Losing support: Israel and the two state solution

Losing support: Israel and the two state solution
Comment: Secretary of State John Kerry's speech articulated a growing international frustration with Israel, that is finally reaching its zenith, writes Usaid Siddiqui.
7 min read
03 Jan, 2017
US-Israel tensions deteriorated further after Kerry's speech following the UN resolution [Getty]

Israel's downward spiral into becoming an international pariah was on full display last month at the passing of UN resolution 2334 (largely symbolic and toothless in its effect) which unequivocally condemned building of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

In his response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly suspended working ties with 12 UNSC members that voted in favor (and one abstention by the US) of the resolution - including the UK, France and Japan.

Following the event, John Kerry laid out some hard truths last week in a speech about Israel's behaviour towards the Palestinians that dealt the final punch.

The Secretary of State warned that the two state solution was becoming an improbability due to Israel's continued annexation of occupied land. Were the one state solution the only viable option left, Israel could either choose to be Jewish or democratic, but not both.

Kerry's speech was harshly condemned hours later by Netanyahu, who accused it of being "unbalanced" and paying "lip service" to Palestinian terrorism.

The settlements - deemed illegal by every member of the UN - are in no shape or form considered 'controversial' - except by Israel.

Its ballistic reaction towards anyone even questioning their legality will isolate it further from the international community, including from its longstanding ally the US, which has enabled its every move to antagonise and disenfranchise the Palestinians with its near 50-year old occupation.

Standing isolated

On the eve of the UN vote, Netanyahu threatened his New Zealand counterparts, a co-sponsor of the bill with Senegal, stating that the act would be a seen as a "declaration of war". On Friday, it notified the Senegalese government that it would recall its ambassador and cancel a planned visit by the Senegalese foreign minister.

Aside from the fact that none of these measures will have the slightest effect, either materially or diplomatically, Israel's childlike handwringing at being asked to respect even the most basic principles of international law reveals how accustomed it has become in getting its way with no repercussions.

Slowly but surely, the world's frustration with the Jewish state is reaching its zenith

However, slowly but surely, the world's frustration with the Jewish state is reaching its zenith.

In November 2015, the European Union passed new guidelines that would help consumers identify all products made in illegal settlements, a move it justified based on international law. Not surprisingly, Israel's reaction was to suspend talks with all EU bodies involved in peace talks – while asserting its strong bilateral ties with Europe, knowing full well how dependent its economy is on the EU.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, seen by many as one of Israel's best friends, who once called Israel's security Germany's "raison d'etre", has seemingly given up hope on the Netanyahu-led government, which some say has been instrumentalising Berlin's friendship with the Jewish state.

In April of last year, Merkel was reported to have told Netanyahu that the settlement policy was a disaster, making the two state solution very unlikely.

Aside from settlement building in the West Bank and the ongoing occupation, Israel's repeated assault on Gaza in recent years has further irked UN member states.

Israel's 51 day war in 2014 led to the deaths of 1,500 people in Gaza - mostly women and children - and was widely condemned. Five Latin American countries including Brazil and Chile withdrew their ambassadors for the nation. Bolivian President Evo Morales said Israel was "passing onto the list of terrorist states".

Now, even with its closest ally - the US, Israel's relations have soured

Now even with its closest ally the US, relations have soured. The current administration - arguably one of the most pro-Israel governments in US history and one that has fully enabled Israel's criminal actions - is now making no secret of its contempt for the Netanyahu led government, albeit eight years too late.

From excessive settlement expansion during his two terms in office, to Netanyahu humiliating Obama in his own backyard for making the Iran deal (a major legacy issue for the president), the disdain the Israelis showed for the Obama administration remains unprecedented.

More importantly, the bi-partisan support Israel has historically enjoyed from both republicans and (in particular) democrats, is quickly eroding. A Brookings institute survey showed nearly 60 percent of Americans surveyed said they do not oppose/support UN resolutions against settlement building. Surveys as recent as 2015 showed that among highly educated, high income democrats, 76% thought Israel had too much influence over US foreign policy.

The US mainstream media which has infamously only hosted Israeli/pro-Israel voices on the conflict, is now too slowly changing course. Last week, CNN invited both Noura Erakat and Yousef Munayyer, Palestinians who are fiercely critical of Israel's occupation, and strong advocates of the one state solution.

Trump, whose big shtick is being the ultimate deal maker, could find himself at odds with Netanyahu's notorious stubbornness

Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer had an embarrassing episode with CNN journalist Jim Sciutto when he was repeatedly grilled on what purpose the settlements served for Israel, a question that the ambassador seemed surprised at being asked, and muddled badly.

Though limited in its overall effect, all this is a welcome break away from the usual manner in which the American mainstream media portrays the conflict: Making it all about Hamas rockets or some non-existent culture of martyrdom that celebrates Jewish deaths; almost never about Israel's occupation or its colonisation of Palestinian land.

Luckily for Israel, the incoming Trump government is looking steadfastly more pro-Israel than the incumbent. The next American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman is ferociously pro-settlement, making Netanyahu's latest outburst seem even more ridiculous.

Friedman has advocated for the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a suggestion many denounce as utterly reckless, considering the international dispute over the holy city.

One would be wise however to remain cautious, given Trump's highly volatile and unpredictable nature.

Trump, whose big shtick is being the ultimate deal maker, could find himself at odds with Netanyahu's notorious stubbornness. He may not be as timid as the outgoing president, should he seriously contemplate resolving the conflict; even if it did mean a dreadful arrangement for the Palestinians. 

For the time being though, Israel can breathe a sigh of relief knowing the real estate mogul will soon be in charge. 

The impending death of the two state solution

Kerry's words while guarded, gave a strong indication that he too, no longer believed a two state solution was viable, and that the one state may be inevitable. For some, this reality had become apparent years ago.

Renowned Palestinian academic Edward Said wrote as early as 1999 that:

"over the past 50 years… the lives of Jews have become more and more enmeshed with those of non-Jews. The effort to separate has occurred simultaneously and paradoxically with the effort to take more and more land, which has in turn meant that Israel has acquired more and more Palestinians."

Today over 400,000 Jewish settlers live in occupied Palestinian land that simultaneously allows Israel de facto control over vast natural resources in the West Bank. Of the water that flows under these lands, 80 percent goes to Israelis living in the settlements and Israel proper, while a mere 20 percent goes to Palestinians.

Israel has committed billions of dollars to these projects, making it unlikely they would simply dismantle a near 50-year old policy and leave, for the political stakes for any Israeli government - Netanyahu's or that of his successors - would be far too high.

Furthermore, with the expected future boom in Israeli excursions under Trump, the stark reality of the conflict becomes ever clearer: Either the Palestinians will be endlessly forced to reside in cantons and ghettos; or they can live peacefully next to their Jewish counterparts in a state guaranteeing equal rights to all its citizens.

The right choice is obvious.

Usaid Siddiqui is a Canadian freelance writer. He has written for PolicyMic, Aslan Media, Al Jazeera America and Mondoweiss on current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @UsaidMuneeb16

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.