Is the world giving up on a two-state solution?
posted at 1:21 pm on July 30, 2014 by Noah Rothman
CNN’s foreign affairs guru, Fareed Zakaria, is melancholic.
The violence in Gaza, he is convinced, will not abate so long as the people of the Gaza Strip have no hope. He is convinced that Gaza residents will forever despair in their prospects not because of the lack of civil society, basic public services, or cultural brutality that has characterized life in the Strip since the terror group Hamas was elected to serve as the governing authority. No. For Zakaria, Gaza residents lack for hope because theirs is not a formally recognized state.
He expressed his despondency in a recent interview with CNN’s New Day:
In the long term I would say the problem is this – what is his strategy? At the end of the day, you have the occupation for 47 years. In 2008, Ehud Olmert had a similar war against Gaza. I was more sympathetic then, because Olmert was engaged in a serious negotiation with the Palestinians to try to create a two-state solution. Benjamin Netanyahu has done essentially no negotiating with the Palestinians on that front. So it’s fair to say you are right in the short term, but what is the long-term strategy? Are you going to be back here a year from now, five years from now?
On Tuesday, Zakaria echoed his lament over the lack of any serious push for a two-state solution amid a war. He noted that anti-Hamas forces have been trying to neutralize that group by military means for 20 years with no success. It seems absurd to suggest that a strategy that has failed for 20 years should be replaced with a strategy that has failed for 60 years, and an increasing number of serious international actors are coming to that same conclusion.
According to British Prime Minster David Cameron, the “facts on the ground” are “beginning to make a two-state solution impossible.”
This statement comes months after Secretary of State John Kerry sounded a note of skepticism about the increasingly unviability of a two-state solution. “I think we have some period of time—in one to one-and-a-half to two years—or it’s over,” the secretary said at a House hearing months before the latest conflict.
What has been become clear in recent weeks, even for those only marginally familiar with the geopolitical landscape in the Levant, is that a two-state solution is no longer viable because the world is essentially dealing with three distinct political entities in this region. In spite of a recently concluded power-sharing deal between Hamas and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, Gaza and the West Bank are no longer one state divided but two states with divergent political cultures and contradictory governments.
This conclusion has been on display since the start of this conflict and has become inescapable in recent days.
On Tuesday, Nabil Shaath, a former Palestinian Authority foreign minister, was blindsided live on CNN with the news Hamas had just rejected a ceasefire proposal put forward by authorities in the West Bank. His shock and confusion was visibly apparent.
The divergence in preferred tactics between PA officials and Hamas was on display yet again on Wednesday when Palestinian Parliament Member and former presidential candidate, Mustafa Barghouti, essentially condemned Hamas’s terms of engagement.
In spite of his effort to devote all of his censure to Israeli behavior, Barghouti’s admission that Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad storing weapons of war in schools represent a “violation” of international law is significant. This is the kind of rhetoric that one does not hear coming out of Gaza.
Though they remain one people with a unified culture, the West Bank and Gaza are divided today by both geography and politics. More tenuous circumstances than those have catalyzed the founding of independent and sovereign states in the past.
The two-state solution may not be entirely dead, but it does seem to have outlived its usefulness.