Israel's two-state ploy aims to align it with Saudi-led camp
In a letter published by the Jerusalem Post on 3 August, a group of former senior security officials advised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, “Israel should initiate a political move that will provide credibility to Israel’s support of a two-state solution.”
While sceptical as to the possibility of making peace at this point in time, the former security officials stressed the “need to take advantage of the opportunity of mutual interests with the moderate Arab world”. Calling Netanyahu “a great soldier”, they exhorted him to “enable the establishment of a moderate Sunni-Western axis that will act against the extremist forces that foster instability in the region”.
Unsurprisingly, the letter made no mention whatsoever of the Palestinians, who are of zero significance in the calculations and future political plans of these ex-officials. Just as Palestinians and their interests are and have been of zero significance in the political mindset of Israel’s government and its vision of peacemaking. In fact, most of the peace plans based on the two-state formula have been designed to bypass and circumvent the Palestinians and their rights.
A minister of foreign affairs, Tzipi Livni, for instance, cited the option of revoking Israeli Arabs’ citizenship and transferring them out of Israel as a merit of the two-state solution. This approach is in line with the statements of most of Israel’s official representatives, including ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who sees Palestinians as a “demographic threat” to Israel’s existence and views the two-state solution as a means towards securing the Zionist dream.
Former chief of staff Moshe Yaalon has stated his belief that the two-state paradigm has nothing to do with peace and those who doubt this are simply disconnected from reality. Creating an independent Palestinian state, Yaalon believes, would undermine the state of Israel.
These statements clearly reflect the orientation of Israel’s politics, its political institutions and its doctrines of security. In addition, they epitomise the attitudes of the settler movement and are what a majority of Jewish Israelis mean by a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Israel’s current justice minister has stated, "the entire Palestinian people is the enemy" and the deputy speaker of its parliament has laid out a multi-phase plan for the extermination of Gaza. No “mere words,” these are manifestations of a mentality that is well woven into the fabric of Israel’s military and political establishment.
Why, then, are former security officials calling on their government to launch a political move showing its commitment to a two-state solution? What is the point, when they are convinced that this vision cannot bring stability or peace? Or when some of their closest allies, such as former US representative Joe Walsh, say “it cannot work, it has not worked, and it will not work”? Why keep up the pretence of being committed to two states as the only way to solve the Palestinian-Israeli impasse?
Lining up with anti-Iran axis
Part of the answer lies in the content of the letter itself. It lists the potential advantages of initiating a new political move and, in particular, its chances of garnering added security assistance for Israel and, more importantly, of enabling “both the integration of Israel’s ability with those regional and international players who share the view of nuclear Iran as a serious threat and the recruiting of moderate Arab states for the advancement of a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
These officials understand that Israel’s status as a strong regional military power is well established. What remains unresolved, though, is the issue of its legitimacy and its acceptance by its neighbours. Israel is not integrated into the Middle East either politically, economically or culturally.
Launching a new peace reiterating a commitment to a two-state solution could, the officials believe, bring Israel closer to such unattained legitimacy. That is, at least within the regional, so-called “moderate” camp led by the Saudis and backed by the West to counter the hard-line camp led by Iran.
This should position Israel on the axis of the good, potentially reshaping its image in the Arab world and, in the medium run, counting it as a stabilising, rather than disruptive player. All the more so, since Israel’s enemies in the region - Iran, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian resistance movements led by Hamas - are, to a large extent, also the enemies of “moderate” Arab states and their international allies.
Playing the Sunni-Shia divide
The authors of the letter are also suggesting to use the sectarian Sunni/Shia aspect of the conflict now in full swing in the Middle East by allying Israel with the Saudi-led Sunni camp against the Iranian-led Shia camp.
While vehemently Jewish, the state’s calculus and emphasis, they indicate, should shift somewhat in realm of political, regional realism. After all, both Israel and the Saudi-led camp agree that Iran is a serious threat and oppose its recent nuclear deal with P5+1 countries. The letter also reveals Israeli security officials’ awareness of the currently bleak political situation following the Arab awakening.
Arab governments and their peoples are much too preoccupied with their own struggles to worry about the Palestinians. Domestic issues and current wars inside Arab countries have totally sidelined the Palestine question. This has already had very severe effects for the Palestinian cause and has granted Israel added leeway to continue its expansionist project and impose its policies.
With the Palestinians divided among themselves and between two leaderships with seriously diverging programmes, Israeli officials see a golden opportunity for maximising the benefits that Israel would glean from any future political deal.
Rights are taken not given
What these "visionaries" are missing, however, are the abiding effects of the horror that Israel visited upon Gaza last summer. In its aftermath, the entire Palestinian people has been reaching the recognition that rights are taken tooth and nail and never granted by occupiers.
Current discourse suggests that a large majority of Palestinians are becoming hardliners on a potential political deal, and will not countenance any attempt to overlook their rights. They are aware that the existing peace formula was never meant to ensure them rights or bring them dignity. They know it was used to strip them of their national dream and herd them into separate Bantustans.
Rehashing the two-state vision as recommended by Israel’s ex-security officials is no more than a recycling of madness. It is time to let go of calls for a two-state solution once and for all. It will bring no stability either to Israel or anyone else. The path to peace must pass through the Palestinian gate. Anything else amounts to no more than pressing the button that says: “restart game”.
- Ghada Ageel is a visiting professor at the University of Alberta Political Science Department (Edmonton, Canada), an independent scholar, and active in the Faculty4Palestine - Alberta. Her new book “Apartheid in Palestine: Hard Laws and Harder Experiences” is forthcoming with the University of Alberta Press - Canada.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: A young Palestinian girl walks among the ruins from Israel's onslaught on Gaza last summer