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Day 8: Israel's true existential threat

On Day 7, our last episode, Joe Petit raised a question about the Palestinian right of return. This raises a fundamental question about the future of the one-state, two-state solution. Here is my take on that fraught subject (corrections welcome).The question about the right of return points to another solution of the conflict, one that has increasingly come to the fore, namely the one-state solution, i.e, the people now living between the sea and the Jordan comprising Israel, Gaza and the West Bank would become one state. Would it remain a Jewish state? Would it remain a democracy? Would it be a bi-national state, i.e., Jewish and Palestinian? If it remains a democracy, the Palestinians would be the majority.When people like Livni (the Kadema candidate in the last elections) point to one-state as the outcome if a settlement is not reached for a two-state solution, she is pointing to a probable outcome of the failure to end the conflict; she favored the two-state solution.Lieberman the current foreign minister in the Netanyahu government, during the election campaign raised the threat of expelling Arabs now living in Israel (who are Israeli citizens) to ensure the Jewishness of Israel. To the original Zionists this would have been unacceptable (though this is what happened to in the 1948 warthe source of the refugees and the right of return issue). As Israels population has become more extreme politically, such proposals seem to get a more sympathetic hearing in the Israeli electorate.Jimmy Carter was pilloried for using the word, apartheid, to describe the current divisions in which there is one state, Israel, which controls another nation/people in Gaza and the West Bank. But that is the situation in which Israel finds itself. We can argue about whos at faultboth Israelis and Palestinians to varying degrees. But that doesnt resolve the conundrum in which both find themselves.Israels ties to the United States ("the indispensable nation!") not only support and protect it. Those ties have also allowed Israel to avoid facing its true existential situation (which is not Iran). Israel must make peace or rule over a hostile population forever. That is its true existential threat as a democracy.UPDATE: According to Ha'aretz these are the three conditions that the U.S. has put on the Israeli table. "Israel must reverse its approval for construction in Ramat Shlomo, make a "substantial gesture" towards the Palestinians and publicly declare that all of the "core issues" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, be included in upcoming talks."

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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SecState Clinton will be addressing AIPAC during its annual gathering, 21-23 March. So will Tony Blair. Here's the list thus far (from the AIPAC website);; * Secretary of State Hillary Clinton * Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu * Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, Quartet Representative and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom * Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) * Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) * Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) * Amb. Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the United States * Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan * Alan Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School * Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy * Dan Senor, co-author of Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle * Robert Kagan, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Perhaps a communication to the senior senator from New York is in order. BTW: the current metaphor as rendered in this morning's Times is of a marital spat: "Still, American and Israeli officials also made clear that the core security issues binding the two countries were not in jeopardy, and that what was happening was closer to a married couple having a bad fight rather than seeking a divorce." HMMMM!

Now that Mitchell has suspended his Middle East visit, maybe he should be added to the list.The working theory is noone wants a US-Israeli escalation of moving apart, but I don't see how that outcome is possible.

Today's Wall Street Journal article on the U. S. -Israel tiff is sobering in several respects. We've come to this point through a combination of a principled commitment to Israel's right to exist and realpolitik considerations of our assorted interests in the Middle East. Will the realpolitik considerations take priority over an appropriately fair concern for the Palestinians? Apparently there is pressure both in this country and in the Israeli government to make realpolitik trump all.

If the 3 conditions are as stated and Hilary says that while The US and Israel are working towards a commitment the Israelis must make, it's hard to see how she thinks things are not "in crisis."

Whether things are "in crisis" or not, the three conditions hardly seem to be excessive.

They are not excessive; furthermore, though necessary, they are hardly sufficient.

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