A quarter of a century after the Oslo peace accords, the dream of a two state solution is shattered beyond repair. Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg proposes a bold new planby Avraham Burg / August 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Many years ago, my friends and I were lonely voices. It was a time of hubris, of outright Israeli denial that peace was our best strategic alternative. Since 1967 Israel had occupied Palestinian territory, telling ourselves that this was the only way to keep our nation secure. But before the first Intifada began in 1987, waking many Israelis up to the injustices of occupation, we were among the very few people in Israeli politics to insist that no enduring resolution to the conflict in our region could be imposed by force alone, and to call instead for a negotiated two-state solution. It wasn’t easy: we were called traitors, well poisoners, Trojan horses and more.
But within a few short years, what we had called for—what we had been told was impossible—became Israeli policy. What’s more, it had been agreed to by the Palestinians themselves.
On a sunny September day in Washington, Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister, and Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, shook hands in the White House Rose Garden. The two men agreed to a process of mutual recognition, which the world understood would one day lead to two separate states, Israel and Palestine, living in peace side-by-side.
So what an irony that today I find myself charged with the difficult task of telling Israel and the world something else that it doesn’t want to hear: that the two-state solution is dead. A quarter of a century on from the Oslo Accords, the two-state solution lies in tatters. There is no peace process. There is very little hope left. And yet somehow, we must still find a way for Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side, with equal rights within a single international border. It is time for a progressive one-state solution. I accept that this view is as unpopular among Israelis today as the two-state solution was long ago. But, as I shall explain, it is our only hope.
How the two-state solution died
Two states may once have been wildly controversial, but it has long since become a platitude. We mouth the mantra without stopping to ask whether it had already passed its expiration date. Where once the formula was a practical possibility, and the best prospect for peace that we had, today it is a hollow phrase. It provides a refuge for dishonest people, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who refuse to countenance making the real sacrifices it would inevitably require.