Category Archives: Human Rights

The Two State Solution is Dead: Time for New Perspectives on Israel/Palestine

By Aman Madan

Israel posses an irrevocable right to exist. It possess this right—a right denied to the region’s indigenous peoples—not out of any legitimate grievances, but because of a persistent co-optation of colonial powers on the part of Herzl, the Jewish National Fund, and the World Jewish Congress. Israel exists today as a direct consequence of what can broadly be described as the Zionist project and the force of Western powers against the Arab peoples. It’s consistent denial of rights to Israeli Arabs, Palestinians in the West Bank, and seemingly unstoppable settlement projects have all contributed to a slow but steady consolidation of Israeli authority in the region. From a Weberian perspective, states exist once they have monopolized control over the legitimate use of violence. Israel has achieved exactly this, and therefore the world, because it has stopped caring, trying, or some mixture of the two, has allowed Israel the dignity of a modern nation-state.

 

Without delving into a deeply complex history—one which illicits deep passion on both sides of the debate—the question of Israel, its status as a Jewish and democratic state, and whether or not it has a moral legitimacy [not one achieved through violence or colonialism] have resurfaced in contemporary discourse. Much of this can be attributed to a newly inaugurated American administration whose views on the regional conflict have departed from long held US policy. For the first time in US politics, an American president, standing side by side with Israeli Prime Minister, claimed that the United States would prefer a peace deal desired by both parties—whether that be a single state or multiple states. The statement incited anger and shock throughout the Middle East, not because the statement itself was controversial, but because, once contextualized, appeared to be highly biased toward the Israeli state—particularly given Mr. Trump’s warm relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Many news reports, particularly throughout the Arab World, categorized Mr. Trump’s departure from a forceful defense of a two-state solution—common US policy regardless of partisan leanings—as a tacit endorsement of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ultimate goal of annexation of the West Bank.

 

While his implication that “suddenly the long-proposed solution of two states did not really matter,” seemed to be a direct affront to the Palestinian cause, a one state solution might be a much needed change in the direction of resolving the conflict. For decades, the premise of the two state solution—the ultimate goal of a sovereign Palestinian state—has locked the Middle East into a perpetual state of inaction and at the least, external belligerency; many states have for years pursued a quiet relationship with Israel, but have done so at the expense of popular domestic support, where support for Israel still remains dreadfully low.

 

Israel is here to stay. To not acknowledge this gruesome reality is to either be wholly naive or ideologically pure—both are ironically counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. While the suggestion of a singular Israeli state appears radical—particularly in Lebanon from where I pen this piece—“it is simply the recognition of the uncomfortable reality that Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories already function as a single state.” According to Michael Tarazi, both territories share the same road systems, the same water supply, and even the same international borders. As a former advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization, he contends that the parallel reality of the interconnectedness and the simultaneous marginalization of the Palestinian population can cease with the emergence of a one state solution. The Palestinians should now push for a binational state with equal rights for both Israelis and Palestinians. Even Prime Minister Netanyahu has indicated an inclination toward this idea, arguing for a “state-minus” status for the West Bank. For the first time, a majority of Palestinians do not support the two state solution. In fact, 56% of Palestinians no longer view an independent Palestinian state as a viable future outcome. With thousands of new Israeli settlements already constructed in the West Bank and a new Israeli law allowing for a retroactive legalization of illegally seized Palestinian land, many Palestinians have warmed to the prospect of full integration into a binational state. Perhaps more importantly, with the increasing popularity of the Israeli right—the likes of Naftali Bennet who argue for a full annexation—many Palestinians are fearful that such a move may necessitate a complete removal from their land. With that nightmarish option looming as not-too-unlikely possibility, full integration and co-equal citizenship carry with it a certain appeal previously not associated with the idea.

