Mon, 26 Jan 2009
updated Sun, 1 Mar 2009

I have devoted an entry, “The West Bank to Jordan, Gaza to Egypt,” to those voices (including mine) who have given up on the two-state solution and instead advocate for or against the idea that the Jordanian and Egyptian governments take over, respectively, the West Bank and Gaza.

But this leaves out the growing debate over the two-state solution that does not mention the Jordan-Egypt option; their ideas will be recorded here, as a complement to the original weblog entry.

I shall also include a few prominent voices that continue to place their hopes in a Palestinian state – starting with the newly-inaugurated Barack Obama, who said today, “I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state—I’m not going to put a time frame on it—that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life.” (January 26, 2009)

Feb. 1, 2009 update: Nathan J. Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concludes in “Palestine and Israel: Time for Plan B” that “the international effort to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has come to a dead end.” His Plan B offers makes no mention of Jordan-Egypt but involves three steps that center on recognizing Hamas:

The first step in a new diplomatic approach must be to establish a cease-fire that builds on the common interest of both Israel and Hamas to avoid fighting in the short term. …

The second step must be an armistice that would offer each side what they crave for the present—Israel would get quiet and a limit on arms to Hamas; Palestinians would get open borders, a freeze on settlements, and an opportunity to rebuild their shattered institutions. Such an armistice must go beyond a one-year cease-fire to become something sustainable for at least five to ten years.

Finally, the calm provided by the armistice must be used to rebuild Palestinian institutions and force Palestinians and Israelis to confront rather than avoid the choices before them.

Comment: One has to wonder what planet Brown lives on, making plans on the basis that Hamas can be tamed and made to accept the existence of a sovereign Jewish state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Feb. 17, 2009 update: Giora Eiland, a leading Israeli strategist, has issued a study, “The Future of the Two-State Solution,” in which he calls the two-state solution “a big illusion.” In its stead, he offers a baroque plan whereby Cairo grants Gaza 600 sq. km. of its territory, Jerusalem annexes 600 sq. km. of territory on the West Bank and it grants a final 600 sq. km. of territory in the Negev desert to Egypt. Eiland does not explicitly say this last tranche would cut Israel in two, but that is implied when he writes that “Egypt could get a land corridor to enable movement from Egypt to the rest of the Middle East without the need to cross Israel.”

Comment: This has to be concurrently the least likely and least good idea anyone has come up with lately.

Feb. 28, 2009 update: Binyamin Netanyahu punts when asked in an interview if he endorses the 2-state solution, saying neither yes or no:

Q. What do you say when asked if you believe in a two-state solution as George Bush outlined in 2002?

A. Substantively, I think there is broad agreement inside Israel and outside that the Palestinians should have the ability to govern their lives but not to threaten ours.

Israel’s Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Foreign Minister and Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem February 22, 2009.

Mar. 1, 2009 update: Emerging from unsuccessful talks with Netanyahu to form a Likud-Kadima government, Tzipi Livni of Kadima blamed their failure in large part on Netanyahu’s unwillingness to commit to pursue a two-state solution.

Israel is facing challenges and I told him that Kadima would support the correct moves made by the government. But to deal with the challenges, I wanted three basic principles that you know about. Two states for two peoples is not an empty slogan. It is the only way Israel can remain Jewish and fight terrorism. It’s a fundamental issue. … This meeting has ended without agreements on issues that I see as essential.

(The other two demands were changes to the electoral system and reforms in the Interior Ministry.)

Comment: (1) Coalition talks are where the real platform gets hammered out. (2) But the evolution of Likud’s Ariel Sharon in 2003 shows how the real platform can change dramatically. Here is my account of what happened then:

Mr. Sharon decisively won re-election in January 2003 over Amram Mitzna, a Labor opponent who advocated an Oslo-style unilateral retreat from Gaza. Mr. Sharon unambiguously condemned this idea back then: “A unilateral withdrawal is not a recipe for peace. It is a recipe for war.” After winning the election, his talks in February 2003 about forming a coalition government with Mr. Mitzna failed because Mr. Sharon so heavily emphasized the “strategic importance” of Israelis living in Gaza. By December 2003, however, Mr. Sharon himself endorsed Mr. Mitzna’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

So, coalition talks are a good but not entirely reliable guide to future policy.

Mar. 1, 2009 update bis: Aluf Benn of Ha’aretz points to “obvious political reasons” to explain Netanyahu’s reticence on this issue: “It would cost him his potential coalition with the right-wing National Union and Habayit Hayehudi, and force him into a rotation arrangement with Livni.” Plus, writes Benn, his opposition to a Palestinian state “is also a matter of principle, one he has held for many years.” Finally,

Netanyahu also has a tactical reason for objecting to a Palestinian state: He believes that this must come through negotiations, rather than being something conceded by Israel in advance. He considers the Annapolis process that outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni conducted with the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qureia to be a joke. In his opinion, Israel must not offer a near-total withdrawal from the West Bank in advance, which he believes would achieve nothing and only encourage the Palestinians to demand more.