The Moral Underpinnings Of A Two-State Solution

The Moral Underpinnings Of A Two-State Solution
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Seldom has an idea been pronounced dead recently more often than that of making peace between Israel and the Palestinians through a two-state solution. Politicians, experts, pundits, analysts and columnists have lined up to deliver their eulogies, lay it to earth, fill in its grave and recite Kaddish. Like Monty Python's famous parrot, it has apparently shuffled off its mortal coil and joined the choir invisible.

Except that it still lives.

It lives on, supported by the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, because the two-state solution is and remains the only viable, equitable and reasonable way of ending the seemingly endless conflict between them. There is no other solution. The moment the two-state solution really does die, both nations condemn themselves to a future of conflict without end, generation after generation - and that is a future too awful to accept. For Jews, there is also this bitter truth to contemplate: the moment the two-state solution dies, the dream of a Jewish and democratic homeland for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel dies along with it.

At that point, Israel will enter an era of permanent control over another people, the Palestinians, who already outnumber them in the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Israel will continue to offer democratic rights to its citizens, Jewish and Arab, living within its pre-1967 borders - but it will offer those rights only to Jews living beyond those lines in the occupied territory. What do you call such a system? Certainly not democracy. There are other, uglier words.

The two-state solution is both an abstract idea and a political blueprint -- and it is true that today the chances of implementing that blueprint seem slim to the point almost of vanishing. That is what many people mean when they declare the two-state solution dead. Fortunately one cannot kill an idea quite so easily. Nobody should know that better than the Jewish people who dreamed of returning to their homeland for 2,000 years before the State of Israel was finally established in 1948.

As an idea, the two-state solution draws its strength from a deep well of ethical precepts and morals first enunciated in the Torah, built upon, endorsed and enhanced by Christianity and Islam and enshrined in the founding documents and principles of the US Constitution and every democratic document subsequently written.

At the core of this idea are the fundamental principles of peace and justice. With beautiful simplicity and economy, Psalm 34 tells us to "seek peace and pursue it." With equal terseness, Deuteronomy 16:20 commands us, "Justice, Justice shall you pursue." And the US Declaration of Independence asserts that all men are born equal with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Interestingly, the word "pursue" appears in all three. To pursue something suggests that it is elusive, not easily found or trapped and never stationary. One has to chase after it -- it is always running away. That is certainly the case with the two-state solution. But without peace and without justice, there will be no happiness either for Israelis or Palestinians.

Like all powerful ideas,this one is so simple that we teach it to our children at nursery school and even earlier. Two kids want the same toy. The can fight over it until one grabs it and the other one cries -- but eventually they must learn to share. Two peoples, who live side by side in the same land, can either fight over control of every square inch, denying the other side any ownership or control or dignity, or they can decide to share. The two-state solution does not pretend to give either side everything that they want - but it does give them everything that they need.

All other so-called solutions to this conflict rest on the idea of one party essentially imposing its will on the other. But both nations are proud, resilient and stubborn and neither will surrender or disappear. The more one tries to impose a solution on either one, the more they will resist.

Of course, steps that the parties or others take can and do make a two-state solution harder to achieve. Endless settlement building by Israelis eats up the land on which the Palestinian state should be established. Terrorism, incitement and rejectionism hardens hatred on both sides.

For every idea that is strong enough to survive there comes a moment. I believe that the moment for the two-state solution will come because eventually both sides will realize they have no other choice and that the status quo will become intolerable. The moment may come in five years, it may take longer. But ideas, unlike mortals, have the power to persist for generations, centuries and even millennia when they stand on the fundamental human principles of peace and justice. This is an idea that is too strong to die. Eventually, it will offer a better life to both peoples.

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