Two-state option no longer exists 0
The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, were supposed to be followed by a "peace process" that ended with two sovereign states, Israeli and Palestinian, living side by side in peace. Alas, the "peace process" actually died some time ago.
It has been almost a decade since insiders really believed that the peace process was ever going to arrive at the "two-state solution" that was envisaged at Oslo.
Now that the corpse has finally stopped twitching, it's time to consider what other roads to a permanent peace settlement remain open. If any.
Twenty years ago, Yossi Beilin, then Israel's deputy foreign minister, initiated the secret negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords, but now he has lost almost all hope. Last month he wrote an open letter to Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, the interim body that was eventually going to become the government of an independent Palestinian state. He urged Abbas to dissolve the PA.
"No one thought the PA would be there for 20 years," he wrote. "It should have ended. So I (am asking you) to put an end to it. But the bottom line is that, paradoxically, all those who cursed Oslo are now cherishing it."
What Beilin means is that the Oslo agreement has actually become a means for those who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state to spin out the negotiations endlessly. It is now only "a device that has allowed the parties to block a two-state solution." And who is the main culprit on the Israeli side, in his view? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yuval Diskin, the recently retired head of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, is even blunter in condemning Netanyahu. "Forget all the stories they're selling you in the media about how we want to talk but (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) doesn't. We're not talking with the Palestinians because this government has no interest in talking to the Palestinians."
The reason, Diskin says, is because Netanyahu fears that "even the smallest step forward on this issue" would cause the coalition he leads to collapse. Removing at least most of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank is a precondition for a Palestinian state, but several parties in Netanyahu's coalition would immediately pull out if he agreed to do that. And no alternative coalition can be made without their participation either.
That is the main reason why the two-state solution envisaged in the Oslo Accords is dead. Unfortunately, the only alternative is the one-state solution, and that poses equally big problems for both sides.
The single state would contain all the Jews and Palestinians who now live in the lands between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. All this land has been under Israeli control since the 1967 war, when Israel conquered the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but almost half the residents are Palestinians - and they have a higher birth rate than Israeli Jews.
So a single state for Israelis and Palestinians would involve either permanent Israeli military rule over a large Palestinian minority soon to become a majority, or a binational state where everybody, Jewish or Palestinian, has equal rights, including the vote. But such a state would no longer be a Jewish state.
Of the three options, therefore, the least objectionable to all the people involved would be the two-state solution. Unfortunately, that is already dead in terms of Israeli domestic politics.
- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.