The two-state solution is supported by all the major international players, including the US, the UN, the EU, and the 22 countries of the Arab League. It’s also, officially at least, the stated policy of the current Israeli government and the internationally recognised Palestinian leadership.
What’s more, it’s repeatedly been backed in principle by majorities of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians.
When the sides last sat down to try and reach a deal – at Annapolis in 2007 – their respective proposals turned out to be surprisingly close (take a look here and here). In fact on the issue of borders they were able to agree on how to divide all but around 250 square kilometres of land – or 1 per cent of the total area of Israel-Palestine.
These facts need pointing out because Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists the conflict is “insoluble“, and that aiming for two states is unrealistic.
250 square kilometres. Say, you know what might work there? How about calling it, ohhhhh, I don’t know…a de-militarized zone? An international city-state? You know, a solution nobody likes and therefore is perfect in keeping everyone honest. We can freeze populations in those regions at some agreed-upon point in time and be done with it. Throw some UN peacekeeping forces in there just to keep a presence.
So why is this so difficult, apart from Netanyahu’s intransigence? Granted, the division of Palestine into two non-contiguous states is a bit of a hang up, but it’s not like we don’t have nations made up of physical islands, so how hard is it to have one made up of political ones?
The real difficulty is what we can call “good faith”. The Middle East question centers around a giant, dangerous game of Steal the Bacon. Both sides warily circle the solution, both sides express interest in the solution, but both sides believe the other side is just waiting to take the whole slab and knock off the other party.
Netanyahu, in this instance, has been a far bigger distraction from peace than I think he is ready to admit, and I’m pretty sure that Hamas is quite happy to play along, since it guarantees funding from Syria and Iran. If you view the recent assassinations of Hamas leaders such as Ahmed Jabari through this lens, you begin to see a conflict of convenience, rather than necessity.
Let’s put this into domestic terms: if abortion in the United States was suddenly outlawed, the GOP would lose a major funding source, and the Democrats would gain one. Meanwhile, dozens of people die each year in the conflict, mostly abortion providers and sympathizers.
And we’re a nation at peace. The GOP has a vested interest in keeping an abortion ban tantalizing in view but out of reach.
Likewise, Likud and Hamas have vested interests in keeping peace on the table, but keeping war at the door.