It has become a common theme heard on the left that unless Israel radically changes its posture toward the peace process it will be faced with two huge threats to its existence. One is the notion that in a few years, if not sooner, there will be only one option available to resolve the conflict: the so-called “one-state solution” in which Israel is forced to treat Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as Israeli citizens and thus lose its Jewish majority–meaning the end of the Jewish state and Zionism. The other is that if it refuses to accept that grim fate, then it will be branded as the new South Africa, and a Jewish apartheid state would lose the support of both American Jewry and the United States. This means that sooner or later Israel must unilaterally evacuate the West Bank and even parts of Jerusalem as it did in Gaza in 2005 or face the consequences.
While it’s no surprise a lightweight leftist like Peter Beinart would promote this sort of false choice, it’s disappointing to see Jeffrey Goldberg endorse this prediction. Writing in the Atlantic, Goldberg claims that while he doesn’t entirely agree with Beinart, he thinks his thesis is logical. But despite their claim that it is inevitable, neither conclusion is remotely likely even if, as is almost certain, the peace process remains stalled for the foreseeable future.
Even if we assume that the status quo, which is by no means ideal, continues indefinitely, Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank at this point only exists because of a choice made by the Palestinians. Having refused Israeli offers of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem in 2000, 2001 and 2008, the stalemate is entirely of their choosing. Goldberg’s assertion that “the only solution is a two-state solution” may make sense, but it is only possible if both sides of the conflict are willing to accept it. The last several Israeli governments, including that of Benjamin Netanyahu, have accepted two states in principle. Though the Palestinians at times claim to be willing to agree, in practice they have refused to do so.
Israeli Jews, who still make up a majority of those living in the territories of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, cannot impose a two-state solution on the Palestinian Arabs if they don’t want one. But neither can the Arabs impose a one-state solution — which is to say one that would inevitably lead to the destruction of Israel.
The whole point of the Oslo Accords Israel signed in 1993 was that it created a structure for Palestinian self-government that gave them autonomy and a path to independence provided they renounced terrorism and accepted Israel’s legitimacy. Unfortunately, they have done neither.
The popular notion that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are an obstacle to peace is absurd. The Palestinians know if they are willing to sign a peace deal with Israel, there is a solid majority inside the Jewish state for evacuating many of the settlements, as was done in Gaza when Israel did so unilaterally. Moreover, if their goal were simply independence, then even if the settlements were not removed, they would present no hindrance to a Palestinian state as the surrounding Arabs heavily outnumber the inhabitants of these communities. The PA’s insistence that any Palestinian state must be Jew-free is the problem.