Just when progress seems to have been made this year toward getting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to pursue a two-state solution, doubts about the viability of a separate Palestinian state have begun to reemerge. This week Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority, voiced his concern that such a solution would prove impossible.
The problem? Israel’s addiction to settlements (colonizing Palestinian land). Over the past few decades Israeli settlers have made vast incursions into Palestinian territory and don’t appear about to budge. If a Palestinian state were carved out today, it would resemble a slice of Swiss cheese (just the holes, not the cheese). Many Palestinians feel such a gerrymandered “bantustan” would be impossible to govern.
Of course, this is not the first time doubts about a two-state solution have been expressed by a high ranking Palestinian leader. Before his death the late Yasser Arafat said he believed that time for a two-state solution had just about run out. While the majority of Palestinians still favor such an option, they are mostly middle-aged or older. The younger generation seems to back a bi-national state, and perhaps Erekat reflects their views.
“…With the continuation of settlement activities, the two-state solution is no longer an option,” Erekat said. “Palestinians should refocus their attention to the one-state solution, where Muslims, Jews and Christians can live as equals.”
Such a stance flies in the face of recent actions by the Israeli government to make Israel an exclusively Jewish state, as well as statements made by Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Barak that a one-state solution would be national suicide for Israelis, whose birth rate has not kept pace with that of Palestinians.
The negotiator’s remarks serve to underscore that Palestinian rockets are not the only barrier to peace in this war-torn land. If Israel wants lasting peace, whether with one or two states, it will have to stop colonizing Palestinian land. Yet with the pressure of Jewish immigration coupled with an overindulgent U.S., Israel has little incentive to change. I.e., why the settlements? Because Israelis needs the land and no one is going to stop them from taking it.