After 50 years of Israeli control over the West Bank, increasing numbers believe that a ‘two states for two peoples’ solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is impossible. These pessimists point to the total lack of trust between the two parties and the supposed irreversibility of the settlement enterprise, with some 590,000 people now living beyond the former 1949 armistice or Green Line. In this article, Blue White Future co-chairmen Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka argue that while the obstacles are undoubtedly formidable, neither is insurmountable. The two-state solution is in political trouble but it is still achievable and imperative to the respective parties.
Lack of trust or lack of creativity?
The lack of trust between Israelis and Palestinians originates primarily from repeated failures reaching signed agreements and subsequently implementing them, combined with varying levels of violent confrontations. The more the parties fail, the more they blame the other side, and trust declines still further. Each failure means the next round of talks begins from an even lower point. Between and during negotiations extremists and spoilers on both sides do their utmost to erode trust still further, sabotaging any progress, through terrorism, incitement and other actions.
The only way to exit this vicious cycle is to employ a different paradigm, one that is not based solely on bilateral negotiations towards a comprehensive agreement and thus does not require mutual trust as a necessary condition for progress.
The reason for changing the process is to lower the bar. Currently it is set too high: the achievement of a fully-fledged Permanent Status peace agreement. As in a high-jump competition, we need to set the bar at a lower level and only after it has been cleared, should we raise it progressively.
A more realistic target is a “divorce” two-state agreement between the parties, focused on phased separation between the sides and an absence of violence. But even that level is currently still too ambitious, as was proven in the Camp David and Taba talks in 2000-2001 and in the Annapolis process in 2007-2008. Instead of moving towards an agreement to two states, we need to define our goal as moving towards a reality of two states, and to advance gradually towards that goal.
Read the full article in Fathom.