By Ghassan Khatib
With the passing of time, discussion over the permanence of the two-state solution is increasing among Palestinians and, to a lesser extent, Israelis and others involved. Although the official line of both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority is that the two-state solution is the path of peace, a lot of changes are introducing serious question marks about its prospects.
The two most important areas of change that are provoking this debate are changes in the public opinion of both Palestinians and Israelis, and changes on the ground. A thorough analysis of trends in Israel over the last 15 years (most accurately, since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin) shows, with some fluctuations, a clear drift towards radicalization and away from the peace process built on the two-state plan. One sees evidence of this in three things: shifts in the political composition of successive Israeli cabinets, similar changes in the composition of the Israeli Knesset, and in the results of surveys and public opinion polls on ideological issues related to the conflict.
That change was also quite visible in the last two important speeches of current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The first was delivered to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2011, and the second delivered in the spring of last year to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He presented his own political position, one based on historical and ideological considerations, rather than political, legal or even security references. Netanyahu, speaking from a new Israeli consensus, talked of illegal Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank as people living on land belonging to their ancestors.
As I have often argued, extreme Israeli positions and practices only reinforce similar attitudes on the Palestinian side. Palestinian society has also witnessed a process of radicalization that led to the election of Hamas in 2006 and its subsequent armed takeover of Gaza.
The ongoing dismal failure of the peace process, together with its abandonment (or at least ineffective handling) by the international community promises the continuity of both of these trends in public opinion. The direction we are headed in contradicts completely the two-state solution.
At the same time, illegal Israeli practices in the occupied territories, particularly the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, have been stepped up in recent years. These are creating a practical reality that is not conducive to the creation of two independent states, but rather intertwines our economies, land use, resources and populations.
Joined together, public opinion and the reality on the ground are creating conditions that preclude the two-state possibility. And, there is no reason to believe that these will be reversed in the foreseeable future. That is leaving many analysts to conclude that, if the two-state solution is not already impossible, it is only a matter of time before it is a thing of the past.
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Center. This article represents his personal views. This commentary is published by Daily News Egypt in collaboration with bitterlemons.org.