Robert Malley is a former Clinton-era official who gained notoriety in an overblown controversy for blaming Ehud Barak and Pres. Clinton at least as much as Yasir Arafat for the failure of the Camp David summit in 2000. I was troubled by aspects of his latest article, “The Two-State Solution Doesn’t Solve Anything,” a NY Times op-ed (co-authored with Hussein Agha) because it seemed to question Israel’s predominantly Jewish character.
Don’t misunderstand me: I believe that Israel does, indeed, need to move toward a society which is less influenced by religion and where non-Jewish citizens feel more at home, but peacemaking with the Palestinians should not require this change, which needs to come as a result of dialogue, debate and democratic decision-making among its own citizenry.
According to his email discussion with Israel Policy Forum’s David Halperin, Malley did not mean to question Israel’s Jewish character or the desirability of a two-state solution. This is good to know, but Malley could have made this more clear. He also needs to address the fact that a Palestinian right of return should be restricted to a new Palestinian state and not to Israel within its pre-1967 borders – something that he does not do even in this interview.
This is the critical part of Halperin’s email exchange with Malley:
… Some analysts have interpreted the op-ed as arguing that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is not possible unless Israel loses its Jewish nature. Is that what you are saying?
MALLEY: No. What we are saying is that Israelis insist that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state, that Palestinians insist that the rights of the refugees be respected and that a sustainable outcome somehow will have to take those two views – shared by vast number on both sides — into account. Neither of those issues involves the borders of a future Palestinian state or its sovereignty. Israel is a Jewish state and that’s a fact.
Some also have interpreted the op-ed as calling for a right of return. Are you saying that?
MALLEY: We are merely restating the fact that Palestinians insist on recognition of the refugees’ rights. We are not calling for the right of return. It is not the same thing.
Your article was entitled “The two-state solution won’t solve anything.” Is that your view?
MALLEY: The title was unfortunate and was not of our choice. A two-state solution would bring the occupation to an end. That would be of huge consequence. The question is whether an end to the occupation on its own will end the conflict once and for all and bring about a lasting, sustainable peace.