The idea has been annunciated for so many years – by so many U.S. presidents, Secretaries of State, and other world leaders – that it’s now sacrosanct: A two-state solution. Those four words have become an Om-like mantra for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, chanted with equal fervor from Washington to the West Bank. “Eventually,” Hillary Clinton intoned in Jerusalem, “the inevitability of working toward a two-state solution seems inescapable.”
Really? Not to many Palestinians, who – reluctantly; sadly; angrily – are concluding that one state is better than two. Yes, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is still advocating for a distinct country called Palestine, but Palestinians themselves are letting it be known that they’ve jettisoned the idea. This was made clear to me during a forum I moderated at the Commonwealth Club of California, when Jamal Dajani – Senior Director of Middle East Programming for Link TV – said of a recent visit to the Palestinian territories: “When I talked to people privately, they’d say, ‘We just as soon be the citizens of one state. We don’t care what you call that state – as long as we have equal rights and we can vote and participate.’ ”
Dajani, who was born and raised in Jerusalem, where his ancestral family has lived for more than 1,000 years, was joined in thought by Jess Ghannam, a prominent Palestinian American professor and frequent visitor to Gaza and the West Bank, who said, “There just seems to be no other just and legitimate solution but the one-state solution.”
The Obama administration may cringe at hearing what Ghannam, Dajani and other vocal Palestinians are saying – that Israeli settlements have permanently disfigured the West Bank as a contiguous home for Palestinians; that Palestinians no longer trust Abbas to negotiate on their behalf; that previous agreements, like 1993’s Oslo Accords, were dangerously flawed for Palestinians and Israelis – but hear them it must. For Palestinians, the years of “road maps” have led to continuous dead ends. Like George Bush, Barack Obama is relying on a two-state solution to take the warring sides to a kind of Promised Land, but if Obama doesn’t change his thinking, the goal of peace in the Middle East may remain a distant dream for years and years to come.