If not a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine question, then what? Juan Cole lists the possibilities:
1. Apartheid, with Israeli citizens dominating stateless Palestinians and controlling their borders, land, water and air. Apartheid would be accelerated under Lieberman’s baleful influence. Over time, this outcome would break down, since it will be unacceptable to the rest of the world over the coming decades).
2. Expulsion. The Israelis could try to violently expel the Palestinians (and possibly Israeli-Palestinians as well), creating a massive new wave of refugees in Jordan or Egypt’s Sinai. (This option would almost certainly end the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and might well push the Arab states into the arms of Iran, creating a powerful anti-Israel military coalition and a huge set of threats to the United States.)
3. One State. The Israelis could be forced over time, by economic and technological boycotts, to grant citizenship to the Palestinians of the occupied territories.
Stephen Walt comments:
But if a two-state option is no longer feasible, it seems likely that the United States would come to favor this third choice. After all, supporting an apartheid state is contrary to the core American values of freedom and democracy and would make the United States look especially hypocritical whenever it tried to present itself as a model for the rest of the world. Openly endorsing apartheid would also demolish any hope we might have of improving our image in the Arab and Islamic world. Lord knows I have plenty of respect for the Israel lobby’s ability to shape U.S. foreign policy, but even AIPAC and the other heavyweight institutions in the lobby would have great difficulty maintaining the “special relationship” if Israel was an apartheid state. By contrast, option 3 — a binational state that provided full democratic rights for citizens of all ethnic and religious backgrounds — is easy to reconcile with America’s own “melting pot” traditions and liberal political values. American politicians would find it a hard option to argue against.
Walt is probably right here. Apartheid goes completely against the USA’s core beliefs and political culture. Advocating it, even in another country, would be about as popular with the US electorate as advocating slavery or baby-eating. It would be hard for AIPAC and the Zionist lobby to overcome this.
So I think it’s unlikely that the Israeli government will go down the apartheid route, at least not explicitly. (Of course, some would argue that Israel is an apartheid state already.) Nor would the Israelis want a one state solution: Avigdor Lieberman is a racist who hate Arabs, and people like him are gaining the ascendancy within Israeli politics.
This leaves expulsion. One might imagine the Israeli leadership, in say 10 years time, deciding to expel the Palestinians, and calculating that they’ll face international condemnation for doing so, but no sanctions with teeth, so they’ll be able to weather it out for a few years until everyone accepts their fait accompli.
There is a majority in the new Knesset for more settlement building, and settlement building will in time make a two state solution impractical. It therefore seems likely that — absent external factors — expulsion will happen. What do I mean by “external factors”? Primarily the USA’s influence on Israel. The USA is Israel’s only ally, and Israel needs US support to survive. Therefore, if the USA made it clear that the price of their support was no more settlements, then Israel would almost certainly stop settlement building.
As an aside, the European Union would be able to have an influence on Israel, by making EU-Israel trade conditional on Israel’s behavour. However, this won’t happen because the EU isn’t as yet serious about doing anything, for two reasons:
(1) the EU isn’t prepared to get its act together and have a common foreign policy, because this would reduce the power of the national governments
(2) the EU isn’t prepared to confront Israel in any meaningful way (saying nasty things about the Israeli government doesn’t count)
So Europe will just have to sit and watch on the sidelines. Wyhich is a shame because the EU has the wealth to be a serious actor on the world stage, and the direction it would move world affairs — towards liberal democracy — would be good for the world.