Let’s face it: After the stillbirth of Secretary John Kerry’s efforts to obtain a two-state solution, cynical Israelis and Palestinians, along with much of the world, reacted with a collective shrug. Whatever euphoria existed during the Rabin years is long gone, and with Israeli settlement expansion and Palestinian unilateral actions at the United Nations and International Criminal Court, the two-state solution seems almost impossible.
However, before we write the obituary of the Oslo Accords and give up, we should realize that political possibilities and realities are always changing, and there are, in fact, still many reasons to have hope. Below are seven of those reasons.
1. The Israeli and Palestinian public still favor a two-state solution.
Recent polling conducted by The Hebrew University’s Truman Center and pollster Khalil Shikaki’s Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research still shows support for the two-state solution. Incredibly, 63 percent of Israelis and 53 percent of Palestinians still support a two-state solution despite rampant cynicism in each society, widely reported political distrust, and the breakdown of peace talks less than a year ago.
2. According to those in the know, Israel has a partner.
Israel’s most seasoned veteran of peacemaking, Shimon Peres, called Mahmoud Abbas “a true partner for peace.” Ehud Olmert, another veteran of peace talks, had similar words of praise for Mahmoud Abbas, describing him as “a real partner for peace.” Even a slew of senior figures in the Israeli military establishment, including the current head of the Shabak (Israel’s FBI), Yoram Cohen, and a former Shabak head, Yuval Diskin, agree that Abbas is a partner.
3. Removing settlements will be difficult, but it is far from impossible.
A very comprehensive article in The Atlantic did a great job of dispelling the idea that a West Bank settlement withdrawal is an impossibility. The magazine noted that most settlers would be swayed by economic incentives and that the ultra-orthodox and Russian immigrants who live there do so almost exclusively due to the subsidy-fueled low cost of living.
4. The U.S. and Europe hold a great deal of leverage.
One third of Israel’s exports go to the EU, and products from EU member states account for one half of Israel’s imports. Israel enjoys special economic trade status with the EU and has signed a number of additional agreements that deal with areas such as research and development. A majority of Israeli exports go to the U.S., and a free trade agreement between the two nations is responsible for incredible sums of foreign direct investment. According to the Israeli Embassy’s website, “Between 2000 and 2009, U.S. direct investment in Israel totaled $77.2 billion.”
In addition to strong economic influence, the U.S. holds considerable leverage through its military aid, which totals over $100 billion since it started in 1962. And of course, it is U.S. influence at the United Nations,in the form of its veto power, that continually shields Israel from numerous actions against it.
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5. Hamas’ control of Gaza isn’t a dealbreaker.
Following Israel’s operation in Gaza over the summer, Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated that toppling Hamas would “take 500 days.” The goal of IDF incursions into the Gaza Strip has never been to topple the Hamas government, but there is no debate that it could be done.
In addition to the military option, Gazans are deeply dissatisfied with their living conditions. Sure, Hamas would win an election if it was held today, but, according to a recent poll, only 10 percent of Gazans evaluated conditions in the Strip positively. An improvement in living conditions and the hope of a peace process could swing public opinion sharply. Before this summer’s war, 88 percent of Gazans agreed with the statement: "The PA should send officials and security officers to Gaza to take over administration [in Gaza]." And it is worth noting that, of that 88 percent, two-thirds "strongly" agreed with that statement.
6. Israeli history shows that Arab incitement doesn’t pose a real threat to peace.
When Sadat made peace with Begin, incitement was an issue, and yet peace was achieved. During the term of Hosni Mubarak, Sadat’s successor, the incitement and anti-Semitism continued, and even lasted during the short tenure of Mohammed Morsi, whose anti-Semitic diatribes such as calling Jews “the descendants of apes and pigs” are well known. Through all of that, however, Israel’s peace accord with Egypt has held firm.
In Jordan, a former foreign minister publicly quoted Mein Kampf in an anti-Israel op-ed, and it is commonplace for those who espouse anti-Semitic views to be given public platforms from which to air them. Yet despite this routine incitement and virulent anti-Semitism, Jordan has been and continues to be a peaceful neighbor to Israel.
There is no reason why a future Palestinian state will not be the same.
7. Because, if you will it, it is no dream.
Joel Strauss is a New York based M.A. graduate of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a consultant for several Middle East-focused political organizations.