In an essay published last fall, Michael Doran called to task U.S. presidents and policymakers from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama for pursuing the creation of a Palestinian state despite the fact that such a goal is both unrealistic and inimical to American interests. Responding to Doran, Tarek Osman partially concedes some of his points, but contends that geopolitical circumstances are likely to change, and that one could imagine a new situation that would militate in favor of Israeli territorial concessions. Doran rebuts this argument. (Free registration may be required.)
The question . . . is not whether power dynamics might change in the future but whether they are likely to do so. In this case, they are not. For the two-state solution to become viable, Hamas must collapse, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank must craft a shared vision of the future, and then they must march in lockstep toward a compromise with Israel. The number of stars that must align for this vision to become reality is too great to count.
In support of his belief that the two-state solution is within reach, Osman invokes the memory of Yitzḥak Rabin. A seasoned military man and political leader, Rabin was no starry-eyed peacemaker, and yet he was still ready to make painful compromises. Osman’s depiction of Rabin echoes that presented by the former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who often laments that were it not for Rabin’s assassination, the Israelis and the Palestinians would have signed a peace agreement.
This is a saccharine myth that ignores the chasm between Rabin’s and Clinton’s positions. The vision Rabin pursued was not compatible with the parameters Clinton presented to negotiators in 2000, which proposed a Palestinian state in 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank and Palestinian sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and eastern Jerusalem. In a speech made before the Knesset a month before his assassination, Rabin described the Palestinian entity that he expected to emerge from the Oslo Accords. It would be, he explained, “less than a state.” It would accept Israeli control over the Jordan Valley and a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Rabin’s vision was, on the other hand, far more compatible with the so-called “deal of the century”—the peace plan that the Trump administration recently announced.
More than ever before, Washington’s interests lie in building Israeli power to shore up the battered U.S. regional security structure, not in tearing it down in the pursuit of a peace fantasy. In this context, it is the responsibility of Palestinian leaders . . . to prove that their nationalism can promote international peace and stability.