Israeli journalist Gideon Levy visited Brussels this week and talked about the two main options for a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two-state solution, with a Palestinian state alongside Israel, is supported by EU and is considered as the only fair solution to both sides. But the situation on the ground, with an increasing number of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and a creeping annexation, had made the two-state solution difficult to implement, to the point where both Israelis and Palestinians start to despair and believe in a one-state solution for both peoples.
“The two-state solution is like a train that has left the station,” said Gideon Levy at a policy briefing at Press Club Brussels on Tuesday (2 April), followed by a conference hosted by Belgian Socialist MEP Maria Arena (S&D) at the European Parliament.
Gideon Levy is a well-known columnist in Israel’s leading opposition newspaper Haaretz and has been awarded international journalism prizes for his work. For years he has written a “Twilight Zone” serie on the violations of the human rights of Palestinians living under Israel occupation.
His articles are difficult to read. He describes cases of discrimination, abuses and assaults, where the standard official Israeli reaction is that “we are investigating the case.” He also comments regularly on the political situation in Israel and is currently writing on the on-going election campaign in Israel.
His political articles are controversial to the extreme on the political spectrum. In a recent article in Haaretz (17 March) he questioned the existence of a common Jewish national identity and claimed that the roots of the Jews in Israel “still need to withstand the test of future”.
Commenting on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement in the current election campaign in Israel that the Arabs have 22 states while there is only one Jewish state, he wrote that Israel’s Jewish citizens have almost 200 states to go to. He obviously does not mind to become “the wandering Jew” again.
To say that he is popular in Israel would be an overstatement. Asked once by The Brussels Times, he said that he does not expect that his articles influence the Israeli public opinion but that “if you believe in something, you have to continue”.
“The occupation is a non-issue in the elections and a solution is further away than ever,” he said in Brussels. “Even if Netanyahu would be replaced, the policy will not change. Only the outside world can force Israel to change policy.”
The meeting took place against the general frustration felt at the current deadlock in the peace process. What is worrying is that the mainstream political parties in Israel seem to favour status quo. The two-state solution is seen as a jump into the unknown and therefore considered as a threat.
But the alternative to a political change of status quo is recurrent wars. Gideon Levy accused EU of lacking a vision of changing the status quo and for financing the occupation.
“We have missed the chance for a two-state solution,” he underlined. “It’s no longer possible to create a normal independent state for the Palestinians. Israel never wanted to go for a two-state solution and the international community doesn’t want to admit the failure.”
“The Israeli settlers have won and created an irreversible situation. In fact, the one-state solution has been the reality for many years, with a brutal occupation in Israel’s backyard that has become permanent. We have to start thinking about alternatives. “
Levy admits that the one-state solution would spell the end of the dream of Israel but does not care if the Jews in a one-state or binational state would become a minority at which point the Palestinian majority might abolish the democratic institutions.
There is even a risk of civil war in one state, according to Thabet Abu Rass, a Palestinian citizen in Israel and co-director of The Abraham Initiatives (Haaretz, 31 March). “Right now we are only 20 % of the population and Israel considers us a threat. What if we are 50 % of the population? It will be an apartheid state, and in the end we’ll have a civil war here.”
If Levy’s one-state solution is inspired by the EU model, he is obviously wrong. The EU is made up of sovereign nation-states, some which their own minority problems, that have agreed to pool their resources and transfer some of their decision-making to common institutions.
He did not explain why Israel, of all countries in the world, should be the first one to abolish itself and experiment with binational state-building.
Admittedly the two-state solution risks becoming outdated and support for it among Israelis and Palestinians has fallen to 43 percent on both sides, the lowest level in two decades according to the most recent opinion poll (Haaretz, 31 March).
But contrary to what Levy claims, there is no need to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Israelis from the settlements to make room for a connected and viable Palestinian state.
In previous peace talks some consensus has been reached that about 80 percent of the Israelis could continue to live in settlement blocs which would make up only 2 – 4 percent of the West Bank, as part of a two-state solution based on appropriate security arrangements and land swaps.
A one-state or binational state would require both Jews and Palestinians to give up their respective dreams of a national homeland, says Israeli geography professor Oren Yiftachi in Haaretz.
An alternative to the one-and two state solutions that is gaining support is a kind of confederation built on the European model, with two independent states, free movement between them and power sharing on common issues such as water and environment management.