The Jewish Chronicle
Israel now has a ‘one state’ majority
THERE WAS no clear outcome of the fourth Israeli elections in two years. But three clear conclusions can be drawn. The first is that it’s a strange kind of “apartheid” state in which the leader of an Islamist party gets to decide who the next prime minister will be. The second is that the Knesset contains a clear majority for a one-state solution. The third is that the Americans won’t like it.
Benjamin Netanyahu is an accomplished teller of half-truths, and he was half-right in calling the result a “huge win for the right”.
But it was not the kind of win that could translate into a Knesset majority. It was a win for a feeling, and perhaps for an idea.
That feeling is distrust of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, distrust of the left-wing parties that brought about the Oslo Accords, and distrust of the left and centre parties’ alternative proposal, which is the notion of “separation” from the Palestinians.
Separation is impossible in the West Bank. Since 1967, every Israeli government has considered the welding of the Palestinian economy to the Israeli one to be in the national interest.
Israeli governments of the left and right have deliberately mixed the Jewish and Arab populations, whether for strategic necessity, biblical precedent, Zionist enthusiasm or the need to build bedroom communities for commuters. Meanwhile the Palestinians’ leaders have done their best not to achieve a resolution of the conflict. Kleptocratic self-interest aside, their position seems to reflect that of their voters, should they ever get to cast a meaningful vote again. The collapse of the Oslo experiment proved that the IsraeliPalestinian conflict cannot be solved by a diplomatic masterstroke. Israeli Jews don’t trust the Palestinians. Israeli Arabs take to the streets when Avigdor Leiberman suggests transferring their villages into the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Arabs refuse to accept Jewish sovereignty anywhere between the river and the sea. The settlers insist on more and more Jewish sovereignty.
The political idea that this impasse produces in the Israeli public is that the conflict can only be “managed” and “reduced” until a paradigm that replaces the “twostate solution” arises, or somehow falls from the sky.
Look at the results from the latest election. Apart from being the latest in an apparently unending referendum on the probity of Benjamin Netanyahu, the results grant a Knesset majority to the opponents of a two-state solution.
Between them the Likud, Yamina, New Hope, Yisrael Beiteinu, Religious Zionist and United Torah Judaism parties hold 65 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. And that’s not counting the ten seats held by the Arab parties, whose attitude to Jewish sovereignty varies from strategic accommodation to outright loathing.
Then look at the parties holding the remaining 45 seats. When it comes to the Palestinians, the centrist parties are closer to the right than they are to their leftwing partners. In March 2019, Yair Lapid of Blue and White described his party’s conditions for Palestinian sovereignty. The Jordan Valley would remain under Israeli control, there would be no Palestinian “right of return”, and there would be no division of Jerusalem.
Lapid’s partner Benny Gantz dropped these conditions soon afterwards, in order to join Netanyahu’s government and endorse the Trump Plan, which would allow Israel to annex about 30 per cent of the West Bank.
Israel’s political gravity is pulling the centrists to the right.
That leaves a rump of 13 seats for Labour and Meretz.
So this really is a “huge win” for the right. But the right has split into pro- and anti-Netanyahu factions. And even if the right were united, it is paralysed.
The United States was the chief sponsor of the Oslo paradigm. The Trump administration was tight with not just Netanyahu but also the wilder fringes of the Israeli right. Trump started cutting the flows of cash that sustain the conflict, whether indirectly through UNWRA or directly to the Palestinian Authority.
The Biden administration’s Middle East team is the third coming of the Obama administration’s team. They’re doing their best to undo Trump’s legacy and get back to the failed future of the 1990s.
A State Department memo that leaked last week to The National, a UAE newspaper, proposes “resetting” the US relationship with the Palestinian Authority by restoring funding to UNWRA, working around Congress’s ban on funding terrorism by sending $15 million as “Covid-19 assistance”, and pushing hard for negotiations on a twostate solution.
If the Biden administration adopts this approach, it will revive the hostilities of the Obama years.
An imperial America will attempt to force a delusional policy on Israel, with complete disregard for the democratic will of Israel’s voters, and a baseless confidence in the abilities and goodwill of the Palestinians’ leaders.
It won’t be pretty. On past experience, it’s likely to accelerate the annexationism it opposes, because one state is better than no state.
Biden’s Middle East team is the third cming of the Obama team’