Just yesterday, Israel’s parliament passed the controversial bill to legalise 4,000 settlement homes in the occupied West Bank. The step is the newest roadblock to the peace process and long anticipated two-state solution.
Israel was quick to exploit the new US administration’s softer stance on the settlement issue by green-lighting further annexation.
Most of the international community view Israel’s continuous settlement expansion as illegal and detrimental to the peace process.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice -- the highest judiciary body of the world, concluded that: “The Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.” Every US administration since 1967 opposed the expansion of illegal settlements.
However, the new POTUS Donald Trump seems quite reluctant to condemn the construction of settlements in comparison his predecessor, President Obama, who was a vocal critic of Israel’s annexation policy.
Trump, much to everyone’s surprise, recently expressed his concern saying that the expansion of settlements “may not be helpful to the peace process.”
So how does the future of Palestine look, amid continuous settlement expansion? How will the landscape that once was called “Mandatory Palestine” -- the land between Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea -- eventually take shape? In 1948, “Mandatory Palestine” was broken into two pieces: The newborn state of Israel with a Jewish majority and the occupied territories; and West Bank and Gaza. After the six days war of 1967, Israel seized the control of East Jerusalem, West Bank, and the Gaza strip from its Arab neighbours.
Under present circumstances, there are few possible outcomes that one can anticipate. The most desired outcome among much of the international community is the two-state solution which involves creation of a Palestinian state co-existing side by side with Jewish state Israel.
If history is any guide, maintaining an apartheid state is not sustainable in the long run. How would even the most loyal supporters of Israel make the moral case for an apartheid, which is antithetical to core Western values?
The two-state solution requires Palestinians to control most parts of Jerusalem, all of Gaza, with East Jerusalem as their capital.
Then, there’s the alternative of creating a Greater Israel that would include West Bank and Gaza. Greater Israel would be a democratic bi-national state where both Palestinians and Jews will have equal political rights.
However, Palestinians will eventually outnumber the Jewish population in this newly created state, and hinder the original Zionist vision to create a Jewish state of Israel.
The final alternative is to create an apartheid state under Greater Israel somewhat similar to pre-1994 South Africa. In this setting, Israel will only grant limited political and civil rights to the Palestinians.
Unfortunately, the notion of two-state solution is just a mirage, providing Palestinians “bricks” to build castles in the sky. Over the past few decades, Israel has shown no real interest for a two-state solution. Rather, the country’s policy has steered her towards a one-state reality.
First, to convert the two-state solution into a reality, in addition to completely stop and rollback the settlements, Israel would also require to withdraw its 500,000 settlers from the occupied territories.
Israel is not willing to make the necessary concessions needed to achieve it.
The new bill to construct homes in the occupied territory is just another nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.
Israel doesn’t even recognise the expansion of settlements in West Bank as a violation of international law.
In 2010, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected President Obama’s request to stop illegal settlements by saying: “As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is not a settlement; it’s our capital.”
As the idea of two-state solution becomes bleaker than ever before, an apartheid in Greater Israel is the most likely outcome.
On April 2016, former Vice President of US Joe Biden said, the continuous expansion of settlements is moving Israel towards a “dangerous one-state reality.”
Eventually, Israel will grow into a full-blown apartheid state like South Africa.
In 2007, Ehud Olmert, former Prime Minister of Israel said: “If two-state solution collapses, Israel will face a South Africa style struggle.” He went further, “as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.”
If history is any guide, maintaining an apartheid state is not sustainable in the long run.
How would even the most loyal supporters of Israel make the moral case for an apartheid, which is antithetical to core Western values?
What would be the reaction of the US where democracy is venerated and segregation is highly condemned?
If this were to happen, apartheid-Israel will become a strategic liability for US and it is unlikely that US will still continue its support to its closest ally unconditionally.
In the long-run, apartheid-Israel will yield to international pressures and transform into a democratic bi-national state whose politics will be dominated by the overwhelming number of Palestinians.
Rasheek Irtisam is currently pursuing his PhD in Finance at the University of Memphis.