The Buzz

Breaking the West Bank Deadlock

Is the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dead? Over the past few months, a growing number of commentators have suggested so. In April, Gideon Levy declared, “It's time to raise the white flag, to admit publicly that the two-state solution has been foiled.” Robert Wright concurred, saying it was “on its deathbed.” And in the cover story of TNI’s most recent issue, Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar examined in detail the demographic and political changes in Israel making such a solution increasingly unlikely.

Now Jonathan Tepperman has a new article up at the Atlantic proposing a way out to break this deadlock. His title says it all: “Why Israel Should Withdraw From the West Bank—Now.” In short, he suggests Israel unilaterally disengage from the West Bank as it did from Gaza in 2005.

Tepperman cites a number of prospective advantages to this plan. First are the financial benefits that would come from eliminating the costs of the occupation—around $6.3 billion a year.  Second, he says it would help Israel’s image internationally, depriving its enemies “of their biggest rhetorical weapon.” Along these lines, it would also aid Israel on security issues. Arab leaders who might like to partner with Israel in opposing Iran, for example, but are loath to do so because of Israel’s image in their countries, might find it easier if Israel ended the occupation.

One suspects that Tepperman knows his proposal is a political nonstarter, especially in the current Israeli political environment. There are a host of potential objections—for example, that the Palestinians might just pocket the concession and do nothing else, or that it would expose Israel to additional security risks—that make it difficult to imagine the Israeli government taking this kind of step anytime soon.

Nevertheless, this piece is a welcome, bold idea in a debate that often seems to retread the same familiar ground. The conflict has long been deadlocked, with the two sides simply too far apart on the core issues and not under any real urgency to come to an agreement. Tepperman’s proposal, while imperfect, is a notable one that might just prove to be attractive to a future Israeli government as it drags on.