Beyond a ceasefire in Gaza and any associated interim agreement no matter who might broker it, the two-state solution, which is backed by international consensus, is dying because of an Israeli decision with help from Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made public and explicit this week, and for the first time, the Israeli positions that reject the two-state solution, that is, the establishment of the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel. Hamas has always been deceptive and has always avoided making an unequivocal commitment to the two-state solution, and was keen to engage in one-upmanship against the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, which dedicated itself to achieving the two-state solution. The United States has made the two-state solution the cornerstone of its policy and diplomacy, not just under President Obama, but also with the successive administrations before him. In effect, the UN Security Council that expressly called for the two-state solution was pushed by the administration of George W. Bush in 2002. Then the Arab initiative for peace with and recognition of Israel was also based primarily on the two-state solution. The so-called Quarter, which consists of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States, was established to implement the two-state solution. So as international consensus is dying and is on the verge of collapse, what are the available options, and are they being considered by the Quarter or the Palestinian Arab leaders, or is everyone burying their heads in the sand? What if the policy in place is to pretend that the two-state solution is still viable while everyone knows that this is no longer the case?
More than anything, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wants his rigorous efforts and shuttling between Israelis and Palestinians to bring about a radical solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the basis of the two-state solution. Kerry reached an impasse in the last period prior to the events in Gaza, and reduced his involvement in the effort to push the peace process forward after sensing the intransigence of the Israeli side in particular. To be sure, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has offered the maximum possible concessions, and had to save face by forming a national reconciliation government with Hamas that is more symbolic than authentic, and John Kerry knows this very well.
Kerry resumed his efforts on the Palestinian-Israeli question not only for the sake of de-escalation and a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but also in the hope of reviving the peace process and to attempt to save it from total collapse.
The events in Gaza created new realities that have served the Israeli position rejecting the two-state solution. The narrative now is focusing on “offensive tunnels” as the Israeli army calls them, to justify the aerial and naval bombardment and the ground offensive. The current rhetoric is focusing on the conditions for a ceasefire, including lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza and opening the crossings with Egypt. No one is talking about the two-state solution, and the possible means to revive the peace process and negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. A fait accompli has been now produced.
It is the government of Israel, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that have produced this fait accompli. The Palestinian Authority is trying to catch its breath as it tries to make sense of the events in Gaza. Israeli and Palestinian moderates are on the retreat. The showdown between the forces of Israeli extremism and Palestinian extremism reigns supreme. The casualty figures include more than 700 Palestinians, 77 percent of them civilians, and 35 Israelis, 3 of them civilians, up until the moment of writing.
The new thing that emerged with the events in Gaza is how much the Israeli public has retreated into supporting the actions of its government and encouraging it to do more, despite the clear gap between the Israeli public and the international public opinion, which has protested against the methods and the outcome of Israeli military operations in Gaza.
The rift between the Israeli and international public opinions has frightening implications for what the Israelis really want when it comes to the Palestinians. The international public opinion did not support Hamas’s rocket launching but condemned it. It did not bless the tunnels, but denounced them. It did turn a blind eye to justifying the murder of Palestinian civilians by blaming Hamas for hiding in homes and using people as human shields, but called this out. It did not sympathize with the use of UNRWA schools to stash rockets, but decried it. But the international public opinion did not endorse Israel’s deliberate murder of Palestinian civilians who live in the places that the Israeli military machine decides to destroy.
The American comedian Jon Stewart summed it up succinctly: Where do civilians that Israel orders to evacuate hours before striking in besieged Gaza, densely populated Gaza, and cordoned-off Gaza, go? He summed the issue up succinctly again in a sketch showing how it’s impossible to even mention Israel without its apologists pouncing on all those who dare criticize it, and how defenders of Palestine pounce on anyone who dares criticize Hamas for using human shields.
Wolf Blitzer from CNN interviewed former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. Bloomberg criticized the decision of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ban U.S. airlines from flying to Israel after rockets fired by Hamas landed near the airport in Tel Aviv. The extent of Bloomberg’s hostility to the man who was a reporter for The Jerusalem Post before joining CNN was astonishing. He objected to every obvious question, and accused the pro-Israel anchor of inciting Americans against Israel.
This is just one example of the American backlash against anyone who criticizes Israel, and how any dialogue or discussion about Israel is barred in the United States. Despite this, according to polls, automatic support for Israel among the American public has dropped, with Americans protesting against the Israeli justifications for the deliberate killing of Palestinian civilians.
This will not translate into a radical shift in U.S. public opinion in favor of Palestine at the expense of