The Times of India Edit Page
Mar 23, 2013
He must push two-state solution
Although he travelled widely during his first term as US president, Barack Obama never got around to visiting Israel then. So it is very significant that the first overseas visit in his second term has been to Israel. And Obama's most notable move during this visit has been to put his weight unequivocally behind a two-state solution for peace in the Middle East: "The only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realisation of an independent and viable Palestine."
Obama chose to bypass the Knesset to pitch this message to a gathering of Israeli youth instead, in a speech that attracted several cheers and standing ovations. But he also foresaw how his appeal (sprinkled with phrases in Israeli language and from religious history) would come under attack from hardliners of both sides. So he adjured the Israeli youth that their voices must rise louder than those of the extremists. And he made a Gandhian appeal that has become somewhat of a signature of his: the youth must create the change that they want to see. As encouragement to the Israelis, Obama also noted how many young Palestinians were rejecting violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.
Palestine has anyway won the status of a non-member observer state at the UN General Assembly recently. Furthermore, the number of Arabs is set to exceed the number of Jews, in part because of the Palestinians' higher birth-rate. In the single-state scenario, this will mean either a) political domination by the Arabs, if democracy prevails or b) apartheid as in the South Africa of old, if it doesn't. The two-state solution is much more reasonable. And Obama must make this trip part of a more sustained effort to hammer out such a solution.
Time for That Is Gone
US President Barack Obama has said that the only way Israel can "endure and thrive" as a Jewish state is through the realisation of an "independent and viable Palestine". Obama's intentions may be noble, but his prescriptions for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict amount to wishful thinking. It's too late in the day to believe in the possibility of realising this nebulous two-nation theory. The highly complicated ground situation, frequent outbreaks of violence and continued tension - all point to the fruitlessness of such an overture.
Arguably, the proposal might still have had a future had Obama, during his first tenure, tried harder for its acceptance. But that moment is gone. The situation in the Middle East, as it stands today, has escalated far beyond such a resolution. At this moment, the two-nation theory seems implausible. Political hurdles aside, 'facts on the ground' have been created and logistical hurdles are too formidable to surmount. The absence of contiguous areas required for carving out two separate states, the acrimonious dispute over the ownership of Jerusalem, a corridor between Gaza and the West Bank - the list of impediments stretches on.
Take Jerusalem, at the heart of the conflict. Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their own. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has openly stated "Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people and will remain under Jewish sovereignty for eternity." The Palestinian National Authority, on its part, views East Jerusalem as occupied territory. Among a state's defining features are territorial contiguity, continuity and connectivity. None of those criteria are satisfied in the case of the would-be Palestinian state. It would be wiser to advocate a one-state solution with citizenship and equal rights in the combined territory for all inhabitants in the Middle East.