Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.
View of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
On Tuesday afternoon I drove to Duma, the village where 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha was murdered in what appears to have been an act of terrorism perpetrated by Jews. At the Shilo junction (I was coming from Ramallah), I headed east along the “Wine Route.” Such a romantic name for a region of illegally constructed outposts, some of them on privately-owned Palestinian land: Ahiya, Kida, Adei Ad, Esh Kodesh. The ruins of what had been the outpost of Geulat Zion were still on one of the hills.
The view is spectacular, breathtaking — and in some cases, so are the homes. For example in Kida, a settlement populated by career and reserve IDF officers, there are several villas so exquisite that residents of Israel’s central region could only dream of such luxury. The combination of stone houses and vineyards gives a feeling almost of a foreign country until we remember that this is the West Bank, and that hardly a week goes by here without reports of violent confrontations between the inhabitants of Esh Kodesh and their Palestinian neighbors from Qusra.
The continuum of Jewish communities stretches from Route 60 to the Allon Road in the direction of the Jordan Valley, making it obvious that the locations of these outposts were not selected at random. The territorial continuity between Nablus and Ramallah is disrupted over and over by numerous Jewish communities, and a Jewish territorial continuity has been created between Beit El, via Ofra, Shilo and Eli and, to the east, Shvut Rahel and the abovementioned outposts. A similar phenomenon exists around Nablus as well: Yitzhar, Bracha, Itamar, Elon Moreh and then a series of outposts descending eastward toward the Jordan Valley. Same goes for the stretch between Bethlehem and Hebron. Conditions are now such that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank has already become impossible.
And here it must be said: The watershed line seems to have been crossed. The two-state solution is no more.
No Palestinian state will exist here beside the State of Israel.
The calculation is fairly simple. Close to 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank (not counting the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem that are over the Green Line), and the numbers are only increasing. Even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas were to reach a peace agreement tomorrow, Israel would have to transfer roughly 95 percent of West Bank land to Palestinian sovereignty. This means that the settlement blocs would remain under Israeli sovereignty — meaning about two-thirds of the Jewish population. In other words, Israel would have to evacuate roughly 130,000 Jews from the West Bank for the sake of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Is there anyone who believes that such a thing is possible? During the disengagement, the Israeli army managed to evacuate the settlers from Gaza in just a few days. But there were fewer than 10,000 settlers then, and the army looked different as well. Does anyone seriously think that the army in its present form — an army that has undergone such significant social transformations over the past two decades, whose best officers are members of the religious Zionist movement and live in the settlements — can carry out a task of that nature? The idea seems so unrealistic as to be ludicrous.
Incidentally, the Palestinian people already realizes it.
So perhaps the time has come to say it out loud. To the Israeli right wing: You have won. No Palestinian state will exist here beside the State of Israel.
And perhaps the time has also come to tell the members of the left wing: You have lost. You need to find a new agenda.
Incidentally, the Palestinian people already realizes it. It has mostly resigned itself to the situation, at least for the next few years. The prevailing attitude among Palestinians is one of support for the two-state solution, but with an understanding that the idea is unrealistic, and because of that, they must make accept the current reality until Israel becomes a binational state.
And this is where we might also add a note of warning to the members of the right wing: Your victory is a pyrrhic one. It is temporary, and will last only a few years. For the extremists of radical Islam, it actually represents an enormous achievement.
I visited Ramallah that same morning as part of another day’s work, meeting there with several leaders of Hamas in the West Bank. They made no radical declarations against the State of Israel, not the kind that called for a war or an Intifada. Instead, they said the opposite, emphasizing the need to reach a long-term cease-fire agreement with Hamas in Gaza. It seems that they too realize that victory is already in their pocket. The two-state solution has been shelved, and the status quo is now the new solution.
The Israeli policy in which the right wing takes such great pride — not resolving the conflict, but managing it — is a strategy that Hamas believes will lead to its victory. With no separation, with rapid demographic change, the Arabs will become a majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And the State of Israel as we once knew it will start to look different, beginning its inexorable slide toward eventually becoming a Muslim state.
For Hamas, this is not a vision that will be realized in a year or two, but within several decades. They are in no hurry. Time is on their side.