Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel from 1992-1995, understood that unless the Palestinians were allowed self-determination and given a viable State, Israel would lose its future as a home solely for Jews. To make matters much worse, Israel's survival would always be threatened by its neighbors.
His untimely death, at the hands of a fundamentalist Israeli assassin, never allowed Rabin to lead the country toward a two state solution with a future devoid of relentless war. In fact, his death marked the beginning of the end of the Israeli ideal of a theocratic state.
Rabin, probably due to his military past, knew that the only way forward was to choose peace over a never-ending cycle of hostilities. Despite his wisdom, scores of people still think that the 50-plus year cycle of violence is the only answer. Yet, an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" only perpetuates a downward spiral, leading to more bloodshed and death.
The Obama Administration knows this, and has started a process by which Israel can live at peace with its neighbors and Palestinians can be assured that, as the U.S. Secretary of State Clinton said, "a child has the same rights in Gaza as children in the rest of the world." She also stated that the U.S. will vigorously pursue a two-state solution every step of the way and underscored that there is no time to waste. While this reinvigorated U.S. engagement is welcome, unfortunately the declaration is too little, too late.
All parties have wasted precious time and the current situation on the ground does not allow independence for either party. The past eight years of American policy, or lack there of, also contributed to false hopes.
After President Clinton's thwarted effort to achieve peace, the Bush Administration had a very nice ceremony with Jordan's King Abdullah in Israel and then another in Annapolis only to sit by as the prospects for peace dwindled. Any engagement was merely a facade to demand that the Palestinians and other regional players proclaim unwavering support for all policies implemented by Israel no matter the cost, which only made matters worse.
As the regional conflict went on -- war with Lebanon, bombing Syria, borders cordoned off, rockets fired by Hamas, and the devastating destruction and humanitarian disaster in Gaza -- the United States stayed silent, except when it came to removing a democratically elected Hamas. Each incident generating more tension.
While Israel did declare a unilateral ceasefire after the latest violent exchange, without Palestinian agreement I might add, both are still lobbing lethal weapons at each other. The Palestinians are launching crude missiles at Israel (18 in the first two days of Clinton's visit), and Israelis continue to drop bombs on the Palestinian border with Egypt.
And if all this wasn't enough, Israel has ramped up its settlement activity over the past year. The Israeli-based group Peace Now recently reported that settlement construction in the West Bank has accelerated, despite a lack of permits or clearance to build on what's considered Palestinian land. In 2008, settlements increased by 57% from 2007 according to Peace Now.
The sad truth is that the Israelis and Palestinians are locked in an endless war for a land they both call their own. Both parties believe God gave the land to them. (Maybe God did and they both need to share it).
The "Two-State" rhetoric currently being pushed by the U.S. and its international allies neither ensures Israeli security or Palestinian self-determination. Much to everyone's dismay, their destinies are intertwined. Israelis have not, and will not, allow Palestinians to govern their own borders, airspace or -- as history has shown -- democratic process. The only solution is for the two groups to work and live together.
Perhaps there was a chance for two states during the time of Rabin, when settlements were few and the road map was open. Today, those opportunities are gone. Even Netanyahu, who will be the next Israeli Prime Minister, refuses to discuss a Palestinian State, which only moves us closer creating to a single state and making it an undeniable solution.
The idea is a very hard pill to swallow. A warring past is not easy to forget. Israelis and Palestinians will have to work together to resolve a mound of grievances and heal decades' worth of wounds. But continually living in a "he did / she did mode" will help no one. Only pragmatic steps will lay the foundation for positive change.
A new, democratic and inclusive, Israel could be a symbol of a new way. Clinton mentioned that we cannot afford more delays or regrets... and it is time to look ahead. Specifically, the parties must pledge to renounce war, violence, segregation, displacement and the mistreatment of each other.
Finally, the Secretary pointed out that, "we need progress that will improve the lives and the livelihoods of the people of Gaza and the West Bank, the people of Israel, and the neighbors throughout the region." That means Israelis and Palestinians must work side by side as one. Unless, that is, everyone prefers more war or wants to try moving more than 460,000 Israeli settlers from what is supposed to be the future Palestine. I assure you that will not be pretty.
Upon visiting Israel anyone can see that there is no use trying to separate what already exists together. Palestinians and Israelis are clearly intertwined making a two state solution no longer a probably or a possible solution at all.