Gershom Gorenberg, writing in the Jan-Feb issue of Foreign Policy, outlines the cold, harsh reality with regards to the efficacy of any so-called two-state solution (where Israel and the former occupied territories revert to pre-1967 borders, Israelis and Palestinians set aside lingering grievance and resentment to the delight of the global community, and Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft subsequently distribute free ponies for everyone!):
From my home in West Jerusalem, the road that Israelis use to head south toward Hebron runs through two tunnels in the mountains. Known simply as the Tunnel Road, it was built in the mid-1990s during the Oslo peace process, when Bethlehem was turned over to Palestinian rule and Israelis wanted a way to bypass the town on their way to settlements that remained in Israeli hands.
A turn from the Tunnel Road takes you past the Palestinian village of Hussan to Beitar Illit, a settlement covering two hills. The streets are lined with apartment buildings, faced in rough-cut, yellowish-white stone, all with red-tile roofs, so alike they could have been turned out by the same factory. In 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat shook hands and peace seemed close enough to touch, about 4,000 people lived in Beitar Illit. Now, 34,000 live here, and more will soon move in.
The message written on the landscape is simple: Every day, the settlements expand. Every day, Israel grows more entangled in the West Bank. To a large degree, the Israeli and Palestinian publics have accepted the need for a two-state solution. But time, and the construction crews, are working against it. No one knows exactly where the point of no return is—when so many Israelis will have moved into so many homes beyond the pre-1967 border that there is no going back. But each passing day brings that tipping point nearer. If a solution is not achieved quickly, it might soon be out of reach.
According to Gorenberg, “[i]n 1993, when the Oslo process began, 116,000 Israelis lived in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank… . Last year, when Olmert resigned and elections were announced, the number of settlers in the West Bank had passed 290,000, living alongside 2.2 million Palestinians.” And, following elections in February, “more than 300,000 Israelis are likely to be living in the West Bank, with the number continuing to climb [all emph. mine].”
Remember, several years back, the domestic PR headache posed by engaging in the forced removal of angry, militant Israeli settlers from their homes in Gaza?
Yeah, that–all over again, only with at least 35 times the population to send packing.
So, when people act as if a viable choice between pursuing a single or two-state solution with Israel and the former occupied territories still exists, one must first account for a very precious non-renewable resource, one that, as noted by Gorenberg, is in increasingly short supply:
Related: John Bolton shows why he’s the AEI’s new go-to guy for solving tough diplomatic conundrums with his latest op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he proposes a three (yes, three) state zombie solution to Israel’s current post-colonial woes. Yeah, that’s a brilliant idea — simply foist the entire Palestinian problem onto Egypt and Jordan, using all the diplomatic leverage that the US has accrued in the Middle East over the past 8 years (especially the past 6). I’m sure that’ll fly in Cairo and Amman–especially if Brzezinski and Scowcroft throw in extra ponies to account for the extra state involved.