STIRRETT: A Two-State Path to Peace
A Canadian Contention
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 2, 2012 01:03
Time is running out for the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With each passing year, hope for a two-state solution fades.
While the continuation of this seemingly never-ending conflict can be disheartening, it is more important than ever to push for peace.
The Israel-Palestine conflict isn't black and white; one of its biggest problems is that it has been oversimplified. The Israeli government is not infallible, and neither is the Palestinians. Mistakes have been made on both sides. We have to look beyond the self-defeating blame game and toward the future.
As a Zionist, I believe in the right to self-determination for Jewish as well as Palestinian people. Not only is it moral to ameliorate the plight of the Palestinians, a two-state solution is in Israel's undeniable self-interest. The creation of a Palestinian state is the only way that Israel can retain its Jewish and democratic identity.
To support the creation of a Palestinian state is to affirm Israel's founding values. Giving up on the two-state solution means conceding that the only path forward is a binational entity.
This binational state would have a Palestinian majority, and Israel would lose its fundamental Jewish identity. The only way that Israel could remain Jewish under such a scenario would be to disenfranchise Palestinians, creating two levels of citizenship, which would undermine Israel's democratic foundation. Those who advocate for policies that reduce the likelihood of a two-state solution actually work against Israel's fundamental long-term interests.
Moreover, the day a two-state solution is finally realized will hopefully be the day that Israel's enemies lay down their arms. True, the creation of a two-state solution becomes a divorce between two peoples. But sometimes, recognizing a fundamental disagreement can be a good thing. As countless families can attest, sometimes taking this difficult, dividing step forward is the only way to achieve peace and rebuild. A shared binational country would be a disaster for both groups.
Unfortunately, the two-state solution is under attack on all sides. Hamas continues to promote virulent anti-Semitism and refuses to even recognize Israel's right to exist as a state. As long as Hamas controls Gaza and does not change its fundamental outlook, a Palestinian state will remain inconceivable.
The continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank poses another great threat. Over the past two decades, the number of Israeli settlers in the area has more than tripled, which makes drawing the contours of a Palestinian state even more difficult.
Complicating the issue further, the United States has a moral and strategic imperative to play a major role in the peace process.
Take Newt Gingrich's statement in a recent GOP debate that there is no such thing as the Palestinian people. Such offensive comments illustrate how the debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the United States has become more toxic than productive.
Efforts to cut U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority provides yet another example of such shortsighted behavior. Without such aid, the PA would be significantly weakened and Hamas would be emboldened. In essence, the United States would be destroying Israel's best chance of a partner for peace, which is why even the Netanyahu government opposed the proposal.
Nevertheless, the debate is gradually beginning to change in Washington. President Obama courageously outlined his support of a two-state solution in May 2011, a plan based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed-upon land swaps. Being pro-Israel means preserving a Jewish and democratic Israel, not necessarily supporting every policy of the Netanyahu government.
Americans are beginning to rally behind groups such as J Street, an organization with over 170,000 supporters that advocates for a two-state solution. In only a few weeks, J Street, in which I am involved, will hold a national conference of over 2,000 activists, demonstrating the political power of a movement that was founded only three years ago.
Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, once said, "If you will it, it is no longer a dream." It's time to transform the two-state solution from a dream to reality.
Scott Stirrett is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He is the former chief of staff of the Georgetown University College Democrats and former chair and co-founder of D.C. Students Speak. A CANADIAN CONTENTION appears every other Friday.