Saturday, February 14, 2009

So focused on future scenarios that you ignore the present

Stephen Walt has posted an article entitled What do we do if the "two-state" solution collapses? He writes:
One does not need to look far down the road to see the point where a two-state solution will no longer be a practical possibility. What will the United States do then? What will American policy be when it makes no sense to talk about a two-state solution, because Israel effectively controls all of what we used to call Mandate Palestine?
This is a strange way to pose the question, because Israel has been effectively controlling all of what we used to call Mandate Palestine since 1967.

Prof. Walt goes on to describe three alternatives to the two-state solution. Option 1 is expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank (which Walt rejects as "a crime against humanity"); option 3 is a democratic binational state in which all individuals have equal rights (an option that Walt considers objectionable for other reasons). Option 2 is:
Israel could retain control of the West Bank but allow the Palestinians limited autonomy in a set of disconnected enclaves, while it controlled access in and out, their water supplies, and the airspace above them.
This is, of course, a perfect description of the status quo, as Walt surely knows, but in this article he never lets on that he's aware of that fact. He continues:
This appears to have been Ariel Sharon's strategy before he was incapacitated, and Bibi Netanyahu's proposal for "economic peace" without a Palestinian state seems to envision a similar outcome. In short, the Palestinians would not get a viable state of their own and would not enjoy full political rights. This is the solution that many people -- including Prime Minister Olmert -- compare to the apartheid regime in South Africa. It is hard to imagine the United States supporting this outcome over the long term, and Olmert has said as much.
But how long is "the long term"? Walt is describing the course that Israel has chosen to take for 40 years, during which time the United States has been supporting Israel consistently. But then Walt writes:
After all, supporting option 2 -- an apartheid state -- is contrary to the core American values of freedom and democracy and would make the United States look especially hypocritical whenever it tried to present itself as a model for the rest of the world. Openly endorsing apartheid would also demolish any hope we might have of improving our image in the Arab and Islamic world.
Yes, and this is exactly why the United States does not openly endorse apartheid, but says it supports some other outcome for Palestine. At the same time, though, it won't exert pressure on Israel towards any outcome that the Israeli government itself will not support. Hence Israel's stalling and creating distractions to supply "formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians", as Ariel Sharon's senior adviser Dov Weisglass put it in 2004. And hence the continuation of what Walt calls "an apartheid state".


  1. Thanks for blogrolling me, Peter.

    What Walt and the other two state advocates appear to have lost sight of, among many other things, is that 'an independent Palestinian state' on all or part of the WB and Gaza is actually a closer parallel to the classical apartheid bantustans than the current situation. Like the rump Palestine, the bantustans were little enclaves with some of the trappings of sovereignty that were supposed to provide what Livni is describing as 'the full national solution'. Black South Africans who wanted to exercise political rights could do so in the 'homelands' they were assigned to.

  2. Ernie, thanks for posting here.

    You make a good point that every version of the "two-state solution" that Israel has said it'll accept is essentially the same as the South African apartheid "solution" in which the long-term plan was to divide that country into a "white" state and a set of bantustans where black people would have full citizenship. But the ANC was always against bantustans and insisted on a one-state solution. In contrast, the PLO has accepted a two-state solution in Palestine. Israel won't accept a viable Palestinian state, but that's a subtlety that is lost on those whose opinion matters, namely the American public.

  3. Actually, as long as there is still a Jewish ethnocracy of Israel, any 'Palestine' would be a bantustan.

    You remind me that much of the rhetoric we see alleges that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians support a two state 'solution'. Of course, there is a range of proposals for partition, ranging from what's left inside the wall, through 'land swaps' and the Green Line, to the UN partition of 1947. I may do a post about it. Cheers.