By Philip Weiss
In a couple of weeks J Street will have its conference in Washington, featuring a lot of Democratic presidential hopefuls, and it will say that the two-state solution is alive, the dream will never die! Then in November, another liberal Zionist group, the Israel Policy Forum is holding an annual event in New York that will argue that we need to “preserve conditions for a future two-state solution.”
The Democratic presidential candidates all recite the mantra, they support the two-state solution: a Palestinian state and Israel side by side. Some day, somehow.
The news is that this claim is becoming more anachronistic and conservative by the minute. Yesterday on the Senate floor, Chris Murphy of Connecticut admitted that it’s never going to happen:
“Under Trump’s watch, the two state solution in Israel, a longtime bipartisan lynchpin of American policy in the Middle East has effectively fallen apart. Trump has allowed Israel to take steps that make a future Palestinian state almost impossible.”
Yousef Munayyer has a piece out at Foreign Affairs making the point that Everyone knows it’s a delusion.
“[R]eality has set in. The two-state solution is dead. And good riddance: it never offered a realistic path forward. The time has come for all interested parties to instead consider the only alternative with any chance of delivering lasting peace: equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians in a single shared state.”
Ian Lustick, the Penn scholar, just published a book called Paradigm Lost making this same argument. “For five decades I have wrestled with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, struggling to find paths to peace and justice via a two-state solution,” he says. “This book is my attempt to understand why that goal became unattainable. From that analysis I have gained new hope for a genuinely democratic future. The one-state reality is ugly and brutal, but it is also dynamic.”
The reasons the two-state solution is dead are clear to anyone who pays attention. There are 650,000 Israeli “settlers” living on territory that was supposed to be part of the Palestinian state, including East Jerusalem, and Israel has no desire/intention/will to yield that land, and btw, those settlers are heavily-armed and can vote in Israeli elections and their Palestinian neighbors can’t. Only marginal politicians in Israel run on the two-state solution; occupied Palestine is just another part of Israel in their discourse. The United States has of course completely refused to put any pressure on Israel for decades as it built settlements, and even Palestinian public opinion appears to be shifting away from the goal of sovereignty (if not for overwhelming endorsement of a single state).
We can all speculate about why Washington is so stubborn about the two-state solution. My answer is that Zionists have political sway in the Democratic Party and admitting there’s just one state means abandoning the Zionist dream of Jewish sovereignty, a dream that became a “miracle” and a historical exigency too in the wake of the Holocaust. Great ideologies die hard.
Whatever the reason, Democrats and liberal Zionists are flat-earthers: they deny the one-state reality. The Republicans and evangelicals are actually more realistic, inasmuch as they’re happy with apartheid. Though even “liberal” Zionists warn about the “demographic… threat” posed by Palestinians.
So the question is, What pressure is there inside the Democratic Party and liberal Zionist organizations to acknowledge the one-state reality and at least praise the movement for equal rights in Israel/Palestine?
That seems to me the responsibility of a great number of progressives, from Palestinian solidarity organizations to Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to news sites like ours to Jewish advocacy groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow. I think IfNotNow is afraid to say the two state solution is dead because that would mean abandoning the dream of a Jewish democracy, which some in its community surely still believe in. But even John Kerry said three years ago the two-state solution was almost dead, and how progressive was he?
Throwing out the two-state solution means abandoning not just an article of faith in Washington but an international consensus. That was always Norman Finkelstein’s rationale, isn’t it better to end this conflict than to hold out for an ideal of justice that is a recipe for bloodshed?
The answer is that Palestinians have experienced nothing but violence, disenfranchisement and diminution of their possessions throughout the two-state era. So they are the rightful leaders of this discussion. Their movement of nonviolent resistance has been inspiring internationally, in much the way that the civil rights and South African struggles once were, and the two-state consensus in Europe is beginning to fragment.
Today the goal of all American activists ought to be simple, to amplify Palestinian voices in the American discourse, so as to counter the Zionist ones with the truth about what a Jewish democracy has meant for its non-Jewish subjects.
The Democratic establishment is resisting that process by all means. That’s what the AIPAC group inside the Democratic Party is doing when it denounces Bernie Sanders’s braintrust as people who “hate Israel.” That’s what Bari Weiss and Batya-Ungar-Sargon are doing when they say that 97 percent of Jews are Zionists, and anti-Zionists are anti-Semitic. They are trying to bind the Democrats to a traditional constituency, Israel supporters, and maintain that orthodoxy among liberal Zionists and Democratic candidates, too.
So Zionism destroyed the two-state solution, but Zionists don’t want anyone to say it’s dead.
The progressive base of the party, including many Jews, is too well informed to crumble. They understand that the choice is apartheid or democracy. This is a long struggle, and the facts are on our side.