Is the two-state solution dead? (Part 65,200) [1]

Definitely not Shimon Peres.

For years, a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict was touted primarily on the extremes —the far left, and the far right. To critics, it was either a euphemism for ridding Israel of its Jewish heritage or for Zionist expansionism. But with the election of Reuven Rivlin as president, a form of the one-state solution has found its way into Israeli mainstream politics.

Rivlin, a member of Israel’s Likud party, was sworn in on July 24, replacing 90-year-old Shimon Peres. (Early retirement clearly wasn’t one of his priorities.) What’s interesting about the transition is what it arguably signifies for those bemoaning the so-called “death” of the two-state solution: Peres, who’s been one of the most vocal and adamant supporters of a two-state solution, is being replaced by Rivlin, a supporter of a sort of a one-state solution.

As Israeli journalist Dmitri Reider wrote in Foreign Policy in 2010:

Strangely, it is precisely on the most polarizing of questions — the Israeli occupation and the future of the Palestinian territories — where right-wing Zionist MKs and non-Zionist Arab MKs are beginning to approach what may be a common ground.
Rivlin says mending the gaps within Israel should happen in the context of moving toward a one-state solution across the Green Line. “Barak, Livni, Peres and recently Netanyahu are not even talking about a real state for the Palestinians,” he sneers. “They’re talking about an autonomy with no army, borders, control over airspace or telecommunications.”
“On the other hand, you have the basic fact that contrary to Barak’s slogan — ‘We’re here and they’re there’ — Jews and Arabs today live both here and there, on both sides of the Green line, especially in Jerusalem. Partitioning Jerusalem would lead to continuous bloodshed between segregated enclaves, like in Belfast some years ago. If there’s a threat to Jewish statehood, its less in a bi-national solution than in partitioning the land.” (Emphasis added.)

Rivlin’s no left-winger — you’re unlikely to find him trumpeting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, hanging out with groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, or at a protest chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Rivlin doesn’t want a bi-national state; he’d prefer a joint sovereignty arrangement of sorts. He’d want a one-state solution wherein Israel would retain its inherent “Jewishness” —not a purely unaffiliated state imagined by some of the left. Some of his other views —for example, he described a Reform Jewish ceremony as “idol worship” earlier this year—haven’t made him a ton of friends with traditionally more liberal or left-wing groups.

For decades, the two-state solution was both Israel’s raison d’état and the conceptual basis for peace negotiations. Now, the fact that its staunchest supporter has been replaced with a fellow who has stated he’d prefer “the Palestinians to be citizens of this country rather than divide the land” may be telling. We are, after all, in an era where even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is convinced we only have “one to one-and-a-half to two years” to broker a solution or it’s done for. Pessimism is rife, and although the two-state solution isn’t officially dead, the election of the first on-the-books supporter of a one-state solution proves things aren’t looking up.


[1] The number of hits you get on Google News when you search “is the two state solution dead.”