With some 246,000 settlers living in the West Bank, with the area required for their settlements taking up 40% of the West Bank, with another 200,000 Israeli Jews in East Jerusalem, with the wall and with the exclusive “Jewish only” roads that connect the settlements to Israel proper, it is difficult to envisage how any kind of two state solution is possible. This was a conclusion that was reached at the beginning of the millennium by the now late Edward W Said and it is shared by almost everyone who has an in depth knowledge of the situation in Palestine, including, Rashid Khalidi, Jonathan Cook and, the Israeli journalist, Amira Hass. Indeed, Hass, an extemely objective and brave journalist, argues that, apart from the ideological and political reasons for keeping the settlements, Israel also has a very real economic stake in them, in fact, the settlements are very much integrated into the Israeli economy.(1) In an interview with Amy Goodman, Hass correspondingly dismisses any substance being behind the lame duck PM Olmert’s, statement when he said that Israel “….must also give up Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem and return to the seed of the territory that was the State of Israel up until 1967, with obligatory amendments as a result of the reality created in the meantime.”(2)
Now, the Israelis are very good at playing with words and you will invariably hear things like, “UN Resolution 194, is not clear, in fact it is very vague and it is open to interpretation” or, “UN Resolution 242, says “territories” but not “the territories”, so it just means some of the territories.” Similary, as I mentioned in an earlier post,(3) we will sooner or later become aware of the “obligatory amendments” that Olmert is referring to. Those “obligatory amendments” will reflect that reality on the ground, which Rashid Khalidi was refering to in an interview with ‘Haaretz’ when he said, “Both the occupation regime and the settlement enterprise have gotten constantly stronger since the negotiating process began in 1991 – after being weakened by the first intifada. These twin processes went on steroids after the second intifada started in 2000. If these two bulldozer-like endeavors are not rapidly reversed – not halted, reversed – then there is no possibility whatsoever of a two-state solution. These processes – the consecration of the occupation regime and the expansion of settlements – have been ongoing for 41 years. I suspect that because of them, combined with the blindness of Israeli leaders and the weakness of Palestinian leadership, there is little chance for a two-state solution to be implemented. And anyone who wants to implement a real, equitable two-state solution would have to explain in detail how they would uproot all or most of the settlements. Equally difficult will be overcoming the powerful interlocking complex of forces in Israeli society that have extensive material, bureaucratic, political and ideological interests in the Israeli state’s continued control over the lives of 3.5 million Palestinians, a control that is exercised under the pretext of security.”(4)
When one reads people like Hass and Khalidi it is not a question of being optimistic or pessimistic, it is about being realistic. Nevertheless, in being realistic it is very difficult not to be pessimistic when it comes to a two state solution. However, one wonders if it is any more realistic to hope for an inclusive democracy for all of the people living on the land of historical Palestine and this is without even beginning to address UN Resolution 194 and the right of return for millions of Palestinians living in the diaspora.
The cartoon shows Olmert and Abbas on the road to nowhere