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The Two-State Dream Is Dead

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The Two-State Dream Is Dead

Opinion

The Two-State Dream Is Dead

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

The recent dispute between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama over the construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem has some doubting the possibility of a two-state solution.

Commentator Reza Aslan has been visiting Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and he says it may be time to start thinking about the alternative.

Dr. REZA ASLAN (Author, "How to Win a Cosmic War"): I can say with confidence the prospect of a two-state solution is dead and buried.

There's plenty of blame to go around for its demise.

You can blame the geriatric Palestinian leadership, whose corruption and ineptitude have forfeited the confidence of the Palestinian people. You can blame Hamas and its fellow militants whose terrorist activities and hostile takeover of Gaza have made the notion of a unified Palestinian state difficult to imagine.

You can blame the growing number of Jewish ideological settler groups whose thirst for more land have made it next to impossible for Israel to dismantle the settlements and return to the 1967 borders.

You can blame each successive Israeli government that has pandered to such groups, and the current Likhud government in particular whose party platform, quote, "flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.

And you can certainly blame the United States whose erratic and often unbalanced handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has rightly earned it the suspicion of both sides.

But wherever you place the blame, this one fact is increasingly obvious and undeniable: the two-state solution is becoming a fast-fading dream.

The problem is that neither time nor the demographics of the region are on the side of the Israelis. Today, the number of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is roughly equal -about five million inhabitants each.

But most demographers agree that in less than a decade, Palestinians will greatly outnumber Israelis. That means that, barring some demographic miracle, Israel will no longer be a Jewish majority state. At that point, it will have two options: it could either become an apartheid state, in which a Jewish minority rules over a disenfranchised Arab majority, or it can become a single unified binational state in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side within a single border: two peoples, one state.

Given the decades of violence and mistrust between the two sides, the notion of a one-state solution may sound absurd - but it is not as crazy as it seems. Israel and Palestine already live in a single territory, have a single currency, a single market, a single political and economic ecosystem.

True, right now Israel calls all the shots, but a Palestinian-Israeli confederation, wherein the two people share joint political and economic institutions while maintaining a sense of semi-autonomy and preserving their cultural and religious distinctions, is not so far-fetched.

The one-state solution may be hard to imagine today, and admittedly the violence of the past few decades would make peace just as difficult to achieve in a single state as it would be through partition, nor does the one-state solution solve such intractable issues as the status of Jerusalem or the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

But unless four decades of the status quo suddenly transforms into two independent states in the very near future, a single binational state will be, for better or worse, unavoidable. Perhaps we should start planning for it -now.

BLOCK: Reza Aslan, his latest book is "Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization."

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