In his contribution to the Debating Israeli-Palestinian Futures series on the Markaz blog, Prof. Michael Barnett of George Washington University wrote of “that sense of exhaustion and hopelessness that so many feel” with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In my podcast interview with fellows Natan Sachs and Khaled Elgindy, who are managing and contributing to the series, I asked them to reflect on this passage and whether there is any good alternative to what’s going on there now? Here are some excerpts of their replies. You can listen to the entire podcast here:
Sachs answered that “the real question is, in the long term … do we have alternatives to the two state solution?” He explained why he doesn’t think there are and that an alternative is “more of the same,” namely, “conflict management.” Continuing, Sachs said:
But in this case we are seeing just this [last] week the failure of the conflict management approach. If we are doomed to manage it for the meantime we have to think much more carefully about how we manage it and how we push it in the right direction, not the wrong direction. [For] the long term, there is a whole set of ideas… being brought up about how to replace the two state solution. I find them thoroughly unconvincing. Some of them—the more creative ones—are in effect elaborations of the two state solutions, a confederation and so forth: on [those] certainly we should think creatively.
“But fundamentally,” Sachs concluded, “I simply have not seen a credible alternative to“ the “idea that there should be two states or a political division.”
Elgindy responded to the question that “This current reality is an alternative to a two-state solution of two states living side-by-side in peace where two nation states exercise self-determination. So the current reality is that of essentially one state.” However, he added,
… you have essentially a disenfranchised population—the Palestinians, who are ruled by a government in which they have no say [and] in which they are not even afforded the pretense of an election. So one way or another, Palestinians really will have to be given the right to vote and self-determination. Either that will happen in their own state or they will insist on, eventually … the right to vote in an Israeli state.
“I think Israel has … embraced the two-state solution on that basis,” Elgindy said, but then explained that realities on the ground and the “deep-seated animosities” stemming from Israeli occupation of Palestinian land may mean that it is already too late for a two state solution, despite the fact that a unitary state in which Arabs and Jews live in equality is not yet “politically viable.”
Learn more about the blog series here.