Earlier this week, in a piece for The New York Times titled "The Two-State Solution Doesn’t Solve Anything," Robert Malley and Hussein Agha argued that those framing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a land dispute grounded in the 1967 war have it wrong:
[The conflict] can be settled, both sides implicitly concur, only by looking past the occupation to questions born in 1948 — Arab rejection of the newborn Jewish state and the dispossession and dislocation of Palestinian refugees.
The New Republic’s Marty Peretz pounced on the piece as evidence of the author’s (and The Times’) desire for a binational (read: not Jewish) state:
… Why the essential Jewish character of Israel should be problematic when all of the neighboring states–those actually adjoining and also the non-abutters–define themselves as both Arab and Muslim are exempt from the tribulations of self-definition is difficult to assess. It’s not that any of those states are at all achievers. In fact, there is no Arab state that is a success, let alone a secular success.
Imagine for a moment the one-state solution in historic Palestine west of the Jordan. What peace will there be? What economic progress? What laws and what justice? What science? What kind of class system? Try to deny that all of this would be a nightmare.
The one-state solution is a fraud. Those who press it know that it is a fraud. And those who publish it do, as well.
JTA has heard from several Jewish organizational types offering the same complaints about Malley and Agha, citing the duo’s final paragraph:
For years, virtually all attention has been focused on the question of a future Palestinian state, its borders and powers. As Israelis make plain by talking about the imperative of a Jewish state, and as Palestinians highlight when they evoke the refugees’ rights, the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense it always has been, how to define the state of Israel.
It reads to me like the authors are simply summing up their argument that the debate is really about 1948, not 1967. But Peretz and others say the authors are going further, they are choosing the Palestinian side in the 1948 debate. [UPDATE: Malley himself has weighed in — denying that he was calling for a one-state solution. But what does he know.]
Either way… it seems to me that the larger point is that Malley — after doing more than anyone to challenge claims that the failures of Camp David and the ensuing Intifada were Yasser Arafat’s fault — has now essentially ended up validating that view (at least from the perspective of most Jewish organizations). In the end, the duo is saying, the hawks have been right: The issue isn’t that the Palestinians want a state of their own, it’s that they won’t accept a Jewish state.
Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin makes the point:
But they do stumble upon a key truth about the entire peace process — they understand that what the Palestinians want isn’t merely sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. Jews want a Jewish state and are willing to let the Palestinians have their own state too in order to live in peace. The problem is that the core of Palestinian national identity is a desire not for a Palestinian state but for eradicating the Jewish one, which they view as illegitimate no matter where the borders are drawn.
And so does Shmuel Rosner:
They might think that such threat will make Americans more prone to pressure Israel – or Israelis more prone to change the character of their country. I think this is a pipe dream. Thus, the practical conclusion for their fairly-accurate analysis should have been this one:
It is obvious that a solution cannot be realized before there is a change in the Palestinian position and the Palestinians accept Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state. The reason the Palestinians refuse to accept this is because for them this is not a territorial dispute, but an existential conflict. The media’s failure to report this most basic point, the evidence of it, and the implications of it, creates a dangerously misleading portrayal of the situation and prospects for its resolution.
You see? Agha and Malley might pretend to be wave-of-the-future peace processors. But they are really Likudniks. …