Ever since I was a child, I remember hearing about the various U.S. Presidents' "Roadmap to Peace" in the Middle East. It was always my assumption, and that of the mainstream media and government here in the U.S. of A. that the path to peace involved separate states for Israelis and Palestinians, for Jews and for Muslims. I remember through high school and college the idea of a unified state being laughed off as the international community declaring Israel and Palestine an "international or interfaith Disneyland."
Well, perhaps it is the time to start thinking Mickey Mouse. The logic here goes several levels deep. On the most basic level, let's look at the simple reality. Jerusalem has sites that are among the most holy of all the major monotheistic faiths in existence. The city could never be split between two countries like Berlin was, because the holy sites are spread throughout the city, as are the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures and populations.
Moreover, even if Jerusalem could be split, we now have the issue of the rest of the land. The traditionally-Muslim portions of Israel have now been so encroached upon by Israeli settlement, which has lasted so long, that in order to provide a contiguous state to the Palestinians, Israelis would have to be forcibly relocated. Darkness can not be met with darkness, but only with light.
Moreover, the idea of two separate states should scare Christians, especially Christians living within the disputed areas, more than anything. By legitimizing political boundaries and political systems based on religion, we validate the idea of a Jewish and a Muslim state. Where does this leave Christians?
In addition, the idea of two states should repulse anyone with even the most minute sense of "political corectness," "social justice," or Democracy. Again, by allowing two states based on primarily religious distinctions, we are accepting that religion is an acceptable political boundary. How can Americans, who oppose discrimination on religious grounds, accept this idea?
Finally, from a practical standpoint, the debate has reached a standstill. First, the right of return question. If a two state solution is really being sought, why does the Palestinian Authority care, or have a right to care, about Palestinians within the borders of the newly agreed upon Israel? With two states, they would no longer represent Muslim interests within Israel, but instead, would represent the interests of Palestinian citizens within the newly defined Palestine.
Most tellingly is the conversation in the pro-Palestine blogosphere. Palestinians, who are now the ethnic minority within Israel and Palestine, stand the most to lose on a true representative Democracy being established in Israel. Yes, they would get equal rights, and finally be treated with some dignity. But their voting power would never equal that of the Jewish majority. Yet, more and more, they see this as the best path forward. When the minority in a society pushes for Democracy, rather than independence, it is showing that the peace, dignity, and respect for human rights that come with Democracy are worth sacrificing political autonomy and true self-determination over. We have obviously reached a new low in the Middle East conflict, and it may very well be time to start thinking outside of the box. Or rather, start thinking inside the box, and outside of the two boxes.