By Mehdi Hasan
27 May 2015
"It is time to acknowledge that the peace process, as we know it, is dead. There is no longer a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict."
I wrote these words in 2009. Yet, six years later, most of the West's leading politicians and pundits - especially of the liberal/left variety - continue to stick their heads in the proverbial sand, refusing to acknowledge this inconvenient truth.
At a recent Arab American Institute dinner I attended here in Washington DC, the keynote speaker was US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who claimed that a "comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians" was still "possible".
"We look to the next Israeli government," she later added, "to demonstrate … a genuine commitment to a two state solution."
Remarkably, some in the audience even applauded her.
There is No Peace Process
The peace process is dead. There is no peace; there is no process. And the fabled two-state solution has been buried with it.
Don't take my word for it. Read the views of Israel's new leaders - as documented below - who are refreshingly open, honest and blunt about their opposition to the long-standing, US-led formula of "two states for two peoples".
In fact, while Rice expects the new Israeli government to "demonstrate … a genuine commitment to a two-state solution", the ministers who constitute that coalition government have proudly and publicly demonstrated the exact opposite - some of them since being appointed to their official posts, by Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier this month.
Is anyone paying attention? In a recent press conference, US President Barack Obama said he continued to "believe that a two-state solution is absolutely vital" but was aware that a new Israeli government had been formed "that contains some folks who don't necessarily believe in that premise".
"Some folks" is a convenient understatement from the US president. Let's be clear: These are not fringe voices, or a minority of extremists. These are not junior figures, or a handful of uber-hawks. The (under-reported) fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the ministers who make up the cabinet of Israel's 34th government, from the prime minister downwards, don't believe in a two-state solution, don't want a two-state solution, and don't think a two-state solution is going to happen.
So can the rest of us stop pretending, please?
Here they are in their own words…
1) Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister (Likud)
During the recent Israeli election campaign, Netanyahu - who has a long history of opposing Palestinian self-determination, despite having accepted the concept of a demilitarised Palestinian state in a single speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009 - ruled out an independent Palestinian state on his watch.
As CNN reported: "Asked by an interviewer with the Israeli news site, NRG, if it was true that a Palestinian nation would never be formed while he's prime minister, Netanyahu replied, 'Indeed'."
Under fire from the White House, he later tried to walk back this specific remark, on US television, yet his own party released a statement on his behalf, during the campaign, that explicitly stated that "any evacuated territory would fall into the hands of Islamic extremist and terror organisations supported by Iran", and therefore, "there will be no concessions or withdrawals; they are simply irrelevant".
2) Silvan Shalom, interior minister (Likud)
Netanyahu has appointed Shalom as Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians yet, according to Haaretz, the latter told a meeting of Likud Party activists in 2012: "We are all against a Palestinian state, there is no question about it."
Shalom has also called the occupied West Bank a "bulletproof vest" for Israel.
3) Tzipi Hotovely, deputy foreign minister (Likud)
She may be a deputy minister but Hotovely is the de facto foreign minister in the new government - given Netanyahu is technically the serving foreign minister - and, therefore, Israel's envoy to the world.
Back in 2012 she said she was "opposed to a Palestinian state" and, in her inaugural address to Israeli diplomats on May 21, reports AP, Hotovely said: "This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that… We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognise Israel's right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere."
4) Moshe Yaalon, defence minister (Likud)
Yaalon, a former supporter of the Oslo peace process, who once called for the use of "chemotherapy" against the "cancer-like" Palestinian threat, told Charlie Rose in 2014: "We should find another way, not just talking about the 1967 lines and a Palestinian state."
5) Naftali Bennett, education minister (Jewish Home)
Aside from repeatedly comparing Palestinians to monkeys, Bennett - the former head of the Yesha Council, which represents Israel's illegal settlements - told the New Yorker in 2013: "I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state."
In an interview with the Guardian in the same year, he explained: "There is not going to be a Palestinian state … it's just not going to happen."
