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For a binational Israeli-Palestinian State

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Can a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine still be reached and under what conditions would it be viable? A word of optimism first: There are many citizen peace movements in both Israel and Palestine who tenaciously and imaginatively advocate peaceful, democratic solutions. Unfortunately, these groups are in a minority, and without powerful external support they have little chances of prevailing. To break the stalemate, it’s time for the European Union and the US, which between them absorb almost 70% of Israeli exports, to match rhetoric with action. If Western governments truly support the two-state solution, then sanctions must be imposed on the Israeli government, which is openly trampling all peaceful prospects by pursuing settlement and repression and opposing recognition of

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Can a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine still be reached and under what conditions would it be viable? A word of optimism first: There are many citizen peace movements in both Israel and Palestine who tenaciously and imaginatively advocate peaceful, democratic solutions. Unfortunately, these groups are in a minority, and without powerful external support they have little chances of prevailing.

To break the stalemate, it’s time for the European Union and the US, which between them absorb almost 70% of Israeli exports, to match rhetoric with action. If Western governments truly support the two-state solution, then sanctions must be imposed on the Israeli government, which is openly trampling all peaceful prospects by pursuing settlement and repression and opposing recognition of the Palestinian state.

In other words, military aid must stop, and above all the US and Europe must hit Netanyahu and his allies in the wallet. This means introducing trade and financial sanctions, gradually increasing to dissuasive levels. The academic boycott of universities that has been started will not be enough, and may even prove counter-productive. It is often on campuses that the main opponents of the Israeli right can be found, and in many cases the right will be delighted to weaken them and cut them off from the outside world. At the same time as imposing sanctions on Israel, Europe and the US must put in place implacable and dissuasive sanctions against Hamas and its external supporters, and decisively strengthen representative and democratic Palestinian organizations.

This major external involvement, which ideally should bring together Western countries and a coalition of countries from the South, is all the more essential given that no two-state solution will be possible without a strong confederate structure – a form of Israeli-Palestinian Union, similar to the European Union – covering both states and guaranteeing a certain number of fundamental rights. The two territories and populations are deeply intertwined, due to the scale of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the large number of Palestinian workers employed in Israel with family ties to Israeli Arabs, and the non-contiguity of the Palestinian territories. To begin with, the Israeli-Palestinian Union would have to guarantee freedom of movement and establish a minimum basis of social and political rights for Israelis living or working in Palestine, as well as for Palestinians living or working in Israel. One of the most successful projects along these lines is that developed by the remarkable Israeli-Palestinian citizen movement A Land for All, too often ignored abroad.

Eventually, this confederate structure could become a genuine bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state treating all its citizens equally, regardless of their origins, beliefs or religions. But for the process to get underway, extremely strong external pressure will be essential, backed up by substantial financial resources (but well within the reach of Europe or the US) and a multinational force to enforce the agreement and disarm Hamas and extremist groups on both sides.

The challenges may seem immense, but what’s the alternative? To wait peacefully for the open slaughter of Palestinian civilians to reach 40,000 dead, then 50,000 dead, then 100,000 dead? The moral and political cost of Western inaction is exorbitant. It can be explained first and foremost by the navel-gazing of European and American societies, too preoccupied with their own divisions to take any real interest in constructive solutions in Israel-Palestine. There is, of course, the old anti-Semitism, never extinguished and always ready to be rekindled, based on ignorance and misunderstanding of the other. Every Jew is accused of complicity with Israeli generals, just as stupidly as every Muslim is suspected of complicity with jihadists.

What’s also new is the shameful instrumentalization of the fight against anti-Semitism. On the right and now also in the center, pro-Palestinian mobilizations are immediately branded as anti-Semitic – even by notorious anti-Semites – and associated with an imaginary Islamo-Leftism, without any concern for the reality of the speeches and proposals. The fact that there are provocateurs ready to play with fire in all camps is obvious, but it’s always possible to distance oneself clearly and focus on what counts. Unfortunately, fear (not to say hatred) of Islam and European Muslims sometimes seems to block any calm reflection. Accusations of anti-Semitism allow us to clear our consciences while turning a blind eye to the ongoing massacres.

In the US, the Muslim minority is smaller than in Europe and causes less tension, but the political reflexes are the same, with the added bonus of a Messianic, semi-delusional mobilization of evangelical Christians in favor of Israel. Conversely, a large proportion of Jewish students and secular Jews of all ages are now mobilizing across the Atlantic for Palestinian rights. This is the main reason for hope. On both sides of the Atlantic, young people are rejecting old divisions as well as new hatreds. They see clearly that what is at stake in Israel-Palestine is the possibility of living together beyond our origins. It is on this hope that we must build the future.

Thomas Piketty
Thomas Piketty (7 May 1971) is a French economist who works on wealth and income inequality. He is a professor (directeur d'études) at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), associate chair at the Paris School of Economics and Centennial professor at the London School of Economics new International Inequalities Institute.

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