by Apo Sahagian
For a few years now, there has been much commotion about the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And most arguments end with a prediction of what will transpire. Taking into consideration the current stalemate [with Israeli settlement expansion and Palestinian bids to gain recognition at international levels] many have begun to re-think about how the conflict will play out.
For some, the landscape negotiated in the Oslo Accords has been irreversibly changed; thus there goes the two-state solution out the window. The only plausible solution for this camp is one-state where Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal rights.
For others, there’s still hope for two-states. Daily they profess their belief that the two-states will finally materialize, simply because the two-state solution is the only game in town.
It has to be noted that there are no uniform views among the Palestinians and Israelis regarding the matter. Rather, both Palestinian and Israeli groups transcend between the differing perspectives. For example, though the current Netanyahu government talks about a two-state (though his personal perception of it is quite far from a Palestinian’s), the Israeli right-wingers have been recently increasing their calls for a one-state (though yet again, their perception of it is extremely different than a Palestinian’s).
On the other hand, while the Palestinian Authority maintains its support for a negotiated agreement for two states, the public’s stance appears to have dramatically changed to supporting a one-state (though the polls continue to express support for two-states). To the average Palestinian, the post-Oslo years have given nothing but empty promises for their own independent state.
Yet even the backers of two-states falter in their firmness of encouraging it. Netanyahu’s conditions for a Palestinian state give reason to doubt his sincerity, while the Palestinian public protests against the economical arrangements of Oslo shake the PA into realizing that the signed document has been manipulated against them. Consequently, all the players are in a tight spot. Either they are too cautious to make a move, or simply want to stubbornly remain still.
Their static posture has given way to the public’s observations and predictions. One side argues that the settlement expansion [which snake through the West Bank] has not only betrayed the promise of Oslo but also has impeded the continuity and viability of the Palestinian State. As a result Israel proper and the West Bank have become intertwined to the point of no return. Hence the only possible outcome can be one-state, whose hints already exist since Israel is the dominant ruler between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
In contrast, there are proponents of two-states who assert that the current status quo will end, because it is unsustainable- ironically, the same unsustainability is used as a factor by the one-staters to further their views. With the Arab Spring bringing change to the Middle East and affecting both the Israeli government and the PA, a break is bound to take place. Or, as seen in the West Bank in September 2012, the Palestinians will erupt with frustration at the detrimental situation and will force the PA to reconsider its approach towards handling the conflict and bringing about a solution. Additionally, the Israeli public will similarly pour out its anger at the government- as happened in the summer of 2011- against the cost of living in Israel. The occupation and settlement expansion is connected to the economy of those in Israel proper, and a clash of interests will generate a change in the status quo. There many probable [and unknown] scenarios that can play out, but I’m not going to discuss each one. Rather it is important to get the sense of the people’s and government’s attitudes these days.
Yet the limits we have set upon the future of the conflict lead us away from other options. One-state and two-states are not the only solutions or the only alternatives to each other. There are other forms of political entities that can come out, randomly, surprisingly, or gradually. Look at Switzerland, Belgium, or Bosnia & Herzegovina. Admittedly, they might not be the ideal structures of a state but at least they give us a look at other possibilities. More so, there is the reasonable but short-lived example of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, which consisted of three countries.
But the limitations do not end there. With all the predictions being claimed left and right, I sat down with one of Israel’s most prominent historians regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict. We discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and where it was going; what will the end be. He gave the best answer: “I don’t know.” If a historian, nurtured in past repetitive cycles,utters ignorance then allow me to be humble and concur with that ignorance. Because, we really do not know what will happen. We do not know if the conflict will conclude tomorrow, in ten years, thirty years; or if it will result in one-state, two-states, a confederation, etc. All the outcomes will have losers and winners. That is certain.
The inactiveness of the governments is risky. Risky to themselves, to their constituencies, to their future. They will have to move sooner or later, because once the overwhelming amount of extreme colliding views hold reign in navigating the situation, then even the ‘I don’t know’ will not be enough.