10.01.2013Essay by Tony KlugTwo States – by Design or Disaster
The global reputation of the Jewish state has recently plunged new depths, as attested to by the overwhelming vote at the UN General Assembly on 29 November 2012 which granted Palestine non-member observer status in the face of robust opposition of the Israeli government.
Not that the resolution was 'anti-Israel' at all: it repeatedly affirmed support for "the two-state solution of an independent, sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous State of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security on the basis of the pre-1967 borders".
Of 188 voting states, only eight voted with Israel against the resolution, four of which were Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia! In opposing the motion, the US contradicted its own long-standing positions, a stance that is unlikely to be sustainable forever. Of the 27 EU states, only the Czech Republic voted on Israel's side. (The other two stalwarts were Canada and Panama.)
Israel's international isolation
As if this near isolation were not enough, the Israeli government's defiantly punitive response to the vote has enraged its few remaining key allies, notably the US, Canada and Germany (abstained).
"It is almost as if Israel's present leaders are asking for their country to be ostracized." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds a letter requesting recognition of Palestine as a state as he addresses the UN General Assembly It is almost as if Israel's present leaders are asking for their country to be ostracized. Their predecessors – the architects of the estimable Israeli Declaration of Independence – are surely turning in their graves.
It has been plain for many years that Israel's standing will go on deteriorating and the boycott movement will gather pace for as long as Israel continues to be an occupying power, depriving the Palestinians from exercising the self-determination that Israelis have long enjoyed. This is the key issue.
Important domestic causes to Jews around the world – for which allies are often vital – are likely to suffer too for as long as those who speak in their name identify uncritically with policies widely regarded as unjust and belligerent, and that would never be tolerated by the custodians of Jewish values if enacted by any other country.
Denial is not an answer
Some of Israel's supporters may prefer to attribute the country's problems to other matters or they may dismiss current trends as deriving from anti-Israel or anti-Semitic prejudice on the part of almost everyone everywhere, including the mass media, the trade unions, the universities, human rights groups and just about the entire NGO sector. But denial is not an answer. The state of Israel was conceived as a way of normalizing relations between Jews and all other peoples. Without a change of direction, there is a danger that its policies and actions might normalize anti-Jewish sentiment instead.
There will come a time, not far off, when it really will be too late to negotiate a peaceful two-state settlement through mutual agreement. This might be because, in exasperation, Palestinians get the message that increasingly hard-line Israeli governments are not actually interested in anything other than their effective capitulation, or it might be because Israel finally builds the long-planned settlement in the area known as E1 that would virtually cut off the northern and southern parts of the West Bank from each other and isolate them from East Jerusalem.
There is no prospect of Israel achieving a durable peace with its neighbours and being accepted into the changing region unless Israel accepts the two-state solution and supports it, Klug writes While this would probably signal the definitive end of a peace process, it does not mean it would be the end of the two-state idea. In the absence of a plausible alternative, it will endure, although its nature and means of delivery may well change.
The Israeli-Palestinian status quo is inherently unstable. It could fall apart at any time. With genuine intent and political will, Israel's celebrated ingenuity could doubtless find a way to end its occupation of Palestinian territory swiftly without jeopardizing its own legitimate security. Failing this, the perils of perpetual conflict loom, as does the prospect of a resilient Palestinian separatist movement that could grow into a full-blown insurrection, potentially marked by violence and counter-violence, atrocity and counter-atrocity.
Eventually, it might culminate in the emergence of a bedraggled Palestinian state alongside an isolated and widely despised Jewish state. The 'two-state solution' will have come about, but by disaster, not design.
The future does not have to unravel this way. It all depends on the choices human beings make. May the decision-makers be endowed with wisdom and foresight so that, a further forty years from now, the relationship between Israel and its neighbours will no longer be defined by bitterness and enmity. If you will it, as someone famously said, it is no dream.
© Qantara.de 2013
Dr Tony Klug is a special advisor on the Middle East to the Oxford Research Group and is vice-chair of the Arab-Jewish Forum.
Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de