My new piece is up at The American Prospect:
Let’s face it: When Barack Obama said in Cairo that “the only resolution” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is two separate states, he was courageously insisting — well, on what’s become conventional wisdom.
But not the unanimous wisdom. The hardliners on each side aren’t alone in questioning the two-state idea. On the street in Jerusalem, I’ve run into old friends, veterans of Israeli peace and human-rights activism who say we’ve passed the tipping point: There are too many settlements; Israeli withdrawal is impossible; negotiations on two states have repeatedly failed; the only solution is a single, shared Jewish-Palestinian state. I’ve heard Palestinian intellectuals, former supporters of a two-state solution, who say the same. Among writers outside the conflict zone, British Jewish historian Tony Judt may be best known for suggesting — back in 2003 — that as a nation-state, Israel is “an anachronism” and should be replaced by a binational state. Ironically, Obama himself may have given this idea a bit more traction among American progressives — his election proving, perhaps, that multiculturalism within one polity can work, perhaps not just in America but elsewhere. So is he pursuing an obsolete strategy?
Actually, no. This time the conventional wisdom is correct.
Difficult as reaching a two-state agreement is, it is still a more practical solution than a single state. It has more political support on both sides. And in a very basic way, more psychological than philosophical, most Israeli Jews and most Palestinians are nationalists: Their personal identity is rooted in a national community for which they want political independence.
Let’s imagine that tomorrow, Israel and the occupied territories are reconstituted as the Eastern Mediterranean Republic, with equal citizenship and rights for all, and elections are held. With the current population, the parliament will be split virtually evenly between Jews and Palestinians. One of the first issues that the parliament and judiciary will face is the settlements that Israel built — in large part on land requisitioned by the Israeli military in the early years of the occupation, or on what Israel declared to be “state land” under its stunningly wide interpretation of Ottoman-era law, or simply on real estate privately owned by Palestinians. In all three cases, Palestinian claimants will demand return of their property, quite possibly meaning the eviction of those living on it. The problem of evacuating settlers won’t vanish. Rather, it will divide the new state’s politics on communal lines. …
Read the rest here, and come back to SoJo to comment.