Israel and the Palestinians: What Ever Happened to the Two-State Solution?
November 21, 2012
Only a few years back, there was near-universal agreement that the Palestinians, like the Israelis, should have their own state. Give Bill Clinton credit: he got very close. But since 2000, the “Two-State Solution” has become little more than a slogan. Why has this happened? Who are the culprits? And can anything been done now to realize this goal? To address these questions, a little history is in order.
At the end of WWII, the West created Israel in the middle of the Arab/Muslim world. Understandably, the Jewish people wanted to be close to Jerusalem. Tough on the Palestinians living there at the time, but Western nations believed the Israelis should have their own country.
But then, the US goes further – it enables Israel to build/obtain nuclear weapons and proclaims that Israel will be its “policeman” in the middle of the Arab/Muslim world. In short, the US (and others) create a Jewish state and allowed it to obtain nuclear weapons. The US then makes it clear to the surrounding Arab nations that Israel will be its policeman in the Middle East.
So then, what did Israel do? Did it take its role seriously and become a moderate and reasonable defender of peace in the Middle East? It did not. In 1967, Israel seized lands of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. These actions were condemned by UN Security Council Resolutions 248, 251, 252, 256, and 258. These resolutions also called on Israel to return the lands they had seized. These lands have never been returned. In 1970, Israel invaded Lebanon. This invasion was condemned by the UN Security Council in Resolutions 265, 267, 270, 271, 280, 285, 316, 317, and 332. These resolutions also called for Israel to leave Lebanon.
In 1982, Israel again invaded Lebanon. This invasion was condemned by UN Security Council Resolutions 512, 513, 514, 515, 516, 517, 518, 519, and 520. It was at this time that Hezbollah was formed. It was formed and supported by Arab neighbors of Israel to prevent Israel from seizing more land.
I accept there were provocations for some of these aggressive acts. But as documented above, Israel has been condemned by the UN Security Council for aggressive acts 29 times, far more than any other country (and that number would be much higher had the US not vetoed many other resolutions condemning Israel). Think of it this way: there were 29 times that the US agreed with other Security Council members that Israeli’s actions should be condemned.
Needless to say, these aggressive acts and the US support of them did not sit well with Israel’s neighbors. And from a foreign policy standpoint, one has to ask why the US would support these acts. Was it sound US foreign policy to make enemies throughout the Middle East? It was not. And it is not an exaggeration to say that many of the terrorist acts directed at the US stem from Middle East hatred generated by unconditional US support of Israel.
So why did it happen? In 2006, John Mearsheimer, a tenured and “chaired professor” at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, a tenured professor at Harvard University wrote an article titled “The Jewish Lobby”. That article remains the definitive work on how the Jewish Lobby has redirected US foreign policy to serve its own ends. While the Mearsheimer-Walt piece remains the most comprehensive definitive statement on the power of the Jewish lobby, there is another article written by two ex-CIA agents that I find even more compelling. They document how the Lobby was able to work effectively within the US security apparatus to achieve its goals.
And let’s face it; the Palestinians did not help move things along when they split governments, with Gaza controlled by Hamas who publicly talked of eliminating Israel.
Let’s fast forward to 2009. Just after Obama is elected, he expresses support for a two-state solution. He also calls on Israel to stop building settlements is what was intended to be part of a new Palestinian state. On September 15, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council issues a fact finding report on human rights abuses in the Gaza area. The so-called Goldstone Report is then issued detailing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by both Palestinian militants and the Israeli Defense Forces. And what was Obama’s reaction to the report? He has called it “one-sided,” “deeply flawed,” and “unfair.”
One set of activities making it abundantly clear that the Two State solution is only a slogan is the continuing building of Jewish settlements on lands that were earlier intended to be part of the new Palestinian state. The US claims it supports the two-state solution while at the same time looking the other way as Israel continues to build settlements in what was supposed to be Palestinian territory. I quote from a February CBS News report: “The U.S. was the sole veto of a recent U.N. Security Council Resolution, condemning Israel’s settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem – a Resolution calling the settlements illegal and a major obstacle to peace. The vote of at the U.N. was 14 – 1 with the U.S. exercising its first veto since President Obama came to office — and the only negative vote at the Security Council.”
