The question on the two-state solution is thus far more useful as a litmus test to determine the anti or pro-Israel viewpoint of the respondent rather than understanding the actual viability of the two-state solution. The reality is that the anti-Israel experts, who all rejected the notion that two-states remained viable, reflected their hopes and dreams in their responses: the end of Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land in favor of one-state which would be majority controlled by Palestinians. Of course they would reject the notion that two-states were viable when any solution that leaves the Jewish state permanently intact is the last outcome they desire.

Nearly all the respondents who believed that a two-state solution was not viable are known for their anti-Israel views, with most using some or all the common virulent anti-Israel descriptors such as colonial-settlement enterprise, apartheid state, ethnic cleanser and war criminal, mixed in with a dose of denial of Jewish history. In their short comments published in the survey results they consistently blame only Israel for the lack of peace and cannot conceive of the notion that Palestinians are at fault in any way, as they can only be permanent victims of oppression. Many of these respondents were either Palestinian or held close ties to Palestinian leaders or academics. Here is a sample of some the “not viable” respondents who hold opinions shared by most of this group.

Yousef Munayyer is a Palestinian-American writer and political analyst well know for his virulent anti-Israel views. Munayyer, a frequent contributor to The New York Times Op-Ed page, considers Israel an apartheid state and regularly discusses Israel’s “colonial ambitions.” He compares Palestinians to Native Americans who were decimated by European settlers, rejecting Jewish indigeneity in the Holy Land. He stated that “The two-state solution is dead. Israel killed it” with no mention of the Barak or Olmert statehood offers and Palestinian rejections.[2]

Nadia Abu El-Haj, Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, is known for her book Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, where she suggests that Israelites had not inhabited the land where Israel now stands. The premise of the book is that Israeli archaeology is a national obsession through which Jewish national identity and rights have been asserted as well as the “enactment of its colonial-national historical imagination.”[3] She believes that with the two-state solution not viable, Israel is possibly heading “toward a more radical ethnic cleansing of the sort we saw in 1948.”

Ali Jarbawi is a Professor of Political Science at Birzeit University in the West Bank and a former minister of the Palestine National Authority government. He has written several Op-Eds in The New York Times accusing Israel of “Judaizing Jerusalem,” transforming Gaza into a “giant prison,” and called for the end of “the only remaining settler-colonial occupations in the world today.” His response as to why the two-state solution is not viable is “due to Israeli actions in West Bank and Jerusalem.” No fault is assigned to Palestinians.[4]

On the opposite spectrum, nearly all the thirty-two respondents who believed that the two-state solution remained viable do not see Israel as an illegitimate state born in sin that remains one of the world’s leading human rights violators. The “two-staters” mostly comprise several former American peace negotiators and diplomats (e.g., Aaron David Miller, Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk), Israeli and American scholars, and former Israeli officials. Viewpoints on the conflict vary widely among this group, however with perhaps a couple of exceptions they all support Israel as a Jewish state and a separate Palestinian state.

Martin Indyk offers the best overall response in my opinion, in support of two-states: “There is no other solution that can actually resolve the conflict. The other ‘solutions’ will only perpetuate it. However, the parties are not ready to pursue the two-state solution at the moment. There needs to be a ripening process that generates new leaders, a new willingness to take risks, and renewed efforts to rebuild trust in the intentions of the other side.”

Indyk has been outspoken about the fact that in December 2000 Ehud Barak accepted the Clinton Parameters for Palestinian statehood while Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected the proposal with a non-response. Indyk literally received Barak’s fax accepting the Israeli response and was witness to Arafat’s rejection. Indyk has pushed back against revisionists who insist that his personal recollections (corroborated by numerous similar reports) of the events did not actually occur in an attempt to absolve Arafat of fault for rejecting Palestinian statehood.

One of the few neutral responses to the survey is quite telling. Nabil Famhy indicated a neutral response to the viability of a two-state solution, explaining: “[The two-state solution] remains the only viable ‘peaceful solution’ because it provides Israelis and Palestinians expression of their national identity. With a different approach and a comprehensive, conclusive package it remains possible, albeit with dwindling prospects. The one-state option and the Jordanian option, while increasingly probable, are recipes for sustained conflict and frustration.”

Fahmy served as Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. during the Camp David and Clinton Parameters period and was literally in the same room with Yasser Arafat and Saudi Prince Bandar when Arafat was hours away from a scheduled meeting with President Clinton to respond to the Parameters in early January 2001. Prior to the meeting, Arafat was informed by Bandar and Fahmy that their governments, as well as Jordan and the Gulf States, supported the Clinton Parameters and Arafat’s acceptance of this end-of-conflict proposal for Palestinian statehood. The message was that Arafat should accept the statehood plan. In the end Arafat did not respond to President Clinton, effectively rejecting the proposal. It makes sense that Fahmy still believes the two-state plan is not dead more than twenty years later, as he indicated his nation’s support for this solution and was a witness to its tragic rejection by Arafat.

In conclusion, the recent survey of sixty-four experts tells us absolutely nothing about the actual viability of a two-state solution and provides no analysis of why it failed in the past. Instead, it reinforces what we already know: those who hate Israel are not interested in a two-state solution if one of those states means a permanent Jewish state.

[1] https://www.foreignaffairs.com/ask-the-experts/2021-08-24/two-state-solution-still-viable

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/19/opinion/israel-palestine.html

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/10/education/10barnard.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadia_Abu_El_Haj

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/column/ali-jarbawi

About the Author
Salo Aizenberg owns and manages Downtown Investment Advisory, an investment firm based in White Plains, NY. Salo is also an author and writer, having published "Hatemail: Anti-Semitism on Picture Postcards" which was nominated as a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards, and other insightful articles about the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
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