 

Mr. Ghassan Khatib, a professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank, argues that such an idea would only be a legitimate alternative if the entirety of the Palestinian population was given the vote. Full Palestinian integration comes at a significant cost. It “means that Jewish democracy in the land of Palestine is not possible.” With a full annexation of Area A, B, and C, Israel will gain approximately three million Palestinians, meaning that Israel will be unable to retain the Jewish character of its state, undoubtedly inciting serious questions of Jewish and Israeli identity. If Netanyahu and his coalition ultimately seek a singular state, they must determine the essence of the state they seek—not an easy task given the heightened partisan divide within Israeli politics. Certainly, it is not out of the question that Israel allows for an integration of Palestinians, but refuses equal rights to the new population. Israeli Jews will certainly resist ceding rights perceived to be exclusive theirs, deepening an apartheid state—which to be frank, is already manifesting itself in the West Bank. The onus then, should be on international intermediaries, particularly Mr. Trump who has now “opened the door to this conversation.” It is unlikely that Mr. Trump sides with the Palestinians, eyeing an Israeli domination of the ‘peace process’ as a relatively simplistic way to ‘finally’ end this decade long conflict. Mr. Trump has always had an affinity for reductionist approaches, particularly in the foreign policy realm. We should not expect any significant deviation from this approach in regard to this conflict.

 

The two state solution is now inviable. To remain in pursuit of this objective does not positively contribute to the ‘Middle East Peace Process.’ If Jared Kushner—Mr. Trump’s appointed intermediary between Israelis and Palestinians and his son-in-law—seeks a sustained peace in the region, he must acknowledge that a singular state with equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis is the only way to effectively resolve this conflict. In the words of Haroon Moghul, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, “we’ve left the two-state solution long behind. God forbid we leave the one-state behind, too.”

Does Peacekeeping Work?

By Dylan Sandlin

Recently, the newly inaugurated Trump administration posed a series of questions to the State Department concerning the United States foreign aid and assistance policies in Africa. The document, as reported by The New York Times, contained questions such as, “with so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?” and, “why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?” While this document is specifically dealing with Africa, it gives further support of new administration’s skeptical views towards foreign aid, assistance programs, and foreign intervention at large. These questions, taken with the President’s remarks about NATO, The United Nations (UN), and our military relationship with Japan, make it clear that Donald Trump sees foreign aid, collective security, and foreign intervention as an easy target for trimming the national budget. While foreign aid comprises only one percent of the national budget, questioning where the United States’ assistance money goes, and how it is used, is not an inherently bad thing. Only by continuing to question the effectiveness and practicality of different policies can better policies emerge. By looking at one aspect of the United State’s foreign policy, namely peacekeeping, a trend may exist that shows whether missions of this kind are effective or not.

So, does peacekeeping work? The question seems simple enough, but there is hardly any consensus on how to answer it. Peacekeeping is one of the primary functions undertaken by the UN in order to help states, usually in the throes of a civil war, transition from a state of violent conflict into stable peace. The origins of peacekeeping can be traced to the UNOSOM I mission in Somalia in the early 1990’s. Since then the UN, other collective security organizations, and some countries acting unilaterally, have found themselves involved in peacekeeping missions across the globe. Places like Somalia, South Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan are merely a few of the quagmires that detractors reference when making their case for isolation, but are these arguments valid, and do these sentiments actually tell the truth about peacekeeping in todays world?

Since the first peacekeeping missions and interventions into civil wars in the 1990’s, the global community’s knowledge about these subjects has increased dramatically. In a seminal piece on conflict and civil war, Oxford professor Paul Collier contributed one of the important discoveries to the field by claiming that the single biggest predictor of a civil war within a state was whether or not that state had experienced a civil war in the past. This was monumental because it meant that instead of running from brushfire to brushfire, the international community could now begin to isolate and prepare for conflict in places where it was likely to take place. Digging deeper into this phenomenon, researcher Charles Call also found something unique about civil war resurgence. His research uncovered that the factors responsible for causing a civil war in the first place were distinctly different than those that led to its resurgence later on down the road. This research is critical to understand, because, by isolating and addressing the causes of a resurgent civil war, theoretically, peacekeeping should become that much more effective at establishing stable peace within a war torn state.

