Israel

Expiration Date for Israeli-Palestinian 2-State Solution May Be Jan. 20



 

On the other were Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Trump, firing back at what they deemed a hypocritical betrayal of America’s closest friend in the Middle East.

If Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry were playing for history, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Trump were playing for time.

The departing administration intended for the speech to lay out a path to peace that they had tried to take, hoping to salvage some scrap of a legacy on the issue. The incoming administration and its Israeli ally were busy counting the days until the old team will be swept from the stage and a new Israeli-American alignment redefines the politics of the region.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have painted Israel into a corner, providing ammunition to its critics and effectively isolating it on the world stage after a United Nations Security Council resolution last week criticizing Israeli settlements and the secretary’s sharp assessment on Wednesday. But in three weeks, Mr. Netanyahu expects unstinting support from Mr. Trump, who so far appears to be promising it.

Amid the harsh exchanges was the increasing sense that the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict favored by much of the world no longer seems plausible, at least for now. When Mr. Kerry outlined six principles for a final land-for-peace agreement, he largely tracked longstanding American orthodoxy. But unlike when President Bill Clinton did something similar 16 years ago, it sounded more like a requiem than a plan.

“The positions he lays out are well known to all of us,” said Michael Herzog, a member of the Israeli negotiating team during the latest round of failed talks, led by Mr. Kerry in 2014. “There were no major surprises. The question is, does it really matter?”

Indeed, among the blaring, polarized responses to Mr. Kerry’s speech, the one conclusion that drew agreement across political lines was that the two-state solution may be all but buried.

“This will go down in history as an eloquently delivered eulogy to the two-state formula, which is in itself a recipe for disaster,” said Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, which represents Israeli settlers.

John Kerry just gave an eloquent eulogy for the two-state solution,” said Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American activist who helped found the Electronic Intifada, a website focused on the Palestinian side of the conflict.

While Mr. Netanyahu still formally supports a two-state solution, few believe his heart is in it, and voices on the far sides of the conflict are increasingly talking about a one-state solution, albeit one conceived in starkly different ways.

From his right flank, Mr. Netanyahu faces calls within his coalition to give up the two-state formula and instead annex parts of the West Bank. From the other side, some Palestinians now advocate a single state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River in which everyone has an equal vote, knowing that Palestinians would ultimately outnumber Jewish citizens in such a country.

The rift between Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump may further polarize a debate that has divided the world for decades. With such a harsh assessment by the departing Obama administration, Israel has for the moment lost its staunchest defender in the international arena, and its critics may feel emboldened to press for more action against it in the form of sanctions, boycotts or legal cases.

Conversely, the impending arrival of Mr. Trump and his unqualified support for Israel have already inspired the Israeli right to press for more aggressive policies that would move the country even further from compromise. After nearly eight years with Mr. Obama, Mr. Netanyahu for the first time may feel little or no American pressure to make concessions.

The status quo in the meantime is an uneasy coexistence with no obvious resolution in the near term.

Palestinians live under military occupation surrounded by miles of walls and fences. Israelis build more homes for themselves while their forces raid communities, control movement through checkpoints and respond to provocations with decisive force.

Israelis live under the constant threat of terrorism, enduring sometimes daily assaults by attackers wielding knives or driving cars into crowds. The Palestinian authorities venerate such “martyrs” and compensate their families financially.

It is against that backdrop that the struggle of the four major figures in the twilight of an expiring presidency has played out in recent days and weeks. Underlying it was a deep divide over who was to blame for the long impasse in this part of the world.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry, while careful to call on the Palestinians to curb terrorism and incitement, seem to save most of their emotional energy for denouncing Mr. Netanyahu, who has come to grate on both of them. To the extent that the United States has presented itself as an honest broker in the conflict over the years, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry are viewed by many in Jerusalem as tilted to the Palestinian cause, despite the $38 billion they pledged to Israel’s defense over the next 10 years.

Mr. Netanyahu has reacted to the United Nations resolution and Mr. Kerry’s speech as if they were “a declaration of war,” a phrase he reportedly used before the Security Council vote last week in trying to persuade New Zealand to drop the measure. Mr. Trump, after initially saying he wanted to be a neutral figure in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has thrown in his lot with Mr. Netanyahu, especially since the election, perhaps encouraging the prime minister to castigate the departing president and secretary.

“Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders,” Mr. Netanyahu said after Mr. Kerry’s speech.

Still, some of Mr. Netanyahu’s domestic critics said he had brought this on himself. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote on Twitter that most of the world and Israel agreed with Mr. Kerry.

“Bibi, on verge of messianic abyss, determined to go forward,” he added, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname.

Reactions to Mr. Kerry divided along similar lines, only in reverse. Miri Regev, a hard-line minister in Mr. Netanyahu’s cabinet, told an Israeli news outlet that Mr. Kerry’s speech “gives hope to the terror organizations to eliminate Israel step by step.” She also challenged the secretary to propose “having Washington divided” as he proposes to divide Jerusalem.

The final break between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Netanyahu — and their patrons, Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump — came after years of conversations that never led to the accord the secretary sought.

Mr. Kerry made a point of talking with Mr. Netanyahu often, more than was publicly known, hoping to build a relationship that would enable them to bridge their ideological differences. But Mr. Netanyahu never viewed it as in his interest, or in Israel’s, to go along with the American interloper.

After all the stormy exchanges and recriminations, the remaining question is where Mr. Trump’s alliance with Mr. Netanyahu will lead. Mr. Trump fashions himself a deal maker, and this would be the ultimate deal.

Having embraced one side of the conflict so avowedly, could he craft a mutually acceptable bargain where Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry failed? Would he deem it in his interest to try? And would Mr. Netanyahu want him to?

As Mr. Trump put it, Jan. 20 is fast approaching.

H/T nytimes.com

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