A hypothesis has become fixed in the understanding of the Israeli and Arab publics, and of the international community, that both sides, the Israeli and Palestinian, are by necessity marching towards a decision between one of two possibilities: a single state, or two states for two peoples.
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But the implementation of either of those results cannot be the natural continuation of the situation, because of the important and fundamental difference between the two choices. Implementation requires national preparations on the order of the establishment of a country. The governments of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been running away from such a decision for a decade and has avoided making the necessary preparations, are leading the parties to a third, fundamentally chaotic alternative.
Implementing the idea of two states requires enormous resources on a national level for such arrangements, in order to deal with the attempts made over the past 50 years to erase the Green Line and change the demographic reality on the West Bank. Even though these efforts did not achieve their political goal – creating the conditions for annexing the West Bank without harming the Zionist vision of a democratic country with a Jewish majority – it did succeed in establishing facts on the ground in quite a number of areas.
Preparations for the possibility of two states is meant to include, among other things, the evacuation of some of the settlers and their absorption in Israel; preparing Jerusalem for the establishment of two capitals, with an emphasis on a special regime in the holy places; international involvement in the settling of the refugee issue; economic separation; movement between the two parts of the Palestinian state; the establishment of a new border, road network and crossings; a new deployment of the IDF; and a plan to handle the transition period between the signing of the agreement and the permanent situation.
Netanyahu’s insistence on ruling out the recognized parameters for setting an agreed upon border, and not responding to the Palestinian proposal for an agreement first on the borders, also prevents the Palestinians, who are suffering from limited governmental capabilities, from preparing a master plan according to the future borders of Palestine.
Preparing for a single state is harder. Here are four challenges that supporters of the idea have not properly thought out: Israel will not be able to avoid annexing the Gaza Strip in addition to the West Bank in the end, if the Palestinians agree to a single state. Another challenge will be the decision on the goals of the IDF and its character, as well as the character of the other security establishments. Absorbing the Palestinian Authority, which has the characteristics of a Third World country, into the economy of Israel, which is one of the developed nations, will require arrangements in areas of education, health, welfare and more. In the end, the single state will have to deal with absorbing some of the refugees.
Netanyahu’s sanctifying of the status quo, which guarantees his political survival as prime minister, is certainly not a plan for preparation. Not Naftali Bennett’s ideas of partial annexation either, which lack any diplomatic, security, practical or legal feasibility.
The third alternative is growing and because of the lack of any decision. This alternative is the continuation of the status quo, and could well be forced on Israel under certain circumstances, including the fall of the PA, the breakdown of the system of sustenance in the Gaza Strip, a new violent outbreak and Israeli Arabs joining in with the Palestinians.
It is difficult to draw the outline of this possibility, but we can say it will have characteristics of a civil war: partial governmental anarchy, because of growing tension between the military leadership and cabinet ministers; violence on a personal, daily level, given a lack of police enforcement; breakdown of the status of the High Court of Justice; and organization of armed cells. All this will harm the economy and social cohesion, and invite international boycotts, observers and even sanctions.