Whether demography comes to define the parameters of the two-state solution the Palestinians have long sought is something that remains to be seen. But the issue that is felt keenly in Tel Aviv remains pivotal and could form the basis for restarting peae negotiations between Israel and Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments, therefore, cannot be taken lightly. Restarting peace negotiations seems to have been tied to preserving the inherent Jewish character of Israel by the Israeli hardlin leader. Clearly, the idea of a “binational” state that comprises a large number of Palestinians is something Tel Aviv seems to balk at.
Surely that would require moving Israeli settlers from Palestinian-dominated areas, currently under occupation. The exit of a sizeable number of Israeli settlers from Gaza in the wake of violent uprisings in 2000-2005 had also consolidated the belief that the two nations could not live in peace. For the Palestinians, suffering as subjugated people with no rights under Jewish rule is an abhorrent reality that has only strengthened their desire to have an independent Palestinian state on the lines of the 1967 borders. It is unlikely that Israel will ever concede to the earlier agreements of reverting Arab territories including that of the Palestinians. Successive Israeli governments’ argument for settling tens of thousands of Jewish settlers on Palestinian lands for sake of security reasons is not credible by any leap of imagination. For Israel, a two-state solution is only feasible under security guarantees and the Palestinians’ acquiesce to a non-militarised state. The need to retain many occupied tracts is also cited for the sake of ensuring the security of Israeli people. Further the systematic settling of thousands of Jewish settlers in Palestinian lands is a testament to Israel’s policy of obtaining demographic majority in these specific areas.
Netanyahu’s claim that it is the Palestinians who are not interested in restarting negotiations rings hollow when the biggest impediment to talks remain Tel Aviv’s refusal to freeze settlements. If Israel’s chief concern is of a binational state it will have to reassess its settlement policy and the so-called strategic requisites that are being touted to be the governing factors for redrawing geographical boundaries.
More than its exaggerated and misperceived security considerations Israel must understand that forcible occupation and assimilation is more likely to pose a bigger security threat in the long run. It is time Israel understands that lasting peace and stability will not come by pursuing long-held rigid policies. Usurping the rights of a nation can only achieve perpetual insecurity