John V. Whitbeck, “an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel”. today in the San Francisco Chronicle.
President-elect Barack Obama has a problem. Particularly in the wake of Israel’s holiday-season attack on Gaza, he is under heavy pressure to focus immediately on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to “do something.” However, if he were simply to announce an intention to work harder to achieve an impossible goal by means that have repeatedly failed – a decent two-state solution through bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – such a commitment to further years of time-wasting would kill hope rather than inspire it.
Furthermore, he has let it be known that he would like to make a major speech in a Muslim country early in his presidency. A welcome gesture, to be sure, but what would he say? If he were simply to promise more of the same, as he did during his campaign, his frustrated audience might be tempted to throw shoes. What could he say that would truly represent change in American policy and would inspire genuine and justified hope that Middle East peace really is possible?
Whitbeck is talking, of course, about a “one-state solution“, an idea that’s been kicking around since the 1920s. Its low level of support among Israeli Jews (18% in one survey) understates the virulence of Jewish opposition to “a thinly veiled strategy for destroying the State of Israel“. Whitbeck points to the example of South Africa, though the political dynamics don’t strike me as all that similar.
On the same page of the Chronicle, Michael Lerner (Tikkun) advocates an Imposed two-state solution.
The only viable alternative is for Obama to call for an international conference of the European Unon, Israel and the Arab States, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and, yes, Iran and India as well, and allow that international conference to impose a solution that provides security and justice to both sides. Only an imposed settlement has the slightest chance of being just to Palestinians – the precondition for a lasting peace, and a secure Israel.
Hard as it might be to push the Obama administration in this direction, it will be less difficult than getting Secretary of State Clinton to use American power to directly force Israel to be responsive to the minimum needs for peace and justice for the Palestinian people.
Imposed how, exactly, Rabbi Lerner saith not.
And yet…the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution steadily declines. Three impossibilities—one state, two states, and the status quo—, except that the status quo is, sadly, not impossible at all.