Over the past five years, pronouncements that the two-state solution is dying have been difficult to ignore. At this point in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, however, the proposal laid out in the 1993 Oslo Accords is not dying but dead. Further debate about how to keep it on life support only serves to obscure the truth.
Through its near-constant refusal to cede West Bank settlement activity and cease entrenching its matrix of control over Palestinian life, Israel has effectively created one-state on the land where two states were supposed to stand.
In today’s reality, the West Bank and Gaza Strip – the territory earmarked for a future Palestinian state – have been physically and intellectually separated. Hamas administers the coastal Gazan enclave, which is isolated from the world by a blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt. Parts of the West Bank are overseen by the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority, a semi-governmental organisation viewed by many as a tool of Israel’s ever-deepening occupation.
Year in review 2015: See all of our end-of-the-year coverage
Ultimately, Israel maintains total control over all the land and people between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. The country governs with a three-tiered legal system. Israeli Jews have full democratic and civil rights and are entitled to settle virtually anywhere they wish. Palestinian citizens of Israel enjoy some democratic privileges but are subject to systematic and institutional discrimination that is becoming harsher by the day. The state reaction to the recent violence is proof of how easily Tel Aviv can revoke the rights and privileges of Palestinian citizens. For Palestinians living in the West Bank, the legal situation is unbearable. They are subjected to a military occupation and entirely deprived of any civil or human rights.
The violence that has dominated the end of 2015 demonstrates that this separate and unequal situation is not without its consequences for Israel. Despite a massive separation barrier, which slices up the West Bank in an attempt to siphon off more land while pushing Palestinians into “Bantustans”, Tel Aviv has failed to provide its citizens with the basic tenet of government: security.
How long can Israel maintain this dangerous position? Since the Second Intifada, Israel has fought to keep its dominance over the narrative of the conflict, one that highlights the security implications for Israeli and Palestinian civilians instead of the colonial complexion of the regime.
While there have been individual acts of sporadic violence, Palestinians don’t appear ready to reform their leadership and adapt to another round of civil disobedience to Israeli occupation as they did during the First Intifada; non-violent tactics have shifted instead to the boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) movement. The year ended with the European Union boycotting West Bank settlement products and the American Anthropological Association adopting a boycott of Israeli universities.
We will likely see more victories for the BDS movement. The question is how the toll of maintaining a colonial regime will manifest itself in Israeli society. Will Israelis take to the streets in protest of the security situation or will they face their growing international isolation stoically? One thing is certain: there is no going back in 2016 to the more optimistic days of the Oslo Accords.
Joseph Dana is a comment writer at The National.