It's Official: Two-State Solution Declared Dead

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Last week I posted a piece called "The Two-State Solution on Its Deathbed." I argued that the pervasiveness of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, combined with the realities of Israeli politics, left only a slim and rapidly diminishing chance that a two-state solution could be salvaged.

Apparently I was being too optimistic. Only hours after I posted the piece, the two-state solution was pronounced dead by someone who knows a lot more about this than I do--Gideon Levy, columnist for Haaretz, a.k.a. "the New York Times of Israel." Levy wrote, "It's time to raise the white flag, to admit publicly that the two-state solution has been foiled." It was doomed, he says, by "the plundering settlers, the establishment that embraces them and the majority of Israelis, who do not lift a finger to stop them."

In Levy's view, this leaves only one long-term option--the "one-state solution," as the boundaries of Israel are officially expanded to encompass the occupied territory. Levy notes the irony that all those who have abetted the settler movement will have thus advanced a goal traditionally associated with Israel's extreme left.

Actually, though, there are two versions of the one-state solution, one on the left and one on the far right. In the left-wing version, Palestinians are given the vote and full citizenship, and Jews and Arabs live (one hopes) harmoniously in a greater Israel that, given demographic trends, would presumably feature a majority Arab population before long. In the far-right version, the boundaries of Israel are officially expanded but Palestinians who live beyond the 1967 "green line" are never given the vote, so you wind up with an apartheid state.

But this schema may be too simple. Levy writes of a "handful of settlers" who have started talking about giving West Bank Palestinians full Israeli citizenship. This meshes with something I heard when I was in Israel this summer: Some religious settlers in the West Bank are, as it was put to me, "more attached to the land than to the state" and would rather surrender Israel's officially Jewish identity than surrender their settlements. So, conceivably, you could wind up with a coalition of people on the religious right and the human-rights left who support the left-wing version of the one-state solution.

In any event, I expect to see more and more discussion about the forms that a one-state solution could take, and how you would structure the resulting state to maximize the chances of harmony between Arabs and Jews.

In a way, supporters of a two-state solution should actually welcome that discussion. One of the few things I can imagine delivering a shock to Israel's political system sufficient to salvage a two-state solution is the tangible prospect of a one-state solution.

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Robert Wright is the author of, most recently, the New York Times bestseller The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic. More

Wright is also a fellow at the New America Foundation and editor in chief of Bloggingheads.tv. His other books include Nonzero, which was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book in 2000 and included on Fortune magazine's list of the top 75 business books of all-time. Wright's best-selling book The Moral Animal was selected as one of the ten best books of 1994 by The New York Times Book Review.Wright has contributed to The Atlantic for more than 20 years. He has also contributed to a number of the country's other leading magazines and newspapers, including: The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, Time, and Slate, and the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism and his books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

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