Let's be real, says this commentator, Israeli settlers on the West Bank aren't going away, UN statehood for Palestine notwithstanding. Here's another way to imagine a two-state solution.
GENEVA - Palestine is now a state. The news that the United Nations General Assembly granted it recognition as a non-member observer state on November 29 was met with celebrations the world over. In the West Bank's capital, Ramallah, President Mahmoud Abbas's staff has already corrected their letterheads and website accordingly. The Palestinian Authority has become a government. Its emissaries will be real ambassadors.
But Palestine is not a state. Open your eyes: do you see these two amputated limbs? One is a territory stuck between Jordan and an ever-retracting border, consistently being pushed back by the Israeli army to protect its settlements in and near Jerusalem. The colonization of the West Bank and Jerusalem has been organized and financed for over 40 years by left-wing and right-wing governments alike. Farther south, there is the small, overpopulated rectangle that is Gaza, controlled by a single, armed party with an openly anti-Semitic stance that aims to quash Israel. So where is the state?
That is precisely why Hamas – and Iran hiding in the background – is so useful for Palestine's detractors: its missiles allow Israeli politicians to perpetuate a strategic myth. In 1947, when the UN initially proposed recognizing the two states coexisting in Palestine, the only thing that saved Israel from an Arabic refusal – and subsequent invasion – was its weapons stockpile. This existential threat lasted around 40 years, up until Yasser Arafat's declaring the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Charter to be "null and void" in 1989.
Today, after having developed its defense strategy through total military domination, with an extra-added nuclear guarantee, the Israeli nation is no longer being threatened in its existence. However, power has consequences: whoever has it, uses it. During two wars (1967 and 1973), the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have managed to fight off armies that have wanted to destroy the relatively young country, while simultaneously expanding its defense perimeter and colonizing the territory through settlements on its conquered lands.
In order to punish the Palestinians for obtaining UN recognition, Benjamin Netanyahu"s government has once again given the green light to an enormous campaign of colonization to the east of Jerusalem - an act that the whole world agrees is yet another nail – maybe even the final one – into Palestine's metaphorical coffin.
Two states living side-by-side? Who still believes in that? No matter what Netanyahu says, his coalition certainly does not want a two-state solution. The only Israelis who believed in the concept were either defeated and marginalized (Ehud Olmert) or killed (Yitzhak Rabin).
Outside of Israel – if we forget about the jihadists and Iran, who flat-out refuse the concept – all states are in favor of this compromise. However, only the U.S. and Europe possess enough influence and the means to pressure the Israeli government to take a step forward in this direction of compromise. Unfortunately, the policy that the West has adopted goes in exactly the opposite way of the objective it claims to be following. It keeps the Palestinian Authority at arm's length all the while financing it so that it can meet certain Western expectations: assuring the West Bank's safety and creating a basis for economic development.
Yet, colonization continues. The government has recently officially upgraded the status of the Ariel University Center of Samaria to a fully-fledged, Israeli university. But did you hear about it in the news? It is a major event, as Ariel is a town of 20,000 residents, built on a hill in the middle of the West Bank. Its university will welcome 20,000 more students in the next eight years. Speaking about this decision, Netanyahu declared that, "Ariel is an integral part of the State of Israel and it will remain an integral part of Israel in any future arrangement, like the rest of the settlement blocs.”
These new settlements, in the heart of an illusory Palestine, are sure to be met with an air of indifference by the international community, which means that all the speeches and the applause at the UN were nothing but hot air. And the Israelis, despite their shrewd anger after the General Assembly vote, know this. The Palestinians, with a heavy heart, do too.
No unsettling the settlements
One thing is certain: what the West has allowed Israel to do will not be undone. The hundreds of thousands of residents in these settlements will not be evacuated like the 7,000 settlers in Gaza were. No Israeli government, nor anyone else, will allow it.
It remains a hypothesis, but what could be the most reasonable, and probably the most painful, compromise is to accept the fact that Israel will continue building these settlements.
Israel has a minority Arab population of around one million people. They are citizens that can vote and have – on paper, in any case – the same rights as Jewish Israelis. In a nation that they did not choose, they are still attached to their land and have no desire to leave, even if a state of Palestine were to be finally created on their doorstep.
Whereas, Palestine (notably in the West Bank) now has a minority Jewish population of around half a million people. A section of them settled here because they believe that Judea and Samaria is their historic motherland. Others have come here for material reasons. Would they stay here on this holy land if a Palestinian state were to be created? They would become Palestinian citizens, and their rights would be guaranteed by a treaty and, temporarily, by an international force. Corrections to the borders, like those negotiated in the Geneva Accord, will be certainly necessary and useful. However, Ariel, for example, will stay perched on the hill, in Palestine, with its Jewish population – those who would want to stay at least.
Is it just a pipe dream? If you think about it, it is without a doubt the only democratic solution to this tragedy. The other path is war.