But even with all these new findings and strategies, is peacekeeping actually effective at generating peace? Researchers like Virginia Fortna, professor at Columbia University, argue that peacekeeping missions and the presence of peacekeepers absolutely produce peace. Fortna identifies an array of causal mechanisms that peacekeepers use in order to induce peace in the area they are working. These mechanisms include things such as raising the costs of war or benefits of peace for the parties responsible for and involved in the conflict and preventing political parties from reneging on political deals and excluding certain parties from power. The biggest benefits from using these mechanisms is the increased aid that flows into an area once peacekeepers arrive, as well as the improved security situation for both the conflicting parties and civilians. Once peacekeepers arrive, the increased international attention almost always produces an influx of foreign assistance from various aid agencies. This not only helps remedy certain problems such as lack of food or subpar health conditions, but it also gives the international community a bargaining chip when attempting to coerce belligerents into agreeing to a peace deal. The increased security offered by peacekeepers also helps keep belligerent groups in check, while similarly preventing government institutions, like police and security forces, from becoming predatory towards civilians.

One critique of this view however is the lack of attention paid to global, political externalities that play a role in establishing peace within a country. A peacekeeping success story that is often cited by the international community is the United Nations Mission in Mozambique (ONUMOZ) in 1992 after a civil war between the RENAMO and FRELIMO political parties had ravaged the country. One of the largest reasons peace was established was the extraordinary commitment each side had to making the mission successful.

This commitment to peace is unique among peacekeeping missions, so why was it the case in Mozambique? Some historians and regional experts actually attribute the success of UNOMOZ to the lack of patrons for the belligerents involved in the Mozambican conflict. Prior to the UNOMOZ mission, the Frelimo government in Mozambique was supported and funded by the Soviet Union, and the Renamo Rebel faction was financed by South Africa in order to promote instability in the region. However, in 1992 both of these parties’ financiers had backed out. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Frelimo government lost a key revenue source and was struggling to hold onto its previous legitimacy. South Africa on the other hand was forced to pull back its support of Renamo because it had to deal with the issues of apartheid politics back home. This situation led both parties to understand that, without their external support, their timeline for international legitimacy was quickly expiring. Additionally, UNMOZ’s military mandate was expanded after learning from the peacekeeping mission in Angola. These factors caused both sides to realize that a commitment to the peace process was the only viable option for solving their grievances and surviving politically. Thus, the argument can be made that the mission in Mozambique was less a product of peacekeepers being present, and more a result of global and regional developments of the time.
Even in this success, peace has been difficult to secure. Within the past six months, violence between Renamo and Frelimo military and militia contingents has caused the international community to establish peace talks between the two groups for fear of Mozambique potentially backsliding into more violence.

However, even though peace is challenging commodity to obtain, the data still shows that in the vast majority of cases, peacekeeping missions and foreign assistance help immensely in securing peace. The real dividends from this activity are seen after the fact though. Peaceful environments within developed and developing states allows for the development of things like adequate access to healthcare to prevent massive epidemics, better infrastructure like plumbing and access to clean water that prevents the spread of disease and increases life expectancy, roads and electricity that allow for greater economic prosperity for not only that nation, but the world at large.

The fact of the matter is that peace is pre-requisite for the solution of so many of the other problems that exist in the world today. What peacekeeping does is it allows the United States, and the global community, to pay a penny to solve a problem up front instead of a dollar for a bigger issue later on down the road. If anyone needs examples just look at the Zika and Ebola epidemics, the global war on terror, and the famine in South Sudan. While Donald Trump may think that the UN “only causes problems,” the research and data available on the matter presents a different narrative. So, does peacekeeping work? The research says yes. Should the United States continue to engage in this activity? This author believes so, but whether or not the new administration agrees is another story.

Featured Image from Global Solutions