Is it too late for a two-state solution?

Danny Rubinstein, one of Israel’s most prominent journalists and an expert on Palestine who speaks fluent Arabic, thinks it very possible that the two-state solution (Israel and Palestine) has been left behind in the dust kicked up by history.

In a piece for the US-based quarterly Dissent Magazine, called One State/Two States: Rethinking Israel and Palestine, he posits that the waning of the Palestinian national movement will ultimately be the catalyst for a single state. Rubinstein’s theory, which he supports with facts and anecdotes, deviates from the received belief on the Israeli mainstream left – that the settler movement has or will destroy the chance of a negotiated two-state solution with its ‘facts on the ground.’

It’s not that a one-state solution is desirable, posits Rubinstein; he is not even speaking of one state in terms of a solution. He is simply telling his readers what is happening, on the ground – and warning that it might not be possible to reverse the process.

Rubinstein describes a growing and significant movement amongst Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Israel to demand their rights as citizens of Israel, rather than continuing to agitate for a Palestinian state. The failure of the Oslo Accords and the Israeli military response to the Second Intifada caused the decline of the Palestinian national movement and the fracturing of Palestinian society. Young Palestinians who were born and raised in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have lost hope in a negotiated two-state solution. They have also lost faith in the Palestinian leadership.

These young Palestinians, many of whom speak fluent Hebrew, have Israeli friends and know Israeli society well, are now discussing openly the possibility of one state encompassing pre-1967 Israel and the occupied territories (excluding Gaza), with citizenship and civil rights for Palestinians.

In the past, thousands of young Arab citizens of Israel supported the PLO. One example is the poet Mahmoud Darwish, who left Israel to work with the PLO. But for the past few years the aspiration of many has been in the opposite direction. Some Palestinians who defined themselves as PLO loyalists have returned, or asked to return, and become regular Israeli citizens. … In one of the last polls, 96 percent of the villagers of Wadi Ara [a region of the Galilee with a high concentration of Palestinian-Arab-Israeli citizens] said that they were not willing to accept any arrangement in which the Palestinian Authority would rule their area.

Extraordinary things are now happening, without much publicity, in another Palestinian community, that of the 300,000 Arabs of East Jerusalem. In the past few years, tens of thousands of them have applied to the Ministry of the Interior for full Israeli citizenship.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership that migrated back to the West Bank from Tunis in 1994 is leaving Ramallah. Sick of the occupation and disillusioned by the failure of Oslo, they are shifting their families to the luxurious Palestinian neighborhoods of Amman and other cities. Amman, writes Rubinstein, is not a place of exile for these cosmopolitan Palestinians who lived only briefly in the West Bank. The large Palestinian presence in Jordan has its own political consequences:

What the Jordanians want is quiet and stability in the West Bank. And they want to see a Palestinian national entity, non-militant and non-revolutionary, which will collaborate with the conservative regime in Amman. This is also the objective of Abu Mazen and his colleagues from the Fatah leadership, most of whom have homes and property in Jordan.

Click here to read the rest of this fascinating article.

Readers might also be interested in this 60 Minutes report that offers a similar theory – that the facts on the ground might well preclude a two-state solution from ever happening.