Little Hope of Middle East Solution
Tel Aviv Monday. Everybody supports a two state solution. Everybody knows the details of an eventual settlement. That is, the Clinton proposal that Arafat came close to accepting in the last hours of the Clinton presidency in 2001. The catch? Well, neither side actually wants to see it happen. The maximum that Israel can offer falls short of what they can sell politically to their people and likewise for the Palestinians – they would need to give up more than they could sell politically. Yet both sides must keep the process going. To satisfy the Americans and avoid being blamed for the next disaster. The Israel-Palestine dispute may prove insoluble, like the Kashmir dispute. It may be a matter of managing it.
One reason for no progress on the Clinton plan on the Israeli side is the difficulty of trusting – not the Palestinian Authority – but Hamas, and on the Palestinian side, the notion that the Palestinian narrative is not based on a dream of an independent state(located on the West Bank and Gaza) but on the right of return. Maybe Palestinians understand that such a state would not work economically. The right of return is their deeper desire and would, of course, be seen as unacceptable by any Israeli government.
My source, hugely experienced in Israeli security, delivered another sobering assessment : he has never seen a presentation that says Israel can defend itself without the Golan Heights, especially if you allow for the prospect that Syrian Sunnis could take over from the minority Alawite regime sometime.
You want some hope, somewhere in this picture? My source says there is some chance that economic sanctions – more effective than expected – could persuade Iran to freeze, not abandon, its nuclear plans. Without that Israel in two years would face two options : do nothing or make a military strike, both dangerous.
But it was in challenging my own belief – most people’s belief – in the two state solution, the Clinton plan, that my source sowed the greatest angst. Could it be that the land is too small to give security to Israel and economic viability to Palestinians through two states? I despair for the future of these two peoples as I contemplate the question.