2-state prospects dim in Israel vote
Jerusalem — Is the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dead?
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coasted to another victory in this month’s Israeli election, it sure seems that way.
On the campaign trail, Netanyahu ruled out Palestinian statehood and for the first time, pledged to begin annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank. His expected coalition partners, a collection of religious and nationalist parties, also reject Palestinian independence.
Even his chief rivals, led by a trio of respected former military chiefs and a charismatic former TV anchorman, barely mentioned the Palestinian issue on the campaign trail and presented a vision of “separation” that falls far short of Palestinian territorial demands.
The two Jewish parties that dared to talk openly about peace with the Palestinians captured just 10 seats in the 120-seat parliament, and opinion polls indicate dwindling support for a two-state solution among Jewish Israelis.
“The majority of the people in the state of Israel no longer see a two-state solution as an option,” said Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy for the Yesha settler council, himself an opponent of Palestinian independence. “If we are looking for peace in this region, we will have to look for a different plan from the two-state solution.”
For the past 25 years, the international community has supported the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — lands captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war — as the best way to ensure peace in the region.
The logic is clear. With the number of Arabs living on lands controlled by Israel roughly equal to Jews, and the Arab population growing faster, two-state proponents say a partition of the land is the only way to guarantee Israel’s future as a democracy with a strong Jewish majority. The alternative, they say, is either a binational state in which a democratic Israel loses its Jewish character or an apartheid-like entity in which Jews have more rights than Arabs.
After decades of fruitless negotiations, each side blames the other for failure.
Israel says the Palestinians have rejected generous peace offers and promoted violence and incitement. The Palestinians say the Israeli offers have not been serious and point to Israel’s ever-expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem now home to nearly 700,000 Israelis.
The ground further shifted after the Hamas militant group took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 and left the Palestinians divided between two governments.
Since taking office a decade ago, Netanyahu has largely ignored the Palestinian issue, managing the conflict without offering a solution for how two peoples will live together in the future.
After clashing with the international community for most of that time, he has found a welcome friend in President Donald Trump, whose Mideast team has shown no indication of supporting Palestinian independence.
Tamar Hermann, an expert on Israeli public opinion at the Israel Democracy Institute, said the election results do not necessarily mean that Israelis have given up on peace. Instead, she said the issue just isn’t on people’s minds.
“Most Israelis would say the status quo is preferable to all other options, because Israelis do not pay any price for it,” she said.