Just because Trump said it doesn’t mean it has to be wrong.
During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump publicly stated that he could support a divergence from a two-state solution in Palestine. He is the first United States president in recent memory to question that sacred article of U.S.-Middle East policy. But while the announcement came as a shock to many, indeed, a serious rethink is long overdue in recognizing the defunct “two-state scheme.”
Many honorable people have dedicated the bulk of their professional lives to the tedious minutiae and sad diplomatic history of the Palestinian-Israeli morass. Sadly, none of those efforts have brought any resolution whatsoever to a gangrenous issue ― in many respects one of the major roots of so many of the Middle East’s contemporary ills.
The trouble is that, apart from a few dedicated diplomats and scholars who had hopes of one day truly accomplishing something, the two-state solution in practice is essentially a fraud. Yes, a few wiser Israeli leaders in the past just possibly might have believed in that ideal, but for decades now the “two-state scheme” has simply been cynically exploited by newer Israeli leaders, especially by Bibi Netanyahu ― one of the longer-serving and most right-wing prime ministers in Israel’s history.
The two-state solution in practice is essentially a fraud.
Netanyahu has been backed by a formidable and wealthy pro-Zionist cheering section in the U.S. The goal is to conceal their true agenda ― the ultimate Israeli annexation of all of Palestine. They themselves as hard-line Zionists have been subtly but systematically torpedoing the two-state solution behind the scenes to that end.
None of my observations here on the hoax of the two-state solution are new or original. Many liberal Israeli observers I met while working in the region have been stating the self-evident for years now. But those voices never get heard in the U.S. where it constitutes an unmentionable. But there should be no doubt: the concept of a “two-state solution” ― a Palestinian and an Israeli state sharing historical Palestine and living side by side in sovereignty and dignity ― is dead. It is almost inconceivable that it can now ever be resuscitated: nearly all the operative forces within Israel are systematically working to prevent it from ever coming about.
The harsh reality is that Israel, through a relentless process of “creating facts on the ground,” is now decades deep into the process of taking over illegally, step-by-step, the totality of Palestine. Israel has scant regard for any international law in this respect, and never has had any. Washington, apart from a few periodic pathetic bleats, has ended up functionally supporting this cynical scheme all the way, perhaps unwilling to confront the painful reality of what is really taking place, along with its dangerous political repercussions at home.
Israel is extending day by day its control ― indeed ownership ― of Palestinian lands through expansion of illegal Jewish settlements and the dispossession of the rightful owners of these Palestinian lands. Put simply, there is little left of Palestinian land out of which ever to fashion a “two-state solution.”
That leaves us with only one alternative: the “one-state solution.” Indeed, Israel’s actions have already created the preconditions that make the one-state solution an unacknowledged but virtual fait accompli.
Honest observers know full well that the mantra of preserving “the peace process” for the two-state solution is now little more than a cover by hard-line Zionists for full Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands. The sooner we all acknowledge this ugly reality, the better. That will then require Israel, the Palestinians and the world to get on with dealing with the complex challenge of crafting the binational state ― the one-state solution.
Honest observers know full well that the mantra of preserving 'the peace process' for the two-state solution is now little more than a cover for full Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands.
The calculations of some hard-line Zionists ― who are now largely in control of Israeli state mechanisms ― are often unyielding. After years on the ground, I’ve found that the rationale is more evident with each passing year. It goes something like this:
1) Israel should functionally take over all of Palestinian territory and permit full Jewish settlement therein.
2) Israel should still play the “two-state solution” game with visiting foreign diplomats to reduce pressure on Israel, to play for time while it quietly establishes the irreversible facts on the ground that shut out any possible viable Palestinian state.
3) Make life harsh enough for Palestinians that, bit by bit, they will grow bitter and weary, give up and go elsewhere, leaving all the land for Zionist settlers.
4) If Palestinians stubbornly resist, predictable periodic military and security crises in Palestine over the longer run will enable Israel to rid Palestine of all Palestinians ― a gradual process of ethnic cleansing (or restoration of the situation that God wills as they would refer to it) that returns all the land promised by God to the Jews.
Some liberal Israelis actually do accept the idea of a one-state solution in their own liberal vision of a future Israel ― one in which Israelis and Palestinians live as equal citizens in a secular, democratic, binational, multicultural state enjoying equal rights, rather than the increasingly religiously dominated state that it is. And the liberal ideal makes sense: the country is already well on the way to becoming bilingual ― and Hebrew and Arabic are closely-related languages. Both are Semitic peoples with ancient ties to the same land.
The problem is, ardent Zionists don’t want a binational Palestinian-Jewish state. They want a “Jewish state” and demand that the world accept that term. Yet, in today’s world isn’t the term “Jewish state” strikingly discordant? Who speaks of an “English” or “French” state? The world would freak out if tomorrow Berlin started calling itself “the German State.” Or Spain a “Christian state.” So what do we make of a state that is dedicated solely to Jews and Judaism? Such concepts are remnants of 19th century movements that promoted the creation of ethnically and/or religiously pure states. Modern states no longer define themselves on either an ethnic or religious basis. Indeed it was precisely that kind of ugly religious and ethnic nationalism that caused Jews to flee from Eastern Europe in the first place to find their own homeland.
The true historical task of Israel, with the support of the world, is now to begin the challenging work of introducing the range of major reforms that will transform Israel into just such a multi-ethnic and bilingual state of equal citizens enjoying equal rights under secular law. It is not a question of “allowing Palestinians” into Israel, they are already there and have been for millennia, initially in far greater numbers than Jews. Palestinians now seek full legal equality of treatment under secular law in Israel.
So let’s acknowledge the useful truth that Trump has blundered onto. Let’s abandon the naive and cynical rhetoric about the “two-state solution” that will never come about ― in any just and acceptable form. Half of Israel never believed in it in the first place. It has served only as a facade for building an “apartheid Jewish state” ― a term used frequently by some liberal Israeli commentators I have encountered.
[Ardent Zionists] want a 'Jewish state' and demand that the world accept that term. Yet, in today’s world isn’t the term 'Jewish state' strikingly discordant?
Netanyahu and the right-wing Zionists clearly want all of Palestine. But they’re not ready yet to admit it. They want all the land, but without any of its people. But despite Zionist hopes, the Palestinians aren’t going to abandon their lands. And so the logical outcome of Israel’s takeover of all of Palestine leads by definition to an ultimate single, binational state.
The challenge to Israelis and Palestinians is huge. It entails a deep Palestinian rethink of their options and their future destiny in a new order, and the need to fight for those democratic rights in a binational state. It involves Israeli evolution away from “God-given rights” in a state solely for Jews and Judaism that can only be forever oppressive and undemocratic as it now stands. The process will be a slow and difficult one. But it also represents an evolution consonant with emerging contemporary global values.
We expect a democratic multicultural state from Germany and France, or from Britain, Canada and the United States ― why not from Israel?
Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official and author of numerous books on the Muslim world. His latest book is “Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan.” A version of this piece first appeared on GrahameFuller.com