Israel expands settlements by building 1,100 new apartments in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem includes the old business district of Palestinians. It was supposed to be the capital of the new Palestinian state. With no action to create a Palestinian state, Palestinians apply for UN statehood. 120 nations say they will vote for statehood. The US says no. The US Ambassador to the UN says we should hold off on the vote because “important talks are underway.”
The Israelis kill the military leader of Hamas, unquestionably a calculated and extremely provocative act. Hamas reacts with rocket attacks.
Keep in mind the following: we hear a lot about Hamas rocket attacks, but the body count over the last decade has been at least 4 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. The last word was that since this escalation started, there have been 130 Palestinians killed and 5 Israelis.
So what was the reaction? Almost no mention of the assassination: President Obama: “Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory….” British Foreign Secretary Hague said Hamas, Gaza’s militant rulers, “bears principal responsibility” for initiating the violence and must stop all rocket attacks on Israel. But Hague also made clear the diplomatic risks of an Israeli escalation.
US Senator Lindsey Graham: “Egypt, watch what you do and how you do it,” said Sen., R-S.C., in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”You’re teetering with the Congress on having your aid cut off if you keep inciting violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
US Senator Carl Levin: “I think that they’re going to have to take some very serious steps diplomatically to make it clear to Hamas that they’re going to lose support in the Arab world if they continue these rocket attacks on Israel,”
Russia’s U.N. ambassador on Monday expressed frustration that the Security Council has remained silent about the escalating violence in Gaza between Israel and Hamas:
‘‘One member of the Security Council, I’m sure you can guess which, indicated quite transparently that they will not be prepared to go along with any reaction of the Security Council.
At Egypt’s request, the Security Council held an unusual closed-door emergency debate last Wednesday night, which did not produce any statement or resolution. In that meeting, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice deplored the violence but made clear that the United States supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks launched from Gaza.
What Does Netanyahu Hope to Gain
Netanyahu was fully aware how provocative the assassination he ordered would be. Why did he do it? I see three possibilities:
- Elections will be held in Israel shortly. Escalating the Palestinian threat will increase his popularity (it already has).
- Keep doing things to delay the two-state solution. In the meantime, keep building new settlements in the Palestinian territory (with tacit US approval).
- Bring all the issues to a head in hopes of accelerating movement to a two-state solution.
It is useful to get an outside perspective on this issue. So I close with some thoughts from the British writer, Henry Porter, made in a September 2011Guardian piece:
- …the problem is not so much American public opinion as the lack of it. Most Americans have decided that it is simply safer to leave Israel out of the discourse. So, unconditional support continues without much review or debate….
- Supporters of Israel in Europe, among which I count myself, find the terms of this uncritical, one-way relationship bizarre and it is unsustainable after three regimes in North Africa have fallen to a genuinely democratic popular movement and a heroic struggle continues in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen.
- The inconsistency between the US attitude towards Tunisia, for example and Palestine seems rank hypocrisy to hundreds of millions of Arabs, whose revolutions, incidentally, were never defined by hatred for Israel or America.
- There has already been an eruption of anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt with the storming of the embassy 10 days ago, but this is nothing compared with what may ensue if Palestinian aspirations are rejected by America and Israel, both of whom have already accepted the principle of two-state solution.
- A new Palestinian intifada would be a disaster for the Middle East and Israel and in the current turbulence there is no way of knowing where it would end.
- If Susan Rice, American ambassador to the UN, goes against the wishes of more than 120 countries that support the recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and vetoes the move, we can be certain of at least two outcomes: the reduction of American influence in the Middle East and the further isolation of Israel, which this year has already lost two important allies in Egypt and Turkey (edit. note – she did)
- The Obama administration has failed to bring Israel and Palestine together in meaningful talks and has absolutely nothing but further Israeli prevarication to offer the Palestinians.