Jerusalem–A dovish Israeli expert who predicted Israel’s settlement campaign would perpetuate its control of the occupied West Bank said pursuing a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a "waste of time."
Meron Benvenisti, a Harvard-educated historian known for his study of Israeli building on land it captured in the 1967 war, said he expected Israel’s occupation of territory would "continue for a long time" and that peace talks should focus instead on power sharing in Israel and the West Bank.
"The fight for the two-state solution is obsolete," Benvenisti, 76, told a news conference on Tuesday.
The political split in Palestinian loyalties between the Fatah-dominated West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza, plus Israel’s control of 60 percent of West Bank land, made it unlikely a Palestinian state could soon be founded, he said.
US President Barack Obama’s talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington were unlikely to yield any breakthrough, Benvenisti added.
Even if Washington succeeds in launching indirect peace, years of deadlock over core issues showed negotiations would not quickly reach an agreement, he said.
With Israel seeking to keep large settlement blocs under any deal, Benvenisti said only 40 percent of West Bank land was actually up for discussion, making Palestinian statehood unviable.
Even Western aid to the Palestinians of an annual $2 billion, which is intended to boost the economy, is really perpetuating Israeli control in the West Bank by funding Palestinian adaptation to the fact of occupation, he added.
"We have to change the vocabulary of the conflict," Benvenisti said. He called for dropping the two-state paradigm for discussion of a joint "bi-national regime."
Israelis and Palestinians could share the West Bank and present-day Israel in a federal, power-share format such as that forged in Bosnia in 1996, Benvenisti suggested, making him one of the few in Israel to support such an idea.
Some Palestinians have embraced the idea of a binational state with Israel as long as they achieve full political rights. But many Israelis fear such a structure could jeopardize the country’s future as a Jewish state.
Benvenisti was famously criticized in the early 1980s for predicting Israel’s massive construction of settlements then in land Palestinians sought for a state seemed irreversible, and would secure Israeli dominance there for a long time to come.
He saw that vision as having borne itself out, citing how the Jewish settler population grew from about 20,000 in 1982 to more than 600,000 now, after a building campaign that he opposed.