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Op-Ed: Kerry Has Failed, But Will We Move On?

The fanatic belief in the 'two-state solution' is rarely questioned - but if we truly wish to get out of this mess, it's time to abandon it. With the rapid collapse of the latest talks, now is the perfect time for serious introspection.
Published: Monday, April 07, 2014 12:25 PM


Earlier this year, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon famously drew US ire after branding American Secretary of State John Kerry as "obsessive and messianic" for his relentless push towards a negotiated "two-state solution" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

It is still not known precisely what was discussed at the countless meetings - cast behind a shroud of secrecy at Kerry's request - between the sides. Nevertheless, it played out with an almost infuriating inevitability: pointless prisoner releases by Israel; one Palestinian violation after the other (from leaks to the press to threats, eventually fulfilled, of unilateral action) which were unsurprisingly ignored or whitewashed; knee-jerk condemnation of Israeli building in Judea and Samaria, even though a building freeze was not one of the conditions for talks; and then, of course, the impending failure which everyone - barring perhaps the Obama administration - knew was coming.

And of course, there followed a frantic whitewash of the PA's culpability. We are told that "both sides were equally to blame", when one side made it clear they were prepared to make further sweeping concessions just to keep the talks going, while the other gave the middle finger to the hapless Kerry. Not that any of this was surprising or unprecedented - in fact it was more surprising that it took Kerry so long to blame Israel directly.

Obsessive? Maybe. But messianic? Certainly not. The idea that the Kerry/Obama tag-team were motivated by a messianic fervor to make the world a better place is surely laid bare by their hesitancy to act to end injustices in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere. More likely, the Obama administration was driven by two far less noble motives: a desperate pursuit for a personal legacy for its bumbling, over-hyped commander-in-chief, and a flailing attempt to just "do something" in a region enveloped in escalating chaos, underlined by a state of continued inaction by the US which undoubtedly undermines her interests with every passing day.

With few options left, Israel just seemed like the obvious choice. Surely it should be easy to manipulate such a tiny country, which has no hostile intentions towards the US, via its two, naively oft-stated, worst fears: Iran and "delegitimization" (the latter of which is nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

No. Without splitting hairs too much, Yaalon's evaluation is off the mark. What underlines and indeed motivates John Kerry, Barack Obama and all the other cheerleaders of the high-speed train to nowhere known as a "negotiated two-state solution" is sheer fanaticism.

Fanaticism - defined by (forgive me) Wikipedia as "a belief or behavior involving uncritical zeal or with an obsessive enthusiasm..."

Uncritical zeal. Surely that is the only way to describe the truly insane behavior of the international community vis-a-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Since the days of the abject failure known as the Oslo Accords, the prevailing political orthodoxy has been the "simple" (simplistic?) formula of "two states for two peoples" on the western side of the Jordan River.

Let us ignore for a moment the fact that the notion that you can theoretically squeeze two sovereign states into such a tiny piece of land without provoking further wars over territory, resources and the like seems more like wishful thinking than level-headed international politics.

And let us put to one side the constant Arab statements which make it abundantly clear that any negotiated agreement with Israel is simply seen as the first step to her annihilation - a reenactment of Mohammed's Treaty of Hudaybiyya. Simple historic precedent suggests that the notion of partition as a solution is a non-starter.

Partition has been tried again and again, to no avail. In 1922 77% of the land allocated for a Jewish state was partitioned away to become an Arab Palestinian state (known today as Jordan). Still the conflict continued. In the 1930s and 40s, the Peel and UN partition plans respectively would have given the Arabs a far more generous settlement than what is today referred to as the "1967 lines" - and still they refused.

Our own generation has witnessed the abject failure of each and every attempt to reach a "final agreement" between the sides based on the "two state solution" template - only for "world leaders" and our own leaders to shrug their shoulders and try running us into the same brick wall time and time again.

I could go on, but far more knowledgeable people than myself have already put to bed the "two-state delusion".

So how do we move on?

With the collapse, once again, of peace talks, there really are only two ways forward.

Either we resign ourselves to a perpetual state of conflict, or we apply ourselves to looking beyond the failed two-state paradigm.

Yes, some fanatics are beyond hope. In a scary world sweet dreams are far more pleasant than the harsh and difficult reality. A simple, quick solution (in nine months!), which comes with its own catchy slogans, is an intoxicating alternative to accepting that a real solution might take a very long time, could prove rather less simple(istic), and might not make everyone happy.

There is also a degree of humility necessary for the two-statists to come down from their pedestal and look reality in the eye. It is hard for any person to admit that something they have invested so much in was doomed to failure from the start, and that they will have to start again from scratch. This is perhaps truer for fundamental ideological positions than anything else.

But come down they must. And if they do not, then the rest of us must either bring them down or jump ship, instead of complaining about the shoddy driving of our "leaders" - political, academic or otherwise - as they hurdle once more into the precipice.

If we are genuinely serious about solving the conflict we must apply ourselves, soberly and seriously, to the task of rejecting failed solutions and formulating an alternative. 

What would that alternative be? There are many directions to take. One state? A confederation? Annexation of Area C? The "Jordanian option"? These are just a few of the many theoretical ideas which have barely been touched upon due to the two-state fanaticism which has overtaken the discourse since the days of Oslo.

Are they more realistic than "two states for two peoples"? The astonishing lack of effort to even investigate any of them seriously means it is impossible to say - but the consistent failure of the two-state paradigm suggests they can hardly be less so.

The first step out of this mess is to apply ourselves to figure out an alternative and say goodbye, once and for all, to this silly charade.

There is of course another option. We could just do this all again next year.