For years Palestinians have warned the international community that hopes for a two-state solution were crumbling under the internal contradictions that have afflicted the so-called “peace process” since its inception. Now, it appears that mainstream policymakers may finally be catching on.
In a recent essay in the prominent journal Foreign Affairs, scholars Shibley Telhami, Michael Barnett, Marc Lynch, and Nathan J. Brown make the case that “it is no longer possible to avoid confronting a one-state reality” in Israel-Palestine. They argue that this reality, characterized by Israel’s absolute dominance, shatters the illusion of a democratic Israel as somehow distinct from the territories it occupies — an illusion that served as the foundation of international peacemaking efforts. By acknowledging the apartheid regime that prevails, the authors urge American policymakers and thinkers to recognize that it is “time to give up on the two-state solution.” (The authors have recently published an edited volume on the same subject.)
While the argument is not new, the article is an important one. Its publication in a mainstream journal, known to be widely read in American political and policy circles, has catapulted what has been a peripheral discussion onto center stage. It also comes at a pivotal moment for the Palestinian struggle for liberation, as the election of Israel’s most far-right, extremist government yet, and rising tides of violence against Palestinians, shed new light upon the one-state condition that exists between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Nonetheless, the essay has come under criticism from many American commentators. In an exchange on Twitter, Martin Indyk — a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and now a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading American think tank — acknowledged the one-state reality that exists today, but took issue with what he described as the four authors’ “prescription for a U.S.-imposed binational state” (the authors stress that this is not actually what they are arguing for). “The U.S. should never give up on the two-state solution, no matter how distant it is today,” Indyk continued.
Indyk’s response is emblematic of the intransigence that afflicts much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment on Palestine-Israel. Indeed, it reflects a wider trend of pushback against efforts to recognize the failure of the so-called “peace process,” particularly by those dedicated to the preservation of the status quo of Israeli dominance — even under the guise of a two-state vision.