The wonders of instant communication allow me to communicate with people all over the world at any time of day or night. I can sit behind my desk at the Department of Mathematics at the University of Rochester and think about ethnic tension in Indonesia or the upcoming elections, if you allow me such a loose use of terminology, in Russia and China. In principle, I should be thinking about mathematics, and much of the time I do, but my mind wonders and searches and takes me to faraway lands. But I am still much more likely to think about a place if I am actually there and my trip to Israel in the middle of March 2018 is no exception. Much of the trip was occupied with mathematics and political discussions for few and far between, but the trip ended with a major epiphany. I realized that all attempts to understand the current Israeli predicament in terms of the traditional Left-Right political divide is deeply flawed because it is based on the rather dubious idea that the two-state solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in its current form is workable and beneficial to both sides of the conflict. I submit to you that any two-state solution with the goal of producing two viable nations, in the traditional sense, is doomed to failure and would only lead to ever-increasing misery and war.
Let us briefly review the perception one is likely to get about the two-state solution and its dangers from the mainstream media in the United States. The Left-wing writers focus on what they see as the Israeli rejection of the two-state formula, alleged oppression of the Palestinian people and the preferential treatment of Israel by the American government. The Right-wing writers focus on Palestinian terrorism, decades of rejection of Israel’s right to exist, the corruption and inefficiency of the Palestinian Authority and danger that any Palestinian State would inevitably pose to Israel. These are by no means exhaustive lists, but they will do for our purposes. With a healthy dose of nuance added, both sides have their points that are worth considering, but they tend to ignore the immediate day-to-day dynamics of the situation. The simple truth of the matter is that the Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza are economically dependent on Israel supply the labor force that cannot be easily obtained anywhere else. Whatever State emerges in West Bank in Gaza, assuming there is ever sufficient unity among the Palestinian Arabs to make this remotely possible, cannot exist without large-scale economic connections with the Jewish State that predate Israel’s existence. The inefficiency on the part of the Palestinian authority and lack of effort build the institutions of the putative State is, in part, a reflection of the realization on the part of the Palestinian Arabs that no viable State is possible under the formula that is currently being peddled.
I have previously expressed the belief that the only reasonable solution to the conflict is an autonomy for the Palestinian territories, political alliance with Jordan that would provide the citizens of the territories with a citizenship and continued economic partnership with Israel, with tighter standards and well-defined rights. But my main goal here is to shatter the myth that the two-state solution is a humanist ideal aimed at addressing the plight of the Palestinian Arabs in a compassionate and workable way. While I share the stated concern of the Israeli Left for the welfare of the Palestinian Arabs, I believe that the remedy they favor would lead to poverty and instability. The conversation needs to rapidly change from the pointless discussion of national rights of the Palestinian Arabs, for which there are no historical or practical bases, to the steady improvement of the human rights for these people in the context of the enduring economic and political realities.