One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State


The headline above emulates the silly poetry of Dr. Seuss but relates to some very serious business indeed — namely, whether a peace dialogue and accord between Israelis and Palestinians is even remotely possible under current leadership and conditions.

Recent meetings suggest not. Newly installed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met recently with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, the U.S. Middle East special envoy. The dialogue portends very nasty negotiating weather ahead.

Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud Party, made clear that he will not engage in further negotiations about a two-state solution unless and until additional acknowledgments are made on the Palestinian side about Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Lieberman, of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beteinu (Israel Our Home) Party, stirred up more diplomatic dust by publicly repudiating the results of the Annapolis negotiating session held in the Bush Administration’s last year.

For his part, Mitchell made it clear that the Obama Administration, like that of President George W. Bush, sees the two-state solution as the organizing principle of peace talks. “U.S. policy favors — with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — a two-state solution, which would have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish State of Israel,” Mitchell said before he met with Lieberman.

Even if we do not concur with the Israeli leaders, we certainly understand their objections over the two-state solution. What we cannot fathom is any conceivable alternative process or outcome that could lead to peace. In brief, there is none. Meanwhile, time’s a-wasting. About 18 months ago, the “Quartet” of the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations convened a meeting at Annapolis, Maryland with Israel and representatives of most Arab states and the Palestinians to reaffirm the quest for a two-state solution. The process failed to achieve the goal of an independent Palestinian state by the end of last year. As the Bush team had waited a full seven years to push such a solution, the failure was hardly surprising.

At the time, however, Lieberman did indicate that he favored going forward under the “Road Map” of the Quartet, which if followed could eventually lead to a two-state solution. Now that Bibi and Lieberman have assumed their governance roles, however, they are digging in hard. Neither in diplomatic rhetoric nor in substance is either man setting a precedent that could enable further effective negotiations.

The radical views of Lierberman, which include redrawing national boundaries to “relocate” Arabs onto the Palestinian side, would not be supported by either a majority of Israelis nor any international negotiating partners. The insistence by Bibi on continually redrawing the line in the sand in playground “I dare you” parlance will continue to be sneered at by Palestinians and rejected by the U.S. and others. And there is no meaningful support for a one-state solution that lumps all Israelis and Palestinians together into one sovereign.

So in essence, the Israelis, between the Olmert-Livni and Netyanahu-Lierberman coalitions, have at worst vacillated, and at best appear to have vacillated, about their commitment to the two-state solution. The United States, on the other hand, has remained steadfast that the solution is the only way to go. Perhaps the Bush and Obama Administrations have had differing opinions and tactics about how to get there, but the result is almost the same under Blue leadership as it was under Red.

The U.S. continues to hang tough in Israel’s corner. There was no question about President Barack Obama’s position in boycotting the racist Durban II conference, and there have been no shortage of supportive comments about Israel by the president, his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their diplomatic corps.

No one in this corner underestimates the hatred and hypocrisy spewed by Palestinian politicians about the peace process, most notably by Hamas leadership. The bile that accompanies much of the public rhetoric is wholly counterproductive to a peace agreement, engenders distrust and would make any reasonable person question the sincerity of their motives.

But ultimately, a simple and significant choice rests with the people of Israel. Will they, through their leadership, remain committed to working through the unpleasant details of a two-state solution — which particularly on the heels of a bloody war, takes almost superhuman strength of courage and conviction — or will they continue to zigzag between leaders of opposing views?

It’s hardly an easy choice, but it may be the only one that ultimately matters.