Robert Malley, two states, and a million menschen


Robert Malley wants you to know: He favors a two-state solution.

Malley, the Clinton-era Middle East peace negotiator who has emerged as one of the sharpest critics of U.S. policy in the region, is a whipping boy for the clusters of folks who are opposed to "evenhandedness," intensive U.S. engagement, etc.

It’s hard to figure why, when you actually listen to and read what he says. My guess is that his pointy-headed insistence (and I mean that in a good way) on investigating every possible outcome is what drives people off the edge. It’s as if his investigations — not his conclusions — are off limits.

A case in point is Hamas: In his capacity as Middle East director for the International Crisis Group, he has met its officials (and has never concealed this) and has suggested that their viability as interlocutors should be tested by deeds — by not firing rockets, for instance — and  not declarations of recognition of Israel. This sounds almost Likud-like to me, but the very act of meeting these guys drives critics to call him a Hamas "lover."


Malley joined fellow Clinton-era alum Aaron David Miller at a launch of sorts of a book by Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force for Palestine at the Woodrow Wilson Center, where Miller is currently a scholar. Ibish’s book is entitled "What’s Wrong with the One-State Agenda."*

Ibish concludes that two-state is very much not a fantasy and in his remarks lambasted "one-staters" for not investigating it fully. In fact, he concludes that "two-state" is pretty much the only game in town:

I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the optimist party. I have no illusions about the obstacles facing the realization of such an agreement, or the significant possibility, perhaps even probability although I do not think so, that no such agreement can be reached. However, given the lack of plausible, workable alternatives and the grim reality of what the consequences of a failure to achieve such an agreement would be for all parties, even if one work to conclude the chances for such an agreement where in the range of, say, 10 or even 5%, the only constructive course would be to work to achieve it nonetheless. Past administrations have tried to avoid this problem, but it is too central to be ignored and always has a way of coming back to bite one in the backside, so to speak.

Malley and Miller were on board with Ibish, but Malley, out of necessity, had to underline it: Last month, the hounds baying for his head seized on the headline of a New York Times op-ed piece he wrote with his collaborator, Hussein Agha, entitled "The Two-State Solution Doesn’t Solve Anything." This occasioned a loud chorus of "You see, you see!" even after Malley made it clear, in an interview on the Israel Policy Forum Web site, that the headline conveyed a misimpression.

So today Malley once again repeated that, contra the reports, "I haven’t give up on a two-state solution" but he has "given up on tired methodologies."

His argument is that the sides have been dealing in 1967 currency, treating the issue as almost exclusively territorial, when they need to trade in 1948 currency, treating it as one of competing narratives: 1948 was when Jews achieved nationhood, and yet that status has yet to be universally recognized; 1948 was when Palestinians were disenfranchsed and dispersed, and they seek recognition of that status as well.

The trio took all comers, including a Jordan-is-Palestine guy, a Yasser Arafat hagiographer, a Quaker mathematician and Bob Kunst, a founder of "Defend Jerusalem" and the instigator of  those teensy protests outside events that propose Palestinian statehood.

Kunst, predictably, ranted (I heard "Nazi" and "racist" somehwre in there) while Miller, Malley and Ibish politely listened, but then offered this endearing prospect: A Million Mensch March next summer to defend Jerusalem.

A million mensches? Can we get that many together? And I want to know how one qualifies: A note from the wife? A citation in the local Jewish weekly? Photographic evidence of mensch potential, say, stuffing parking meters with quarters?

*"The One-State Solution is a Fantasy … But What About Two?" was the name of the session, and not the book, as I had written earlier.

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