Brett Stephens, the NY Times’ most intrepid defender of Israel, takes aim today at Peter Beinart, a long-time advocate of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine who no longer believes in that possibility. Beinart now favors a single democratic state in all of Israel and Palestine. That would entail the transformation of Israel from a Jewish state into a bi-national state, which Beinart among others sees as the only alternative to the effective Apartheid regime that Israel is building on the West Bank. Stephens likes to tar critics of Israel as anti-Semites, but that label won’t stick to Beinart, who grew up an orthodox Jew and spent years as editor of what was then the truculently pro-Israel New Republic. So Stephens takes a more civil approach: the one-state solution Beinart wants is impractical, a pipe dream. You’ll never get two peoples who have been historic moral enemies to cohabit a single state.
Very reasonable of Stephens. In an earlier post, I acknowledged the formidable obstacles to a single state, and concluded that a two-state solution was marginally more realistic (i.e., less unrealistic) than a one-state solution. I chose to cling to the less unrealistic solution. But that was four years ago. Since then, the expansion of Israeli settlements has continued. A two-state solution appears ever more unattainable—a pipe dream. That is, a genuine two-state solution, in which a territorially contiguous Palestinian state exercises real sovereignty over most of the West Bank, which means control over its border and air space, among other basic attributes of sovereignty.
But Stephens has no interest in a genuine two-state solution. He doesn’t say so explicitly but what he has in mind is more or less what Israeli leaders say they would accept; that is, when they aren’t denying altogether the possibility of Palestinian statehood. A mini-pseudo-state—a territorially fragmented Palestinian entity that is totally subordinate to Israel. How do I know that? I admit, I haven’t read every word Stephens has written about the Middle East over the years. But based on what I have seen I would be willing to bet real money that he has never, ever called for a roll-back of Israel’s colonization of the West Bank; not even for a complete and unconditional halt to settlement expansion. That is, he has never opposed the very process that impedes the two-state solution that he says he favors. And I’m confident that he has never seriously contemplated the repatriation of the many tens of thousands—maybe more than 100,000 by now–of Israeli colonists that would be necessary to create a genuine Palestinian state.
There are still sincere believers in a just, two-state solution (J-Street, for example). Stephens isn’t among them. His support for the more “realistic” two-state option is hollow: it’s a cover for his essential satisfaction with continued Israeli domination of all of Palestine.