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15 April 2007

Condi and the “two state solution”

Condi and the “two state solution”
John Sigler*, February 19, 2007

On February 19, Condoleezza Rice met in Al Quds with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Before the meeting, the State Department was careful to downplay the meeting suggesting – accurately – that nothing much was really expected to come from the event. After the meeting, Rice appeared alone and issued a brief statement about this “useful and productive meeting.”

There was one interesting thing about Rice’s extremely brief – 223 words – statement about the meeting. Specifically, it was that she used the term “two state solution” twice. First she specified that all parties “affirmed our commitment to a two-state solution,” and then she mentioned “the two state vision of President Bush.” On the surface, there is nothing particularly odd about this in the wake of President Bush’s June 24, 2003 speech in which he called for an independent Palestinian state. Nevertheless it is a bit odd in that the “conventional wisdom” since the start of the Oslo process was that the ultimate goal was a two state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. For such a brief – and basically empty – statement, Rice’s repeated citation of the “two state solution” phrase is somewhat interesting as unlike President Bush, she is generally a very professional and deliberate speaker. So why the emphasis on the “two state solution”?

Perhaps this emphasis is in reaction to a recent poll conducted by Near East Consulting (NEC) during February 12-15, 2007 as described by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) press release of February 16 entitled “New Poll: 75% of Palestinians Believe Israel Should Not Exist.” The gist of the release and the primary finding of the poll was “that 70% of Palestinian Arabs support a one-state solution in which Jews would be a minority, not a two-state solution with a Palestinian Arab state living peacefully alongside Israel, as many claim Palestinian Arabs actually want.”

Since the collapse of the Oslo peace process, the number of people on all sides that have turned their backs on the ethnic separatist “two state solution” has been gradually increasing in favor of the idea of one democratic secular state based on the premise of equality and democracy; A Jewish and Palestinian state in all the territory controlled by Israel since 1967. The most recent major contribution to this movement is Ali Abunimah’s recent book “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse,” that has – building upon earlier work in the same vein – rejuvenated the debate. While, for obvious reasons, the notion of equality for all people has been much slower to catch on among Israelis, to date there are a number of prominent Israelis that have adopted this position, including Meron Benvenisti, Uri Davis, Amos Elon, Daniel Gavron, Ilan Pappe and others.

The conventional wisdom, substantiated by regular polls by Birzeit University’s Development Studies Program and the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, tends to be that the one state option is a minority position having the support of some 20 to 30 percent of the Palestinian population. This certainly calls the findings of Near East Consulting, the pollsters that provided the information for the ZOA, into question. By no stretch of the imagination can the ZOA be considered impartial; reflecting the Rightist Likud perspective on most issues. Therefore, it is possible that this NEC poll was specifically designed to substantiate the Israeli Right’s anti-two state position. Otherwise, one would have to assume that the recent inter-Palestinian violence along with the continued Israeli expansion into the Occupied Territories has finally lain to rest the idea of ethnic separatism among a majority of Palestinians.

In either case, the number of people that believe a two state separatist option is realistic is steadily declining. In reality, since 1967 – forty years in June – Israel/Palestine has been a de facto one state under Israeli control and the level of interdependence between the two peoples reflects this. Any two state solutions even under consideration today would at best be a South African “Bantustan” scheme or at worst imitative of the East European ghetto system, neither of which will bring about a sustainable peace nor will they ultimately prove viable. Thus, if one rules out ethnic cleansing as an option, then the reality on the ground is inexorably heading toward a de jure state for everyone regardless of ethnicity or religion.

Regardless of what one thinks of Ms. Rice, few will deny that she is an articulate and deliberate speaker, therefore her repeated reiterations of the “two state solution” phrase must be viewed as intentional. In that the two state solution represents the “conventional wisdom” answer to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, her decision to reiterate this phrase certainly suggests that she included this press releases from the Zionist Organization of America among her background reading for the conference. If this supposition is correct, she is finally beginning to realize that the possibility of a two state solution is fading into history of previous, and now defunct, peace plans for Israel and Palestine.

*John Sigler is a writer and activist based in Denver, Colorado. Among the projects he is involved with is the One State Online Bibliography project at http://www.onestate.org or http://oss.internetactivist.org.


Zionist Organization of America, “New Poll: 75% of Palestinians Believe Israel Should Not Exist”, 16 February 2006, http://www.zoa.org/2007/02/new_poll_75_of.htm

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