The idea that the two-state solution is losing relevance in the face of growing settlement activity is hardly new. Its origins can be traced back to an
"irreversibility thesis" that Israeli intellectual Meron Benvenisti has been propounding for 30 years. Benvenisti is quoted in a New York Times
article from November 1982 claiming that Israel's "de facto annexation" of the West Bank sets the clock on five minutes to midnight as to dividing
historical Palestine. The Doomsday clock has been ticking ever since, but although it is evident that the settlements are the single most crucial obstacle
to peace, it is less clear why so many people consider their presence irreversible. For even the doomsayers cannot deny that the settlements are an
extremely costly venture which remains completely dependent on Israeli funding. Reel in the infrastructures, rescind the lavish benefits, provide
incentives and reparations for repatriated settlers, and the whole problem shrinks back to manageable proportions.
In a strange turn of events, the irreversibility thesis --for years the domain of pro-Palestinian supporters of the so-called one-state solution -- is
increasingly being espoused by the Israeli right. In a July 2012 New York Times op-ed, Dani Dayan,
chairman of the Yesha Council (the representative body of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories), called Jewish settlements in all areas of the
Occupied Territories "an irreversible fact." Affirming growing disillusionment with the two-state solution as "wonderful news," Dayan urged the
international community to relinquish "its vain attempts to attain the unattainable two-state solution." Even prominent leaders of the liberal wing of the
Likud Party made similar comments; Reuven Rivlin, the former Speaker of the Knesset, has recently stated that "there can only be one-state between the
Jordon and the sea" and that "it is clear that the idea of partition has failed."
Ironically, the irreversibility thesis could not have been more opportune for the unsustainable settlement project. Realizing that political support is
infinitely stronger than landholding, settler leaders aimed from the get-go at what they called "settling the hearts" -- securing the empathy of the
general Israeli public. But while their territorial endeavor thrived, their support among Israelis never soared. Public opinion polls consistently show
that support for the two-state solution trumps support for the occupation and settlements. And so, having failed to muster support by undercutting the
desirability of partition, the settlers now question its feasibility.
It should be stressed that alarmism about the impending end of the two-state option is a self-fulfilling prophecy. All this talk of the closing window for
two states is encouraging settlers to play for time. If they can grab another hill or forestall an eviction of an illegal outpost, there will come a time
in which their untenable project becomes irrevocable simply by outlasting the patience and stamina of its opponents. The Israeli right doesn't really have
an endgame. So far they have not been able to come up with a plan to keep the Occupied Territories under Israeli control without abrogating the Jewish
nation-state, and they know that the vast majority of Israelis would disown the settlements in a heartbeat when the moment of truth arrives. From their
perspective, then, the permanent temporariness of the status quo is far superior to any possible resolution of the conflict, which is why they are
politically galvanized by the alleged downfall of the two-state solution.