Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
April 7, 2010 - 12:00am

A two-state negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is the only workable formula for peace, ATFP Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish told an audience of 50 at the ninth annual global understanding conference at Monmouth University. The address on the second day of the conference, April 6, 2010, touched on a number of themes centered around the idea of the art of the possible. Ibish explained in detail his view that alternatives to a two-state solution are all fanciful because one or more of the parties in question would simply not agree to them. "The one-state agenda is a nonstarter because the overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis will never agree to this, and undoubtedly would fight against it violently," he said. "The so-called Jordanian Option, which is a wet dream of the Israeli ultra-right, in which Egypt and Jordan are forced to take responsibility for Gaza and parts of the West Bank that Israel doesn't want respectively, is equally absurd," he continued, "because both the Palestinians and the Egyptians and Jordanians will resist this with all possible means."

He urged the audience to treat any political idea with skepticism if it could not be accepted by one or more of the parties that would have to agree in order for it to function, or if it had no serious relationship to existing political, social, military and economic forces that can actually produce real outcomes. He repeated his now trademark analogy between the relationship between such fanciful ideas and actual political concepts, and the relationship between science and science fiction. Ibish said "we need a new term in the English language like "politic-ish" or "politic-esque" to describe ideas that appear to have the attributes of political notions tied to the real world but that actually have no relationship to really existing political, social, military and economic forces that produce real outcomes." He said, "good science fiction often has many of the attributes of science writing, and sound scientific ideas incorporated in their plots, but in the end it's deliberately fanciful and people can clearly see that. However, since the political register is largely subjective and much less empirically verifiable than most scientific ideas, it's much easier for people to get away with passing off wild fantasies as serious agendas without people understanding how fanciful they are. A neologism describing how what are at heart not really political ideas pose as serious political agendas might help clarify the point."

Ibish described the present impasse between the US and Israeli governments as a political but not a strategic crisis and said that while it would be resolved soon in all likelihood, further confrontations, or at least serious disagreements, were likely because the fundamental context for the US-Israel relationships had shifted. He said that while in the past American administrations including the Bush administration had viewed strategic relations in the Middle East as discrete problems to be dealt with on bilateral or trilateral bases, the Obama administration and the foreign policy establishment in Washington generally had re-conceptualized their model of strategic relations in the Arab and Islamic world. "The new hegemonic model can be compared to a kaleidoscope," Ibish said, "in which when one piece of the puzzle shifts, the entire pattern rearranges itself." He said they had correctly identified the issue of the occupation in Palestine at the center of this kaleidoscopic pattern because of its political and symbolic importance.

Ibish said that he expected proximity talks and other negotiations to resume in the foreseeable future, but that a breakthrough in the next 12 to 16 months was unlikely given the weakness of leaderships and the enormous differences of opinion between the parties. He said because of this, the state and institution building program of the Palestinian Authority is particularly crucial because it can provide momentum towards peace even when diplomacy appears to be stalled or moving too slowly. Ibish said the program calls the bluff of all parties, forcing them to reveal whether or not they were ever really committed to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, because the program is a necessary step in that direction. "It calls the bluff of Palestinians because it asks them to channel most of their energies in this constructive, positive direction," he said, "and it calls the bluff of the Israelis because as this program develops it will be necessary for them to cede more and more of the attributes of sovereignty in greater and greater parts of the West Bank to the PA or kill the program and admit to themselves and others that they were never really in favor of the state of Palestine at all." He urged the audience to educate themselves about the program, to spread the word, to talk to members of Congress about the importance of supporting it, and to promote the idea of investing in Palestine.


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