In the comments to a seeded story today was an exchange of which I've seen or heard the essense repeated throughout my life. This time it was in a seeded news story about the establishment of new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank.
commenter X: "Actually my biggest hope is that the sides find a way to resume negotiations, get serious about a peace process and move forward toward implementation of Two states for two peoples, which remains the only viable option to resolve this conflict."
responding commenter Z: "that's what we all hope for but the way things are going I'm not holding my breath"
This hope for two states for two people has a much longer history than my life. The notion can be traced back over one hundred years to the hopes and origins of the establishment of a place in Palestine for the Jewish people. Even those who would not hope to relinquish the territory to the exclusive domain of one people might concede that this was the least bad solution if it indeed ended the conflict. I joined the throngs who agreed that if this could happen who am I to say it ought not be. Widespread hope for the two state solution blossomed with US earnest investment in the cause and has been the official policy of the US and it's closest allies for decades.
After these several decades of applied policy the hoped for second state was not any closer reality and in many ways farther off. Then a defining cold contradiction came for me. That was the US rejection of the declared intention of Palestine for recognition among the international community of states in the United Nations. (granted there were many other contradictions before it) How could the policy of hope for the second of the two states simultaneously be embraced and denied? The declaration alone would not make it so. If the aspiration for a second state was clear so too should be this symbolic gesture in welcoming the fledgling state. With the rejection came my realization of the collapse and what I suspected as the failure of the political aspiration for two states.
What alternatives are there? The consideration of alternate means implied a certain goal. Since I am an observer on the periphery of involvement I first considered what would be the central goals upon which the more immediate parties agree. While there is no shortage of things to fight over what I looked for was, in the broadest terms, the most ubiquitous common goals. I found they are summarized in the universal declaration of human rights. They want what people everywhere want. The goals of the people most immediately effected are afterall the same as mine.
Which brings me to why I can no longer support or hope for the two state solution. The basis of this solution is the defining and separation of two peoples. Yet until and unless human rights are satisfied and find a measure of protection there is no conscionable rationale for division. We are human first then we live within societies, groups, families, teams etc. We are not two or more or separate people until our humanity is assured. They are not two separable peoples without that assurance. The endeavor to separate, legitimized under this solution, lacking sufficent assurance of human rights enables conflict.
I've oversimplified here so I'll attempt to ground it with another news item. There has been a flap over how accustomed the privileged are to their privilege which originated with a poll and an op ed in an Israeli newspaper. Ben White wrote about that and in doing so made an astute comparison. He said "two states for two peoples" is a slogan which "echoes the rhetoric of Apartheid South Africa's politicians, who warned that 'either we must follow the course of equality, which must eventually mean national suicide for the white race, or we must take the course of separation'.
The dedication to separation through the two state solution is a false choice. It says either separate peoples or submit to an existential threat. It says equity is the enemy of national identity. My hope lies with the belief that these are not the values of the people of privilege. There is a middle ground, ordinary people do encounter it and know it is possible.