Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left), is flanked by Alvaro de Soto (left), United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority at the Quartet’s meeting in Berlin, Germany. (Mark Garten/UN Photo)
De Soto’s “end of mission” report delivered to his superiors in May, but published in The Guardian on June 13 contains stinging criticism of the anti-Hamas and pro-Israeli approach taken by the UN, the European Union and the United States. “The steps taken by the international community with the presumed purpose of bringing about a Palestinian entity that will live in peace with its neighbour, Israel, have had precisely the opposite effect,” de Soto wrote.
While his broadsides at the failed peace process have been widely reported, his acknowledgment of the decline of the two-state solution has drawn less notice.
De Soto, a Peruvian diplomat who has also served as a special envoy to Cyprus, observed: “Given that a Palestinian state requires both a territory and a government, and the basis for both is being systematically undermined,” an increasing number of Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and some Israeli Jews “believe the only long-term way to end the conflict will be to abandon the idea of dividing the land and instead, simply insist on respect for the civil, political and national rights of the two peoples, Jews and Arabs, who populate the land, in one State.”
Contradicting peace process industry conventional wisdom and spin, which long held that Israel’s 2005 settler pullout from Gaza was part of an effort to implement the “Road Map” peace plan, de Soto acknowledged that Israel was motivated entirely by concerns about the fact that Palestinians are once again on the verge of becoming the majority in Israeli-ruled territory (as they were prior to 1948). Israel is in a conundrum because further unilateral withdrawals are “off the table” while “the demographic clock continues to tick.” De Soto predicts that “Should the PA pass into irrelevance or non-existence, and the settlements keep expanding, the one State solution will come out of the shadows and begin to enter the mainstream.”
Signs that this is already happening include increased public discussion of a single state in the Palestinian solidarity community. This includes a seminar to be held this July at Spain’s Universidad Complutense de Madrid at which Palestinian academics and activists from inside Israel, the occupied territories and the Diaspora, along with counterparts from Israel, Spain, South Africa and other countries will discuss legal, practical and political opportunities and possibilites for a single state.
Drawing on his experience in Cyprus, de Soto speculates that a peace plan developed originally for Cyprus based on a binational confederation could be revived for Palestine.
Ali Abunimah is cofounder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.