Some in Israel sought to question the motives and significance of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration last month that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria do not violate international law. But the fact remains that the United States—the top world power holding the key to any move in the international arena, and certainly the Middle East, has pulled the rug from under the Palestinians’ prolonged attempt to force Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines and allow the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Much like with its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the American administration did not seek to impose or create a reality with the announcement on settlements, but rather to acknowledge existing reality on the ground. The fact that Pompeo’s statement was barely contested by the “usual suspects”—the Palestinians, Arab states and some European countries—only goes to show that many in the world have already accepted the fact that the two-state solution is questionable and may have even become defunct.
In 1993, with the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians were the closest they have ever come to realizing their statehood dreams on most, if not all, the territory that Israel seized during the 1967 Six-Day War. However, in the moment of truth, they chose violence to reach the finish line, which in turn put them back decades.
Today, the Palestinian national movement is plagued by one of the most difficult crises it has known. Indeed it has no answer to the challenge it faces, nor can it counter the U.S. decision or Israel’s moves.
The challenge the Palestinians are facing does not necessarily lie in the United Nations or in Washington, but rather among the Palestinian public itself.
Although the Palestinian youth remain committed to the idea of the Palestinian state, they are clearly interested in integrating into Israeli society. This is true in eastern Jerusalem, as well as in other parts of Judea and Samaria.
This is seemingly a first-rate Israeli achievement, at least from the perspective of the current government, but it also poses a real challenge to Israel. After all, many in Israel, in the government and among the public, have opposed Palestinian statehood, but at the same time have refrained from presenting an alternative to the two-state solution, preferring to postpone any debate on the issue to the distant future, if at all.
But the future is here.
In light of the collapse of the idea of the Palestinian state, Israel must come up with a policy that will allow it to continue and maintain its identity as a Jewish and democratic state. After all, the day when the Palestinians themselves raise the demand for a one-state solution is not far off. In fact, even without an explicit demand having been made this idea has slowly been becoming a fact on the ground.
Israel has a duty to look for a creative solution to this new reality, and if we hold a third election, this question should be put to the candidates wishing to lead the country.
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.