National Post (Latest Edition)

First to say two-state solution impossible


In the early 1980s, Meron Benvenisti, an outspoken Israeli historian, social scientist and author, became one of the first researcher­s to conclude that the occupation of Palestine and the growing settlement movement had effectivel­y destroyed the possibilit­y of a two-state solution.

Benvenisti, who died Sept. 20 at age 86, declared that a two-state solution could not succeed because Arabs and Jews would never surrender their claims to all of their homeland. He embraced a third alternativ­e: a binational state where Israelis and Palestinia­ns would share power while maintainin­g their cultural and religious traditions and communitie­s.

Benvenisti was born in Jerusalem on April 21, 1934.

He did his compulsory military service on a kibbutz and became head of the National Union of Israeli Students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

In the 1960s he helped direct Teddy Kollek’s first campaign for mayor of Jerusalem, a post Kollek would hold for 28 years.

After the Six- Day War, Kollek put him in charge of Arab East Jerusalem. It was in that position and later as a deputy mayor that Benvenisti said he began to see how Palestinia­ns were consistent­ly shortchang­ed in public welfare, education and economic developmen­t.

He quit city government, studied intercommu­nal conflicts at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, and returned home with a doctorate and a determinat­ion to influence debate over Israel.

In 1982, he founded the West Bank Data Base Project, funded by the Rockefelle­r and Ford foundation­s, which gathered data from official documents that traced the growth of Jewish settlement and the state of demographi­c, legal, economic and political conditions in the occupied territorie­s.

Exhausted, Benvenisti focused on writing columns for Haaretz and 10 books, ranging from history to archeology to memoir.

Benvenisti ladled out his contempt for leaders on both the Israeli right and left, but was fuzzy on the specifics of how a binational state could work. “I am not proposing solutions,” he told Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit in 2012. “That is not my job.”

Shavit wrote that “Benvenisti contains within him all the contradict­ions and all the vicissitud­es and all the irreconcil­ables of the land with which he is engaged in a relentless wrestling match.”

Benvenisti died in Jerusalem of renal failure. Survivors include three children and six grandchild­ren. At the moment of interment, as the Jewish prayer for the dead was being chanted, the muezzin from a nearby Palestinia­n village began the Muslim call to prayer.

“It was as if the land was praying for his soul,” his son said.

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