by Khaled Amayreh*
Prospects of a two-state solution are fast disappearing with Israel’s next government sticking to its war of attrition stance, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah
Several European countries have warned Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that maintaining the status quo in the West Bank is unacceptable and untenable and could lead to unforeseen ramifications for the entire region, already buffeted by turmoil and violence.
It is unknown if these warnings were coordinated with the US.
The warnings, which coincided with the release of Israeli election results, came after Netanyahu gave indications that he would want to maintain the status quo with the Palestinian during his second term.
Sources close to the Israeli premier said Netanyahu would seek the formation of the broadest possible coalition government made up of the Likud-Beiteinu list and several other parties representing the cacophonic political map in Israel.
Contrary to widespread speculations, the right-wing’s victory in recent Israeli elections was extremely slim, forcing Netanyahu to cooperate with relatively moderate parties, such as Yesh Atid (There is Future) headed by Yair Lapid, for the formation of a stable government.
In light of the indecisive election outcome, it is expected that any Israeli government formed on the basis of the elections would be unstable and probably short-lived in that Netanyahu would find it hard to appease all coalition parties that represent variant, if not contradictory, social and ideological agendas.
This week, the starkest warning about the imminent death of the two-state solution came from London.
“Within a year, the two-state solution will become impossible”
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague argued that “within a year, the two-state solution will become impossible” due to the continuing expansion of Jewish settlements.
Hague also warned that Israel was losing international support.
“I hope that whatever Israeli government emerges will recognise that we are approaching the last chance to bring about such a solution,” Hague told the UK Parliament.
“I condemned recent Israeli decisions to expand settlements. I speak regularly to Israeli leaders stressing our profound concern that Israel’s settlement policy is losing the support of the international community and will make the two-state solution impossible.
He added: “There is a clock ticking with potentially disastrous consequences for the peace process.”
Hague is planning to visit Washington, DC this week to convince the new Obama administration of the urgent need for the resumption of the peace process. However, it is unlikely that the US administration will take dramatic steps to revive peace efforts in the region, at least in the foreseeable future.
There are two main reasons for this assessment. First, the powerful Jewish lobby that opposes rather firmly any meaningful pressure on Israel, and second, the indecisive outcome of Israeli elections that will serve as a comfortable excuse for Netanyahu to engage in more stonewalling.
Furthermore, it is far from certain whether the probable inclusion of Yair Lapid’s party and other centre-left parties into the government would lead to any real change in the overall Israeli policy.
Lapid’s party platform does include a call for resuming the peace process with the Palestinians. But it also calls for keeping or annexing settlements into Israel. This militates against any real hopes for a speedy resumption of the peace process, let alone genuine expectations for a breakthrough.
The Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post quoted Tuesday former deputy foreign minister Yossi Belin as saying that Netanyahu would only agree to a provisional Palestinian state with temporary borders.
The Palestinians strongly reject the idea of a provisional state, fearing that Israel would use the intervening period to steal more Palestinian land and build more Jewish settlements.
The “virtual impossibility”of the strategy
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly planning to invite Lapid to visit Ramallah. It is unlikely, however, that such a visit would revive a peace process that appears otherwise dead in the water.
One Palestinian official, a close confidante to Abbas, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “even the most peace-minded Israelis wouldn’t allow the refugees to return, wouldn’t dismantle the settlements, wouldn’t leave East Jerusalem and wouldn’t allow for the establishment of a true Palestinian State.”
Observers in occupied Palestine, both Palestinian and Israeli, have known for some time that prospects for the creation of a genuine Palestinian State were slim and dying. However, for the lack of a workable alternative, the Palestinian leadership has continued to cling to such a solution.
Privately, nearly all PA leaders admit the “virtual impossibility” of the two-state solution strategy given the ubiquitous proliferation of Jewish settlements.
But for pragmatic purposes, they feel they can’t appear as abandoning this strategy, as they are unsure of the political ramifications of such a step.
For its part, the Israeli leadership hopes that it can liquidate the Palestinian question by unrelenting harassment and persecution as well as economic pressure.
The financially insolvent PA government is struggling to keep afloat as thousands of civil servants, including school teachers, are not showing up for work in protest against the non-payment of salaries.
The PA has been appealing to Arab countries to make good on earlier pledges earlier to keep the Ramallah regime going.
The grim political forecast, coupled with the economic collapse now underway in the West Bank, leaves many Palestinians expecting harder times still in the coming weeks and months. (T/P02/E1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)
* Khalid Amayreh is a journalist living in Palestine. He obtained his MA in journalism from the University of Southern Illinois in 1983. Since the 1990s, Mr. Amayreh has been working and writing for several news outlets among which is Aljazeera.net, Al-Ahram Weekly, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), and Middle East International.
He can be reachedthrough [email protected].