The Two-state Evolution and the Apartheid Option

With radicals pushing for either a multi-national state or an apartheid one, the two-state solution might finally have its political day in the sun.

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, April 2013.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, April 2013.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

This time it was U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry who forced Benjamin Netanyahu to express public support for the idea of two states for two peoples: “The solution is a demilitarized Palestinian state that will recognize the Jewish state,” he claimed.

Experience teaches us that Netanyahu most likely won't stand by his claim. But the context in which he made it – cornered into rejecting the alternative of a binational state– could indicate the evolution of the two-state solution, and signal its revival.

Generally speaking, one can say that in the last 50 years Israel has been presented with a single viable solution to the problem of the occupied territories and the Palestinians living within them – the two-state solution.

The political map has been consistently divided between supporters and opponents. Generally, the left supported it and the right objected. Even when one could count the supporters of the two-state solution on the fingers of one hand, a viable alternative was never proposed. The idea of a Greater Israel reflected an aspiration and vision, but never a real strategic solution to the Palestinian problem. The last 50 years have proven that considering a solution without offering an alternative leads nowhere.

And yet, we’re now hearing voices on the left rising up against the idea of two states. The left end of the political spectrum started to view the two-state solution as obsolete, either because the left thought geopolitical conditions had so drastically changed, or due to this solution’s apparent failure to uphold moral standards (because it’s racist, because it’s a remnant of colonialism, because it preserves and perpetuates the Nakba iniquities, etc.). On the left, people started to draft an outline for a new solution – a single state composed of all its nationalities.

Now that the two-state solution has been abandoned by those spearheading the left, and declared to be "yesterday’s idea,” and now that a binational alternative is being drafted, overshadowing the two-state solution and making it look conservative – the Israeli right can finally get behind the idea of two states. The right can feel free to do so without the moral weight, and without ringing the universal bells of justice, but simply as the least bad of all possible options.

In an ironic twist of fate, Naftali Bennett has joined the effort to push the two-state idea to the political map’s center. Bennett has also begun drafting a solution based on the one-state idea. But unlike the left’s equality-for-all vision, his vision includes full-fledged apartheid.

Bennett is attacking Netanyahu from the right, pushing him to realize that the choice is between two states and one, and that he must commit to one of the possible choices. “Since the Bar-Ilan speech we’ve been hearing: I’m in favor of a Palestinian state, providing it’s demilitarized. This week the prime minister repeated it again. Let me make it clear: there’s no such thing. There’s no ‘demilitarized Palestinian state,”’ Bennett posted on Facebook last month.

If Bennett continues with his attempts to force Netanyahu to renounce the two-state solution, he may find that instead of drawing Netanyahu closer to him, he is pushing him further towards the dreaded two-state option. Bennett appears not to understand the change in the international community, which sees only two options for Israel – one binational state, or two states for two peoples. Apartheid is not an option.

As always, between the two extremes lies the center. The two-state solution has been abandoned by the radical left in favor of the state for all its nationalities, and the radical right is striving to establish one apartheid state. Now that the political players must decide where they stand in regard to the two alternatives, rather than just for or against the only solution in front of them, it seems Israel has never been riper for the two-state solution.

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