Since the now iconic handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn in 1993 the two-state solution has gained currency as the best possible chance of peace in the Middle East.
The awkward shake was the culmination of the Oslo Accords, which envisaged a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of two separate political entities coexisting on disputed territory.
Hindsight has since proven that hope to have been over-optimistic. The failure of Israel to live up to key commitments, and the consequent loss of faith amongst Palestinians in a process that most had only accepted grudgingly, has consigned the separate states idea to the dustbin of history.
Not that there weren’t enough warnings that the “only game in town” was destined to failure. Critics heaped scorn on Oslor as an imposition of the will of the dominant party. They also saw it as a disastrous path for Palestinians, now more politically isolated than ever before, to embark upon against such a formidable power.
The two-state solution was also bitterly opposed on moral grounds. The distinguished writer and activist Edward Said saw it as legitimising the principle of separation on which the Zionist state was established. In doing this it also denied the reality of the Palestinian experience of banishment and discrimination. For Said two states was effectively an attempt to consolidate the exclusivist character of Israel by guaranteeing a numerical Jewish majority.
Since Oslo the expansion of the settlements under both left and right wing governments, and the current attempt to annex more parts of the West Bank by means of Israel’s so-called security barrier, has underscored this most fundamental goal of Zionism – the preservation of an exclusivist Jewish state.
This is why Zionists from both the left and right have largely been opposed to any talk of a binational state. Even after Israel’s de-facto annexation of Palestinian lands in 1967, the celebrations were sobered by the prospect of absorbing hundreds of thousands more Palestinians into a state that saw itself as unashamedly Jewish. Twenty-six years later Jewish leaders would again balk at the idea of Palestinians returning en masse to their actual and ancestral lands, for the very reason that it would endanger the Jewish demographic majority and ipso facto, the Jewish character of Israel.
In April 2004 the US president George W. Bush reiterated his country’s support to this objective when he wrote to Israeli PM Ariel Sharon: “It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there rather than Israel.” 
That the idea of two separate states continued to hold sway in Washington amid the rubble of Oslo and the US-inspired road map, underlines its importance to the American-Israeli axis. According to the accomplished journalist Alan Hart the attempt to corral Palestinians into a non-contiguous fraction of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – the endgame of current Israeli premier Ariel Sharon – represents a continuation of this process. The Bantustan state is a necessary consequence of the logic of Zionism which seeks an essentially Jewish homeland. However, because Palestinians will never accept such an outcome, the two-state solution is not a solution at all. To the contrary the choice before us is of a binational secular democratic state with complete equality for all of its citizens, or ongoing and expanded conflict stoked by a rampant Christian fundamentalism in the United States.
What type of state and what influences can be brought to bear to create such a situation is discussed by academic Ilan Pappe, who stresses the pattern of continuity in Palestine’s modern history as a geo-political entity with its own cultural cohesiveness and distinctiveness. His search is for both the political structures that existed and those offered as alternatives to a two-state scenario that is mired in failure.
In the third essay, two young British authors, Asim Qureshi and Shamie Begum, argue against the practicability of two states on the grounds that unending Israeli land seizures have rendered a viable Palestinian state impossible. Moreover such an outcome represents a continuation of war since it allows both Israelis and Palestinians to avoid coming together to confront the underlying causes of their conflict.
No discussion of this issue can be complete without a look at the work of the late Edward Said, and extracts from his two seminal essays are reproduced to contextualise where and how this argument gains its moral legitimacy in an age of cynical political manipulation where democracy symbolises the rule of the powerful without principle.
Finally Faisal Bodi’s controversial article on the Israel’s right to exist is reproduced. It overviews in brief the history of Israel’s creation and its claims to moral legitimacy and sovereignty.
We hope that this provides fresh perspectives for activism and more resources for those committed to a just and enduring peace in the Holy Land.
Editorial Team for Volume 1, Issue 2
http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace Process/Reference Documents/Exchange of letters Sharon-Bush 14-Apr-2004.htm.