Sixty-six years since Israel declared itself a state, and the Palestinians found themselves refugees; and no solution is in sight, despite many so called attempts to reach one. The situation for the Palestinians has been from worse to worse; while on the Israeli side there has been an exponential progress.
One of the main steps towards a solution had been the recognition of a Palestinian sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital. And for many this solution is becoming in sight. But as much as the political rhetoric may want us to think otherwise, a two state solution is impossible. It cannot happen. It is not going to happen. And those who are calling for it know that it is impossible even as they insist on it.
There have been many who have challenged the possibility of a two state solution. Mostly of their arguments were based on the complexities of internal politics of both the Israelis and of the Palestinians. Israeli settlements are not reversible; Jerusalem has become indivisible; the right of return for Palestinians is politically impossible; and the Israeli right is growing and Orthodox Jews are increasing in numbers. On the other side most Palestinians have not given up on the idea of eradicating Israel; the absolute right of return is untouchable; and Jerusalem is the only capital for the Palestinians. Some arguments go further to suggest that a two state solution is not in the interest of some of the main Palestinian actors. The current form of the conflict has been a source of power and financial profit for them. If political bargaining impedes the process on the Israeli side, economic bargaining impedes it on the Palestinian.
I agree that those challenges stand firm against the possibility of a two state solution. Yet I also believe that they are not the main ones. If they were then time would be enough to overcoming them as the two sides will reach a point where the status quo becomes unsustainably expensive. But I believe they are a manifestation or an expression of something else which goes deeper into the very nature of a ‘state’. Something which makes the natural and default Israeli response in contradiction of the very idea of a Palestinian state.
John Mearsheimer in his wonderful and insightful book ‘The Tragedy of Great Power Politics’ argues that the nature of the international system is such that “powers that have no reason to fight each other … never the less have little choice but … to dominate”. Mearsheimer then uses a quote from the 1860s by Otto von Bismarck the German/Prussian statesman from 1862-1890. I will mention the quote in full because of the naked truth is reveals, and the raw violence that it exhibits. A violence that is in the subconscious of every ‘state’ regardless of its system and of the good intentions of its leadership; be it a democracy or an autocracy. As Bismarck was unifying Germany, it appeared in the 1860s “that Poland, which was not an independent state at the time, might regain its sovereignty” at that Bismarck commented that: ‘Restoring the Kingdom of Poland in any shape or form is tantamount to creating an ally for any enemy that chooses to attack us” he believed, and therefore he advocated that Prussia should “smash those Poles till, losing all hope, they lie down and die; I have every sympathy for their situation, but if we wish to survive we have no choice but to wipe them out.’…”
Smash the poles. Wipe out the Poles. Let the Poles lie down and die… and all because it may be one day an ally for an enemy.
A sovereign state?
This is the naked truth of state-state relations. This is the raw violence that exists behind all the statements on international law and world peace. A miserable reality indeed, and which many would rather not consider or recognize. But it is this reality which dictates Israeli strategic policy towards the Palestinians; and it is this reality which tells us that Israel can never ever accept the Palestinians with a sovereign state. If they do, then they are creating a situation which is to them what Poland was to Germany. They know that a Palestinian state will not be a viable state and that it will remain a dependent state for a very long time. They also know that it will not be a democratic state, even if it were a “ballot” state. And they know that its population will remain in economic hardship for the foreseeable future. All of those three make it, in the eyes of an Israeli strategist, an ideal ally for potential threats against Israel. Something the Israelis cannot and will not accept at any cost. Nor will the Americans. Neither will say it in those terms largely because political rhetoric works hard to hide the violent reality of statehood. Israelis and Americans will say that they fear Hamas or other militants. But the real fact is that they fear the very existence of a neighboring state.
A Palestinian state being impossible does not mean that talking about it is impossible or undesirable. And while such talk of such a state goes on, the only steps being taken are towards a pseudo-state; one that exhibits the image of a state and sooth Palestinian national pride. A mirage state; not fully sovereign, powerless, yet is able to create the effect of a resolution to the long conflict. A half a state as some politicians termed it a few years ago. No matter how much we hear of two states we should be absolutely sure that what is really meant is a state and a ½.
Abdullah Hamidaddin is a writer and commentator on religion, Middle Eastern societies and politics with a focus on Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He is currently a PhD candidate in King’s College London. He can be followed on Twitter: @amiq1