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Bibi is wrong, Obama is right

A two-state solution will have to be based on a Palestinian Jerusalem alongside an Israeli one

    As a general proposition, the following is true: democrats around the world prosper when an American president succeeds. The strengthening of Barack Obama as a consequence of his victory on health care reform, for example, will help him almost as much in Afghanistan as in Arkansas.

    So we should badly want him to win. How strange then, in the wake of the administration's recent falling-out with the Israeli government, to find usually level-headed Jews taking the side of the right-wing coalition in Jerusalem, rather than that of the leader of the free world.

    There is a fantasy involved here, and one that has played to the long-term advantage of the rejectionist element in Israeli politics.

    It is that you can continue to build essentially Jewish developments on territory occupied in 1967, and still move towards a two-state solution. This is as much a fantasy when applied to East Jerusalem as when applied to the West Bank.

    Its surreal nature could be gauged from the interview given in London the other day by the mayor of Jerusalem (or, rather, the mayor of Jewish Jerusalem) Nir Barkat. Look, Mr Barkat told his interviewer, Jerusalem is just another city like London or Paris, and it needs to grow and develop just like they do. This utterly absurd proposition does not survive a second's scrutiny. London is not disputed territory, half of which is recognised by the entire international community as belonging to someone else; a half which is expected to form the capital - at some point - of another state.

    London is not disputed territory, half of which is recognised as belonging to someone else

    The Netanyahu formulation is that "everybody knows that these (East Jerusalem) neighbourhoods will be part of Israel in any settlement. Therefore building in them in no way precludes a two-state solution." Think about the logic of this for a moment. It says: before we go into any negotiation about issues such as the right of return (the Palestinian rock on which all could founder) and the status of the West Bank settlements, or the contiguity of Palestinian territory, we are telling you that these disputed areas are automatically ours. End of story. Take it or leave it.

    This is not a negotiating position - it is, just as moderate Palestinians have always feared - the continuation of the process of de facto annexation, of creating new realities on the ground. The fact that it has continued under governments of different stripe may explain the initial insouciance with which the Israeli authorities treated the unfortunate proximity of a Biden visit to a building announcement. They've all done it, and they've all been wrong.

    Underneath, the fundamentals have not changed. A two-state solution will have to be based on a Palestinian Jerusalem alongside an Israeli one, and may well require there to be Jewish areas in the Palestinian polity just as there will be Arab populations in the Israeli one.

    Anyone who rules out this possibility, in effect rules out any hope of a settlement, as surely as does someone who insists on a full right of return. Anyone who, by taking certain decisions now, makes such an outcome more difficult, might just as well sign a concordat with Hamas.

    And so we come to it again. Do we really believe that the Israeli right is convinced of either the possibility or the desirability of the two states?

    I, for one, am not so convinced. For Jews around the world, for moderate Israelis and, above all, for their children, the process which is supported by President Obama, needs to succeed. It is perverse for anyone who genuinely envisages an end to Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the avoidance of massive future bloodshed, to lend support to Netanyahu and deny it to Barack Obama.

    As ever, the fate of the man in the White House is central to the fulfilment of our greatest hopes and the assuaging of our greatest fears.

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