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How Netanyahu made the creation of a Palestinian state irreversible

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Friday, 24 May 2024

The recent recognition of a Palestinian state by Spain, Ireland, and Norway is the latest blow to Netanyahu's horribly misguided policy toward the Palestinians, which he pursued throughout his political career to prevent them from ever establishing their own state under his watch, as he stated time and gain. This recognition is in addition to the overwhelming majority of United Nations General Assembly member states that have recognized Palestinian statehood.

In truth, none of the above should come as a surprise, as the writing was on the wall for decades, and it was only a question of time before this inevitability unfolded. The recent decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant against Netanyahu, charging him with war crimes, was another degrading rebuke of Netanyahu for his ruthlessness in the way he is conducting the Gaza war.

The horrific death and destruction that has been inflicted on Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza as a result of Hamas' October 2023 attack that resulted in the slaughter of 1,200 Israelis and the ongoing and unprecedented war against Hamas that killed 35,000 Palestinians, and the unspeakable human suffering has created a new paradigm. The establishment of a Palestinian state, which has been particularly resisted by Netanyahu for the past 16 years, has become front and center in the search for a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide could not have put it clearer when he stated: "The fact that this Israeli government, led by Netanyahu, has been so clear that it has no intention to negotiate with the Palestinian side and has been so accepting and even supportive of new illegal settlements, all that has contributed to the recognition decision. In some sense, it's a reaction to that."

The tragic dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that a majority of Israelis bought into Netanyahu's false argument that a Palestinian state will pose an existential danger to Israel, and hence, the continuing occupation is necessary to prevent the Palestinians from realizing their aspiration for statehood. But what is the alternative to a two-state solution? After 57 years of occupation, even a fool would have concluded that the occupation is not sustainable. How much more death and destruction must both peoples endure before Netanyahu and his blindly misguided followers come to understand that if it takes a hundred more years and the deaths of a million Palestinians, they will never give up or give in on establishing a state of their own.

What is further baffling is that the multitude of right-wing Israelis keep complaining about Palestinian violence. They ignore the elementary understanding that any people who have been living in servitude for decades under the harshest conditions would rise against the occupier, especially when they have a legitimate right to have their own state, enshrined by the same 1947 UNSC Resolution 194 that granted the Jews the right to establish their independent state.

For 80 percent of all Israelis (those born after 1967), the occupation is a normal state of existence irrespective of the daily suffering and often inhumane mistreatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, to which they have been and continue to be subjected. On January 10, 2024, I wrote: "Sadly, it took the Israel-Hamas war to awaken both sides to their tragic reality. They must now realize there will be no return to the status quo ante. The circumstances that led to the Israel-Hamas war only reinforced the inescapable requirement for a two-state solution. Simply put, there is no other viable option other than continuing the bloody conflict for decades to come."

But then, what would it take for Netanyahu and his messianic ministers, especially Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, to wake up and realize that every day that passes without a solution, not only will more Israelis and Palestinians be killed in vain, but the conflict will become ever more intractable. It will exact a mounting price in blood and treasure from both sides without any prospect of changing the inescapable requirement for a Palestinian state to reach a sustainable, peaceful coexistence.

The hurdles to reaching this noble goal are massive; there is the psychological dimension to the conflict that must be mitigated, territorial claims and counterclaims, the dispute over the administration of the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), mutual concerns over security, the final status of Jerusalem, and more. But then, regardless of how obdurate these conflicting issues may be, they will become far more daunting and perilous short of peace based on a two-state solution.


US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby recently stated: "The president still believes in the promise and the possibility of a two-state solution. He recognizes that it's going to take a lot of hard work. It's going to take a lot of leadership there in the region, particularly on both sides of the issue, and the United States stands firmly committed to eventually seeing that outcome." Whereas I applaud President Biden's position and sentiment regarding the requisite of a Palestinian state, he needs to move the needle further and warn Netanyahu that he can no longer take for granted the US position that the creation of a Palestinian state must emerge from direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

While Biden may choose, for political reasons, not to follow the footsteps of the prime ministers of Spain, Ireland, and Norway by recognizing the Palestinian state, he should, at a minimum, permit the Palestinian Authority to reestablish its mission in DC, and reopen the American consulate in East Jerusalem. That is, if Biden is truly committed to that outcome, then he must demonstrate that by taking real action on the ground. This is the time when leadership is truly needed, and no head of state worldwide can demonstrate that more at this crucial hour than President Biden to bring closer the two-state solution to reality.

Surely, Biden believes in what Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez stated: "This recognition is not against anyone; it is not against the Israeli people. It is an act in favor of peace, justice and moral consistency." And I might add, it is a moral imperative on which Israel itself was founded.

It is time for Netanyahu to pay the price for dragging Israel into this perilous morass. But then again, he who has resisted the creation of a Palestinian state with all his might made it now more likely than ever before.


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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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