Israeli Policy Makes a Two-State Solution Less Likely
Summary of CNI Foundation "Public Hearing" with Jeff Halper
and Naim Ateek

By Carlton Cobb
February 16, 2007

Two Israeli peace activists told an audience in Washington,
DC, this week that, as long as current Israeli policies
continue, a real two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict is increasingly unlikely and perhaps impossible. The
speakers were the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, founder and director
of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in
Jerusalem, and Jeff Halper, founder and coordinator of the
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Halper
and Ateek spoke at the National Press Club on Monday,
February 12th, 2007, at the CNI Foundation's 22nd "public
hearing" to bring a much-needed debate about U.S. Middle
East policy to Washington, DC.

A streaming video of the event can be seen online at the
following website:

Halper stated that his background as an anthropologist taught
him to see things "from the ground up" and to "go where the
field takes him," even if it means he has to ocasionally admit
that he is wrong. As a peace activist, Halper said he believes
that while a "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict is an article of faith among Israelis, Palestinians, and
virtually every other party involved or interested in the conflict,
activists should admit that such an outcome is no longer
possible because of Israel's policy of apartheid in the
territories. He said that this position has made him a pariah
among American groups, such as Americans for Peace Now
and the Foundation for Middle East Peace, who refuse to host
him for public talks.

In short, Halper said that the two-state solution is a "political
program based on wishful thinking." He said he defines the
word "apartheid" the same way as Jimmy Carter does in his
book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid": a separation of
populations in which one people structurally and conceptually
dominates the other permanently. One difference between
Israeli apartheid and that of South Africa, Halper notes, is that
Israel "feels like it can finesse a bantustan [for the
Palestinians] in a way that South Africa could not."

As evidence he pointed to what he calls Israel's "matrix of
control" in the occupied territories. The population of the
Jewish-only settlements has more than doubled since Yasser
Arafat's PLO recognized Israel, and thus endorsed the two-
state solution, in 1988. The wall, the military checkpoints, and
Israeli "bypass roads" criss-cross the West Bank and allow
settlers easy travel, while carving up the territory and
preventing Palestinian freedom of movement. Halper hinted at
an alternative solution to the two-state model, which he calls a
"two-stage" solution, based on an economic federation of
Israel/Palestine and neighboring states.

Rev. Ateek cited scripture's command to "do justice and love
mercy" as a reason why he once advocated for one state in
Palestine, where, he said, "Jews, Muslims, and Christians
can live together democratically." Later, he said he came to
see that a one-state solution "may not be fair for a Jewish
state," but that "a 'Jewish state' cannot be democratic." As a
Palestinian Christian, he argued that, in the same way, an
Islamic state in Palestine would not be democratic for the
Christian minority. A one-state solution to the conflict would
represent "justice without mercy."

As long as the final outcome is based on prior UN Security
Council resolutions and international law, Ateek said that he
would support a two-state solution. Specifically, he said that
any solution must address the current disconnect between
nationality and citizenship in the conflict. For example, he
argued that Palestinians who live in Israel with Israeli
citizenship, like himself, are not considered part of Israeli
society, just as Israeli settlers living in the West Bank do not
consider themselves Palestinian. He stated that he would tell
the Israeli settlers, under any future agreement, "You are
welcome to become Palestinians," but that until then, they are
living illegally on Palestinian land. Any arrangement that takes
justice and mercy as its basis must "protect the sovereignty
of both states," which includes keeping "Palestinians secure
from encroachment from their more powerful neighbor."

The event was sponsored by the Council for the National
Interest Foundation and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for
Middle East Peace. The moderator was Dr. Mark Braverman,
board member of the Washington Interfaith Alliance on Middle
East Peace and board member of Partners for Peace.