Nearly 30 years later, it should now be clear that the process is going nowhere. And so the Palestinian people are moving on, whether or not their leadership comes with them.
To be clear, all Palestinian factions — including Fatah, which dominates the P.L.O. — are part of the Palestinian body politic. They will be necessary parties to whatever comes next. But the Palestinians who can most shape the future now are in the streets and squares, speaking to one another and the world directly, and making clear that the “green line” that divided Israel and the occupied territories was an instrument of division, not liberation.
The energy of this moment represents an opportunity to wed Palestinian aspirations with a growing global consensus. According to a 2018 poll by the University of Maryland, 64 percent of Americans would support equal rights in a single state if the two-state solution fails. That number climbs to 78 percent among Democrats. Among scholars and experts on the Middle East, one recent poll found, 66 percent say there is a one-state reality. There is also a growing shift in mainstream organizations that have been hesitant to call for greater change: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently released a report calling for a break from the two-state approach.
Many diplomats and analysts around the world I have spoken to in recent years understand that the two-state solution is dead. Israel has killed it. When I ask why they don’t call for equal rights for Palestinians to end what is increasingly obviously a de facto apartheid system, they point out the official Palestinian position remains for a separate state. When they ask me what the Palestinian leadership is waiting for, I have no good answer.
The two-state peace process has acted as a convenient excuse for third parties who would rather pretend it presents a viable path to peace — no matter how clear its failures have been — than ever hold Israeli leaders to account. But the curtain is falling: The Palestinians have moved on, and many people in America and around the world are ready to do so, too. Now Palestinian officials should do the same. They would be far from the first to abandon the two-state paradigm — after all, Israel buried it under settlements long ago. But there are also no prizes for being last.
Eventually, the bombs and rockets will subside, and this “familiar” round will appear to be over. Israel, Washington and some Palestinian officials might try to pretend that nothing has changed, but make no mistake: Something has.
Yousef Munayyer (@YousefMunayyer) is a writer and a scholar at the Arab Center Washington DC, a research organization.
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