For over a decade, elite opinion in the West has been warning that Israel, through its actions, is slowly making the two-state solution impossible, or that the “window” for such an arrangement is “closing” unless Israel takes some dramatic action. More recently, we have heard that the U.S., by moving its embassy to that part of Jerusalem that has been under Israeli control since 1948, has somehow made Palestinian statehood less likely. These dire warnings omit the simple fact that it was Palestinian leaders who have prevented the emergence of a Palestinian state, as Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf write:
Yasir Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), walked away . . . from Ehud Barak’s [July 2000] proposal at Camp David, and he walked away from President Clinton’s proposal which set the parameters for peace.
The overriding Palestinian demand, more important than the explicit demand of statehood, has always been the innocuous sounding right of return—the demand for millions of Palestinians, descendants of those who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war, to be recognized as possessing an individual “right” to settle inside the state of Israel. . . . What this means is that when Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, the [current] head of the Palestinian Authority, spoke of their support for a two-state solution, they actually envisioned two Arab states: one in the West Bank and Gaza, and another one to replace Israel.
The refusal on the part of the international community to engage these simple truths is telling. In 1947, the British foreign minister Ernst Bevin summarized the essence of the conflict in the British Mandate territory as boiling down to the fact that the Jews want a state in the land, and the Arabs want the Jews not to have a state in the land. He has only been proven right ever since. More than the Palestinians wanted a state for themselves, they still want the Jewish people not to have their own state in the land, in any borders.