Category Archives: Politics

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.”

The Trump Effect: Could Trump Cause a Backlash against the Rise of Populist Parties in Europe?

By Devon Winsor

Just as President Donald Trump’s far right ideals have galvanized support in the United States, a rise in similar ideals has occurred in Europe as well. The success of the United Kingdom Independence Party’s campaign to leave the European Union, the rise of Marie Le Pen and the National Front in France and the Five Star Movement in Italy, are just three of a multitude of examples of the resurgence of far right parties and ideals in Europe. These groups have seized momentum after President Trump’s surprising win in the U.S., citing his victory as a reason for their future success. President Trump’s win also illustrated to the parties’ supporters that citizens around the world share their views and concerns. However, Trump’s controversial vernacular during his campaign, specifically about women, and his subsequent policies implemented during his first few weeks in office have caused a backlash in Europe that could be detrimental to these far right parties.

The Women’s March the day after President Trump’s inauguration did not only occur in cities throughout America, but in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona, and many other cities across Europe. According to CNN, approximately 100,000 people participated in the Women’s March in London, and the Mayor of London even spoke out condemning President Trump’s views on Islam. These responses to Trump in a region unaffected by President Trump’s laws regarding women indicate the growth of unity against the principles that President Trump represents. Although the European far right parties that have seen an increase in support over the past few years do not threaten women’s rights, their alignment with President Trump could cause a backlash from a group otherwise unaffected by their policies.
Furthermore, President Trump’s controversial executive order that banned immigration from seven majority Muslim countries was met with disdain in Europe as well. Immigration has remained one of the most important and controversial issues in the European Union, especially after the refugee crisis, and it has been one of the main causes in the rise of the far right parties. For example, in a study performed by the British Election Study Team, the most prominent concern for British voters that desired to leave the European Union was immigration. This is the topic in which President Trump’s policies most aligned with the far right parties and their supporters. However, leaders throughout Europe have criticized Trump’s Muslim ban, including Angel Merkel, Theresa May and Francois Hollande.

These leaders, however, represent mainstream politics and their opinion is most likely not highly valued by those that already support the far right parties particularly because his ban has been praised by the leaders of the movement. Therefore, President Trump’s policies may not impact the support for the far right parties, but they could unite other groups against these parties, improving voter turnout in favor of other candidates in order to prevent these parties from gaining power.

In particular, Trump’s policies may galvanize momentum for politically disengaged citizens in Europe that have more centrist political views. President Trump’s policies have been considered some of the most divisive policies in history, being criticized by politicians and other public figures throughout the world, yet his successful campaign indicates that his values resonate with citizens. Thus, considering how divisive the current political climate remains, European citizens who may otherwise not engage in politics may feel the need to become involved in order to prevent similar policies from being implemented, especially after seeing the results of the Muslim ban, which were highly publicized in the media, with a particular focus on Muslims who could no longer return to their home in the U.S.

Despite the fact that polling in favor of the far right movements such as the National Front has remained strong, the future decline of these groups may be imminent. President Trump’s divisive nature could awaken a group of citizens in Europe that have seen the results of his policies and desire to prevent them from spreading to Europe. Those that already support strict immigration laws will continue to praise President Trump, but they may not realize that aligning themselves with someone as divisive as President Trump could cause citizens who prioritize other political issues, such as women’s rights, to more vocally support opposition parties.