Is Peace in the Middle East Now Officially Impossible?

Maybe. Neither a one-state nor a two-state settlement seems possible, so what's left?

| Fri Apr. 6, 2012 12:57 AM EDT

Is a two-state peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank still possible? Zvika Krieger says it might be, because most of the large Israeli settlements are fairly close to the 1967 green line. In order to create a viable Palestinian state, Israel would have to uproot a fair number of the more distant settlements, but it wouldn't have to uproot a large number of people. Robert Wright pushes back:

OK, fine. But, according to Krieger's numbers, this would still involve uprooting 125,000 settlers! If anyone considers this a readily doable project, I recommend going to Hebron, where fewer than one percent of those 125,000 live, and asking the settlers whether they'd go peacefully. Compounding their assured intransigence is that the Israeli army, which would be doing the extracting, is itself increasingly populated by intensely religious settlement supporters, some of whom say they won't carry out settler-eviction orders.

All of this helps explain why last week at the J-Street Conference, the Israeli scholar Menachem Klein, who was an adviser to the Barak government, opined that a two-state deal could spark a civil war within Israel. "Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated during an interim agreement when he had not evacuated a single settlement," he said. "Israelis will use arms to resist an agreement even if there were a referendum supporting it."

But this is almost beside the point. Warning how hard it would be to uproot the settlements is like warning how hard it would be for the American government to confiscate the TV sets of all citizens. No government is going to try to do it anyway!

But a one-state solution is hardly possible either. Even now, Arabs make up about 30% of the population of a combined Israel and the West Bank. In 50 years that will be up to 40% or so. At the same time, about a third of the Jewish population will be ultra-orthodox. I don't think anyone believes this is a recipe for a peaceful democratic state.

So there is no longer any plausible future except for perpetual occupation. Welcome to hell.