This is the final chance for a two-state solution—and there is no other solutionby Tom Phillips / August 21, 2013 / Leave a comment
In August last year, in a Prospect article entitled “Failure is the most likely outcome,” I set out 10 rules that mean there might never be a happy ending to the Israeli-Palestinian, and therefore the Arab-Israeli, conflict. I also said that I hoped I was wrong, and so I welcome the efforts of John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, to demonstrate that peace still has a chance.
By all accounts Kerry entirely understands the strategic importance of this issue; is fully committed to tackling it; has the backing of Barack Obama; and has given careful thought to how to structure a negotiation. He seems, too, to have taken on board that any plans to boost the Palestinian economy make sense only in support of a political process, and cannot be a substitute.
The Americans’ goal of a final status agreement within nine months suggests they have absorbed the perils of looking for an interim rather than a final agreement, and understand there must be real results by the US mid-term elections, in November 2014.
The Arab League has given upfront backing to Kerry’s initiative, and has made it clear that it could accept comparable, minor territorial swaps, mutually agreed by the Israelis and Palestinians. The text of the Arab Peace Initiative—a comprehensive peace plan adopted at the 2002 Arab League summit—and my own conversations in the region indicate that they would also accept some agreed dilution of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
The demographic logic for a two-state solution (if Israel wishes to remain a “Jewish state” albeit with a continuing Arab minority) is compelling to all except those who want to close their eyes to it. Israeli and Palestinian public opinion appears to continue to support such a solution, however much people on both sides might doubt it can be achieved. Israeli public opinion could be swayed further if their Prime Minister were behind an agreement and the Arab world were signalling clearly that “normalisation” of relations with Israel was on the cards. Important elements in Israeli civil society are working to explain the Arab Peace Initiative to Israeli politicians and citizens, and to shape a more creative response. Some Jewish and Muslim religious leaders understand the need for territorial compromise and could provide theological underpinning.
The European Union has done the right thing by prohibiting funding…