Thinking Outside Two Boxes

Along with dealing with Iran and the economy, the new government will have to lead a national process of rethinking possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Tzipi Livni is right: We need a two-state solution. The only way to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict is to divide the Land of Israel into two nation states living side by side in peace. Only a comprehensive diplomatic solution between a Jewish democratic state and a moderate Palestinian one can ensure an end to the bloodshed. Mutual recognition, the end of the occupation and the creation of a different political reality are essential to give our children and their children a future. It will not end until we talk to each other.

Benjamin Netanyahu is also right: Even if we talk to each other it will not end. Fact: we talked at Oslo and it did not end. We talked at Camp David and it did not end. We talked at Annapolis and it did not end. We talked and talked and talked. Talk led nowhere. Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni offered the Palestinians the whole world, and the Palestinians were not satisfied. Just as they cruelly scuppered the negotiations to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, they foolishly caused the failure of the diplomatic negotiations. The promise of a two-state solution is now a hollow one that ignores reality.

Tzipi Livni is right: Without dividing the country Israel's future is in danger. A Palestinian state must be established as soon as possible, not only for the sake of peace, but for the sake of Zionism. Even now, demography is eating away at the Jewish majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Even now, Israel's international legitimacy has been worn thin. If an agreement to end the conflict is not signed soon with the Palestinian Authority, the conflict could become a cancer in the Jewish national body. There is no choice but a wide withdrawal, an evacuation of settlements and a division of Jerusalem. To save its own life, Israel must undergo surgery to separate from its Palestinian twin. Without this, Israel is done for.

Benjamin Netanyahu is also right: An operation can kill you, too. A surgeon who does not see well and does not understand how the body's systems work might cause disastrous bleeding. When Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, the vacuum was filled by Hezbollah, which established an Iranian beachhead to the north. When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, the vacuum was filled by Hamas, which established another Iranian beachhead. Withdrawal from the West Bank will create the most dangerous vacuum of all, in which the Iranians will immediately establish a third base of operations. If Israel is surrounded by armed Islamic sub-states, it will no longer be defensible. Its very existence will be brought into question.

It's nothing personal. Livni and Netanyahu are the current representatives of two colliding worldviews - worldviews that are both right and wrong. The Livni stream correctly perceives the disease, but offers the medicines of a witch doctor. The Netanyahu stream is realistic when it comes to snake-oil remedies, but tends to ignore the seriousness of the disease. So these two streams have failed again and again; that they're butting heads in 2009 is ridiculous.

We urgently need a new idea. The paradigm of the right is obsolete, but neither is the center-left's paradigm relevant any longer. A two-state solution is the right slogan, but not a plan of action. It can't be implemented in the real world. Instead of repeating the dogma religiously, its fundamental assumptions should be examined. Lessons should be learned from the repeated failures to make it happen.

Ideas are not taboo; perhaps a hudna with Hamas, if it forgoes military power and full sovereignty. Perhaps Egyptian-Jordanian patronage over areas of the Land of Israel, from which Israel withdraws. Perhaps an international umbrella over a long-term, deep process of Palestinian nation-building. Perhaps an Ireland plan, perhaps the Tony Blair approach, perhaps an idea that has not yet been born.

In any case, it's clear: The time has come to think outside the box. The time has come to think outside two boxes. That will be the new government's task. Along with dealing with Iran and the economy, it will have to lead a national process of rethinking possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.