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Thinking Beyond the Two-State Solution

Feb. 16 2017

For many, if not most, Jews living in the West Bank, the two-state solution seems like no solution at all. Yishai Fleisher argues that contrary to the wisdom of John Kerry and diplomats the world over, far better alternatives have been fleshed out by a variety of Israeli politicians, scholars, and journalists. These include: granting Palestinians extraterritorial Jordanian citizenship, the annexation of “Area C” (where most Jews in the West Bank live) while establishing Palestinian self-rule in the rest of the territory, and annexation of the entire territory while offering Palestinians Israeli citizenship. Fleisher explains:

[W]hen Hamas seized control [of Gaza] in 2007, [it] turned the territory into a forward base for jihad, starting three wars in seven years. As a result, most Israelis, however pragmatic, no longer believe in a policy of forfeiting land in hopes of getting peace in return. While a Hamas-controlled Gaza is now a reality, no Israeli wants an Islamic State of Palestine looking down at them from the strategic heights of Judea and Samaria.

Therefore, most settlers say without ambivalence that the two-state solution is dead, and the time has come for a discussion of new options by which Israel would hold on to the West Bank and eventually assert Israel sovereignty there, just as we did with the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem. Yes, Israel will have to grapple with questions of the Arab population’s rights, and the issues of the country’s security and Jewish character, but we believe those questions can be worked out through the democratic process. At least five credible plans are on the table already. . . .

None of these options is a panacea. Every formula has some potentially repugnant element or tricky trade-off. But Israeli policy is at last on the move, as the passing of the [recent] bill on settlements indicates.

Mr. Kerry’s mantra that “there really is no viable alternative” to the two-state solution is contradicted by its manifest failure. With a new American administration in power, there is a historic opportunity to have an open discussion of real alternatives, unhampered by the shibboleths of the past.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Palestinians, Settlements, Two-State Solution, West Bank

A New Book Tries, and Fails, to Understand the West Bank’s Jews

Aug. 22 2017

In City on a Hilltop, Sara Yael Hirschhorn seeks to explain Israel’s settler movement, rejecting the common misconception that its members are fanatics uniformly motivated by religious zeal and ferocious nationalism. Nonetheless, writes Evelyn Gordon, Hirschhorn fails to look past her own political assumptions:

[R]eaders emerge from [the book] with no clear understanding of what drives the settlement movement. This isn’t surprising, since Hirschhorn admits in her conclusion that she herself has no such understanding: “After discussions with dozens of Jewish-American immigrants in the occupied territories, I still struggled to understand how they saw themselves and their role within the Israeli settlement enterprise.”

Consequently, she’s produced an entire book about settlers that virtually ignores the twin beliefs at the heart of their enterprise: Israel has a right to be in the territories, whether based on religious and historical ties, international law, or both, and Israel has a need to be there, whether for religious and historical reasons, security ones, or both.

This glaring omission seems to stem largely from her inability to take such beliefs seriously. In one noteworthy example, she writes, “While their religio-historical claims to the Gush Etzion area are highly contentious, many settler activists over the past 50 years have asserted Biblical ties to the region.” But what exactly is contentious about that assertion? No serious person would deny that many significant events in the Bible took place in what is now called the West Bank. . . . One could argue that this doesn’t justify Jews living there today, but if you can’t acknowledge that this area is Judaism’s religious and historical heartland, and that many Jews consequently believe that giving it up would tear the heart out of the Jewish state, you can’t understand a major driver of the settlement movement.

Similarly, Hirschhorn pays scant attention to the security arguments for retaining the West Bank, and none at all to Israel’s strong claim to the area under international law. . . . The result is that while most of her settlers don’t come off as fanatics, they often do come off as simpletons—people who became “colonialist occupiers” for no apparent reason, without ever really thinking about it.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Israel & Zionism, Settlements, West Bank