6) Ayelet Shaked, justice minister (Jewish Home)
Aside from sharing a piece on her Facebook page during 2014's Gaza war which referred to Palestinian children as "little snakes", Shaked declared at a Tel Aviv campaign event in February: "We should manage the conflict and not give up on any centimetre of land. Yes, it's not perfect, but it's better than any other alternative."
7) Uri Ariel, agriculture and rural development minister (Jewish Home)
Ariel, a settler and former secretary of the settlers' Yesha Council, said in 2013: "We need to state clearly that there won't be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River."
8) Yisrael Katz, transportation and intelligence minister (Likud)
"I am opposed to a Palestinian state. It is unacceptable, mainly because of our rights to this land," Katz told an executive meeting of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip in 2013.
9) Haim Katz, welfare minister (Likud)
Commenting on Palestinian violence in 2013, Katz said: "The conclusion is clear", that is, "not to establish a Palestinian state, for this will become a terror state on the outskirts of Tel Aviv".
10) Danny Danon, science and technology minister (Likud)
In an interview on Israel National Radio in 2012, Danon said the Oslo process was "finished", declaring: "Enough with the two-state-solution. Land-for-peace is over. We don't want a Palestinian State. We need to apply Israeli sovereignty over all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank]."
11) Zeev Elkin, Jerusalem affairs and immigrant absorption minister (Likud)
Elkin has said Netanyahu was "wrong" to have opened the door to the possibility of a (demilitarised) Palestinian state and, in an interview with the Sovereignty Journal in 2013, explained: "Whoever objects to the 'two state' solution does not need to present an alternative solution because the basic situation is that this territory belongs to us."
He was even more explicit back in 2011: "There is no place for a Palestinian state, not in temporary borders and not in any other configuration."
12) Yariv Levin, tourism minister (Likud)
In a speech to settlers in 2014, Levin said: "We must … leave behind the slogans of 'land for peace' and 'two states for two people'" because "the two state solution is no solution".
A year earlier, he revealed: "We will try, slowly but surely, to expand the circle of settlements, and to afterwards extend the roads… At the end of this process, the facts on the ground will be that whatever remains [of the occupied West Bank] will be merely marginal appendage."
13) Ofir Akunis, minister without portfolio (Likud)
Akunis was quoted in the March 2015 issue of the Sovereignty Journal as saying: "My objection to a Palestinian state stems primarily from the fact that our right to the land is eternal and irrevocable. The Land of Israel is the property of the Jewish People and there is no people in the world that would surrender its motherland."
Back in 2013, he told Arutz Sheva: "I will oppose any outline that includes two states… This is my ideological and historical position."
14) Miri Regev, culture and sports minister (Likud)
Regev has sponsored legislation calling on Israel to annex the Jordan Valley and thereby thwart any move towards an independent Palestinian state.
"If Regev's bill becomes law," observed the Jerusalem Post in 2013, "Netanyahu would be unable to accept the American offer to put the Jordan Valley and border crossings into Jordan under Palestinian control."
As the Daily Beast noted in February, Regev is "a staunch conservative who strongly opposes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".
15) Gila Gamliel, gender equality, minorities and senior citizens minister (Likud)
An opponent of Israel's "disengagement" from Gaza in 2005, Gamliel said in a 2013 interview with Al Monitor that she disagrees "with the word 'occupation'", in reference to the West Bank, and wants Gaza to "annex itself to Egypt, some of the Palestinians can annex themselves to Jordan. They have many countries".
16) Gilad Erdan, public security, strategic affairs and public diplomacy minister (Likud)
Speaking at an International Institute for Counter-Terrorism conference in 2014, Erdan said: "To continue talking about Palestinian statehood with the same determination and the same confidence as 15, 20 years ago is irresponsible."
Mehdi Hasan is an award-winning British journalist, author, social commentator and the presenter of Head to Head.