Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s overtures to a two-state solution to the so-called “Palestinian problem” are emptier than imaginable now that he’s demanding the U.S. formally recognize illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He made those demands during a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in return for offering a package of measures in that area that supposedly include economic benefits and advancing occupied Palestine’s infrastructure. Even if that’s what’s needed in occupied Palestine, what Netanyahu wants is a tall order, because it makes both one-state and two-state solutions impossible.
How does it do that? First of all, there is no separate Palestinian state if there are Israeli settlement blocs there. There are areas of occupied Palestine, like Area C, which are totally under Israeli control. 300,000 Palestinians lived in Area C as of 2014, which was double the estimate in 2008. Area C makes up 60 percent of the West Bank, so it’s really hard to say that these settlements just “dot” occupied Palestine.
If 60 percent of occupied Palestine is, and remains, under Israeli control, how is that anything like a two-state solution? It’s not, because these settlement blocs are imposed on Palestinians. They’re not made up of Israelis voluntarily settling in Palestine, under a Palestinian government, and just grouping together like people of similar nationalities and ethnicities do in, say, Chicago neighborhoods.
What Netanyahu is saying is, “We’ll continue to occupy Palestine, but we’ll be nicer about it if you formally recognize it. Without that recognition, forget everything.”
In 2013, the United Nations said that these settlements were illegal because they amount to annexation of Palestinian territory. Their report (which, sadly, isn’t legally binding) said the following about the settlements:
“[They are] a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” [emphasis mine]
Israel, of course, denounced this report, likely because it didn’t say what they wanted it to say. They accused the U.N. of taking a biased approach toward Israel, and said that the only way to resolve issues was through direct negotiation without precondition.
What is Netanyahu doing? Refusing to work with the Palestinians, the U.S., or anybody that isn’t 100 percent, unequivocally on Israel’s side, without precondition. His “preconditions” come in the form of demands that the U.S. honor an alleged agreement reached between George W. Bush and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that recognize the settlements. The Obama administration, along with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, say that the U.S. never agreed to any such thing.
What about a one-state solution? That’s not happening, either. Anything that doesn’t recognize Israel’s need to obliterate Palestine and create a single Jewish state is nonsense to Israel. Note the emphasis on the word “Jewish.” There will be no one-state solution either, because they won’t give Palestinians Israeli citizenship. If they did that, they couldn’t have their pseudo-religious, sectarian state because the Palestinians aren’t Jewish. Regardless of what he says, Netanyahu has a coldly absolutist view – only one side can win this conflict, and it will be his side at any cost.
It’s almost like Netanyahu won’t be satisfied until the Palestinians are eradicated, or fully subjugated, and Israel can have all that territory to itself to lord over them. Oh wait, it’s probably exactly like that. In fact, even with the meeting two weeks ago, Kerry isn’t sure what, exactly, it is that Netanyahu is prepared to do in the West Bank in terms of helping Palestinians and furthering peace. Furthermore, Netanyahu’s people told Kerry’s people that Netanyahu would be able to do more if the U.S. would just recognize the settlements.
That’s just manipulative. Netanyahu can do more without U.S. recognition of the illegal settlements. He just won’t.
Kerry hopes that we can get back to work on peace between Israel and Palestine. With a prime minister, and a cabinet, that are stuck on the idea of remaining in occupied Palestine, it’s not likely we’ll make much headway on that.