CMEP Bulletin: Tick-tock: Two years left for the two-state solution?

CMEP Bulletin: Tick-tock: Two years left for the two-state solution?

weekly CMEP update

Kerry: Two-state solution has two years left

On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the urgency of the two-state solution giving it a two year expiration date: “I can guarantee you that I am committed to this because I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting […] I think we have some period of time — a year to year-and-a-half to two years, or it’s over.” Kerry explained that the main message he has taken from his recent meetings with Israeli and Palestinian political leaders is the seriousness of the conflict demands quick action.

Founder and director of Terrestrial Jerusalem Daniel Seidemann praised the statement on Twitter, writing, “Kerry has pierced the state of soft denial that has long dominated DC, restoring stark empirical realities to the Israel Palestine calculus.” He went on to share his own view reflected in a Terrestrial Jerusalem map publication: “There are those who say: ‘the two-state solution is already dead;’ others assert: ‘nothing is irreversible, and the two-state solution cannot be destroyed.’ We believe that neither of these claims are correct.” Seidemann’s belief, in the same vein as Kerry, states that a two-state solution is possible, but will not remain so for much longer.

Sigal Samuel ofThe Daily Beast connects Kerry’s statement to an announcement from Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel less than 24 hours earlier. Ariel declared “in another year and a half apartments will be built in E1,” which references the controversial E1 area of the West Bank. Israeli construction in E1 is seen by many as the absolute termination of the two-state solution, as it cuts off East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Seidemann calls construction in E1 the “fatal heart attack of the two-state solution,” and argues that settlements there completely undermine the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered construction to begin in the E1 settlement area in January, shortly before Israeli elections on January 22. This was a popular move with settler groups but it has serious implications. Constructing Israeli settlements in the E1 area will effectively separate the northern West Bank area from the southern areas of the West Bank, making a Palestinian state difficult, if not impossible.

In his piece, Samuel stresses not only the significance of Secretary Kerry’s words, but what actions the US government might take in the coming months to show the situation is urgent.

Could Fayyad resignation open or close doors?

After much speculation, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted Prime Minister SalamFayyad’s resignation Sunday causing United States Secretary of State John Kerry one more headache as he tries to revive the peace process.

Fayyad can claim many accomplishments during his time as prime minister. The Economist reports, “He dismantled the PA’s militant bands and rolled out eight new battalions of Jordanian-trained forces. He restored law and order to cities which had crackled with gunfire since the onset of an armed intifada in 2000. Thanks to the dissolution of parliament, he ruled by decree.”

Fayyad’s U.S. education and International Monetary Fund background have made him popular among international donors who often are weary about the corruption in the PA. International donors have bought into his state building programs and high level of transparency, making him the preferred politician to deal with. Now that financial support could be in jeopardy. Last week, European sources told Haaretz “removing Fayyad from his position could have a negative effect on donations and funding to the Palestinian Authority.”

According to some sources, this quagmire is one that SecretaryKerry partially hastened. During his most recent trip to the region, Kerry made multiple efforts to convince the prime minister to stay and implored both Fayyad and Abbas to put aside their differences and continue to work together. Kerry also placed a phone call to Abbas urging him to reject Fayyad’s resignation.

Instead of preserving Fayyad as prime minister, the pressure may have sealed his fate. American Task Force for Palestine president Ziad Asali said “A lot of people in Fatah accused the U.S. of applying pressure on Abbas not to accept Fayyad’s resignation…This was considered an insult to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people and an humiliation because it was an American interference in internal Palestinian politics.”

Fatah leader Sufian Abu Zayda confirmed this sentiment saying, “Fayyad did not want to be seen as someone who has been imposed on the Palestinians and Fatah by the Americans…On the other hand, Abbas cannot afford to be seen as someone who succumbed to U.S. pressure.”

However, Asali does not blame Kerry for the resignation. He says, “I think it was perfectly OK for Kerry to do what he did. Everybody interferes with Palestinian affairs. It has been the case for decades. That’s Palestinian politics…Salam Fayyad is the person who was at ease in the international community.” Donors trusted Fayyad with millions of dollars in aid that may now slow down without him in the position.

Salam Fayyad will most likely stay on as a caretaker until a new government can be formed. Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator and aid to President Abbas says, “My preferred path of action is that the president will form an independent and technocratic government for 90 days, then we will go to elections” with Fayyad staying in his role until Palestinians vote. He added, “How long will it take? Nobody knows.” Ahmad Awaida, chief executive of the Palestinian stock exchange said that keeping Fayyad on may be “the best of the worst solutions…I am convinced that he will remain the caretaker prime minister for the foreseeable future.”

Mr. Fayyad’s resignation presents an opportunity for renewed reconciliation efforts between Mr. Abbas’s Fatah party and its rival, Hamas a move that would be popular with Palestinians. However, it would certainly cause donor nations to consider withholding funds. Hamas has said they would not reconcile with Fatah as long as Fayyad remained in power and Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri welcomed the resignation, he accused Fatah of being unwilling to carry out all aspects of the previous deals between the groups, indicating that the rift is much deeper than Fayyad.