Ben Birnbaum on the two-state solution

This (long) article in The New Republic surveyed attitudes toward the peace process in the Israeli and Palestinian scenes, focusing particularly on contemporary leaders but also with observations about the past few decades and the wider populations. Like others that I have read, Birnbaum believes that the window for a two-state solution is closing, but of course predicting the future is a dicey business.

Birnbaum thinks that the two-state solution is the best option:

If the two-state solution dies, Israel will only be left with ugly options. It could ride out the status quo as the world continues to turn against it. It could unilaterally create a Palestinian state by withdrawing to the line of the barrier, incurring most of the costs of a two-state solution with few of the benefits. It could annex the West Bank and give all Palestinians citizenship, making Israel a binational state. Or it could annex the entire West Bank without giving Palestinians citizenship, embracing apartheid.

Netanyahu is putting the finishing touches on a wide governing coalition, likely to include Bennett on the right and Livni on the left, and what he will do remains a mystery. Based on his historical aversion to the peace process, many believe he’ll opt for the status quo. Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, predicted that Netanyahu would embark on unilateral withdrawal before the end of his term. (“He’s not stupid,” Erekat said.) Others think he may do more. “I’m convinced that, if the circumstances are right, he will go much farther than people think,” Dennis Ross told me. “Abu Mazen told me he thought there was no way Bibi could do a deal. I said, ‘How do you know? You haven’t tested him.’”

But one thing is clear: No Israeli would be better positioned to sell and implement a deal than Bibi. Ami Ayalon, a former chief of Shin Bet and a leading peace activist, told me Netanyahu needs to envision his grandson 40 years from now reading a newspaper about the three great Zionist leaders: Theodor Herzl, who dreamt the state; David Ben Gurion, who built it; and Benjamin Netanyahu, who secured its future as a Jewish democracy.

Which do you think is most likely and/or best?



  1. 3 state solution, created unilaterally. Annex some of the West Bank and move some settlements. In a sense, a formalization of the status quo.

    I don’t buy the “peace now or never” idea he’s pushing, but I think a unilateral formal conclusion will actually be a (painful) step toward a lasting peace.

  2. Yep, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. East Jerusalem would, at least initially, be part of Israel, since from what I recall of past polling there, the majority would prefer to live in Israel than a Palestinian state.

    The gist of my thinking is to use the momentum of the status quo to handle each problem independently. A grand bargain seems silly to me at this point. If East Jerusalem becomes a problem, they could be given increased autonomy or perhaps even vote to be annexed into a future West Bank state, as long as it wouldn’t imperil Israel’s security.

  3. I think that has some genuine virtues: stopping the wait for a grand bargain that never happens, and actually accomplishing something.

    The big question that I would have is the viability of the West Bank and Gaza (especially Gaza) on their own. Do you imagine them surviving like that, or is that part of the point: they’re not sustainable states, and therefore this would drive the process on further?

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