There is no place for 'no-solutionists'
by Ori Nir
Special to WJW
8 January, 2009
Increasingly, you hear them at public events and symposia. You read their analyses in the press and on blogs. They are the "no-solutionists."
Ultra-skeptical, hypercynical, often giddy about their political nihilism, they typically argue something along these lines: "As a realist, I realize that there are problems in this world that simply can't be resolved. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of them."
Such skepticism can no longer be dismissed as spiteful vexation, now that Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman often make these arguments, and as many in Israel and in the U.S. buy into this pseudorealism.
Ironically, this argument brings together the extreme left and the extreme right. Both are harnessing it to their agendas, agendas that -- deliberately or not -- will turn the festering status quo of a diplomatic impasse and Israeli West Bank settlement activity into an endless quagmire.
This approach is both wrong and wrongheaded.
It is wrong because a reasonable solution to the conflict is, in fact, feasible. Majorities on both sides strongly support a two-state solution. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have in the past made significant progress toward mutually acceptable compromise formulas. Even on issues that involve heavy emotional baggage for both sides, such as Jerusalem and refugees, leaders on both sides have devised reasonable formulas that large majorities of Israelis and Palestinians supported.
Both parties have made giant steps toward a historic compromise by agreeing to recognize each other, to talk to each other and to negotiate over all the outstanding issues. The gaps between the parties, as broad as they may seem, are not unbridgeable. Israelis and Palestinians, as well as international brokers, can freshen up creative proposals such as the Geneva Initiative or the Clinton parameters. If leaders endorse reasonable, workable proposals, majorities on both sides will follow, as recent polls have shown.
The "no-solutionists'" approach is wrongheaded because the repercussions of abandoning the active pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace are disastrous for Israel and for the United States. Israel will not be able to exist as a democratic Jewish state without a two-state solution. Over time, the lingering occupation of the West Bank is eroding Israel's democracy, making Israeli society increasingly violent and isolating Israel in the international arena.
Peace between Israel and its neighbors is key for American interests, too, as often pointed out by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Therefore, even if political leaders assess that the prospects of a peace agreement in the immediate future are low, they owe it to their people and to their international allies to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of peace. Pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace is a national security obligation and a moral imperative -- both for Israel and the U.S.
Dismissing peace efforts as futile, or even putting the peace process on temporary hold, pending better circumstances, is potentially disastrous. Such an approach might turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It might discourage Israelis and Palestinians, as well as their friends internationally, from striving to create conditions conducive to peace.
While some Israelis and Palestinians may think that the price of a two-state solution is unbearable for their nations, the price of not reaching peace will be heavier for both peoples.
Most Israelis recognize that the alternative to a two-state solution is not the status quo, but rather a disastrous scenario: An apartheid-like relationship will develop between what will soon become an Israeli-Jewish minority and a Palestinian majority in historic Palestine. This is a recipe for the devolution of the conflict from one that can be solved into the type of ethnic strife that the former Yugoslavia witnessed a decade ago.
Those who walk away from the pursuit of a two-state solution are inducing the birth of a binational state. By doing so, they not only condemn Israelis and Palestinians to endless bloodletting, they also induce the beginning of the end of the Jewish state.
Ori Nir is spokesperson for Americans for Peace Now.