The Two-States Solution: Sadly, a Fairy Tale in the Making
Netanyahu’s pre-election eve statement (directed at his political base) that a Palestinian state would not emerge under his watch spurred many governments around the world to voice their concerns. With Netanyahu’s seemingly contradictory post-election reassurance that he is not against the two state solution, “the world” could not help but brand Netanyahu a liar and a flip-flopper. In a deafening din of indignation, a host of fundamental issues about the viability of the two-state solution were bracketed once again. So, how consistent is Netanyahu’s pre-election statement with his post-election clarification? Let us see what a narrow and pragmatic look at the current situation in the Middle East reveals by asking two questions.
1. Would even the most dovish of Israeli primer ministers be able to conclude a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians?
The current political landscape makes such a deal impossible to reach or implement. The inconvenient fact is that Hamas in Gaza and Fatah on the West Bank, despite having a unity government on paper, have nothing but contempt for one another. The unity agreement is a sad joke. (A quick google search will suffice to yield countless stories on arrests, bombings, and assassinations in Gaza and the West Bank definitively tied to this bloody conflict).
Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and is firmly entrenched with its tentacles reaching all levels of Gazan society. Hamas’s own charter speaks of liberating all of Palestine (that means, replacing the State of Israel) with a Muslim state. How could Israel ever come to an agreement with this most rabidly anti-Israel group without a radical shift in their internal composition or the jettisoning of their essential ideological foundation as codified in their charter? The answer is obvious: Israel cannot. Consequently, an agreement with Fatah (in and of itself fraught with fatal weaknesses) would be totally worthless unless it includes the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip as well.
Feeding merely one head of the two-headed Palestinian body politics would leave this entity as hungry and dissatisfied as ever.
Thus, Netanyahu was right to suggest that there could be no Palestinian state under his watch as prime minister because Hamas would never accede to anything less than the disappearance of Israel in the long run, despite its shifting rhetoric on the acceptability of pre-1967 borders. And Israel could not accept Hamas in charge of the West Bank as well, for then the situation would revert to what existed before 1967: constant terrorist attacks against the State of Israel.
2. If Israel decided to withdraw unilaterally from territories captured in the third Arab-Israeli war in 1967 war (also launched against Israel by its Arab neighbors), what would the day after look like? Would freedom and democracy suddenly replace “Israeli oppression”? Would this move satisfy the so-called international community?
To answer this question, it’s enough to shift our eyes to the Gaza strip and note what followed Ariel Sharon’s decision to “disengage” that is, completely withdraw, from Gaza: Hamas violently assuming control power, periods of missile showers into Israel as well as anti-Israel voices maintaining that Israel has kept Gaza under occupation by virtue of its “siege” of Gaza. If Israel left the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Fatah would most likely be unable to maintain its grip on power for long. It does not take much to imagine how much more dangerous the situation would become on the ground for hundreds of thousands of Israelis (not to mention those Arabs in the area who do not share in the totalitarian vision based on a harsh interpretation of Islam Hamas represents). Ironically, Hamas may now be considered to be moderate in comparison to so-called radical Islamic groups such as ISIS, Jamaat al-Islamiyya, Al-Qaeda or Boko Haram that have no compunction about murdering hundreds of people inside and outside of mosques for political reasons. Naturally, these groups would be even less hesitant to murder (Israeli) Jews in great numbers given the opportunity. To maintain its reputation and it’s tight grip on Gaza, Hamas is likely to intensify both its anti-Israel rhetoric and actions of building and fortifying tunnels that reach deep into Israel for future attacks.
In both scenarios, Israel would gravely endanger itself by withdrawing from the West Bank either with a negotiated peace settlement or without it.
Therefore, Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre- and post-election declarations are consistent.
While in theory Netanyahu is not against the emergence a state of Palestine under specific conditions, he is fully aware that no matter what he believes or does as the freshly re-elected prime minister of Israel, he is not in a position to engineer a situation anytime soon in which a peaceful, unified and economically viable nation of Palestine could emerge (with Gaza and the West Bank at each other’s necks) without endangering the very lives of countless Israelis as a consequence.
That is a price the rest of world, perhaps, is all too willing to pay to satisfy a deeply flawed and misplaced meta-narrative of Israeli decolonialization of Palestine. From his pre- and post-election declarations, it is clear that that is not a price Netanyahu is willing to pay.
I just wish he had articulated this more precisely.