Obama's declaration last autumn that Palestine would become a state in 2011 seems a little too hopeful. But let's assume this could become part of the reality of our world in our times, what would Palestine be like?
What remains of British Mandate Palestine, the historically recognised territory of philisteen, has been likened to Swiss cheese — only without the cheese. The main Palestinian cities in the West Bank today are the big ‘holes' in the cheese: Qalqilya, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron are enclaves of Palestinian life that have peripheral clusters of other smaller towns and villages around them in the rolling terraced olive-grove countryside.
The Palestinian "Areas", as denominated by the 1993 Oslo Accords, are also referred to as ‘pockets' of Palestinian resistance. The entire Israeli project in the West Bank has been to annul, delete and make disappear any form of armed, civil or passive resistance. The thorny Jewish colonist issue is a biblical byproduct whereby more vehement Jews find solace in the supposed justification that ‘Judea and Samaria' (the West Bank) were once part of the Israelite kingdom.
There have been many kingdoms in the world, so why the special treatment? Why did the Obama administration stop pressurising Netanyahu to freeze colony growth for another 90 days? Why limit the time-frame to 90 days? Why not indefinitely? Israel has officially recognised this land as Palestinian in the Oslo Accords, and yet the colonial project remains.
WikiLeaks revealed what many already suspected. Washington's strategic alliance with Israel overrides lesser issues like Jewish colony growth when it comes to more menacing threats such as Iran's nuclear goals. A cable between Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and French officials claimed in 2009 that the United States permitted "natural growth" of Jewish colonies to continue.
This would make all the filibustering about a Palestinian state rather futile and Obama's statement in support of Palestinian statehood in 2011 even more ludicrous than usual. Besides, there is next to nothing left of Palestine to create an independent state living alongside Israel. The two-state solution was not always an illusion, but it is not realistic now, not by any stretch of the imagination.
What remains: a constellation of Palestinian cities in the West Bank is similar to the Bantustans in apartheid South Africa; three dwindling Arab neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem within Israel's occupied Greater Jerusalem, and Gaza. The isolation and punishment of Gaza is the biggest stain on the magnanimous western claims to freedom, liberty, democracy and human rights that the ‘international community' so righteously proclaims at every turn of the screw.
And yet, the official western doctrine remains as ever the two-state solution. So, Obama's Middle East experts will try to devise a land-swap agreement (along the lines of what Henry Kissinger proposed) that is heavily influenced by the Zionist lobby in Washington for Israel to keep its Jewish colonies in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem. But any treaty signed with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will not be recognised by the majority of Palestinians for the simple reason that the majority opted for the ‘clean' platform of "Change and Reform" proposed by Hamas. Having the overwhelming upper-hand, Israel has the real ability — and legal responsibility — to withdraw from the Occupied Territories along the 1967 lines. But encroaching far into the West Bank, the Jewish colonisation process and Israel's ‘security fence' have dissipated the 1967 line beyond recognition as a potential border.
Those who maintain the hope that Palestinian ‘unilateralism', led by the Abbas-Fayyad tandem, would create a place called Palestine in the West Bank are grasping desperately to a pipe dream. There is a plethora of projects flourishing in Palestinian pockets or ‘holes' such as geothermal buildings and new towns and neighbourhoods, but this does not translate to sovereignty when Israel controls land, sea and air access and movement of the Palestinian people and economy.
A confederal solution therefore seems most appealing. But like the more idealistic one-state bi-national solution, why would Israel share its state structure and political power with the Palestinians? Why should Israel relinquish full exploitation of natural resources and economic trade with the Palestinians? How Israel will square the circle of being both a democratic and Jewish state will be a long and inventive process, and it's going to be ugly.
Stuart Reigeluth is Managing Editor of Revolve magazine.