Israel and Palestine: steps to a two-state solution

Recent peace talks between Israel and Palestine have come to an abrupt and disappointing end, leaving many supporters of the two-state solution despondent and pessimistic about the future.

Sadly, it appears the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was more focused on rivals to his right and maintaining his coalition than reaching a settlement, while the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas failed to crackdown on domestic incitement against Israelis, instead preferring reconciliation with Hamas and a path to statehood via international bodies.

These decisions, rooted in the short-sighted comfort of the status quo, ignored the huge potential of a historic compromise that would have offered the greatest chance for a long-term peaceful and prosperous future for the next generation of Palestinians and Israelis.

Instead of becoming historic peace makers, both leaders surrendered to fear: fear that they would sign away their national aspirations and historical claims through partition of the land, losing their political base and becoming traitors to the movements they love, their names synonymous with an unsustainable and unloved peace deal.

Those who care about resolving the conflict and supporting a two-state solution must now consider how to support the peace process and reconciliation. An inevitable temptation for those angry about Israeli settlements and the ongoing occupation will be punitive measures linked to boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), with either a full boycott of all Israeli products or specific targeting of goods linked to settlements.

During the course of the talks the BDS movement, which has strong roots in the British trade union movement, lowered the volume and took a step back while waiting for talks to collapse, almost certainly taking time to prepare a new wave of campaigns if talks failed. Whilst the potential of BDS creates anxiety and causes Israelis on the left and centre to seriously consider policy in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, its greatest victory is to make Israelis suspicious of external actors while radicalising the right-wing, making them more belligerent and likely to enact harmful measures that harm the long-term prospects for peace.

For those like myself who oppose both the Israeli right and their commitment to the settlement enterprise and the international hard-left and their support for a full boycott of Israel, the interdependence of these two groups is deeply troubling.

An alternative to both BDS and blanket pro-Israel advocacy, rooted instead in the progressive values of solidarity and internationalism, is to support groups in both societies who share our values and remain committed to a two-state solution, particularly Labour’s sister parties and activists who continue the struggle for peace.

Rather than bringing their conflict into our politics, British activists can provide hope for a better future based on mutual recognition, respect and co-existence.

Hilik Bar, the Secretary General of the Israeli Labor party and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), currently leads the Caucus for Ending the Israeli-Arab Conflict in coordination with the grassroots One Voice organisation that supports peace activists in Israel and Palestine pursuing a two-state solution. Going forward, our priority should be providing support and engaging with Hilik and Labor, One Voice and the activists in Israel and Palestine struggling for a just and lasting peace.

Alex Bjarnason previously volunteered with Labour Friends of Israel and worked for Trade Union Friends of Israel. 

This blog is a personal opinion and does not reflect the collective position of the Young Fabians.

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