IVN contributor Michael Austin is right. So is Fareed Zakaria, the majority of Americans, their government, and the United Nations. The most viable, moral solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-state solution.
In fact, enough people in Israel and the West Bank/Gaza support a two-state solution that were it placed on a referendum there would be a good chance of it passing. The two-state solution has been the international consensus since the mid-20th century. I generally loathe consensus and its manufacturers, but I strongly agree with this one.
Mr. Austin does what any self-respecting political commentator should do: present today’s issues to the public in a compelling, understandable fashion. Really it’s the general goal of any decent journalist: present the truth in as simple and well-reasoned terms as possible. But Israel and Palestine are where simple and well-reasoned go to die. Unfortunately, in this case, I will have to provide the opposite of Mr. Austin’s service and (very briefly) complicate the picture.If the vast majority of citizens around the world, including in Israel and Palestine, know that a two-state solution is the most viable, moral solution, then why has it never been realized? This is the central puzzle I entertained when I went to the region for a six-week
fellowship in the summer of 2012.
The fellowship was funded by the Tikvah Fund, a U.S.-based “philanthropic foundation and ideas institution committed to supporting the intellectual, religious, and political leaders of the Jewish people and the Jewish State…politically Zionist, economically free-market oriented, culturally traditional, and theologically open-minded.”
The fellows were hosted by the Ein Prat Leadership Academy, a co-ed midrasha (Jewish institute) located in Alon, an Israeli West Bank settlement about 20 minutes east of Jerusalem. Alon and other Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal by the United Nations and most of the international community.
I decided to participate because I knew shamefully little about Israel, Judaism, the philosophy of Zionism, and the conflict. Despite my lack of knowledge, I entered the program generally sympathetic to Israel and, as I perceived, its struggle to survive against a deeply hostile neighborhood.
The program was intense, both intellectually and emotionally, and the students and staff were charitable to me, a Gentile with only a basic understanding of their culture. I did, however, have one major advantage: a U.S. passport.
As an American non-Jew, I was granted complete access to the West Bank, including Palestinian-controlled areas like the city of Ramallah, conflict cities like Hebron, and refugee camps in Bethlehem. I used my weekends to drive all over Israel and travel throughout the West Bank.
With each visit to Palestinian communities, I grew slightly more suspicious of the narrative advanced by the fellowship. Ultimately, it was what I saw in Hebron that not only upended my perception of the conflict, but shook the very core of my person.
The details of what I saw will have to be saved for another time, but the conclusion remains unequivocal: Israel is perpetrating a massive crime against Palestinians. But that’s not all. Palestinians (many of whom are Christian, by the way) also suffer from an internal scourge of Islamic fundamentalism.
Israel is partly (not fully) responsible for the Islamists’ appeal: by hollowing out any possibility for true Palestinian self-government and subjecting them to the indignities of living under military occupation, groups like Hamas capitalize on the anger, resentment, and helplessness by offering services and community support that the Palestinian Authority cannot or is prevented from creating.
Yet, these same groups that promise Palestinians something like control over their own destinies are fundamentally opposed to any co-existence with Jews and Israel.At the same time, to speak of Israel as one, unified country is hugely misleading. Americans who bemoan political polarization in their country would be horrified by the state of politics in Israel.
There is a vast cultural-political canyon that divides Israelis, and in a region where land is everything, the two sides are best represented by the cities in which they live: Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The two cities are separated by less than 50 miles, but they may as well be in two different countries in two different continents.
Jerusalem is the Holy City. All three monotheistic religions’ stories are either centered in Jerusalem or feature it prominently. For Jews, Jerusalem is the site of the Western Wall; for Christians, the Via Dolorosa; and for Muslims, the Temple Mount.
I won’t forget watching from a cafe throngs of every monotheistic sub-sect (Orthodox Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Catholics, every type of Protestant, Sunni Muslim, etc.) pass by dressed in their respective traditional clothing. I’ve never seen so many people of such disparate religious convictions walking within such close proximity to one another.
Readers should not mistaken this for happy harmony; the mood in Jerusalem is tense and thoroughly regulated by patrols of heavily armed Israeli military police.
Tel Aviv is the Iconoclastic City. It is the Amsterdam of the Orient, the South Beach of the Mediterranean. It is the "Global Gay Capital," boasting huge gay-pride parades that put San Francisco’s to shame. The archetypal resident is a young, scantily clad, EDM-dancing, liberal, secular Jew.
Naturally, residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem can’t stand each other. Indeed, the highway between these two global cities conspicuously suffers from very few traffic jams outside of peak tourism season. It takes a lot for a Tel Avivian to want to go to Jerusalem -- and even more for a cloaked worshiper to hit the beaches of today’s Sodom and Gomorrah.More Israelis live in Tel Aviv, but political power is firmly in the hands of the Jerusalem-wing (conservative Zionists) of the country. Their aim is the creation of a Jewish State.
By that mandate, Israel includes all of the land inherited by their progenitors directly from god, including the West Bank of the Jordan River Valley. The acquisition of all the land is the only true path to redemption for the Jewish people.
By definition, a Jewish State not only contains all of Israel, but is also majority-Jewish. If West Bank Palestinians were included in a "Greater Israel," they would outnumber Jews. This only leaves one option: the annexation of the West Bank and the removal of Palestinians from the territory.
What this all means for peace is horribly simple: the Israeli and Palestinian parties of god have a veto on peace and they exercise it by terrorism (by rockets and fighter jet missiles), forced relocation, illegal settlement construction and colonization, and the miseducation of their youth who will learn to hate each other.
This is a war dictated by the (minority) ultra-religious wings of Judaism and Islam, with the unhelpful addition of American Christian evangelicals and an American Congress whose members fear being primaried out of office by the most partisan (and often most religious) voters in their electoral districts. Until the parties of god are politically defeated, there will not be a chance for peace.
Photo Source: AP